Special Town Meeting Planned For Saturday, November 14th
Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, September 15, 2020
Hingham Current file photo / Greg Lane
A Special Town Meeting is expected to be held on Saturday, November 14th. The purpose of the Special Town Meeting would be to authorize the Selectmen to purchase a 3.1-acre parcel of property located in the Shipyard on which a new facility for police and fire would be constructed. During a meeting of the Public Safety Facility Building Committee last week, there was some discussion about how this could be made to happen given the short window of time.
"There's a lot of information that being digested over days, hours to get this finalized," said Sean Papich, one of the Town's consultants on the project. "It's a tight schedule." A Feasibility Study Report would need to be completed within the next three weeks in order to accommodate hard deadlines.
Based upon the date of the Special Town Meeting, Warrants would need to be in residents' mailboxes by October 31st. "The mailing needs to go out October 22nd," Papich continued, "and an Advisory (Committee) and Selectmen combined meeting would be mid October a week prior to the mailing deadline."
Assistant Town Administrator Michelle Monsegur joined the meeting near the end of the call. "Do you want to just speak to (the deadlines) so that people know that you and (Town Administrator) Tom (Mayo) have talked to the leadership of Advisory?" the Town's real estate attorney Susan Murphy who was moderating the Public Safety Facility Building Study Committee meeting suggested to Monsegur.
"We spoke with Bob (Curley, Chair of the Advisory Committee) and Julie (Strehle, Secretary of the Advisory Committee) yesterday as we do every Wednesday," said Monsegur. "That joint meeting on Thursday the 15th would be the first meeting, but then Bob's thinking that Advisory might need three meetings on this, and the Selectmen would likely need more than one as well." These meetings would be held in a public forum between October 15th and 21st in order to meet the printer deadline.
Mayo frowned on the suggestion that the existing police and fire facilities be opened to the public in advance of the Special Town Meeting, calling the idea "squirrely" given the pandemic. "I'm not comfortable bringing the general public through," said Mayo. "What I think might make sense, and I've mentioned it to the Board (of Selectmen), maybe we think about doing a Harbor Media production."
A Special Town Meeting is costly depending on the Meeting's needs and its level of complexity. Recently the town of Southborough decided against holding a Special Town Meeting this fall citing safety, cost, resources and full public participation as the challenges. If an outdoor Town Meeting were held in November, the weather might not cooperate. Having audio equipment, tents and seating set up and taken down to account for a postponement would increase the cost of the Meeting significantly.
The Southborough Board of Selectmen were concerned that holding a Special Town Meeting amid a pandemic would not only reduce voter turnout but would limit engagement in the necessary public meetings held in advance of the Meeting. They decided to put the Meeting off until they could be assured of full and safe voter participation in all aspects of the process.
Robert Garrity, Chair
Paul Healey, Vice Chair
Police Chief David Jones, ex-officio, non-voting member
Fire Chief Steve Murphy, ex-officio, non-voting member
Advisory Committee members (taken from the Town website which does not reflect new members, retired members or the reorganization of the Committee):
Victor Baltera, Chair
Robert Curley, Vice Chair
Julie Strehle, Secretary