HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Sept. 29 continued discussion on a request by the Old Colony YMCA to lease of Needles Lodge at Camp Kiwanee for use as a learning pod for children whose parents have to work during remote learning days. [See related story below.]
“I’m supportive of this, but the devil’s in the details on the agreement we enter into with them,” said Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett.
Town Counsel Kate Feodoroff said she adjusted language in the request to refer to it as a license rather than a lease.
“The interesting part about it is that what they are intending to do is set up a place for remote learning,” she said. “This is allowed by executive order of the governor.”
Towns must appoint someone to inspect proposals, including running CORI checks on all employees, as well as certification that health requirements are being met among other responsibilities.
FitzGerald-Kemmett questioned whether the town should be responsible for such employee background checks.
“I don’t want to minimize the burden on the town, but there’s a burden that’s been placed on the town by this executive order,” Feodoroff said. She noted that the town would have the same inspection responsibilities for private organizations offering the service on public property.
“We do have a private business in town that just got approved for the same exact thing,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said, referring to the Boss Academy learning pod. “I don’t know if we fully appreciated that there was a liability that flowed to the town.”
Boss Academy worked with town inspection boards to ensure that all necessary documentation was in place, she said. It also received approval from the state’s Department Of Early Education and Care (DEEC).
“I don’t think it’s a liability, I think it’s just an obligation — an additional task,” Feodoroff said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said Boss Academy already does CORI checks on its staff, but Feodoroff said the town is supposed to fill that role for learning pod approval.
“I thought it was a strange, strange thing myself,” Feodoroff said Selectmen could approve the lease request contingent on her speaking to the DEEC about potentially outsourcing CORI checks as was done with the other business.
Selectman Chairman Kenny Mitchell said he was not comfortable voting on the request until more information is available.
“We could do it as quick as Saturday morning if we get all our ducks in a row by then,” Mitchell said.
Selectman Matt Dyer also voiced concerns about the dependability of the internet connectivity at Camp Kiwanee and whether Hanson students would get preference in enrollment.
“We have other vendors up there that are there throughout the week,” Dyer also noted. “Are we pushing current vendors out? Are we displacing them?”
Mitchell said the yoga program is looking into using space at the library.
Dyer also said compensation concerned him — $2,500 per month plus 25 percent of the enrollment fee, while the town charges $5,000 for a wedding, which only uses the space for four hours. He also urged calculation of utilities costs to determine if the Y program will enable the town to break even.
“They’re going to be there in the winter, when we typically don’t have the heat going full-blast five days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “That’s going to be a significant cost. … I’d be surprised if $2,500 per month is even going to cover our heating costs during the winter.”
She said she wasn’t against the proposal so long as the YMCA covers the cost of the additional fiber optics installation and winter heating expenses and the $2,500.
Selectman Jim Hickey said the $50 per child cost could bring the YMCA as much as $50,000 a month.
“They’re going to pay us a drop in the bucket,” he said. “There’s a lot of questions.”
In other business, Selectmen discussed the Finance Committee’s vote against recommending an article to change the tree warden from an elected to an appointed position could lead to more costs down the road in view of the need to hire an experienced certified arborist.
Mitchell said that was a concern he shared and suggested more research on the issue was needed.
The position can remain elected until the next election and can also be raised again at the May Town Meeting, Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan said.
Selectman Matt Dyer suggested placing the duties under the purview of the Highway Director.
“I really like that,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “It addresses FinCom’s concerns … we have a unique opportunity, right now, to modify what that job description is.”
For that reason, the board let the article stand.