Archive for May 2020

The Boston Marathon has been canceled

Breaking News: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city and Boston Athletic Association will work to hold the event virtually. Initially the race was moved from Patriots’ Day to September 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but on Thursday the event was canceled.

BREAKING NEWS: State Enters Phase 1 Of Reopening

BREAKING NEWS: Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito​ announced this morning that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now entering Phase 1 of a 4-phase plan to reopen the state’s economy.

“We said from the beginning we were going to follow best practices and data,” said Gov. Baker.  “The data we have collected has been used to incorporate and build this plan.  The process associated with these phases is a function of how we do.”

“People need to do their part,” added Lt. Gov. Polito, “and are key to unlocking the next phases of activity.”

Selectmen room at Town Hall to get hi-def upgrade

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.

Cable TV Advisory Committee Members

  • Eric Osterberg

  • Jeff Cutler

  • John Rice

  • Michael Leary

  • David Jones

  • Christopher Baron

  • Kathryn Roberts, School Representative

Harbor Media Board of Directors:

  • Laura Burns, president

  • Jim Dellott, vice president

  • Betty Foley, treasurer

  • Robert Kirk, clerk

  • Margie Sullivan, member

  • Mark Brodie, member

South Hingham water system flushing begins May 17

Starting on Sunday, May 17th, Aquarion Water Company will begin flushing water mains and hydrants in sections of South Hingham.  Flushing activities will take place overnight, between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., in order to minimize any disruption to customers.

Essential Water System Maintenance

As a water provider, Aquarion provides an essential service.  Water utilities are part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “critical infrastructure sectors,” as safe drinking water is critical to protecting public health.  This program is being undertaken to ensure customers continue to receive safe, reliable drinking water.  The federal government recognizes that safe, clean reliable provision of water is essential, especially now as towns are dealing with a public health emergency.

According to the company website, it is currently operating under an emergency pandemic plan. As part of  that plan, the company asks customers to recognize the essential work being done by its employees, and reminds them to adhere to social distancing rules for everyone’s safety.  If a customer sees a crew performing work in their area, and wishes to ask a question about it, they are encouraged to visit www.aquarionwater.com or the company’s Facebook page, or call Customer Service at 1-800-732-9678.

Helpful Water System Flushing Program Information

Flushing can potentially result in episodes of decreased water pressure or discoloration.  Discoloration results from temporary disturbances of the normal water flow within the piping network which can stir up naturally-occurring minerals and sediment that settle within the water mains.  The objective of the water main and hydrant flushing program is to remove these accumulated sediments from the pipes, and this is accomplished by flushing water out of the fire hydrants.

If you live in or near the target flushing areas listed below, Aquarion recommends that you store water in your refrigerator for drinking and cooking in case you experience any disruptions in service.  Also, if you notice any water discoloration, they suggest that you refrain from using hot water and run cold water until the water is clear again. For any other questions, customers can explore the company’s Discolored Water FAQ or call Aquarion’s Customer Service Department at 1-800-732-9678.

A “Code Red” will be issued each day to customers living on streets that will be flushed later that night.  To keep customers informed about scheduled/unscheduled work, Aquarion utilizes a CodeRED notification system to call affected customers.  Aquarion encourages customers to sign up for this free service at www.aquarionwater.com/alerts-and-outages.

FLUSHING SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 17th

Sunday, May 17th

Colonial Road, Constitution Road, Hancock Road, Independence Lane

Liberty Pole Road, Loring Hill Road, Main Street, Pioneer Road

Monday, May 18th

Brewster Road, Colonial Road, Highfield Road, Pilgrim Road, Puritan Road, Westmoreland Street, Winthrop Road

Tuesday, May 19th

Colonial Road, Cushing Street, Flintlock Circle, Hancock Road, Hitching Post Lane, Liberty Pole Road, Minuteman Road, Patriots Way, Pioneer Road, Puritan Road, Stagecoach Road, Volunteer Road

Wednesday, May 20th

Colonial Road, Cushing Street, Flintlock Circle, Hancock Road, Hitching Post Lane, Liberty Pole Road, Minuteman Road, Patriots Way, Pioneer Road, Puritan Road, Stagecoach Road, Volunteer Road.

Thursday, May 21st

Apple Tree Lane, Cushing Street, First Lane, Leclair Drive, Plymouth River Road, Sunset Lane

A Progressive Approach To The “New Normal”

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 info@hinghamcurrent.com.

 

Hingham Current Staff can be reached at info@hinghamcurrent.com.

