Hingham selectmen positively recommended the High School Fields warrant article at their meeting last night to the applause of over two-dozen community members.
The document will be sent on to the Advisory Committee to receive final recommendations before Special Town Meeting, scheduled for Oct. 24. At that point, a dollar amount will be assigned to the project.
Although there is yet to be a dollar figure attached to the warrant itself, school committee members have recommended spending $935,000 on the project, down from an earlier estimation of $1 million project.
Current figures suggest that approximately $60,000 would be used to renovate the tennis courts, $600,000 would be used for the complete reconstruction of the track, and up to $275,000 would be used for the design and construction documents for phase two of the study.
Phase two, which is still largely open to discussion, would potentially fund the design for everything from the football field drainage and reconstruction, to new bleachers, stadium lighting, and potentially even turf.
The School Committee is also prepared to conduct a traffic study, which members are planning to do with existing funds received from sports partnerships and donors.
The entire project has received a lot of attention in the past few months, especially as School Committee members struggled to obtain funding for and start the project this past year.
Despite initial setbacks, and years of delayed capital improvements for the field, field proponents and town officials agreed last night that the time to upgrade is now.
“[The project] is appropriate and responsible, and it is up to the town to determine what to do,” said Caryl Falvey, school committee vice-chair and chair of the Long Range Planning Subcommittee.
Interest rates are also favorable, especially with the town’s AAA rating intact due to maintained reserves - something that was controversial in the past for residents who wanted to spend reserves to do this project earlier.
According to selectman Bruce Rabuffo, although he supports the project, maintenance will be of continued importance as the years progress. Additionally, he hopes that residents will have ample opportunity in phase two to speak their minds.
“I’m happy to see this has come to the table in a way we can fund it and support it,” Rabuffo said.
Selectman Laura Burns echoed his sentiments.
“A lot of good work has been done. I also support this project,” she said. “Hopefully now we can reap the fruits of surviving with our bond rating intact and having a low interest rate on what we’re about to borrow.”
According to John Riley, chair of the board of selectmen, splitting the process into two phases is the wisest direction for the town to take, especially as the initial numbers for the entire project were in the $4-5 million range.
“There were a lot of numbers out there that were scary to some people, on top of the talk of construction of a new school,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to find out what is going to be looked out, how, why it’s important, and then we can put a number out there to the community and let them make their decisions.”
For Shauna Sullivan, a Hingham High senior, field hockey captain, and track member, the developments are a long time coming.
“For the track, when we do workouts for track, we usually do it on the track. Because of shin splits, injuries, we run on the pavement around the high school, because we don’t want to risk getting hurt,” she said, asking selectmen for a recommendation.
Warren Pelissier, President of the Hingham Sports Partnership, agreed that the time was right for these improvements.
According to Ted Alexiades, the town administrator, taxes would increase from 2013-2017 by approximately $4 per $100,000 of assessed value, or $24 for the average single-family home valued at $651,000.
Tax projections for the middle school project, a subject that will be discussed next week, will increase taxes by approximately $60 through FY21, or $380 for the average single-family home valued at $651,000.
To view the entire tax impact analysis, click here.
According to Alexiades, the numbers presented are a worse case scenario.
With creative borrowing strategies and improving interest rates, “things can only get better,” he said.