HANSON — Town Planner Tony Defrias presented an outline of a vision for the former Maquan School property to the Select Board on Tuesday, June 21.
“This is just step one of 100,” he said. “This is just to talk about it.”
Defrias has made the presentation to the Maquan Reuse Committee, the Planning Board and the Economic Development Commission as well.
“Tony was thinking about generally the needs that the town has for the Library/Senior Center, sports and highway, was the original driver of the whole thing,” Chair Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “I want to emphasize that nothing has been done to effectuate change in moving in the direction of what Tony’s about to present.”
If the board found value in it, a public forum or hearing could be scheduled.
Defrias noted that there had been discussion of library renovation expansion, what to do with the former Maquan School and the needs of the Highway Department when he came on board in Ocober 2021.
“I took it upon myself to take a look at this area to try to determine what might be the best use for those three parts of Hanson — Library, Maquan School, Highway Department,” he said.
Defrias calls his proposal the Maquan Area Reuse Plan.
The school site at 60 School St., is a 17.8-acre parcel of open fields and woods as well as the school building and its former parking lot. The Library/Senior Center building at 132 Maquan St., takes up 3.33 acres with a building the two departments share and parking area and green space. The Highway Department at 797 Indian Head St., takes up 6.1 acres with multiple buildings and three youth baseball fields, a skate park and basketball court.
The three properties are more or less adjacent, with two roads and the Indian Head School between them.
“These are three pieces of land that the town controls,” he said. “You own them.”
An MSBA feasibility study conducted during the aborted new elementary school process in 2012 noted that while it was well-maintained, most of the fixtures were original to the building and were nearing the the end of serviceable life.
“I felt that one of the best uses for this is to raze the existing building — get rid of it completely — and what would be constructed there would be something [working title] Maquan Youth Athletic Complex,” Defrias said. He also suggested the facility could be named for Ruth Masters or carry over the Boiteri Field name, moving the ball fields, skate park and basketball court over to the school property and build a structure for concessions, public restrooms and offices with 93 parking spaces.
The small playground would be relocated.
“This is something that could generate money for the town,” he said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said there has been “very strong feedback” that the property not be sold. Defrias also noted the building is not feasible for elder housing.
A 2019 Library study, meanwhile, has concluded that building is undersized to meet the needs of town residents. Additions could be made to both parts of the current building without interrupting services, or a new library could be constructed on the Maquan site.
The Highway Department, which is now two miles from all town borders, would be even further — leaving a longer response time to the entire north end of town — at the Hawks Avenue site now under consideration. Expanding and improving facilities at the existing site could allow the Highway Department to remain in a central location and would be most feasible, Defrias said.
Office space for the IT director could also be relocated there, he said.
“If there’s any department in Hanson that is going to need to expand, its Highway Deprtment,” Defrias said. “Hanson has 70 private ways and that’s a large issue in town.”
Select Board member Ann Rein is going to chair the “resuscitated” Highway Building Committee, FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
In other business, the board voted to authorize the use of new election equipment, starting at the September state primary.
The new equipment, Poll Pads, for which funding was approved at Town Meeting.