Senior Facilities and COVID-19

In the past two weeks, State officials have been including more detail with their weekly release of COVID-19 statistics.  Specific numbers for senior living facilities and nursing homes are now part of that new information.  According to the data, more than half of all deaths from the virus have occurred at these types of facilities.  The AARP, which has been calling for increased transparency of nursing home illnesses, more personal protective equipment for staff and increased testing of residents and staff, refers to these facilities as “ground zero in the fight against the coronavirus.”

BEACON HILL’S RESPONSE

In response to the virus’ impact on this vulnerable population, Governor Baker recently announced that the State would be making an additional $130 million in funding available for nursing homes to pay for staff, cleaning and personal protective equipment.  This is in addition to the $130 million that was made available on April 15th.  “These funds will be allocated to nursing homes that are meeting a benchmark for certain criteria to ensure these privately operated facilities are working as safely as possible,” he said.  The governor also said the state would be auditing long-term care facilities to ensure compliance with a new set of care criteria.

The Legislature is also taking action to stay on top of the spread of the virus among seniors.  On April 21st, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill which would require long-term care and assisted-living facilities to report COVID-19 cases and deaths on a daily basis to health officials, and it is now in the Senate.  This piece of legislation includes reporting requirements for all forms of elder housing, including “Soldiers’ Homes.”

HINGHAM FACILITIES

Hingham is home to several senior facilities.  The Lincoln School Apartments on Central Street is subsidized senior housing that is owned and maintained by the Town of Hingham.  Linden Ponds is an independent senior living community in South Hingham.  Queen Anne Nursing Home, also located in South Hingham, is a skilled nursing home, and  Allerton House and Bridges by Epoch are both assisted living facilities.  On Wednesday, April 29th, the most recent numbers were released, and the public was made aware of how each town in the Commonwealth was faring and how each senior facility was doing too.

For the safety and well-being of residents and staff, Bridges, Allerton House, Linden Ponds and Queen Anne all say that they have been in close contact with local and state health officials and engaging in important safety precautions, like restricting visitation to end-of-life and hospice care and keeping all community surfaces sanitized throughout the day.  Staff is required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like masks and gloves, and residents are having their temperatures taken daily.  Staff members are also having their temperatures taken at the start of each shift.

Social distancing is the order of the day, so, in lieu of dining rooms, Linden Ponds and Allerton House have adopted “Room Service Dining.”  All facilities have been engaging residents in creative forms of entertainment, like video chats with loved ones.  At Allerton House, family members schedule visits where they can stand outside with huge signs bearing expressions of love, while a loved one waves from inside the safety of their apartment.  Staff at Bridges have been showing residents how to participate in virtual activities and trips using online access.  Queen Anne has been employing various methods of technology, including Google Duo, to create virtual connections for residents.

BRIDGES BY EPOCH

Bridges exclusively serves seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.  Residents live in three separate highly-controlled, self-contained areas called “households,” and each household has dedicated direct-care staff who know the residents well.  This enables them to quickly spot any changes in their health or behavior.  On Friday, April 24th, testing was conducted by Fallon Ambulance Service “out of additional precaution to keep the residents safe,” and Bridges is pleased to announce that they have no positive cases of COVID-19.  “In a time of much uncertainty, I’m proud of my team here in Hingham for continuing to take strong precautions to keep our residents safe,” said Doreen Lang, Executive Director, “at the same time keeping them engaged and active while they are unable to have loved ones visit.”

ALLERTON HOUSE

One resident at Allerton House recently tested positive.  “We are a tight-knit community, and we are in constant communication with residents, families and staff about all aspects of life at Allerton House,” said Carol Taylor, Marketing Director.  “As a matter of protocol, when a resident or staff member tests positive, all residents, family members, and staff are notified.”  Carol is quick to add, “It is important to note that residents, their families, and staff have been extremely supportive of every precautionary measure our community has put in place to protect everyone’s health and safety.  We are following all guidelines.”  Allerton House offers traditional assisted living as well as memory care.  Those who are more independent are advised to adhere to social distancing guidelines when they go outdoors for activities, like shuffleboard, and they are encouraged to stay on campus and take advantage of delivery services.  Everyone is regularly informed about the importance of reporting any respiratory symptoms and are reminded to adhere to regular hand-washing and other best practices.

