HANSON — While fiscal 2020 was a “favorable year, financially” with revenues nearly 3 percent over budget, an override is seen as likely to be necessary for fiscal 2022, Selectmen were advised during their Tuesday, Aug. 25 meeting.
Town Accountant Todd Hassett met for his quarterly report via telephone with the Selectmen who gathered in a socially-distanced manner at Town Hall.
“Fiscal ’22, even despite what may go on with state revenues, will be extremely challenging for us absent an override or some sort of major change going forward,” he said. “We need to start some preliminary planning so we get the message out to the community. … It’s important to get ahead of this early.”
The fiscal 2021 budget is balanced, “despite some moving pieces” on the revenue side, Hassett stressed.
“The actions that Town Meeting approved [did not produce] a shortfall,” he said. “We have a balanced budget.”
While there have been about $90,000 in unused reserve funds this year, Hassett said that is unusual and traceable to the COVID shutdown this spring. Town Meeting had also used $450,000 in free cash to support the operating budget.
Fiscal 2021 revenue estimates at Camp Kiwnanee are down to $142,000 — compared to $218,000 in fiscal 2020 — as event cancellations continue to require refunds.
“Although the sign-ups for future events at the lodge seem to be rebounding, a lot of them are pushed into the next fiscal year,” Hassett said, advising the $142,000 be held in case the camp’s operations need to be shored up. “We’ll cautiously watch how this year progresses.”
The transfer station, meanwhile, exceeded revenue forecasts by about $30,000, mostly from the three-year sticker sales, meaning a decline will be seen in fiscal ’21 as disposal costs continue to rise.
Selectmen also heard an update on the former Maquan School.
Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett noted that the reuse committee has been investigating the possibility of using it for senior housing despite hurdles ranging from town administrator turnover to COVID.
“I just wanted to get a sanity check, because we are definitely in very different economic times than we were when we originally talked about this,” she said.
The “backup plan,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said, was the $1 million approved at a recent Town Meeting for demolition of the building.
A formal request for proposal to contractors for possible reuse — to be able to say all avenues were explored — have produced early returns indicating people were looking for the town to invest in a sewer system first, among other services.
“We’re not spending any money for somebody else to make money off of that property,” she said. “Everybody said [in a town survey] wanted to retain the property.”
Both the library and senior center have spoken about the need for expansion.
A consulting firm had also advised the reuse committee that lease of the property would bring in only between an estimated $800,000 and $1 million because of the site work and engineering planning needed.
FitzGerald-Kemmett asked for a vote from the board on whether they wanted to sell the property.
“I say definitely don’t sell it,” said Selectmen Chairman Kenny Mitchell.
Selectman Matt Dyer said whether the property is used for a library or senior center project, a comprehensive plan is needed on how to best use the space.
FitzGerald-Kemmett suggested the Maquan property dovetails well with proposals for the reuse of the Plymouth County Hospital site.
The board also heard a quarterly report from Fire Chief Jerome Thompson who noted the department is answering multiple calls 15 percent of the time, arguing that supports the need for a full staff of four firefighters at all times.
Aggressive maintenance programs keep buildings and equipment in good shape, he said.
Thompson credited his department for its response to COVID-19 despite guidance from state officials that sometimes changed daily. Since March 1, the department transported 68 cases of suspected COVID and 14 confirmed cases.
“I want to point out that there could have been more confirmed [cases] that we don’t know about,” he said. Even suspected cases required the use of full protective equipment and a 30-minute cleaning of the ambulance on return to the station.
“It changed everything we did,” Thompson said. “It pretty much affected all aspects of out operation. … And it will for the foreseeable future.”
PPE supplies from the state are in good shape so far, he noted, but cleaning supplies are hard to come by.
FitzGerald-Kemmett also lauded the fire and police departments for the — sometimes controversial — rolling birthday parades in which they participated this spring.
“It helped people mentally at a very bad time,” she said.