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August 22, 2006
Regular Session 7:36 pm
Mr. Edmundson, Ms. Tully, Mr. Riley
Questions from the Public
Mr. Clough of the Bare Cove Park Committee asked the Board to make an exception to the two-term limit policy and to reappoint John Swanson a member of the Committee. Mr. Edmundson noted that it is the regular policy of the Board to limit terms to two consecutive terms in order to stimulate volunteerism in the town and allow everyone an opportunity to participate in the committee. Mr. Clough said that Mr. Swanson had the time and the knowledge to get the clean-up going. Mr. Robbins remarked that he had been reappointed beyond two terms with no particular skills; Mr. Swanson is an engineer and that expertise would be most important during the projects facing the park at this time. Mr. Riley is the liaison to the Bare Cove Park Committee said that he had a stack of applications he would like to review before the vacancy is filled and that he would report back at the next meeting. Mr. Edmundson thanked the committee members for their input
Mr. Falvey told the Board he spoke to Mr. Stigliani about sprucing up in Town with regard to mowing various areas and the wall at harbor. Mr. Falvey remarked that he had understood that the Hersey House vote would happen by the 22nd at the latest. Mr. Riley said the new plan is significantly different from what was originally proposed. The issue is whether the proposal to bring the house forward onto North Street is in keeping with what was originally signed on. Mr. Riley also expressed concern about the five-acre rule. Mr. Cristello said that Ms. Gumble agrees that the 5-acre does not apply.
Mr. Hersey advised the Board that he was at the dump asking people to sign for a ballot question and was asked to leave. Mr. Reeves claimed that the proponents of the Community Preservation Act collected signatures at the dump. Mr. Edmundson said he thought there should be a policy as to what can or cannot be done and that the Board needs to come up with a good rule and not feel rushed into something. He commented that he would like to find a safe place for Mr. Hersey to be able to get signatures. Mr. Edmundson also expressed concern about safety and precedent. Ms. Tully noted that she had been asked to stop handing out flyers some years ago because it was slowing down traffic. Mr. Riley said he thought that political activity was allowed only outside the gates. Mr. Patch told the Board that the nature of the political activity requires contact with the voter and town dumps have long been a focal point of political action. Mr. Edmundson said the Board would consult with town counsel and get back to Mr. Hersey. Mr. Reeves said the group would challenge any ruling that prevented collecting signatures at the dump. Mr. Edmundson said the board would consult with town counsel and get back to Mr. Hersey.
Public Hearing - Grant of Location on the request of Hingham Light Plant
Mr. Tokadjian explained as a part of the expansion of the system that would provide power to the Shipyard development and provide for future growth. No one opposed the petition.
Voted, to approve a Grant of Location on the petition of the Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant to install and maintain approximately 150 feet of underground electrical conduits originating from the existing conduit system at Pole #10 Cross Street, at the intersection of Cross Street and Tower Brook Road, continuing to Pole #9 Cross Street, across from Little Pine Trail, subject to the stipulations of the Department of Public Works. The entire length of conduit extending from pole to pole will be installed under the sidewalk area, except where it will be connected at the pole locations.
Service Zone Agreement
Deputy Chief Olsson explained that one thing never addressed in the ambulance agreements was how emergency medical services would be provided to zones. Each jurisdiction sets up its own service zone plan that would regulate the provision of services. The service plan application being reviewed by the Board is to be submitted to OEMS Region 4. This application goes first to the region to either be returned with recommendations or recommended and forwarded to the state.
Voted - to sign the EMS Service Zone Plan Application for the Town of Hingham.
During the past fiscal year the spare ambulance unit became unserviceable so the Fire Department went out and made a deal to purchase a used ambulance with 55,000 miles on it. There had been some consideration given to putting the current medic three into back up status when a new ambulance was purchased. Deputy Olsson said it would mean rebuilding the engine and there are operating costs to keeping another vehicle. The Town will have to look at and 9-12 year replacement program because the ambulances doing approximately 37,000 miles per year.
Voted - to award the bid to Quality Emergency Vehicles for a new ambulance in the amount of $153,165.
Mr. Edmundson advised that originally it was expected that the Linden Ponds development would count 100% towards affordable housing. After a long discussion with DHCD the department agreed to increase the original offer of 10% to 25%. That, while an adjustment, will still not satisfy the Town. The Board initiated a lawsuit against DHCD seeking a more favorable determination. Mr. Edmundson noted that matters such as this require a great amount of consideration and the Town does have the benefit of the cooperation of Linden Ponds to finance the lawsuit to an amount within the budget that our town counsel feels is necessary. The Board does not expect there will be any cost to the residents of the town. It is expected that this could be in the court for several months. When Erickson is complete the Town will be close to 9% affordable, right now it is just shy of 6%.