QUEEN ANNE NURSING HOME

Testing was completed for every one of the residents at Queen Anne, and, as of April 30th, there are 43 confirmed cases.  “We are so pleased to report that of the 43 positive cases 14 residents have completed their precautions and are recovered,” said Executive Director Kristen Lundin.  “Unfortunately, it has proved impossible to keep this rapidly spreading and highly contagious virus out of long-term care facilities, but we are taking extraordinary measures to manage the spread of COVID-19.”  Lundin hopes that expanded testing plus more financial assistance from the state to raise the pay for staff and purchase additional personal protective equipment will help stop any further spread of the virus.

LINDEN PONDS

“As we continue to be vigilant with testing and contact tracing, we can confirm that there are 15 active resident cases (out of 1,400 who live here),” said Dani Baldassare, Regional Communications Manager.  “These individuals are receiving appropriate care and treatment, and we are proceeding with the utmost caution. The safety and well-being of those on campus is our highest priority.”  In light of Governor Baker’s stay-in-place order, Linden Ponds is delivering mail and grocery orders directly to residents in their rooms.  They are also assisting with the delivery of orders from the on-campus pharmacy and marketplace and providing other services, such as pet walking.  Communication with residents has been taking place on multiple platforms, including a smartphone app and their in-house television station.

MOVING FORWARD

The State continues to grapple with the issue of testing.  Most of the testing that has been done to date has been conducted by the National Guard using mobile units.  In an attempt to assist with this initiative, the State sent out 14,000 kits that could be administered by facilities themselves; however, there were issues with the implementation.  So now the Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders has doubled the efforts of the National Guard in order to establish a baseline among the 383 nursing homes across the Commonwealth.  In the meantime, those in the field are focused on preserving and protecting the mental, emotional and physical health of their residents.

Editor’s Note: As of the most recent update, the Town of Hingham has not yet responded to requests for comment about the Lincoln School Apartments.  This is an ongoing story and will continue to be updated.

Hingham Household Hazardous Waste Day canceled for May 16 

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/

 

School Committee Votes In Favor Of Selectmen’s FY21 Financial Management Plan Amid COVID-19 Concerns

On Monday afternoon after a brief discussion, the School Committee voted to adopt a financial proposal that was presented to them by the Board of Selectmen.  When a roll call of the seven members was taken, six School Committee members voted in favor.  Libby Lewiecki abstained from voting.  One change in wording suggested by Liza O’Reilly was incorporated into the FY21 Fiscal Management Plan.  The Selectmen were also present at the meeting.

Previously the Selectmen had identified two options to address an anticipated budget deficit due to the COVID-19 crisis.  One was to open the FY21 budget and make cuts.  Towns like Brookline and Natick have made budget cuts in conjunction with furloughing staff.  Another was to identify amounts within the $3.3 million fund balance (the Town’s “savings”) that could be used to offset the projected decline in revenues.  The Selectmen chose to explore the latter.  When the idea was brought before one of the Town’s financial advisors, she suggested incorporating financial management tools into the plan.

School Committee Chair Michelle Ayer described the tools that would be implemented.  “If revenues begin to decline,” she said, “these are the levers we will pull.”  The first, known as “Tier One,” ensures that departments focus on essential hires and essential capital projects only.  Departments will also be expected to manage non-personnel operating expenses.  Monthly forecast meetings and quarterly reports to the Advisory Committee will be set up to keep a running tab on progress.  A change of more than $500,000 would trigger “Tier Two.”  At that point, the School Department and the Town would share any reduction in costs with 60% of the cuts coming from the school budget and the remaining 40% coming from the municipal budget.

When describing the impact of adopting this approach, Selectman Mary Power summed it by saying that essentially the Selectmen and the School Committee intend to go before Town Meeting on June 22nd with a message for voters.  “We are saying if you give us 100% of our budgets and the revenue picture worsens,” she said, “we will give some of that money back.  We are telling Town Meeting to trust us.”

The Massachusetts Municipal Association announced on Friday that they expect the impact of COVID-19 to extend well beyond FY21.  “We are going to be dealing with the financial impact of this for several years,” said Mary.

Board of Selectmen Chair Karen Johnson said that the plan will be made available to residents on the Town website on Tuesday.

The School Committee also set up a finance subcommittee “to help John Ferris as he works through all things budget-related,” said Michelle Ayer.  She appointed Nes Correnti, Kerry Ni and Liza O’Reilly to the subcommittee and assigned Nes Correnti the chairmanship.

