During his COVID-19 update to the Select Board on Tuesday, Health Director Shaun McAuliffe announced that he and his staff “continue to observe improvement in the Town of Hopkinton,” but the town still has a ways to go to get to a point where he would recommend lifting restrictions.
In its latest report — which McAuliffe noted does not include home test results — the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 91 cases in town through the first 10 days of February.
McAuliffe said Hopkinton is averaging six cases a day, down from seven or eight per day in late January. The town’s 14-day positivity rate is 10.35, and there are 71.9 cases per 100,000 people.
In order to get into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) low-risk category, the town must get its positivity rate below 5 and its cases per 100,000 under 10, McAuliffe noted.
“Our recommendation to the leadership and EMG [the town’s Emergency Management Group] is that we removed the restrictions when our cases per 100,000 and percent positivity drop into the CDC’s low-risk rating,” he said, adding: “We are moving in the right direction. I’m hopeful and optimistic that we’ll be there at or before [Feb. 28]. But we know that these metrics that the DPH is providing, they don’t include home tests, so they’re actually under-reporting or under-representing what our risk is.
“But because we are moving in the right direction, because we are highly vaccinated, and because we know the risk of hospitalization and negative health outcomes is low, we’re positive and optimistic we’re going to be there shortly. If we’re close by the end of February and we’re right at that moderate risk level, that’s something that the EMG, the town leadership, my department and my board can discuss.”
McAuliffe said he’s confident that by the end of the month “we’ll be lifting restrictions,” and he’s optimistic that in-person events will be able to return.
“We’re working with all the parade [permit] applicants, all the other groups that are looking to get going this spring,” he said. “We’re hopeful and optimistic that we will have a ‘normal’ spring and summer.”
Lykan TIF moves forward
The board voted unanimously to recommend sending the recently negotiated tax increment financing (TIF) agreement with Lykan Bioscience to Annual Town Meeting in May.
Lykan is looking to construct a 112,141-square foot manufacturing facility a short distance from the building it already occupies on South Street. The project, which would be done in partnership with property owner Southfield Properties, includes demolishing two existing buildings at 103-109 South Street and constructing a new facility. The project is expected to cost approximately $70 million — $50 million coming from Lykan and $20 million from Southfield — and Lykan is to make an additional $20 million investment in personal property.
Lykan signed another TIF in 2019 before it first set up shop in town, and the board said the company has delivered on its promises. A Lykan representative said the company had proposed a $12 million investment and to date has invested $25 million.
“You guys have really been a beacon of light in our community,” Select Board Member Brendan Tedstone said. “You’ve done everything that you’ve said that you were going to do — your philanthropic endeavors with Project Just Because, your goal to engage our local schools in co-op-type opportunities, and just expanding into the town. I wish you could put a seminar on for the last person who came before us [Eversource], but we know it doesn’t matter because they wouldn’t listen to you.”
Added Tedstone: “You guys have been absolutely awesome, following in the footsteps of what EMC did when they first started. I wholeheartedly support anything that you guys put before us.”
Center School update provided
Town Manager Norman Khumalo reported that the Permanent Building Committee continues to make progress in its efforts to develop a re-use proposal for the former Center School and the adjoining parcels of land behind it.
A number of ideas have been floated, including public-private partnerships where the school is redesigned for community use (such as offices and recreational facilities) while the adjoining land is used for housing of some kind (either single-family houses, townhouses or apartments).
Khumalo said the committee has been seeking request for interest (RFI) proposals, and a number of developers have expressed a desire to participate.
“[Monday] there was an informational meeting to allow interested parties to ask any questions that they may have ahead of developing their response to the RFI,” Khumalo said. “There were approximately a dozen developers who participated in that conversation. And in fact, I think local developers from Hopkinton, who I have seen many times come into Town Hall, were very well represented. We are looking forward to receiving the responses form interested private developers.”
The committee decided to extend the deadline a couple of weeks into early March.
“The intention here is to let the community know that the Permanent Building Committee is moving forward, as was recommended back in October, with an RFI process to get some ideas and concepts from private developers,” Khumalo said. “Depending on the response, the PBC will then decide to issue a request for proposal. That’s a much more detailed process with very specific requirements based on procurement laws.”
Misc.: Board calls out Eversource for double poles
Eversource appeared before the board to ask for a permit to install 80 feet of underground conduit that would connect a new solar array at 17 Wilson Street to an existing utility pole.
While the work would not require any new poles, the board took the opportunity to chastise Eversource for numerous double poles around town and its failure to heed the board’s multiple requests over many years to fix the issue.
The permit passed, 3-1, with Tedstone voting against it as a protest.
“Eversource truly could care less about our town,” Tedstone said. “They just care about their bottom line.”
Eversource representative Christine Cosby said she heard the criticism and would “take it to a higher level and have somebody report back to you.”
Cautioned Select Board Chair Irfan Nasrullah: “The next time around you may not get your approval.” …
Touching on the town’s budget proposal, Khumalo said that a solution to the $1.5 million budget gap caused by Eversource’s most recent tax appeal is “imminent.” He hopes to post detailed information about the budget on the town’s website this week so that residents can look it over and be prepared to ask questions at the March 1 public listening session. …
Parade permit applications were approved for the Hopkinton Little League Opening Day Parade on April 24 and the Jimmy Fund Walk on Oct. 2.