By Carol Britton Meyer
Following the recent implementation of a 25 mph speed limit in a large portion of downtown Hingham to enhance safety, Town Engineer JR Frey recommended the same restriction apply in more than a dozen neighborhoods around town. Signs with the new speed limit will be posted in the affected areas.
The initial change came about as the result of a 2022 Town Meeting-approved warrant article associated with concerns about downtown traffic safety expressed by residents and businesses over a long period of time.
"This is the first cut. We tried to be thorough, but there are only so many hours in a day," Frey said recently.
Following a lengthy presentation and discussion, the Select Board approved the additional speed limit changes in the Bradley Woods, Liberty Pole, Planters Field Lane/Wompatuck Road, Crow Point, and Bradley Hill Road neighborhoods as well as from Green Street to Burditt Avenue, the World's End and Canterbury Street area, upper Gardner Street from the Rockland line to Whiting and Derby streets at the five-way intersection, the southern end of downtown Hingham, and parts of Hingham Centre, among others.
Many of the speed limit changes are in response to concerns expressed by neighbors, with more to come.
Further measures are also under consideration to make the downtown area safer.
Frey also said the intersection of Middle and Main streets is being studied to address
serious safety and traffic concerns in that area, while Select Board member Bill Ramsey noted that the High/Free/Ward Street intersection is also extremely dangerous.
By Carol Britton Meyer
Work on the new public safety facility at 335 Lincoln St. is progressing.
During a recent update, Project Manager Matthew Hennessy -- who is at the site daily --shared a slide show with the Select Board of how the preliminary work is moving forward.
The project start date was May 15, with the substantial completion date set at Jan 14,
2025, and the final completion date scheduled for March 26, 2025.
The construction process so far includes installation of fencing, temporary utilities, and work trailers, erosion control, removal of soil to the Hingham DPW soil storage facility and removal of the former wood building, concrete slab, and foundation walls, and tree protection.
This was the first project update since the $39.5 million contract was awarded, according to Public Safety Facility Building Committee Chair Bob Garrity. Hingham Police and Fire Department operations will be combined in the building.
According to Garrity, the project is "right on schedule -- so far so good."
Voters at the Nov. 2022 Special Town Meeting approved an appropriation of up to $46.7 million to build and furnish a new public safety facility, with an expected lifespan of 50 to 70 years.
Prior Town Meetings authorized funding totaling $8.6 million for the initial phases of the project, including a site feasibility study, land acquisition, and preliminary design and pre-construction bid documents.
"A lot has happened since May," Select Board Chair Liz Klein said. "It's exciting."
By Carol Britton Meyer
Hingham and other "MBTA communities" have until Dec. 2024 to finalize the adoption of required zoning amendments to bring them into compliance with new legislation enacted as part of the Jan. 2021 economic development bill signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker as a way to address the state's growing housing crisis.
Under the guidelines for this multi-family zoning requirement for communities that have commuter rail, ferry, bus, or subway services, the Town of Hingham is expected to potentially accommodate up to 1,490 units of this type of housing within at least one zoning district of "reasonable size" in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right.
This housing cannot be age-restricted and must be suitable for families with children. While Hingham and other affected communities won't be required to actually build that many units, they must have the potential to do so or risk losing certain significant state grants. There's an ability to include some affordable units, but that is not mandated.
Community Planning Director Emily Wentworth outlined various potential multi-family zoning district locations to the Select Board and Planning Board recently.
Public meetings will be held leading up to the deadline, and Town Meeting will take action on a related proposed warrant article.
By Carol Meyer
The Hingham Climate Action Planning Committee recently presented an overview of its 145-page Climate Action Plan -- the culmination of three years of hard work.
"This is an exciting moment for us," Chair Brad Moyer told the Select Board. "Hingham is a leader in this area on the South Shore. Five years ago, I wouldn't have anticipated that."
