Departments: Board of Selectmen
Board of Selectmen
The Board of Selectmen is composed of three members who are elected for three year terms. As the Chief Elected and Executive Officers of the Town, the Selectmen are vested with all the municipal authority not specifically retained by the Town's legislative body, Town Meeting, or other elected boards. The Selectmen appoint a Town Administrator who is responsible for the daily management of the Town.
The Selectmen issue the warrants for Town Meetings; initiate legislative policy by inserting articles in Town Meeting Warrants; and then implement the votes subsequently adopted. They adopt town administrative policies; review and set fiscal guidelines for the annual operating budget and the five-year capital improvement program and make recommendations to Town Meeting. The Selectmen appoint department heads and members of most official boards and commissions; hold public hearings on important town issues and periodic conferences with agencies under their jurisdiction and with community groups; represent the Town before the General Court; act as Police Commissioner; and enforce Town By-Laws and regulations.
The Selectmen also serve as the licensing board responsible for issuing and renewing over 70 licenses in more than 20 categories, including common victualler, limousine, liquor, inflammables, special events and entertainment.
Application for One Day Liquor License
2014 Annual Report
Although the Board of Selectmen's report highlights the calendar year of 2014, it would be remiss to not mention the epic winter of 2015. With a record snow of approximately 110 inches, the Town prevailed due to its employees who were heroic in their response to the snow and weather events. The Board wishes to express gratitude and thanks to all the Town employees, the Hingham Light Plant and contractors that worked tirelessly during the snow and weather events. The first responders who ventured out in the blizzards cannot be thanked enough for their service. Hingham answered the call like the special place it is.
The Town's AAA rating continues to reflect its strong financial position. Prudent debt management policies and competent management are all areas of fiscal strength. We are again cautiously optimistic about the future. However, we remain concerned about managing potentially slow growth due to the lagging economic recovery and ever rising demands for service based on population growth. It will be a balancing act to minimize the economic burdens our citizens face in this economy.
The 2015 Annual Town meeting will again consider a modest tax relief proposal for FY2016 by keeping a promise made to taxpayers to employ meal's tax revenues and unused levy capacity to mitigate the impact of tax increases. The increases are a direct result of the voter approval of the new Middle School and other Town projects. The Board continues to look for opportunities to provide tax relief to the neediest citizens, seniors as well as all property owners. The proposed budget continues to restore positions in Town departments and the Schools that were lost opportunities during the financial crises years. The Town now has an annual budget of one hundred million dollars with a population over twenty two thousand.
The Capital Budget for FY2016 addresses planning for projects on Summer Street and the Rotary, the seawalls at the harbor, a renovation of the Fire Station on North Street, and a project to restore the Bathing Beach and address the parking lot erosion. The years ahead will see a number of proposals for building renovations to address our aging infrastructure and population growth.
Debt management continues to be a strength of the Town. Approximately forty six million dollars was financed through general obligation bonds at a rate of 0.75% in the Spring of 2014. One of the Selectmen's objectives this year was to work with the Advisory Committee, which is responsible for the Town Financial Policy, to examine the short term versus long term debt strategy. Given that Hingham debt offerings are still much in demand by investors, the decision was made to convert all the short term debt to long term in the spring of 2015. The Advisory Committee has updated the Financial Policy to reflect timely discussions of long term versus short term debt. This is a further example of prudent decisions made in the best interest of the Town and the taxpayer.
Expenses for "snow and ice" and roof clearings are approaching two million dollars for FY2015. The excess over the budgeted amounts will be taken from Fund Balance. The Board is cautiously evaluating short term spending that involves decreasing the Fund Balance level, up from its lowest point of 8.9% in FY2009. The level of Fund Balance is one of the strengths supporting the Town's continued AAA rating. The current unassigned fund balance is now over 20 percent. The Town policy is a range of 16 to 20 percent.
