New Police Station Loses By Four Votes at Norwell Town Meeting

Norwell Residents Halt $5M Police Proposal

They say every vote counts, and at Norwell Town Meeting, the point couldn’t be better illustrated. The $5M station proposal for Norwell Police Department failed by only four votes at Monday night’s town meeting. The controversial project continues to spark debate in Norwell.

The Vote at Norwell Town Meeting

Residents in attendance of the Norwell Town Meeting on Monday night voted on the $5.1 million project which included the construction of a new 12,000-square-foot facility. The measure required a two-thirds approval by the small turn-out at town meeting. Voters appeared frustrated that proposed renovation costs of $3.3 million were relatively close to the initial new construction figure of $4.1 million. Now that the estimated cost of a new facility has surpassed $5 million, Norwell residents wonder if renovation is a more cost-effective approach.

The Future of the Norwell Police Station

With the current facility in need of renovations to bring it up to safety standards, Norwell faces a dilemma. Should the town approve the construction of a new facility or renovate the current building? There’s little debate the River Street structure is no longer functional for today’s police force. However, Norwell residents appear unsatisfied with the current proposals. Selectmen appear adamant about pushing the $5.1 million project through, but as witnessed last evening, voters are the ultimate decision-makers.

Another Chance for Norwell to Vote

Despite the project’s loss on Monday night, Norwell will move ahead with a ballot vote on December 3, 2011. Voters will decide on a property tax increase to pay for the police project. If that passes, the town will still need a two-thirds approval at the next town meeting likely in the spring. For or against it, be sure to cast your vote on December 3, 2011 and again at town meeting in the spring. Your vote, and your tax dollars, count toward Norwell’s future.

Norwell’s Neighbors Support Overrides

Norwell Prepares as Hingham & Duxbury Pass Major Propositions

Norwell residents and the Norwell School Committee are expressing concern for next year’s school budget. A rise in the student population coupled with budgetary restrictions such as not allowing the hiring of teachers to replace vacated positions, have left Norwell schools with large classroom sizes, outdated materials, and a scaled back curriculum. As neighboring Hingham and Duxbury move ahead with massive overrides, the future of Norwell schools as well as Norwell’s property values are a big question mark.

Norwell School Budget Crisis

Norwell and its real estate market has relied for years on the school system’s impeccable reputation. While the system continues to be strong, the class room sizes with sometimes 30-plus children, the reductions in staff, and the elimination of subjects in the upper grades have given residents and would-be homebuyers pause. Recently the Norwell School Committee met with the Board of Selectmen to discuss major concerns for next year’s budget. Superintendent Donald Beaudette has warned that the budget as it stands may force the town to rethink and reduce curriculum requirements to graduate from Norwell High School.

Norwell

Hingham residents approve the construction of a new middle school.

Hingham Passes Middle School Override

Just over the weekend an overwhelming majority of Hingham residents passed ballot questions at the polls to approve the $60.9 million middle school and $935,000 athletic fields renovation. Question one, funding for the middle school, won in a vote of 3078 to 2353. While the middle school project will be partly reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the remaining cost will be paid by an annual property tax increase at around $60 per $100,000. Question two, funding for tennis courts, track, and an all-purpose field, passed with 3770 voting yes to 1661 voting no.

Duxbury Set to Vote on Police, Fire, and School Overrides

Duxbury residents will be participating in a special election on Saturday, November 5, 2011 to vote on three Proposition 2½ overrides for construction of a new police station, renovations to the fire station, and design work for a new middle/high school. At town meeting voters overwhelmingly approved a $6.25 million proposal to design and build a new police station for the town, a $2.9 million proposal to design a new middle-high school, and a $3.7 million renovation of Duxbury’s fire station.

