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not allowing the hiring of teachers to replace vacated positions, have left Norwell schools with large classroom sizes, outdated materials, and a scaled back curriculum.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.

Norwell PD Hosting Info Sessions, Open Houses

NorwellNorwell Police Explains Importance of New Building

In an effort to explain their position and to demonstrate the deficiencies of the current station, Norwell Police is opening its doors to the public, and inviting residents in for a series of information sessions and open houses.The new police station and its near $5 million price tag is a concern and consideration for Norwell residents, but so is public safety. The Norwell Board of Selectmen, the Norwell Advisory Board, and the Norwell Police Department are in agreement that with the existing facility’s limitation in space and inability to pass compliance, a new facility at this cost makes sense.

Norwell Police Schedules Information Sessions

The NPD is holding informational sessions at the Norwell Fire Department at 300 Washington Street on Monday, November 7, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. and on Monday, November 14, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. Norwell residents are invited to hear Norwell Police explain the need for a new police station, the extensive process involved, the cost of the project, and the plans for the proposed station. Residents may also ask questions about the project. If you interested in attending one of these, email Officer Bill Pasteris at wpasteris@norwellpolice.com or call 781-659-7979 ext. 143.

Tour the Current Norwell Police Station

Norwell Police Department is also encouraging residents to visit the current building at 40 River Street to see and hear firsthand the issues and concerns with the facility. Residents can drop in to any of the following open houses: Thursday, November 3, 2011 from 9:00 a.m. to noon, Saturday, November 5, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Thursday, November 10, 2011 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Thursday, November 17 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

A New Police Station

The proposed new Norwell Police station will be proximal to Norwell Fire Department’s headquarters at 300 Washington Street. The Norwell Board of Selectmen and the Norwell Advisory Board have stated their recommendation for the $4.7 million project. The plans are for a 12,250-square-foot, two-story, exterior brick and clapboard building that would feature the space and technology currently lacking in the existing structure on River Street. Should the town and voters approve the proposal, construction could start as early as Summer 2012 and take about a year to 18 months to complete.

The Future of the New Norwell Police Station

The information sessions and tours of the existing Norwell Police Station are in preparation of Article 1, requesting a debt exclusion override of Proposition 2-1/2 for a new police station added to the Norwell Fire Station, which will be presented at Town Meeting on November 21, 2011. Residents in attendance of the Norwell Town Meeting will be asked to  approve a debt exclusion override of Proposition 2-1/2 in the amount of  $4,722,955. If the motion passes the town will hold an election on Friday, December 2, 2011 and invite residents to vote on increasing property taxes to fund the new station. The debt exclusion override would increase property taxes until the debt was paid off, making for a temporary tax increase for residents.

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.

 

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