Curious to learn more about decisions that are being made in town? Or topics that are being discussed? Want the opportunity to ask questions or express your concerns? Check out the list of this week’s meetings! All of them can be accessed by phone. We have highlighted certain items of interest, but complete agendas can be found under “More Details.”
Fourth of July Parade Committee
Monday, May 18, 2020, 6:00 PM @ Join Zoom Meeting Meeting ID: 843 1111 5879 Password: 333448
To receive an update on the district’s Remote Learning Plan, Version 2.0
Board of Selectmen
Tuesday, May 19, 2020, 7:00 PM @ Remote meeting via Zoom: Dial-in number: 929-205-6099 Meeting ID: 451-213-735 Website: https://zoom.us/join
Discuss and finalize Vision and Goals
Hingham Public School budget constraints are delaying several capital investment and maintenance projects.
John W. Ferris Director of Business and Support Services reviewed about two dozen projects planned for the High School, Middle School and four elementary schools with the Capital & Facilities Subcommittee of the Hingham School Committee yesterday. They were scheduled to be completed this year, but will now be postponed.
“A lot of the capital that we had planned for FY 20-21 has been put on hold because of all the COVID-19 spending that we are doing,” said Ferris. “What we want to do is get a picture of where we are (financially) in the spring.”
Delayed Hingham Public School projects include:
Repairs to the gym bleachers at the High School to address safety concerns
Replace fire sprinkler head at the High School
Replace windows and doors at the High School
Repair windows and remove asbestos at Plymouth River School
Energy efficiency projects throughout the school district
Purchase a dump truck for the school district
The pandemic has upended the state education budget, leaving school officials unsure how to plan for coming needs. Although cuts to school budgets have not yet been as severe as originally predicted, the evidence indicates that much more severe challenges lie ahead. Ferris told school committee members that some of the spending on re-opening the schools should be reimbursed by Plymouth County through the CARES Act.
In March, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act, which provided over $2 trillion in economic relief, including $13.2 billion in direct funding for K-12 public education for the first semester of the academic year. Congress has been unable to yet agree on a new deal that includes help for school districts.
“In the spring we hope to address the critical projects such as the sprinkler head replacements at the high school,” said Ferris.
Subcommittee Chair Carlos DaSilva asked Ferris to reconcile which capital investment projects were completed so the committee could prepare the FY 2021-22 capital and facilities budget.
Hingham School Building Committee members voted at their meeting Wednesday on a $1.1 million feasibility study budget for a new Foster Elementary School. School officials will submit the study budget to the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s school building program, a state program that helps school districts pay for renovations and rebuilding projects. It’s an important step towards a major rebuilding of the elementary school, which hasn’t seen an extensive renovation in almost fifty years.
John W. Ferris. Director of Business and Support Services hopes the project will be on the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s December meeting agenda for a vote.
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The Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Paycheck Protection Program is currently accepting applications from local businesses and non-profits until June 30th. The loans can can be used for a variety of bills, like payroll and accounts payable, that cannot be paid due to the impact of COVID-19.
To keep payments affordable for small businesses and non-profits, SBA offers the loans with a 3.75 percent interest rate for businesses and 2.75% rate for non-profits as well as long repayment terms, up to a maximum of 30 years. Plus, the first payment is deferred for one year.
These PPP loans have relatively favorable terms for borrowers, according to South Shore Bank. And, in the event of bankruptcy, the loans can generally be discharged, they said. However, they encourage borrowers to monitor rule changes implemented by the SBA before submitting a forgiveness application.
To meet the unprecedented need, the SBA has made numerous improvements to the application and loan closing process, including deploying new technology and automated tools,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza.
In an effort to assist small businesses and non-profits, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has created a web page with resources to aid them in applying to this program.
The resource page includes:
An info sheet describing the program
Links to other resources including program information and loan applications in 19 languages
A list of technical assistance providers indicating they are able to help small businesses/nonprofits apply for the PPP
A list of financial institutions that are able to process PPP loans for non-customers
You can visit the page here: https://www.bostonfed.org/in-the-region/covid-19-resources/paycheck-protection-program.aspx
The Paycheck Protection Program, created by the CARES Act legislation enacted in March, updated the disaster loan program to provide emergency grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses. The Small Business Administration, which administers the loans, has approved nearly $630 billion in combined funding for businesses since the crisis began. Frequently Asked Questions for Lenders and Borrowers for the Paycheck Protection Program can visit https://www.sba.gov/document/support-faq-lenders-borrowers.
This fall voters may be asked to establish a new kind of liquor license called a “food store” license that would allow for the sale of beer and wine in any convenience store that sells food. If it were to pass, it would need to be approved by town officials in order to be allowed in Hingham. The ballot question, which was proposed by Cumberland Farms, was held up in court until last week when the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County ruled that voters would be able to vote on it this November
With the court ruling behind them, proponents of the proposal would only be able to put the question before voters in November if they are able to collect a sufficient number of signatures by the June 17th deadline. The new licenses could be issued as soon as December if the question is approved.