The Town's study of owning its municipal water company and the litigation to determine a price for the potential acquisition continues. The court trial testimony has concluded and closing arguments are scheduled for the end of May of 2015. A decision on the price is expected in early summer 2015. If appropriate, after open meetings with the Town, a future Town Meeting will allow citizens to decide if such ownership is in the best interests of the Town. To address current issues, the Water Supply Committee was reactivated and is engaged with short and long term issues impacting the Town.
The potential slow economic growth is being addressed, in part, by the South Hingham Study Group, established in 2013. The quest for responsible development, given the need for serious infrastructure improvements has proved to be challenging. Work continues on improvement of the Derby Street corridor. Hingham has received excellent support from all members of our legislative contingent for the Derby Street corridor improvements, harbor improvements and other projects. It is much appreciated.
The Harbor Task Force has been reactivated to coordinate projects impacting Summer Street, the Rotary and Route 3A, the harbor front and the Bathing Beach. The Task Force has representation from the Planning Board, Zoning Board, Development and Industrial Commission, Trustees of the Bathing Beach, Harbor Development Committee, the Town Engineer and two independent citizens.
Planning initiatives moved forward for the senior population.The Elder Services Department has outgrown its space; the seniors are the fastest growing segment of our Town's population. A Recreation and Fields Study Committee has been formed to address the current state of facilities and future needs of the citizens.
Planning for public safety departments continues. The Police Department needs additional space and the addition of a fourth Fire Station is being studied to serve South Hingham now and in the future as responsible development occurs.
A Hingham Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition has been formed. The mission of the Coalition is to foster a strong and inclusive community that promotes choosing a healthy lifestyle and informed and responsible choices about drug and alcohol use.
The Town devoted time and effort in addressing the 2012 FEMA flood maps. The recent 2012 FEMA maps resulted in potentially dire consequences for residents and commercial businesses as well as Town properties. In some cases, residents were told their flood insurance could be as high as fifty thousand dollars a year. The Town responded by challenging FEMA and, over the course of the year, new draft Flood Insurance Rate maps detailing proposed changes to flood zones in coastal areas are in final review and will go into effect 120 days after the review is complete and the appropriate public notice is given. The new maps will ameliorate most of the negative consequences presented by the 2012 FEMA maps. In addition, the Town is in the process of finalizing a study designed to examine rising sea levels and its impact on the Town, especially the harbor, downtown and the waterfront areas.
We continue to provide the highest level of services to our Veterans. The Town Administrator received the "Patriot Award" for programs provided by the Town to support our Veterans. We continue to explore opportunities for new and enhanced programs. It is fitting to recognize our Veterans' Service Officer, CPO Keith Jermyn, currently on deployment in Somalia. We wish him a speedy and safe return and thank him and all our Veterans for their service.
The Board wishes to thank the residents for their generous response to the Flags For Soldiers Campaign recognizing the service members from Hingham serving in the Armed Forces.
On April 30, 2015, we say goodbye to Chief Michael Peraino after 37 years of exemplary service as he and his wife Linda head into a well-deserved retirement. The Chief was the Town's first DARE officer and now many of our police officers are graduates of his program. He has served the Town with dignity, professionalism and a caring hand.
The Board would be remiss by not acknowledging the formidable service of Betty Foley and Betty Tower for their decades of dedicated and loyal service to the Town of Hingham. Both women have ensured that the office of the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Hingham runs smoothly and efficiently. We wish them both all the best in their retirement.
Finally, the Board of Selectmen wishes to thank the volunteers who unselfishly give their time and talent to the many committees and boards without which we could not accomplish the work of the Town. Hingham is a very special place because of the Advisory Committee, elected and appointed Boards, elected officials and all the volunteers who render their service for the good of the entire Town. Given this epic year, we give them, and our dedicated staffs, our heartfelt thanks.
Irma H. Lauter, Chairman
Paul K. Healey
Paul J. Gannon