HANSON — The annual Town Meeting on Monday, May 3 approved a proposed $10,516,372 debt authorization plan for South Shore Tech.
Hanson’s share would be 13.65 percent of that figure.
SST intends to phase in projects between fiscal 2023 and 2028, with the borrowing costs to be part of the district’s proposed annual assessment starting in fiscal 2023.
The funds are intended to cover remodeling and extraordinary repair costs at the school and had already been approved by Scituate, Hanover and Rockland voters. All eight towns in the regional school district must approve the plan for it to move forward. Whitman will vote on the proposal June 2.
The proposal was originally intended to cost $18,960,537.
The SST School Committee in a special meeting, on Monday, April 26 lowered the amount it is recommending for its debt authorization article to $10,516,372.
Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey explained that the school was originally built in 1962 with an addition constructed in1992.
“These projects stem from our facilities master plan, and we are essentially trying to find a cost-effective way, through borrowing, to keep capital costs low and deal with a lot of the issues in our 1962 building,” he said. “He have a well-maintained building, but we have some big capital projects coming up in the future.”
Hanson’s Finance Committee had not recommended the article.
Finance Chairman Kevin Sullivan said his committee supports the school, with the town’s current financial situation, they were not in the position to take on a significant amount of debt.
“We believe that the renovations are very real, very needed, but we talked about addressing it at a fall special Town Meeting, pending the outcome of the override,” Sullivan said.
Hickey said he appreciated the Finance Committee’s diligence in the matter, but stressed all eight towns’ support was required to move forward with the borrowing.
“With this capital plan, we would actually see Hanson’s borrowing costs go down by about $30,000 a year, starting at fiscal ’25,” he said.
Interest rates are not currently locked in, but are based on a best estimate of the Federal Reserve not raising the interest rate until 2023.
Interest-only borrowing is planned for fiscal ’23 and ’24, which is why the estimated costs are very low, according to Hickey. They are planning based on interest rates of about 2 percent starting in fiscal 2025.
Voters also approved an article to raise and appropriate funds to operate the transfer station as well as an article authorizing the town’s participation in a Community Choice Aggregation Program, which residents may opt out of if they do not wish to purchase their energy in that manner.
An article concerning rule change swapping 8.5 acres of the Webster-Billings Conservation Area for a 25.403-acre parcel the protection of a town well head by transferring control to the Conservation Commission was approved. The article was intended to ensure the public has access to trails and open space for passive recreation.
Plymouth County Final Reuse Committee Chairman Don Ellis said that committee was neither approached nor notified of the proposal.
“The park plans are not yet finalized,” Ellis said. “The committee is working with an engineer on final design and needed infrastructure. To swap 8.5 acres for 25 acres is just not right.”
He said there must be other town-owned properties of more equal value to swap. He also noted the property in question is more than half of the former hospital property.
He moved to pass over the article.
Conservation Committee Chairman Phil Clemons, who also serves on the Reuse Committee noted the property has three parcels and the one involved in the article does not include the area being looked at for a park and that the article is 100-percent more in keeping with future plans for the park and is more in keeping with the committee’s mission.
Selectman Wes Blauss expressed surprise that the Reuse Committee had not been informed of the article, but he advocated moving forward with it, as did Selectman Matt Dyer, who serves as vice chairman of the Reuse Committee.
Kathleen Marini said she was shocked that the Reuse Committee was not informed and that she considered it a “run around” on the committee before it had the chance to complete it’s work.