Hingham School Committee:

Michelle Ayer, Chair: mayer@hinghamschools.org
Carlos DaSilva, Vice Chair: cdasilva@hinghamschools.org
Kerry Ni, Secretary: kni@hinghamschools.org
Ed Schreier: eschreier@hinghamschools.org
Libby Lewiecki: llewiecki@hinghamschools.org
Liza O’Reilly: loreilly@hinghamschools.org
Nes Correnti: ncorrenti@hinghamschools.org


Kristen Arute can be reached at kristen@hinghamcurrent.com.

North Street Church hopes to hold drive-in services

North Street Community Church of the Nazarene at 235 North Street was founded in 1979 by the late Reverend John Scott Newell and his wife, Dorothy, who is still a member.  Originally located on Jerusalem Road in Cohasset, the church purchased a house on Rockland Street in 1982 and became officially organized.  In 1996 they sold the house and purchased the current chapel.  The chapel is almost 200 years old and was once located on the other side of the street.  It was moved to its current location in the 1880’s and has undergone several renovations over the years, most recently in 2004.  The church owns a second building in Hull that operates a ministry which has been serving the recovery community on the South Shore since 2017.

Reverend Jeremy Scott became pastor of North Street Church in 2006.  During these challenging times, he has been encouraging his congregation to engage in simple practices “to keep from spiritual, mental, relational and physical atrophy.”  He also wants to make sure they see this current situation as an opportunity to live out “response-ability,” which he teaches is found in their ability to respond.  “The historic Church is no stranger to periods of pandemic,” he points out.

Rev. Scott is grateful for the financial contributions of his congregants.  Some had previously set up automatic giving by mail, and others had already been tithing electronically through online offerings.  “Thankfully, we have been able to maintain our full-time staff throughout the pandemic,” he said.  Modern technology has also made sacraments like the weekly Eucharist possible.  “A priest can consecrate bread and wine at the same moment in different places,” explained Rev. Scott.  “Coming to the Table is an important part of continuing to practice as the Body of Christ, and these unprecedented times call for unprecedented practices.”

Unprecedented times also call for creative measures.  Several weeks ago, Rev. Scott purchased an FM transmitter.  He hoped to hold drive-in services at their location in Hull so that people could park nearby and listen on the radio in their enclosed vehicles.  “It’s still my hope to perhaps do this in coming weeks,” he said, “if Hull officials agree or if we can find another parking lot in which to do so with Hingham’s blessing.”

The church traditionally holds two weekly worship gatherings on Sunday.  “We opted to continue the first service online during the pandemic,” said Rev. Scott, “but have reduced its content to about half for the online format.”  His son Brayden helps him conduct the first service on Facebook Live, and they are hoping to make services available on YouTube in the coming weeks.  “For our second service, I go on (Facebook) Live for a minute or two of encouragement and then recommend the live stream of another church,” he adds.  “It’s a good time for us to experience the broader Church.”

Other programming has also continued.  “We were already doing an online Bible study with Zoom,” said Rev. Scott, “so that was a natural thing to continue.”  There are other things they are still doing online, including programs for kids and teens and a daily email encouragement from Rev. Scott with scripture, prayer and a practice for the day.  “Only about 10-15% of our congregation actually lives in Hingham,” he pointed out.  “So we have been wrestling with ‘community-at-a-distance’ for a while.”

Quincy resident Chris Brooks has been attending North Street for the past couple of years.  “It’s my home,” he said.  “It’s my family.  From the very beginning I felt very comfortable.”  That family atmosphere and vibe was further solidified for him at a church family retreat that was held a few months ago.  Although times have been challenging, “those connections are still there,” he said.  “We are a family, and we welcome everyone in that way.”

Chris anxiously awaits the devotionals that are sent out every morning through email and Facebook and looks forward to Rev. Scott’s daily check-ins which he uses to interact and engage with parishioners, find out what’s going on in their lives and ask for prayer requests.  As far as Sunday worship is concerned, Chris finds that Rev. Scott has been managing the virtual nature of it quite nicely.  “Jeremy is very intentional,” he said.  “He conducts the service as if we were all there with him.”

As with other congregations, the members of North Street miss worshipping together in person.  “We are at our best when we’re together whether in worship or in service,” said Rev. Scott.  “We miss being together, but I will not rush the re-entry to gatherings.”  The church is carefully abiding by all government mandates relative to social distancing during the pandemic, and Rev. Scott has been using it as a teaching tool.  “This is an opportunity to know better what it is to be a neighbor, not just in proximity, but in care,” he said.  “I’m trying to encourage all of us to assume that pretty much everyone is doing their best in these times.  Let’s give one another that space and grace.”