POLITICS

Board Of Selectmen Approve Warrant And Reduce Quorum To 200 For Outdoor Town Meeting On November 21st

By Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff; October 31, 2020

Outdoor Annual Town Meeting in June 2020 [Hingham Current file photo / Greg Lane]

The Selectmen have signed and issued the Warrant for Special Town Meeting that is scheduled for Saturday, November 21st and will be held on the multipurpose field at the high school. Extreme heat was a concern at Annual Town Meeting in June, but cooling stations will be replaced with warming huts at next month's Meeting. Backup plans have been put into place so that the Town can stay on track with a vote to approve the purchase of a parcel of land at 335 Lincoln Street in the Shipyard which will be the site of a new Public Safety Facility and will house police headquarters and the North Street Fire Station.

The lot, which is assessed for $3.5M and was appraised for $4M in February prior to communities seeing an impact on commercial real estate due to COVID, has a negotiated price of $5.475M. "We are prepared to pay a premium for this property," said Town Administrator Tom Mayo. The current owners purchased the property in 2016 for $1.545M which means they would see a return on their investment of almost 254% in just four years.

Concerns over being able to achieve a quorum for Annual Town Meeting were expressed in the spring. In response to those concerns, the Selectmen chose to take advantage of a provision in new rules resulting from the pandemic that allow municipalities to bypass certain components of the Open Meeting Law. Hingham could have reduced the quorum size from 300 to 30 as was permitted; however, the Town ultimately set it at 200. The Articles on the Warrant require a 2/3 approval vote which means that 134 voters, or just 0.5% of the population, could make the final decision.

 

During this week's meeting, Chair Mary Power pointed out that Mayo had suggested the Town follow suit for Special Town Meeting. The recommendation was unanimously approved by all three selectmen but is subject to the approval of Town Moderator Michael Puzo who is in charge of the Meeting.

"I think it's the right thing to do," Mayo said about the reduction in the size of the quorum. "Better safe than sorry. You just never know in this situation. The town's business is important."

The business at hand is a parcel that the Selectmen have identified as an ideal location for a Public Safety Facility. At this point, the Articles on the Warrant simply pertain to the purchase of the land; however, the Selectmen are well within their right to reopen the Warrant and add other Articles, like zoning bylaw changes, to it.

Members of the Board of Selectmen:

Mary Power, Chair, powerm@hingham-ma.gov

Joe Fisher, fisherj@hingham-ma.gov

Bill Ramsey, ramseyw@hingham-ma.gov

Kristen can be reached at kristen@hinghamcurrent.com.