He explained the mission of the CAPC and its successor created by Town Meeting -- the Climate Action Commission. The CAPC's charge was to evaluate a wide range of carbon emission reduction strategies and to propose measures to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions by the year 2040 or another feasible target date.
The Climate Action Commission's role is to support, oversee, and report on the progress of the implementation of the town's Climate Action Plan.
Moyer also explained that the plan doesn't obligate anyone to anything, mandate budget expenditures, or supplant normal town and approval processes.
"It's a call to action, making recommendations and asking residents, businesses and non-profits, and town government to consider actions to reduce carbon emissions," he said.
"The plan is "deep, but accessible -- it's digestible." Select Board Chair Liz Klein said she's confident the plan will be implemented and that "it will not sit on a shelf."
By Carol Britton Meyer
The number of Hingham property owners who are taking advantage of the town's property tax relief-focused Senior Means Tested Exemption Program is on the rise.
"It's now in its third year," Assistant Town Administrator for Finance Michelle Monsegur said recently.
There was a 300 percent increase in applications from FY22 to FY23 and a 330 percent increase in applications approved, with a 298 percent increase in total exemptions awarded. This is due in large part to the town's significant past and continuing outreach efforts.
Longtime Hingham residents and property owners who are 65 and older and who qualified for the Massachusetts State Income Tax Refundable Credit known as the Circuit Breaker in Calendar Year 2022 -- and who meet certain income and asset requirements -- may qualify for the program.
Voters at this year's town meeting made this exemption, with a maximum Fiscal Year 2024 benefit of $1,200 as set by the state -- permanent.
Applications are due to the Assessor's Office by Sept. 1, 2023. If eligible, the credit will be applied to Dec. 2023 property tax bills.
The Board of Assessors is hoping that those who have benefitted from the program so far and others who are aware of it will spread the word to other residents who may qualify.
For further information, call the Assessor's Office at (781) 741-1455.
"The staff there can walk citizens through the different [tax relief] programs that are
available," Monsegur said.
By Carol Meyer
Supt. of Schools Margaret Adams was rated "proficient" overall during a recent one-year evaluation by the School Committee.
Chair Nes Correnti said that based on Committee members' feedback, "It's evident that Dr. Adams is regarded as an intelligent, thoughtful, and effective leader who prioritizes the needs of students. She has displayed several attributes of a successful leader --including being a diligent worker, demonstrating commitment to the staff and community, and introducing improved processes and communication within the Hingham Public Schools system."
Among Adams' notable achievements are her ability to assemble a strong Central Office team "that has provided stable leadership during challenging times" and her emphasis on the importance of innovation and data-driven approaches to education, which Correnti said benefit both students and staff.
Adams has also actively sought feedback from the community, educators, and students through surveys, focus groups, and presentations to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the district's needs.
It was also noted that Adams' entry process into her role as superintendent was
commendable considering the challenges the district was facing -- successfully navigating through a special town meeting for a building project, working with a new leadership team, and addressing substantial budget needs that resulted in a tax override.
"These achievements demonstrate her exemplary leadership skills," Correnti said.
In response, Adams said she has been successful due to the success of others: "I'm
grateful for their hard work. We've made great strides."
By Carol Meyer
There are more people driving electric vehicles in Hingham every day, according to
Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant Sustainability Coordinator Brianna Bennett. "The number is going up dramatically -- it's at least 400," she said recently.
While most EV owners in town have home chargers, there are currently three EV charging stations in Hingham -- at Carlson Field, Station Street, and South Shore Country Club.
The Select Board recently approved HMLP's proposal to install another charging station, with two ports, at Town Hall on the Burr Road side -- hopefully some time this summer.
The average overall charging session lasts about 2 hours and 41 minutes, at a cost of
roughly $2.79. So far, 138 unique drivers have used this service out of the 323 charging sessions that have occurred since Oct. 2022. Drivers pay for this service using an EV charging card they can swipe to connect with their credit card, and there are also charging apps.
