HANSON — The town is working on a special event to recognize the Mewis sisters’ participation on the U.S. Olympic Team. Just what it will be hasn’t been decided yet.
Hanson natives and W-H graduates Samantha and Kristie Mewis are both members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team.
The 2020 Olympic Games — postponed a year by the COVID pandemic — open Friday, July 23 in Tokyo. Town Administrator Lisa Green had reported that a banner was being requested honoring the Mewis sisters be placed on the Town Green, but Selectmen advocated that much more be done.
“That’s really quite remarkable for the little town of Hanson … and we wish them the best of luck,” Green said of the Mewis sisters.
“I think a lot of people are asking is there more we can do as a town to recognize this truly unique fact that we’ve got sisters — from our little Podunk town — that have made it to the Olympics,” said Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett.
“This small little town invented Ocean Spray, we have [singer] Kristen Merlin, we have Kristie and Sam Mewis — Olympic soccer players representing the United States,” Selectman Joe Weeks said at the Tuesday, July 13 meeting. “They are the only [sisters] to ever do it and one of them won an ESPY Award the other day, so this is absolutely fabulous that we keep striking gold like this.”
Weeks said the town should vet the situation and figure out what can be done to honor them because “this small town keeps getting wins.”
He asked if they could be invited to town to take part in whatever is planned.
“I would really like to think about the idea of a parade,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “I love the idea of little people — little soccer players — going like, ‘These girls grew up in our town! This is awesome!’ I think it could be so inspirational.”
Meals tax proposed
The Board of Selectmen, while voting to open the warrant for the October special Town Meeting, voted to draft a meals tax article at Green’s suggestion as a potential revenue source for the town. It would add a .75 percent tax on top of restaurant bills, which would be funneled back to the town through the state. On a $100 dining bill, the tax would come to 75 cents, Selectmen Chairman Matt Dyer said.
The idea came to Green during her research into Hanson’s revenues while she was looking into the town administrator position. Hanson has not adopted MGL Ch 64L and 803 in the Code of Mass. Regulations permitting a local sales tax on meals.
“Basically, this statute has been around for many, many years,” Green said. “Basically all of our neighbors have adopted this law. The only [area] towns that are not on this are Lakeville, Hanson and Plympton.”
She said that belies an argument that adopting a local meals tax would drive business to surrounding towns, because nearly all neighboring communities also have the tax in place.
“It is an area of revenue that Hanson has not tapped into that we could really significantly benefit from,” Green said, noting that a percentage could be earmarked for town employee post-retirement benefit costs.
“It will help us take care of some of our obligations, particularly retirement,” she said.
While larger towns like Abington — totaling $319,000 and Bridgewater brought with $359,000 — saw more benefit, Halifax brought in $42,000 in meals tax revenue last year.
Hanson has 19 eating establishments from restaurants to fast food eateries and prepared food outlets like Shaw’s.
“This isn’t out of proportion, this isn’t going to break the bank for a lot of folks,” Dyer said, noting the board welcomes feedback from restaurants.
Selectmen voted 5-0 to support drafting a warrant article for the voters to discuss and consider.
“I do think it’s important to let the townspeople take a look at this and see if it’s something they want to invest in,” Weeks said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett expressed concern over how long restaurants would have to implement the change.
Green said it would likely go into effect by Dec. 1 with the assessment happening in January and revenue collected by the DOR in February with a distribution back to the town by March 31, 2022 — if the article is approved in October.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said she has reached out to state Sen. Mike Brady, D-Brockton, and Mass. Housing regarding what the town could do to address neighbors’ concerns about contaminants from the Rockland town dump draining onto the property where a development including eight 40B housing units is proposed.
“I want to be real about it,” she said. “It’s private property — he owns it and, as long as he’s following the regulations, then he’s going to likely be permitted to build there.”
A Mass. Housing partnership via a grant the town can apply for to fund a specialist’s review of the environmental concerns, FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
“I would really like to see this board, in the interest of public health and the things that were expressed in the last ZBA meeting, because this is beyond their purview … apply for a grant,” she said.
Green said a licensed site professional would do that work and, if contaminants are found, the town would be informed and would likely trigger a second phase of review.
If it is found that contamination is due to faulty work in capping Rockland’s landfill, they could be held responsible, Green suggested.
Further moves would be up to the developer.
The board voted to request that Green pursue the grant.