South Shore Country Club
The first goal of the committee is to have a first class recreational facility and guest experience. Unfortunately revenues at the golf course continue to decline. South Shore Country Club is not unique; in the Boston area there have been decreases in rounds of play over the past several years. There is a lot of competition in this area and any of the "build the game" initiatives have not worked. Outings have suffered significantly. Every outing is scrambling to get people and they seem to feel they could get more people if they offer a private club. The overall experience at South Shore has been lacking. The facility is not particularly user friendly. Ms. Berard noted that the golf course conditions have been lacking and the restaurant facility has not been consistent. Ms. Berard said she firmly believes the operation can be turned around by removal of the contractors and bring the turf management in house.
The Committee explained that there are three priority levels for work at the facility: Priority #1 $149,135 to repair code violations; Prioirty #2 $1,123,630; and Priority #3 which are long term priorities $5,008,700. Sunday brunch has been ended, social events are down and outings are lost, Immediate capital projects include a sewer connection, the bowling alley ceiling, the entrance, back wall, pesticide storage and wetland delineation. This includes nothing from the facility study or work on the course. There is a need to make changes to create sustainable revenue for the future. The golf course management will be taken in house, there will be customer service training for all staff and work with food and beverage contractor to define quality standards.
Mr. Riley commented that things sound pretty dismal. He has seen a decline in the approach to the South Shore Country Club; the building is run down; the air conditioning and heat work sometimes; and there are broken windows. Mr. Riley questioned why there hasn't been consideration given to knocking down the facility and building something that can be a wonderful facility. Mr. Walsh said there wasn't any conscious decision to not fund capital repairs - on going maintenance was not an issue at first because back 20 years ago because the building had been substantially renovated. A long range planning committee needs to step back and take a look at what is the best way to go. There is not incentive to take care of the facility. If a contractor has a fixed price the only way to make additional money is to cut costs. If the catering halls were in first class condition and if the kitchens were catering kitchens then it could be a first class facility. Mr. Riley agreed that bringing things in house is not a bad idea. There needs to be a vision as to where this facility can be brought. A High quality customer environment with a sustainable revenue stream needs a commitment from the town.
Ms. Tully commented that the no committee stands alone. The decisions have been those of the Advisory Committee and the Selectmen. The facility and course are not in good shape and the food is substandard. An in-house greens keeper will make a huge difference. The Strategic Planning Committee will be reporting to the Board at the end of September. Ms. Tully noted that the country club is an asset that the Town bought for the purpose of not having development. There are recreational opportunities that could create a broader base. She said the best management model would bring everything in house until there is a club manager who over sees the entire operation.
Mr. Edmundson encouraged the committee to increase the fees, not the numbers of permit holders. The country club should be a top quality, high-end municipal recreation center. He noted that there are a few months to think about where things are going but, like every other department, the country club has to live within its budget this year or request money from the Reserve Fund for emergencies. Mr. Havens said that if the money were not invested, monies would be lost. He asked what authority was given the committee by virtue of the fact that there is an enterprise fund. Mr. Edmundson noted the necessity to remain within the budget. He also noted that returning money to the town to offset the debt service could only be changed at a town meeting. It is expected that there would be asked a lot of tough questions about this and the public will be looking for assurance that there is nothing that can be done. Mr. Havens suggested that what the Town wants needs definition. It may be that people want a broader facility that may not be profitable. The Board noted that the South Shore Country Club Long Range Planning Committee would be giving an update at the September 17 meeting.
Quarterly Financial Update
Mr. Alexiades noted that property tax collections are at 100% of estimates and growth in personal property and real estate tax is up about 8%, primarily due to development. Motor vehicles excise taxes were slightly below projections. Ambulance collections are ahead of estimates. Licenses and permits are well ahead of projections. Net investment income is in excess of projections. Expenditures were in line with budget projections. The Fire Department returned $175,000 in salaries; snow removal costs exceeded budget; and a small amount was turned back from Article 4. Going into the Fall it appears that it will be a strong year. New growth estimates were considerably less than new growth actual; net investment income and building permits will give a strong year for surplus revenue.
