Weekly News Update – 10/01/2023
Trails Committee reviews committee charges, approves Scout project requests • New Parks & Rec director takes helm; temporary skate park concept introduced • Health Department surveys residents on vaccines • Pedestrian bridge proposals dominate Conservation Commission meeting • Lake Maspenock advocates push for limited use of herbicides to control weeds • Consultant’s report on HMS special education program dominates School Committee agenda • Select Board hears initial school budget data • Commission on Disability holds first meeting, sets goals for community engagement • Zoning Advisory Committee seeks public input on MBTA Communities zoning as deadline looms • Additional reimbursement likely for new school project • After controversial delay, Select Board discusses hiring/promotion policy with police chief • OSPC approves open space land donation off Whisper Way • Commission on Disability seeks to educate community, businesses on importance of accessibility, equity • Main Street Corridor Project Update
Trails Committee reviews committee charges, approves Scout project requests
The Trails Committee revised drafts of its charge and the one it proposed for the beleaguered Upper Charles Trail Committee at its meeting Wednesday night.
The committee made some edits to the new version of its charge as well as its proposed recommendation of changes to the UCTC’s charge. Discussion on the updated charges began at the August Trails Committee meeting. The updated drafts will be reviewed and then submitted to the Select Board for consideration at an upcoming meeting.
New Parks & Rec director takes helm; temporary skate park concept introduced
The Parks & Recreation Commission at its Wednesday meeting welcomed new department director Jon Lewitus to the department.
Temporary skate park concept generates enthusiasm
Hopkinton residents Steve Threlkeld and Kyle Reilly appeared before the commission with a proposal to create a temporary mobile skate park that could be located in an empty parking lot in town for limited periods of time.
Impact of school facility fee spike discussed
Fees charged by the School Department for the use of its facilities by the Parks & Rec department tripled as of Sept. 1. This increase, Savage said, had not been anticipated and therefore was not planned for in the department’s budget process because there was no notification during that time frame.
CPC funding suggested for storage shed
Lewitus recommended that a storage shed be located at the pickleball/tennis court facility planned to be built off Fruit Street.
Grogan leaving department
Program coordinator Erin Grogan will be leaving the department as of Friday.
Library ‘read-in’ of banned books approved
The commission approved 4-0 a request from the Hopkinton Public Library to hold a “read-in” of banned books on the Town Common on Thursday, Oct. 5, from 5-7 p.m.
Health Department surveys residents on vaccines
The Hopkinton Health Department has started a survey to gauge the interest of residents in receiving the RSV, updated COVID and/or shingles vaccines.
RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus. It’s a contagious virus that causes respiratory disease.
To participate, visit forms.gle/ZeUQS7sQqZAdqbJW8. The survey is open until Oct. 14.
Pedestrian bridge proposals dominate Conservation Commission meeting
The Conservation Commission at its meeting Tuesday night focused its attention on separate proposals for pedestrian footbridges.
The commission approved 6-0 the request of an Eagle Scout to construct a pedestrian footbridge at Berry Acres Trail. Projects of this type historically have been submitted by Eagle Scouts and approved, noted member Jim Ciriello.
Lake Maspenock advocates push for limited use of herbicides to control weeds
Thickening invasive weeds in Lake Maspenock have some residents calling for a potential limited use of herbicides to contain the growing problem that threatens to choke off the aquatic life there.
“The problem has been going on for years,” explained Sabine St. Pierre, the vice president of the Lake Maspenock Preservation Association. “Now it’s dire.”
She recalled a contentious Town Meeting vote in 2015 when the use of herbicides was debated but denied. Shortly after that vote, the Select Board formed a citizens input group (CIG) to research options and report them to the Department of Public Works and the Conservation Commission.
Consultant’s report on HMS special education program dominates School Committee agenda
AthenaK12 Educational Consulting studied SPED services in Grades 6-8 in the fall of 2022, the findings of which can be found in a 37-page document on the district’s website.
Athena gathered information by reviewing documents, site visits, observation of instruction, and one-on-one and small group interviews with SPED and general education teachers, according to the report.
