The Hanson Board of Selectmen met on August 11 for their first in-person meeting since March.
Recreation Director William Boyle was on hand to discuss the possibility of opening Cranberry Cove despite staffing shortages. Boyle explained that they don’t have enough staff, including lifeguards, to run the Cove as they normally would. At their last meeting, the Recreation Commission voted in favor of opening the beach to the public with appropriate signage indicating that there are no lifeguards and swimming would be at your own risk. Boyle was seeking a vote from the Selectmen as well. General Counsel Kate Feodoroff, who attended the meeting over the phone, cited the recreational use statute which protects property owners from liability if people are using their land for free. The water has also been tested regularly and is safe for swimming.
The selectmen engaged in some debate as to whether it would be in the best interest of the town to open the Cove. Selectmen Clerk Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett pointed out that some youth sports such as baseball have proceeded with their seasons this summer and suggested it would be inconsistent and unfair to allow one form of recreation to proceed while prohibiting another. She said, “We’re at a place where people need to be responsible for their actions and their children’s actions and they need to monitor them and do whatever is best for them, society, and their little family… I don’t want to be into trying to decide if kids should be going down to swim or not.” Selectmen Chairman Kenny Mitchell agreed saying, “Accountability needs to start at home.” Selectman Matt Dyer said he believed the Board should have a uniform approach in their decision-making regarding recreation during the pandemic.
Selectman Jim Hickey saw things differently saying, “It’s not about being consistent, it’s about not repeating a mistake.” Selectman Wes Blauss made a point to publicly state that there would be no social distancing on the docks. Hickey concurred saying, “There’s not 6 inches, let alone 6 feet on those docks.” Blauss stressed that the priority should be on getting children back into school, a feat complicated by a lack of social distancing and potential spread of the virus. Despite some objection from other members of the Board that the issues were separate, Blauss said he felt that they really weren’t. He also referenced the loss of the Whitman-Hanson graduation due to the actions of a couple of seniors.
Following deliberation, the Board voted 3-2 in favor of opening Cranberry Cove with proper signage and in compliance with Governor Baker’s orders. Blauss and Hickey were the dissenting votes. The Board also took a vote to extend the FY 2021 to FY 2022 camping season at Camp Kiwanee from May 9, 2021 to October 31, 2021. It passed unanimously.
Mitchell told the Board that they would need to select a peer review firm for the marijuana cultivation special permit application that was submitted by Impress LLC on August 6. Feodoroff as well as Town Planner Deb Pettey were available to answer questions and make recommendations to the Board. Federoff explained the need for the peer review saying it was necessary to have engineers who are engaged with the town analyze the plans submitted by Impress LLC to ensure that they are consistent with the neighborhood. Of greatest concern is the mechanical plans which will include odor control as that was the type of concern most voiced during the town’s hearing. Pettey offered that the town could handle the review of the site plans but would not be able to properly review the mechanical plans. According to her, the firm Trinity would be able to handle the bulk of the needed review.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said, “I don’t want us doing anything in house, they are on the hook to pay for this. I want to make sure it is thoroughly peer reviewed… if we need to get two engineering firms – one to look at mechanical and one to look at site and the rest of the stuff, then I think that’s what we do.” Federoff agreed saying that the town did not need to limit itself to one engineer but noted that they would want to be sure not to duplicate efforts if choosing to go with more than one firm. The Board voted to allow Town Administrator John Stanbrook to select the firm or firms.
The Board decided to elect Blauss and FitzGerald-Kemmett to the task of interviewing candidates to fill the at-large vacancies on the new De-Regionalization Feasibility Committee. Hickey will serve on the committee to represent the Board of Selectmen and Kevin Sullivan will represent the Finance Committee. Blauss and FitzGerald-Kemmett will interview 11 candidates before making their recommendations to the Board of Selectmen during the August 25 meeting.
FitzGerald-Kemmett read from a lengthy list of town committees in need of volunteers. They included the Facebook Upkeep Committee, 200th Anniversary Committee, Conservation Commission (associate members), Cultural Council, Disabilities, Economic Development, Finance, Highway Building Committee, Historical Commission, Memorial Day and Patriotic Observance, Memorial Field Trustees, North River Commission, and an alternate for the Zoning Board. Applications for appointment as well as information on the committees are available on the town website.
Voter Registration and Early Voting
A voter registration session will be held on Saturday, August 22 from 2 pm to 4 pm and 7 pm to 8 pm at the town hall. It will be the last chance to register to vote for the September primary. The town will offer in-person early voting for the September primary on Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23 at the town hall from 8 am until 12 pm. Early voting will also be available during regular working hours from Monday, August 24 through Friday, August 28.
The Board voted to accept the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act reimbursement money. According to Stanbrook, the town is eligible to receive over $900,000 through the Act.
Stanbrook told the Board that the state has announced the much-anticipated numbers for Chapter 70 funding and Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA). Hanson will receive $14,658 in Chapter 70 funding – just under the amount of $14,955 budgeted at town meeting. The actual numbers for UGGA came in at $1,359,810 which represented an increase of $176,700 over what was budgeted and approved at town meeting.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation announced $4 million in mass trails grants. Hanson was on the list for the Bay Circuit Trail relocation and will be receiving $100,000. FitzGerald-Kemmett thanked Dyer and Chairman of the Conservation Commission Phil Clemons for their hard work. “That was some bright and lovely news in the middle of an otherwise dismal year,” she said.
In other news, Stanbrook told the Board that the construction at the Liberty St. and County Rd. intersection will begin on August 24. The work will be paid for out of the state’s Complete Streets Funding Program. Road paving, which is paid for through the town’s Ch 90 allotment, will be finished in the next few weeks on Rte. 14, County Rd., and West Washington St. Stanbrook said, “Please slow down while in the work zone to enhance safety for you and for the town’s employees and contractors. I would like to thank everyone for their patience while this needed work is completed.”
Finally, Mitchell said that the EEE level in Hanson is currently moderate. If it is increased to high, fields in town will automatically get shut down. Mitchell noted that it is not decided through a vote of the Board of Selectmen, but rather is a decision made by the Board of Health.