FY07 Tax Rate
Mr. Edmundson advised that the state aid changes have resulted in an increase of $400,000 in Chapter 70 monies. He said the question facing the Board at this time is what to do with that money. It could be kept as a cushion and have the tax rate remain where it was expected to be. Mr. Edmundson outlined other possibilities for consideration including special town meeting authorization to spend it on something else, lowering the tax rate or setting the money aside to demonstrate that the Town can save the money to run a new school. If the Town does not use the full taxing authority under Proposition 2 ½ it can bank that taxing authority. The following year the Town could increase taxes by what had been previously banked plus the 2 ½ percent allowed
Dr. Galo commented that in the past the schools have tried to share the impact of good news or bad news. Almost every department could come through with things they need. It might be productive to sit down in a forecasting group and look at the overall town needs. She also noted that there is a School Building Assistance project audit going on that could result in a few items that might not be allowed; utilities will be tough this year; one special education residential placement tuition is $180,000; and special education transportation is also an issue. Ms. Hill asked how much it would reduce the tax bill if the money were used for that purpose. Ms. Tully commented that it would be a negligible amount, for very little benefit. She also said that she did not think the Town was particularly well served when this was done in the past. Ms. Tully also disagreed that Chapter 70 monies could be spent anywhere and did not feel it appropriate to lower tax levy using state money. Mr. Edmundson noted that it is difficult when you are looking at things after the fact but what would the Town have done if it knew the money was there to begin with. Mr. Riley suggested that a percentage could go to the schools and then the remainder to something else that could be facing the Town.
Voted, to approve the Contract for General Office Supplies and Copier & Printer Toners that was awarded by the MAPC on behalf of the South Shore Regional Services Consortium to W.B. Mason Co., Inc. of Brockton, as follows:
General Office Supplies will be discounted at 80.2% and Copier & Printer Toners will be discounted at 43.2% of the catalogue prices. (W.B. Mason was the lowest responsive and responsible bidder). The initial term of the contract shall be from the date of execution June 20, 2006 through June 30, 2007, with MAPC reserving the right to exercise two (2) one-year options to renew the contract.
Greenbush Design Package
The Board receives design packages from the MBTA. The Board then submits comments and, hopefully, those comments are adopted. The design of the Hersey Street grade crossing presented a real challenge to the MBTA to fit in all the equipment necessary. Mr. Cook looks at the designs from a traffic point of view then Mr. Fernandes from an on the ground drainage point of view. The Town was promised that the Hersey Street grade crossing would be open when the train was in the West Hingham station so that traffic, fire trucks, etc. could get through. The design as submitted looks as if the signal would be activated when the train is in the station. The foundations for the mast arms are very big the project conservator wanted the plans marked that stonewalls are to be protected. The T has not addressed issues with the neighbors as far as stonewalls, etc. Ms. Tully requested that an onsite visit take place. Mr. Riley said that the West Street/ Fort Hill Street/South Street land takings will not be done in time so the intersection can not be completed as designed. They will reopen the intersection but it will be changed when the land takings are resolved.
Voted - to submit comments to the MBTA on the 90% Hersey Street Grade Crossing Plan, Package 38.
Mr. Cullings wrote a letter encouraging the Board to consider whether the Post Office could consider moving the sorting facility and freeing up some space in the Square. This suggestion could be forwarded to the Development and Industrial Commission for input. The U. S. Postal Service, Northeast Division in Windsor Ct. is listed as the owner of the property. Mr. Cullings said the building is in need of repair and it could be one of the prime revenue producing properties in the square. The building is taxed beyond its abilities with all the growth in town. He suggested that there may be another site relatively close in town that would better suit the needs of the Postal Service.
Voted - to grant request for counsel as submitted by the Board of Appeals.
Selectmen/Town Administrator's Reports
Mr. Riley met with Mr. Cristello and Corinne Young from Congressman Delahunt's office regarding monies appropriated for a possible parking deck at the shipyard. He said it is likely they will adopt a "wait and see" approach and utilize money in updating the terminal itself. Ms. Tully agreed that a deck is premature and the money is not dedicated to that. If and when a deck is needed there may be people in the development area that
would step forward. Representative Delahunt is an advocate of ferry service and the idea of a terminal to go along with the upgrading the rest of the area is a good one. It is important to preserving the commuter boat and if there is a nice terminal facility it will be a lot harder for the T to not support the commuter boat. The grant funds will not stay around forever. One of the thoughts was to start a design process on what a terminal could look like. Mr. Cullings said he has a feeling that the boat is being marginalized. Mr. Riley said he would like to publicly acknowledge and applaud Mr. Sylvester's supervision of the French Street project. Mr. Edmundson reported that he has drafted a letter in response to Mr. Keyes' letter and will get to the Journal.
South Shore Conservatory would like to have a free concert the night of the fireworks with the 1812 Overture, etc. The Board agreed to send letter to Lions Club to urge them to work with the Conservatory to make this an even grander event. The Police and Fire Chiefs will also be contacted for comments on this proposal.
The closing on the Tom Hastings land swap property is complete. The project is beginning with work on the entrance to Bare Cove Park. The Fort Hill Street entrance will be the only entrance during the construction of the Beal Street entrance.
Meeting adjourned 10:50pm.
Betty Foley, Clerk