Norwell School Priorities

While Duxbury and Hingham residents have passed sizeable overrides, Norwell has not proposed an override for several years and an anticipated override would likely cover teacher salaries rather than construction. Based on the resource planning report submitted by the Norwell School Committee, an additional 20 FTEs (full-time equivalent) will be needed for fiscal year 2013, which comes at an estimated cost of $1,160,000. And with new developments being built in town and more families moving into the community, the already burgeoning student population is bound to grow.

New Hire, More Needs at Norwell Public Library

NorwellNorwell Selectmen Show Support, Voice Concern

The Norwell Board of Selectmen voted in favor of the Norwell Public Library’s request to hire a new systems manager. However, the NPL is concerned that its current budget requires an override to continue delivering quality service to the community.

Vacated Position at Norwell Public Library

The systems position was recently vacated by a longtime employee, leaving staff without what Library Director, Rebecca Freer, calls her “right hand.” The systems manager works closely with the director, provides knowledge and trouble shooting expertise as it concerns technology and computers, and performs extraneous financial, personnel, and building maintenance duties daily.

Norwell Library New Hire is the Exception

While the vacated position created a need at Norwell Public Library, the town of Norwell is currently not filling vacated positions due to budget limitations. In addition, the Norwell Schools are currently operating without an IT employee, so there are unaddressed needs throughout town services. Norwell administrators are also currently reviewing the possibility of centralizing all town technology, eliminating the need for a systems manager.

Freer stressed the importance of this position to the Board of Selectmen on September 28, 2011 at a meeting, and requested that this particular position be filled. Selectmen voiced concern over the $40,000 position, as well as the possibility that the town of Norwell could be facing layoffs in the near future. The selectmen ultimately voted to allow the filling of the position. Applications and resumes are currently being accepted and under review.

Norwell Library’s Future

At a Norwell Board of Selectmen’s meeting on October 5, 2011, Freer gave an update on the filling of the position, and presented ongoing concern over the library’s ability to serve the community. Space continues to be an issue in the 1975 structure. Freer also noted that the number of patrons served has risen since 2009 when the town discussed the possibility of closing the Norwell branch and outsourcing services to Hanover. Freer suggests that an override is necessary to maintain adequate services for Norwell residents. But with several budgets in crisis in Norwell, the Board of Selectmen and Norwell residents must consider which areas of town spending should receive an increase. There’s more about the Norwell Library and its needs in the Norwell Mariner.

 

Norwell Middle School Installs Solar Panels

Norwell School Is Thinking “Green”

NorwellNorwell Middle School is doing its part to save the town money. Installation of new solar panels located on the backside of the left wing of the school was completed last month and is already cutting down on the electric bill. According to Town Administrator Jim Boudreau who gave an update at the last selectman’s meeting, the system has generated 7,929-kilowatt hours (kWh), or $370 in savings. He foresees the new system offsetting 10 to 15 percent of the school’s energy each year.

Norwell’s Deal with Broadway Electric Company

In 2010 the town signed a 20-year contract with Broadway Electric Company for electricity generated by a 53.76-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system to be developed at the middle school. Boudreau explained that as part of the agreement Broadway owns, operates, and maintains the system, and “any excess electricity generated by the PV system is sold back to the local distribution utility at a rate close to the rate paid for power off the grid and credited against the town’s electric utility bills.”

How It Works

The expectation is that the town will use all the energy produced, and will be billed by Broadway Electric Company for that use. While the infrastructure to utilize solar energy is costly, Norwell was able to implement the project using state grants. The new panels cost the town nothing, and should save about four cents per KWh in the first year. The system is projected to produce 59,480 kWh in the first year for an estimated savings of $2,773.

Educational Impact

In addition, the new solar panels are providing a platform for solar-related curriculum in the classroom. The new project features an educational component with a television displaying real-time production data and environmental benefits. The town anticipates the opportunity for students and teachers to conduct experiments and discussions on the impact of the solar panels on pollution. The new project cuts down on pollution equivalent to what an average passenger car emits in one year.

What’s Next?

The town is looking into other buildings that may be good candidates for solar panels in Norwell, and the energy committee is exploring other options for alternative energy.

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