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Hingham's $60.9 million middle school proposal wins Advisory Committee's backing

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  September 23, 2011 01:34 PM

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Hingham’s Advisory Committee voted in favor of the $60.9 million Middle School article that is heading to the Oct. 24 Town Meeting, after a lengthy meeting on the matter Thursday night.

According to Advisory Chairman John Asher, the vote was in favor of the article 10 to 3, and was not taken lightly.

“The discussion was thoughtful,” he said. “There was a lot of discussion about the implications on town taxpayers, certainly the consideration of the [state] reimbursement, the value of a facility that would have a 50-year life, so a number of considerations that certainly have been discussed in previous meetings in advisory, [Board of Selectmen], and School Committee were brought up … Folks thought about this long and hard.”

The Advisory Committee's vote came a day after selectmen endorsed the measure, which would authorize borrowing to finance construction of the middle school.

Tax implications were spelled out in a recent Board of Selectmen meeting by Town Administrator Ted Alexiades, who said the 20-year bond would cost an average-single family home at most $396 a year, with the amount decreasing $9 a year throughout the life of the bond.

A full break down of the tax analysis can be found here..

Thursday's audience once again noted that the tax implications would be far reaching. According to Asher, one attendee even pointed out that property taxes in Hingham have increased 10 times more than the average income in the last few years.

Regardless, the $60.9 million figure prevailed after the committee found out that reducing the amount approved at Town Meeting for the school could jeopardize the project's reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

“We relayed the substance of MSBA… that if a lesser amount were authorized in Town Meeting, it would be considered non compliant,” Asher said.

Like selectmen, the Advisory Committee recommended the dollar figure, which would allow the town to borrow money in that amount, with the hope that it might come in lower in the end.

“But every member would endorse a lower-cost option. We’re hoping the bids come in less than $60,910,920,” Asher said. “Any savings would then be retained, and would not be used for adding back items which had been removed from the two value engineering exercises.”

Advisory also voted 10-to-3 for "no action'' on the alternative middle school option, which called for renovating the existing middle school rather than build a new one. Although the article did provide a “choice” to residents, Asher said the articled wasn’t “nearly as mature,” as the School Committee’s suggestion.

“Members felt there hadn’t been enough time to thoroughly vet the merits of the alternative approach,” Asher said. “Proponents were making the point, and I think it’s a good one, that it presents a possible alternative option should Town Meeting or special ballot not approve the middle school MSBA option.”

Overall, it's been a long process for School Committee members, but one they remain optimistic about.

"I am certainly pleased with the votes that now set the stage for a Special Town Meeting. It was not an easy path to get here to be sure. I continue to be optimistic that the town will do the right thing," said Ray Estes, chairman of the School Building Committee and a School Committee member.

"Too many talented and dedicated volunteers and professionals have spent too many years working for failure to be an acceptable resolution. There is a long history in Hingham of townspeople stepping up to make hard choices for the greater good of our community. I have faith in those people to once again do what is necessary and what is the right thing for Hingham at this time," he said.

For a list of all articles to be discussed at the Oct. 24 Town Meeting, click here.

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