Concerns expressed during public comments
During the public comment section of the meeting, a trio of speakers expressed concern not only about the shortfalls talked about in the report but also what they described as a “breakdown of communication and respect” between administration and teachers.
Recommendations of report summarized
Director of Student Services Abigail Hanscom led a presentation summarizing recommendations in the audit along with Nicole Murray, SPED director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for Grades 6-12; Beth Callahan, who holds that title at the elementary level; and Matt Lefebvre, HMS principal.
School improvement plans highlighted
Another major portion of the meeting involved presentations by building principals on their school improvement plans.
Select Board hears initial school budget data
The Select Board on Tuesday heard preliminary data from Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh ahead of the budget process, outlining some expected needs and including information about special education in fiscal year 2025.
Town Manager Norman Khumalo said the annual budget message would be issued on Oct. 3. Select Board and School Committee members spoke about the need for collaboration and transparency to avoid mistakes made in the past.
Superintendent gives presentation
Carol Cavanaugh and Assistant Superintendent Susan Rothermich led a presentation that covered enrollment and per pupil expenditures in addition to special education and future staffing needs.
Of the data, Cavanaugh said, “It may stimulate some of your thinking as you are preparing a budget message and looking at sources of revenue.”
Special education statistics highlighted
The district has 533 students on special education plans. Of those, 406 students have a documented disability. Seventy-eight students have a documented disability as well as qualify as low income, 39 have a documented disability as well as qualify for English learner services, and 10 have all three considerations.
Possible requests, per pupil expenditures outlined
The superintendent noted that the data indicated a need to pay for the ELA director, the possible addition of three full-time SPED educators, the addition of five SPED paraprofessionals (already determined), the addition of 8.4 full-time teachers to cover enrollment increases, and growth of the administrative staff.
Other calendar items presented
Khumalo presented key dates going forward, and they were approved by the three boards. These included the 2024 Town Meeting warrant closing on Feb. 6. This deadline, he said, has been problematic in the past with some departments submitting capital requests “way past” the date.
Commission on Disability holds first meeting, sets goals for community engagement
The Commission on Disability held its first meeting Monday night, electing officers and outlining goals for community engagement and awareness of accessibility issues in town.
Holly Morand, also a School Committee member, was elected chair in a 4-0 vote. Alex Danahy was selected as vice chair.
Zoning Advisory Committee seeks public input on MBTA Communities zoning as deadline looms
The Zoning Advisory Committee at its meeting Monday night sought community feedback as the town formulates its response to the state’s MBTA Communities Act.
The state adopted the MBTA Communities Law in 2021 to spur the development of multifamily housing by right in communities served by the MBTA outside of Boston to help ease the state’s housing crisis. Hopkinton is considered to be an MBTA-adjacent community because of its proximity to the Southborough commuter rail station.
Additional reimbursement likely for new school project
During a brief meeting on Tuesday, the Elementary School Building Committee learned that the proposed Elmwood School project is likely to receive an additional $1.3 million in reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
The range previously cited for MSBA reimbursement was $44 million to $46 million.
After controversial delay, Select Board discusses hiring/promotion policy with police chief
During the public forum portion of Tuesday’s meeting, Officer Nick Walker, representing the police union, noted the department’s staffing issues and accused the board of making the situation worse.
“Since December of 2020, the Hopkinton Police Department has lost 17 members,” Walker said. “Only one of those officers retired. Fourteen of them are active law enforcement officers in other agencies to this day. They chose to leave this agency to go to different departments. This is what led to our contract being more competitive, but we are still struggling to recruit due to a lack of support from town management.”
OSPC approves open space land donation off Whisper Way
The Open Space Preservation Commission at its meeting Thursday night approved the donation of open space to the town at a Whisper Way subdivision after a contentious Planning Board meeting showed that the process should have taken place before building permits were issued.
Main Street Corridor Project Update
What to Expect for the Week of October 2nd to October 6th, 2023
East Side of Project
- Installing conduits and risers on new utility poles installed along Main Street
West Side of Project
- No work is planned