HANSON — The Board of Selectmen voted on Tuesday, May 19 to move the annual Town Meeting to July 20. The Annual Town Election, however, will take place on the original June 27 date [see related story] to avoid the need of paying for a special election for a school override vote.
“Unless you want a massive cut to services in the town of Hanson, there is a 100-percent chance we are going to need an override,” Finance Committee Chairman Kevin Sullivan said. “With the compromise from the School Committee, we are still currently running and $865,000 deficit.”
Moderator Sean Kealy had suggested holding the Town Meeting outdoors for the date for which it had been scheduled — June 22.
Whitman Selectmen have discussed holding their June 22 Town Meeting in the High School gym, which Kealy said he was fully in favor of planning for Hanson on a different night.
Town Counsel Kate Feodoroff reviewed the logistics of postponement for Selectmen, noting that there had been some concern that postponement wasn’t possible since elections in Hanson are posted on the warrant.
“We were concerned we would be in violation of the bylaw if we held the Town Meeting later,” she said. Emergency legislation about the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on town government, allows postponement.
“What is clear, if we don’t have our Town Meeting before June 30, we go to a 1/12 budget for the town,” Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
Feodoroff said a 1/12-plus budget permits up-front payments of pension assessment, insurance and other bills offering a discount for payment in-full at the beginning of the fiscal year. Capital expenditures during that phase are discouraged in a 1/12-plus budget.
FitzGerald-Kemmett noted that use of Zoom for Town Meeting is permissible for department heads and other presenters, but not voters.
Selectman Kenny Mitchell agreed keeping to the June 15 schedule would be tight but endorsed Kealy’s suggestion to hold the Town Meeting elsewhere or outside. Selectman Matt Dyer preferred the postponement and use of a 1/12-plus budget until further guidance is available from the governor.
“I don’t want voters to have to feel, ‘I have to go vote and risk my health to make sure I vote on something that’s going to be permissible … am I going to miss out on something that’s going to make or break the bank?’” Dyer said.
Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan also said she is not comfortable putting her roster of checkers at risk on the June 27 date. She also reminded Selectmen that early voting is being encouraged for the September primary and November general election.
In other business, Selectmen discussed the potential for opening Camp Kiwanee, based on Gov. Baker’s reopening schedule pertaining to summer camp activities. While the beach was technically allowed to open May 25, FitzGerald-Kemmett questioned if there was time — as of the May 19 meeting — to have lifeguards and infrastructure in place by then.
Playground will not be allowed to open under the state’s protocols until June 8.
Recreation Commission member Diane Cohen asked if it were permissible to allow caretaker staff to work, observing social distancing and other safety guidelines, to permit opening by the time school is out. [See related story].
“There is a lot of maintenance to be done at the camp to prepare it,” she said.
Mitchell and Dyer agreed to that in view of the need for the cove as a diversion for kids, but Selectman Jim Hickey noted that since Town Meeting had been moved back to keep people safe, it might be wise to delay the Cranberry Cove opening as well and to limit numbers of people.
“We’ll probably have to go to a day-pass system only, rather than selling season passes,” Cohen said. “I’m concerned about the swimming area, which gets extremely crowded and what those regulations look like.”
An online reservation system is already being looked into.
A schedule of reopening for town buildings, meanwhile, is already being discussed, according to Town Administrator John Stanbrook.
FitzGerald-Kemmett noted that the governor’s task force is deliberately moving with caution to reopen senior centers due to the vulnerability of its population of elder clients, a position Stanbrook indicated he shares.
In Town Hall, employees will be brought back in stages and their temperatures will be checked on entrance and masks and hand sanitizers will be required. Frequent cleaning, weekly foggings and the wearing gloves will be required.
An initial phase will test the regulations with only employees present, followed by phasing in of public entrance to the building. The public will be limited to the use of lower level entrances and bathrooms and public hearings must calculate the number of people required to attend until the “new normal” for full public access can be determined.