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Selectmen Approve Outdoor Town Meeting For November

By Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, October 15, 2020, Updated: October 24, 2020

 Hingham Current News Photo / Kristen Arute

During their meeting on Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen approved plans to hold a Special Town Meeting to purchase land for a new $35 million public safety facility. The meeting will be held outdoors on the multipurpose field at the high school at noon on Saturday, November 21st, the weekend before Thanksgiving. A rain date is scheduled for Sunday, November 22nd, and, should it rain on Sunday, "Plan C," as Town Administrator Tom Mayo referred to it, is an indoor meeting at the high school. It is unclear if any school time would be impacted by the requisite cleaning needed to make the building safe for students again. It is also unclear how much a Special Town Meeting would cost taxpayers; however, the Selectmen could ask for reimbursement under the Plymouth County CARES program.

In the spring, the Selectmen unanimously approved holding Annual Town Meeting outdoors on this same field. Due to COVID, municipalities were allowed to reduce their quorums to 10%. This would have meant that Hingham's quorum for Town Meeting could have been shrunk to 30. The Selectmen opted to reduce it to 200 instead.

Annual Town Meeting was held on one of the hottest days of the year, so the Town had to make special accommodations. Due to the fact that the temperatures could be very cool in November, different arrangements would need to be made for Special Town Meeting. "We won't need cooling stations," quipped Mayo, "but we may need warming stations."

Articles for the Warrant were put forward by Selectman Bill Ramsey and were also unanimously approved. Article 1 would authorize the Selectmen to acquire the property at 335 Lincoln Street from 291 Mystic, LLC. The 3.07-acre lot is assessed at $3.5M and was purchased in 2016 by the current owners for $1.545M. The Selectmen and seller have agreed upon a purchase price of $5,475,000. Tyburski Appraisal Corporation appraised the property at $4,000,000 in February before COVID dramatically impacted real estate values. The Selectmen have said the high offer is due to the fact that there was another other bidder.

"We are prepared to pay a premium for the property," said Town Administrator Tom Mayo.

Town Meeting will be asked to approve a total of $8.8M. A portion of it, $5.475M, would be for the land, and the remaining $3.3M would cover the cost of design and construction bid documents. The land would be used for the construction of a three-story Public Safety Facility that will be 55,000 square feet in size to be located on the north side of Route 3A in the Hingham Shipyard. The Public Safety Facility recently determined that this location is "feasible."

Hingham is on of the few town on the South Shore that will be holding a Town Meeting this fall in this manner. Several towns, like Southborough, have already cancelled plans for their Annual Town Meetings or Special Town Meetings. The towns that are moving forward with Meetings during this time of year, like Plymouth and Brookline, appear to only be ones that have Representative Town Meeting and are able to hold their Meetings remotely.

The Town rarely holds Special Town Meetings. The last one was on October 24, 2011 when, ironically, taxpayers were asked to fund the High School Fields Improvement Project.

Kristen can be reached at kristen@hinghamcurrent.com.