Hanson works toward reviving Main Street corridor
HANSON — The Main Street (Route 27) corridor near the Commuter Rail station continues to be a priority for the Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator Michael McCue, who described the area as “one of the gateways to the town of Hanson.”
“I am in continuing discussions with an entity down on Main Street that is interested in doing some redevelopment,” McCue said. He said he was also meeting during the week of June 25 with state agencies to potentially present a tax incentive financing (TIF) plan before the October Town Meeting.
“It is fairly complicated and there are a lot of moving parts,” McCue told Selectmen at the board’s Tuesday, June 19 meeting about the TIF issue. “I know the town has started an Economic Development Commission, I know in the past the town had an Economic Target Area (ETA) Committee, unfortunately at the next meeting [Tuesday, July 10], I’m going to request that the town create another committee.”
That panel will be a TIF Committee charged with meeting with the “potential project owner” to negotiate a TIF agreement to draw up a Town Meeting article including a length of time for the special tax financing along with percentages involved.
“It’s a negotiation and it needs people involved in the negotiation that have a bit of wherewithal on how all of that works,” McCue said. That committee should include either the assessor or representative, someone from the Planning Board, a Selectman and McCue. He noted that the Finance Committee could be asked for representation, but had declined similar invitations in the past.
“I think this could be an exception, because this is a real-life ‘it’s happening’,” said Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett. “It’s going to impact the town, so I would rather err on the side of inviting them.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett noted that every member of the board, while on the campaign trail and since, has heard that residents want to see something happen there in terms of economic development.
A TIF can be in force from five to 20 years, according to McCue, who had reached out through the building inspector to the current owner of the old Ocean Spray building to perform some maintenance on sidewalks. That work has been going on for the past several days.
On Friday, June 29 workers were using construction equipment to pull saplings and undergrowth that had sprung up due to reduced use of commercial buildings next door and across an open lot to 999 Main St.
He has also reached out to owners of other nearby buildings to perform outdoor maintenance.
“It all goes back to that old broken windows theory that if you let one piece of property kind of go down the tubes, you have a kind of creep so the whole area looks that way,” he said. “I think the reverse is also true — that you have one or two of these locations clean themselves up and the other locations feel almost pressure to clean up. It really should be cleaned up.”
McCue said he wants to see something done, but cautioned against pushing too hard too fast and “scaring people off.”
“I think its going to reap the benefits fairly soon,” he said.
The Board of Selectmen will return to the issue of the proposed hiring of Eugene Gingras as the town’s new IT director when they meet Tuesday, July 10. A vote scheduled to adopt a fuel-efficient vehicle policy was also tabled due to questions raised by some of the town’s department heads.
In other business, June 19, Selectmen voted to close and post “No Trespassing” signs at town-owned land bordering Factory Pond where a rocket projectile from a WWII-era M-1, 2.36-inch, Rocket Launcher (called a Bazooka because of it’s resemblance to a trombone-like wind instrument copyrighted by radio comedian Bob Burns in the 1920s) had recently been found in the waters. The military had tested weaponry there in the past.
Even absent the launcher, the Bazooka rocket rounds are dangerously unstable. Police Chief Michael Miksch said the State Police Bomb Squad and a company working with the town of Hanover are being charged with removing such rounds, this one being discovered by a person using a metal detector to find that type of materials.
McCue noted that Hanover had already voted on June 18 to post “No Trespassing” signs along the shore on that side of the pond where all of the property is town-owned.
In Hanson, however, only two sections of land are town-owned and the “vast majority” of parcels concerned are privately-owned.
McCue consulted Town Counsel Katherine Feodoroff about what the town could do to control access to the pond from private land. She advised reaching out to discuss the issue with homeowners.
“The town can be treated, just like any individual, as a trespasser if you went on private property without permission, so you have to be careful,” Feodoroff said.
Chapter 103 of the Acts of 1955 gives the town of Hanson control of all ponds or lakes within the town, she said, adding more research into the extent of that control.
“The best approach is always to reach out to the residents and make them your partner,” Feodoroff said.
Whitman continues budget, purchasing discussions
WHITMAN — When the Board of Selectmen convene to begin the business of a new fiscal year on Tuesday, July 10, there will be some familiar action items before them — as well as a change in how board members report progress from their committee assignments.
Along with tabled or continued discussion on the possible call for a sergeant’s list for the Police Department and on proposed changes to the town’s travel and expense policy for municipal employees, Selectman Scott Lambiase continued to question the request to appoint Assistant Town Administrator Lisa Green as chief procurement officer.