MassEVIP grants have funded the charging station projects so far. In addition to the
current and planned four stations, HMLP plans to install level 3 chargers at various
locations around town, which charge EVs much faster.
The cost of these additional chargers -- which will be located at Station Street and Lynch Field -- are also covered by a grant. The Hingham Police monitor the charging stations to ensure only EV drivers are parking there to charge their vehicles. This means that someone parked in a designated space who is not charging their car may be ticketed for a $50 fine.
By Carol Meyer
The Hingham Public Schools Social Studies and Business Departments were the first to engage in the new two-year program review cycle during the 2022-2023 school year.
This updated review process is a systematic cycle of improvement "to ensure a robust curriculum and comprehensive instructional programming that is aligned to the [school] district's mission and vision," according to a recent memo to Supt. of Schools Margaret Adams and the School Committee from Andy Hoey, director of social studies for K-12.
Key considerations relate in part to the extent to which these programs foster the
development of student skills, meet the needs of all students, and prepare them for life.
The first part of the program review involves a self-study, comprised of developing
essential questions to focus the process; gathering curriculum documents, instructional resources, and program data for analysis; seeking community feedback on program offerings; and reviewing program of studies documents from comparable districts, followed by site visits to other districts and reciprocal visits to HPS.
Site visits to Braintree, Needham, Duxbury, Norwell, Scituate, and Plymouth were
conducted in 2020 prior to the Covid shutdown in anticipation of the previously scheduled 2021 program review.
The second part of the review involves creating a written report and developing
recommendations for an action plan, which will be presented to the School Committee in the Spring of 2024 following a complete analysis of the program review documents and data by the program review team, stakeholder surveys, and hosting a visiting team of educators to provide feedback on current programs during the 2023-2024 school year.
By Carol Meyer
Interim Supt. of Schools Kathryn (Katie) Roberts recently presented the 2023-2025 Hingham Public Schools "Continuous Cycle of Learning" Professional Development Plan to the School Committee, which met with unanimous approval.
The plan centers around a vision statement that professional development offerings will be "purposeful, collaborative, and responsive to the needs of educators, with a focus on the inclusion and success of all students."
The HPS Professional Development Committee created the plan in conjunction with educators and administrators and is directly aligned to the vision of the Hingham Public Schools Strategic Plan.
Running parallel with the Professional Development Plan are the HPS Technology Plan and Equity Audit and associated plan. Many of the goals developed for the technology and equity plans have professional development implications.
"Together, these documents provide a road map for professional learning in our district as we strive to implement the most current research-based practices," the plan states.
Professional development plan goals include:
* implementation of high-quality curriculum and universally designed instruction and inclusive and culturally responsive practices in all classrooms;
* fostering a safe and supportive school environment; and
* mentoring and leadership development.
The Professional Development Plan is posted on the Hingham Public Schools website.
By Carol Britton Meyer
Hingham's Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 24, at 7 p.m. at Hingham High School. Warrant articles that will be presented for voter approval range from a proposed $7.9 million override to whether to allow separate Accessory Dwelling Units on single-family lots to establishing a Hingham Climate Action Commission charged with supporting, overseeing, and "holding to account" the town’s implementation of the Climate Action Plan.
Warrants will be mailed to every Hingham household with complete details.
The Town Election will be held Saturday, April 29. Check the town website for your
precinct and voting location.
There is only one race -- for the Planning Board seat currently occupied by Judith Sneath, who is not running for another term -- between Thomas Patch and Tracy Shriver. There will also be a ballot question related to the override. In order for the override to pass, an affirmative majority vote is necessary at both Town Meeting and at the polls. The Advisory Committee report in the warrant includes extensive information about the override, including the Fiscal 2024 budget process, estimated tax impacts, and details about the Memorandum of Understanding between the School Committee, Advisory Committee, and Select Board which is "essentially an agreement between taxpayers and town leaders that promises that, in return for an affirmative vote on the override, town leaders pledge to limit the future growth of operating budgets and not request another override" for until at least Fiscal 2028.