Select Board roundup: Girl Scouts honored for community projects; Start Line Brewing expansion OK’d; Open Meeting Law complaint addressed

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Six Hopkinton Girl Scouts were honored at Tuesday’s Select Board meeting for their recent community projects that earned five of them a Gold Award and the other Eagle Scout recognition.

Sammy Altman received the Gold Award for her project to help solve the problem of obesity in pets for low-income pet owners. Altman worked with veterinarians and students from Tufts Veterinary School to spread awareness, including distributing pamphlets at lower-income housing facilities and shelters in Worcester.

“A lot of low-income pet owners don’t necessarily have the resources to provide their pets with healthy nutritional meals,” Altman said. “We actually came across a couple of pet owners that were feeding their pets the same thing they were eating for dinner. So we were trying to help them out to find low-costing but nutritional foods for their pets.”

Cate Barry’s Gold Award came after she increased awareness and provided information on how to prepare for a natural emergency, working primarily with Fire Chief Steve Slaman to create a flyer with information on what to do before, during and after an emergency.

Barry said she was inspired after working a mission trip in Houston following Hurricane Harvey, and she was “shocked by the amount of damage that was left behind even close to a year after the storm.”

Upon returning to Hopkinton, she said, “I realized that there was a mindset in our community that a natural disaster or a natural emergency couldn’t affect our community. … We definitely can’t control the weather, so it never hurts to be prepared.”

Holly A. Burns earned her Gold Award for working with Hopkinton High School and the Parks & Recreation Department to spread awareness about anaphylaxis and allergies via posters and flyers and an educational video.

“It was to help increase awareness in our town, and more focused on the athletic department at the high school,” she said. “I felt there was a need to kind of remind our school system and our coaches and our players about the importance of being safe at student athletic events, and knowing that some of our student-athletes, spectators, coaches, teachers have allergies, and can have an anaphylactic reaction.”

For her Gold Award, Megan Murchie created the website HopkintonCares.org, where teenagers can learn about volunteer opportunities with nonprofit organizations.

“I decided to create a platform for teens in my community so they can find volunteering opportunities in one safe, central location,” Murchie said.

Julianna Lucas earned her Gold Award for engaging high school students in the voter registration process and encouraging eligible high school students to register and vote.

“There’s not a lot of information given to us as we go through the high school about probably one of the biggest civic duties that we participate in in our lives,” Lucas said.

With the help of town clerk Connor Degan and HCAM’s Jim Cozzens, Lucas produced an educational video that discussed the importance of voting and explained the process.

Ellora Hoyt’s Eagle Scout project was to design, build and install more than 20 bird nesting boxes for native species, specifically the eastern bluebird and tree swallow.

“My goal for the project was to create more areas for the birds to nest, as in the past their populations kind of took hits from loss of habitat and pesticides,” Hoyt said. “I also wanted to bring kind of light and peace in the areas where I installed them, which was around two cemeteries in Hopkinton and a couple of trails.”

Hoyt is in the initial group of girls to be named an Eagle Scout, which is a Boy Scouts designation. Boy Scouts recently started accepting girls.

Select Board chair Brendan Tedstone credited scout leaders Lee Burns and Kim Brennan for their “hard work and tireless effort” with the girls.

State Rep. Carolyn Dykema joined the meeting to pay tribute to the teens.

“This represents not just the individual achievement but truly years and years of scouting experience that you’ve participated in, which has really culminated in what you’re receiving tonight,” she said. “There’s so much to be proud of.”

Added Dykema: “Listening to your stories, or your descriptions of your projects, I was struck by not only the complexity and the thoughtfulness of the proposals, but really they showed such a connection to the community and a real understanding of the community that you live in and the needs of that community.”

Start Line Brewing expansion OK’d

The board voted unanimously to approve a permanent outdoor seating area at Start Line Brewing. Owner Ted Twinney explained that the Hayden Rowe Street establishment was operating at about 60-65 percent of occupancy due to having to space out seats during the pandemic.

Last summer the Select Board approved a temporary expansion of the outdoor seating area, and Twinney said he’d like to make it permanent.

“There is going to be — and we hear it from our customers every day — a lasting demand for outdoor seating, not only during the pandemic, but I think in years to come,” Twinney said. “So we’ve decided to invest some money and make this a permanent solution, with your approval. We’re simply going to expand our current patio space out by another 80 seats.”

Twinney said no additional parking will be needed because the establishment is approved for an occupancy of 252, and Start Line will remain well below that number. While 80 seats are being added, others are being removed and some are not being used due to the social distancing requirements.

Said Twinney: “Were simply looking to spread our seating across more space and meet our customers’ requests for that outdoor seating on a seasonable basis.”

Open Meeting Law complaint discussed

A resident filed a complaint accusing the board of violating the state’s Open Meeting Law when it discussed using Marathon Way and the town-owned parking lot on Marshall Avenue as staging areas for Main Street Corridor Project construction equipment and materials at its March 2 meeting without proper notification to the public.

Lucia Lopez, who lives on Marshall Avenue, wrote in her complaint that she believed the violation was intentional, done so the board could “avoid addressing public comment and concerns.”

However, town counsel concluded that the board did not violate the Open Meeting Law, as the agenda indicated the town manager would discuss the project in his regular report to the board.

The board voted unanimously to accept town counsel’s determination and forward the finding to the Attorney General’s Office.

Select Board member Amy Ritterbusch said the board could work to improve communication with the public.

Town manager Norman Khumalo, however, noted that the Marshall Avenue situation was set for discussion at the two ensuing Parks & Rec Commission meetings (Parks & Rec uses the lot for Carrigan Field parking). And Khumalo and town engineer Dave Daltorio joined Parks & Rec to hear from residents and address their concerns.

Special Town Meeting scheduled within Town Meeting

Khumalo told the board that after the Town Meeting warrant had closed, he learned that the town’s means tested senior property tax exemption law is set to expire in August. So he recommended Tuesday that the board approve a Special Town Meeting to be held within the Annual Town Meeting on May 8 to address the issue.

“The message from the board should be that this is a Special Town Meeting defined narrowly — if the board agrees — for the purpose of only including the article to address extending the means tested senior property tax exemption law,” Khumalo said.

The board voted unanimously to hold the Special Town Meeting but noted that the town legally cannot prevent anyone from adding a warrant. Khumalo is to discourage town departments and boards from doing so.

Meanwhile, the board approved four ballot questions, all related to Prop. 2 1/2 exemptions, for Town Meeting and then Town Election. The questions ask if residents want to fund an addition to the Marathon School,  a school HVAC renewal and digital control upgrade, Hopkins and Middle School roof replacements, and the Police Station roof replacement.

The board also voted unanimously to recommend Town Meeting approval of a number of articles: 1-29, 44 and 45.

Misc.: Marathon bib distribution policy approved

The board voted to accept the Boston Marathon invitational waiver policy, which will manage how it distributes bibs to town departments and organizations for fundraising. Requests are being accepted for numbers. …

The board approved three board/committee appointments: Gail Levine to the Council on Aging (term expiring June 30, 2021), Jack Nealon to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board (term expiring June 30, 2022) and Kathy Yang to the Sustainable Green Committee (term expiring June 30, 2023). …

The board also approved a request from Khumalo to grant hiring freeze exceptions for an assistant senior services director (the position has been vacant since last summer, when Ashley Shaheen left for a new job) and a senior services outreach coordinator (Marlene Troupes is retiring later this year).