He again stressed on Tuesday, June 26 that his concerns were not meant as comment on Green’s performance in a role she already fills without the title, but center on who should carry the title and the need to finish policy changes now being made.
The prior assistant town administrator was also chief procurement officer, according to Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski and Town Administrator Frank Lynam, but Lambiase said he did not recall such a vote.
“He can delegate his authority,” Lambiase said of Lynam. “The recommendation from the [state] Inspector General is, if there’s nothing in your Charter, then it’s up to the Selectmen to decide. My concern with it is the person who ends up as the chief procurement officer is where the buck should stop — and it should be us or our representative.”
Lynam could delegate the authority to Green, whom Lambiase said is “exceptionally capable of dealing with it … but I think the top person on our food chain has to be the town administrator for a lot of reasons.”
Chief procurement officer is a title that goes with the position, meaning the town administrator, he argued — it doesn’t go with the person.
Selectman Brian Bezanson said he, too, recalled voting to appoint former Assistant Town Administrator Greg Enos as chief procurement officer in 2013.
“If that were the case, then there would be no point in this exercise,” Lambiase said, asking that past minutes be checked.
“We need to find out what did that vote in 2013 mean,” Kowalski said.
Lynam agreed to look into the matter further with the Inspector General’s office.
The sergeant’s list was tabled again to await the outcome of a personnel issue. There is a vacancy due to retirement and a possible second vacancy based on an issue now under discussion within the rules of executive session.
The travel and expense policy changes were given a first read and will come back before the board July 10 so department heads can review the proposal and offer feedback.
Selectman Daniel Salvucci offered the suggestion that the traditional “around the board” session — in which Selectmen offer thoughts about items that may not be listed on the agenda — be ended in favor of a listed item pertaining to committee reports.
Kowalski replied he had been leaning that way, but a mention by Bezanson that residents should think about veterans with PTSD, or even the welfare of pets, before setting off illegal fireworks on July 4, led him to give it a second thought. Bezanson favors retaining the around the board tradition.
“You actually gave me a reason why it works sometimes, but it always seemed to me to be kind of awkward” Kowalski said. “This is a public meeting and people have the right to have a reasonable expectation of what’s going to be talked about at a public meeting.”
Personnel policies, performance evaluations, community assessment and budget will also become regular agenda items, Kowalski said. A Town Administrator’s report could also be an agenda item.
“I don’t see the Town Meetings being the High Mass of the year in which everything has to be done by that time,” he said. “I think there’s a manner of business that we need to adopt as selectmen that’s going to be consistent and when the Town Meeting comes, the Town Meeting comes.”
Preparing for Town Meetings should be one of the board’s considerations, but not it’s only goal, Kowalski said, suggesting the Finance Committee might take the same approach.
Finance Committee member Shawn Kain had asked about the timeline for and probable makeup of a proposed budget subcommittee during the meeting’s public forum, which in part inspired the discussion of changes to the board’s future agendas.
“Unfortunately, July and August are upon us,” Lambiase said. “I personally, would like to see that decision of who’s going to be on that committee made — when they are going to meet and what the charge is — by the end of July and certainly [to] have a good plan.”
Kain had indicated he wanted to see discussions about staff vs. salary reductions as part of that charge because of the W-H school district’s position as 15th from the bottom in terms of acceptable class size.
“If we went through another round of significant layoffs, that would hit the teacher/student ratio pretty hard,” he said. “I guess what I’m getting at is that the people who are on the committee are employees of the town, there’s somewhat of a conflict there.”
He urged Selectmen to include a citizen at-large seat on the budget subcommittee.
“That would have been my preference anyway,” said Kowalski, suggesting it, too, be added to the July 10 agenda.
In other business, Selectmen approved a transient vendor license — subject to final inspection and approval of the Board of Health, Building Commissioner and Fire Department as well as proof of liability insurance — for Andrew Poce to sell fish on premises at 1113 Bedford St.
Poce, doing business as Nantucket Wild, said he bought the trailer from the previous vendor who operated out of the parking lot of the former Shoetown Tavern. A commercial fisherman who lives in East Bridgewater, he said it will be his full-time venture initially operating sales from Wednesday through Saturday. He said his “ideal scenario” would be combining it with a Chatham smokehouse business he opened in 2010, ultimately looking for a brick and mortar location in Whitman.