This new initiative would also also allow for an unlimited number of licenses for any one company to control after a phase-in period. In 2007, the Massachusetts Package Stores Association (MPSA) successfully persuaded voters to limit liquor licenses for supermarket chains to a three-store maximum. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, both sides spent over $12 million combined. At the time, this was the most expensive ballot war in state history.
Feeling hopeful that this too shall end, is what will help sustain us through this difficult time. Feeling hopeful that this too shall end
On Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen approved a capital expenditure request from the Cable TV Advisory Committee to transfer funds from the Cable Capital Account in the amount of $25,675. The money will be used to make upgrades to the HD equipment Harbor Media uses to film meetings in the Selectmen’s Room at Town Hall; however, the project, which involves replacing things like video switches and camera controllers, will not begin until Town Hall reopens.
Dave Jones, a member of the Cable Advisory Committee, said that the Committee had been working on getting an HD channel during the last license renewal with Verizon. When commenting on the cost of the work to be done, he said the Committee didn’t expect to spend the full amount. “We’ll probably get (the cost) down,” he assured the Board. “We already have a vendor in mind that gave us that quote. It’s Unique Access Media.”
Selectmen Chair Karen Johnson was quick to point out that the money being used to fund the improvements is coming from a percentage that is set aside from user fees and is money that “is not available for anything else.” She also stressed the importance of residents having remote access to meetings and commented on how the improved service would be beneficial. “For a long time folks have relied on Harbor Media, and I think the quality of that feed is really important to continue to entice people to tune in,” she said. “In this uncertain environment, it’s helpful if people can get access to the conduct of their government.”
Another member of the Cable TV Advisory Committee, John Rice, was present at the virtual meeting. “The HD channel that’s on Verizon is up and running and is going to be a ‘best of’ channel,” he announced. “However, it will be another year before Comcast is obligated to put an HD channel on.”
Laura Burns, president of the Board of Directors for Harbor Media, pointed out that the channel number had not yet been mentioned and led the meeting in a chant of “2131” to reinforce it. “People with Verizon can go and see what everything we’ve built actually really looks like,” she told the audience, “because we build most things in HD already.”
“I’ve been told by a reliable source that apparently the Board of Selectmen are the highest rated,” quipped Town Administrator Tom Mayo, which Laura confirmed, “and now you’re going to be in HD!”
Those with Verizon cable television service can now find all three local cable access stations in one place on channel 2131.
Kathryn Roberts, School Representative
Laura Burns, president
Jim Dellott, vice president
Betty Foley, treasurer
Robert Kirk, clerk
Margie Sullivan, member
Mark Brodie, member
Never before have we been forced to grapple with the issues of conducting the business of life during a worldwide pandemic while at the same time having, at our fingertips, the technological solutions to help us rise to meet its challenges. The Digital Revolution, close to 70 years in the making, has forever altered the landscape of our lives. COVID-19 has caused dramatic shifts in consumer behavior that certain companies, particularly those that were already informing and engaging customers remotely like Peloton and Netflix, are benefiting from. Business is conducted online. People are working remotely. Even churches are continuing to worship virtually.
Like other municipalities, the Town of Hingham is using Zoom to hold public meetings through teleconferencing. This has been wildly successful. In fact, last month more than 100 people tried to log on to a Harbor Development Committee meeting and just as many sought to gain access to a School Committee meeting. The Hingham Schools are also using technology with Google Classroom as the foundation of its remote learning program.
However, the future remains uncertain. The scale of this crisis is unprecedented, and it will have a far-reaching impact on public health, municipal services and local economies that we are only beginning to comprehend. Even our leaders refrain from making promises of a return to normal. The time is now to begin thinking long term about the implications of living in what Governor Baker refers to as a “new normal.” Albert Einstein once famously said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” What opportunities are currently available to the Town of Hingham? Are we effectively exploring them and choosing to embrace some and abandon others?
Last month, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security launched the Civic Innovation Challenge. In an announcement, organizers described the event as “a national research and action competition in the smart and connected communities domain.” Simply put, it is a technology and innovation competition where teams will work to create projects that solve shared challenges. Technological discovery has created a whole new world of opportunity and an environment in which Hingham can flourish amid chaos. What are areas for improvement? Where can we make modifications and adopt new protocols?
In Japan the term “kaizen” is used in business pedagogy. It means “continuous improvement.” The collective talents within a company are used to achieve regular, incremental progress. As a community we can come together, pool our resources and abilities and ultimately be better off because of this virus using technology to be transformative. What can the town be doing to take advantage of the lessons we are learning from this crisis in order to be better prepared for the future? Whether it’s an online application for a bulk waste permit or an expansion in the Zoom contract to allow for larger audiences at virtual meetings, no suggestion is too small. The conversation starts with one simple question: How progressive is Hingham?
Over the next few weeks The Hingham Current will be exploring ways we can strengthen our community through collaboration, and we will be soliciting your feedback. We look forward to the conversation that will ensue. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to us in the comment section, through our Facebook page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Household Hazardous Waste Day at the transfer station on May 16 has been cancelled. This is due to the COVID 19 Pandemic and the current social distancing rules as directed by Governor Charles Baker. The South Shore Recycling Cooperative’s website has alternative locations and updated information for residents interested in recycling hazardous waste. https://ssrcoop.info/hazardous-waste/