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Lawyers brought on to aid Hingham School Committee in fields project

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 17, 2013 03:25 PM

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Hingham School Committee members say they have hired lawyers to help them with the high school fields project, though they don't expect any type of lawsuit.

According to School Committee Chairwoman Caryl Falvey, Jeffery Tocchio and Jason Morgan, both of Drohan, Tocchio, & Morgan, have been hired to help walk the School Committee through the fields process.

The attorneys will not only provide general support throughout as the field plans make their way through a variety of town boards, but will also be able to provide legal expertise regarding the Dover Amendment.

A section of Massachusetts General Law, the Dover Amendment exempts certain religious, agricultural, and educational projects from some zoning restrictions, giving towns less oversight than they would typically have.

Due to the complexity of the law, Falvey said legal counsel was brought on board to help navigate through any issues.

“It’s just to make sure we’re doing everything correctly. We have no intentions of this blowing into a lawsuit, it’s just such a sensitive subject, that’s why we brought town counsel in just to explain [the Dover Amendment] to us back in September,” Falvey said.

Though there has been some neighborhood opposition to the fields project, Falvey rejected the idea that the town might be facing a lawsuit.

It isn’t unusual for attorneys to be hired as part of School Committee projects, Falvey said. The middle school construction also has attorneys working behind the scenes.

“I’m hoping this will smooth things over for us,” Falvey said. “And we’re trying to work with [architects Gale Associates] to get all the correct plans in in a timely manner and correctly.”

So far, things have moved swiftly. The School Committee this week finalized language for four potential Town Meeting warrant articles, which will be voted on in April.

The articles would authorize the School Committee to take any leftover money from the project’s first phase to put towards the second phase; ask to borrow funds to fund the remainder; ask the town to upgrade the multipurpose field from grass to synthetic turf; and ask the town to allow field lights, which would be privately funded.

Both the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee will review those articles before moving forward.

School Committee members are also making their way through the Planning Board process.

Plans have since been changed to only permit one multipurpose field, the baseball field, and the softball field – taking out a proposed second multipurpose field that members were attempting to permit now and fund later.

The town is also getting cost estimates for the amenities building, which currently includes a state mandate of 26 restroom fixtures.

According to Falvey, the town already received three bids for the work, though the School Committee is still trying to cut costs.

Currently, the project has a $4.7 million price tag, which includes traffic upgrades, artificial turf, lights, and the amenities building.

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