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Selectmen Stall on Forming a Medfield State Hospital Reuse Committee

Members of the Medfield Board of Selectmen voiced three different opinions on whether or not to establish a Medfield State Hospital Reuse Committee to study potential reuses and town purchase of the property.

Differing opinions from the town’s three members of the Board of Selectmen has led to indecision on whether to move forward in creating a volunteer Reuse Study Committee.

At its last meeting, the Board of Selectmen discussed the idea of establishing a volunteer committee to study the possibilities for reuse at the Medfield State Hospital and the potential town purchase of the property. Residents in attendance at the April 17 BOS meeting asked about the current status and potential timeline for establishing such a committee and received three different answers from the three-member board.

Medfield selectmen Osler “Pete” Peterson and Mark Fisher both favored reestablishing a committee to study the potential reuse and town purchase of the property, but differed on when action should be taken by the board to formally approve the idea. The board’s chair, Ann Thompson, said she wasn’t sure one way or the other about forming a committee.

“I don’t know if we even want a committee,” Thompson said.

A member of the audience asked Thompson when a decision would be made on the matter and she replied, “I don’t know.”

That pushed residents’ frustrations further as earlier in the April 17 meeting they had watched .

“What possible reason could you have for not appointing a committee on such an important matter?” asked Medfield resident John Harney, who has actively been involved as a citizen on the Medfield State Hospital issues. “My goodness. … It’s stunning you would say that.”

Thompson explained her uncertainty.

“Because we never decided to go ahead with [establishing a Medfield State Hospital reuse committee],” she said. [The idea] came up in executive session and somebody decided to make it open [discussion] and I’m feeling very awkward about it.”

Fisher said while he favors reestablishing a state hospital reuse committee, he wants more time for discussion and review of candidates before committing to the idea.

“We’ll continue our discussions at the next few meetings and I’d like to work on getting a hospital reuse committee reestablished, I would be in favor of that,” Fisher said. “I would like to have a chance to actually see some of the resumes as opposed to getting them five seconds before our meeting and make a decision. So I’d like to give us some time to think about it a little bit and give us some thought as far as who we are going to [select to be on] a committee so we can work on another very complicated issue.”

Peterson was more adamant on establishing a committee sooner rather than later.

“There has been a lot of people stepping forward,” Peterson said of volunteers interested in joining the committee. … “[The selectmen] agreed that we were going to reach out and ask people and some people have responded. … Individuals are stepping forward to assist us and assist the town in the process.”

Thompson told Peterson the board never made a decision or voted on establishing a committee and was under the assumption that each selectman would seek out individuals in the community he or she felt would be qualified and serve the town effectively rather than publicly calling out for volunteers.

“My understanding was to ask as individuals, which is what I’ve been doing, [for volunteers],” Thompson said. “We never took a vote on forming a committee.”

Peterson, in response to Thompson’s uncertainty about whether the town should form a committee or not, asked her what the other option would be.

“We don’t have the expertise Ann,” Peterson said. “How are we going to do it?”

That question remains unanswered.

Residents Express Interest in Forming a State Hospital Reuse Committee

Town Administrator Michael Sullivan said the town has received two applications from individuals who are interested in serving on a possible Medfield State Hospital Reuse Study Committee in addition to those who have contacted Peterson. Harney and Bill Massaro, a Medfield resident and state hospital abutter have both said they have also spoken with individuals in the community they feel would bring the necessary expertise and experience the town needs on this type of committee.

Harney told the board it should be seeking experts to serve on a state hospital reuse study committee and not volunteers.

“I would suggest you really have to search the community and not ask for volunteers, but for people who are well qualified by virtue of professional standing, by virtue of their expertise in precise areas that the town needs expertise in,” Harney said. “[The town needs] to go ahead with the committee to redevelop and/or purchase the property. [The town] is going to need people that don’t just have a willingness to volunteer but people who are qualified to serve. The few people that I’ve approached on this are more than qualified but it is up to [the selectmen] to make the decision on whether you’re going to form this committee before serious people take it very seriously.”

To date, that decision has not been made and even though Thompson agreed with Harney’s point, she was still reluctant to support the idea of establishing a committee.

“I have not made that decision,” she said.

Medfield resident Tom Caragliano gave his endorsement to the idea of the town establishing a committee.

“I think it’s very important to put together a committee,” Caragliano said. “Very professional and you may need an outside consultant to look at all of the things in the town too, going forward. We can’t just look away. It’s a big topic and it’s very important.”

There was no motion or call to vote in favor of establishing a committee at the April 17 BOS meeting. However, the selectmen are expected to discuss the idea further at its May 1 meeting.

Jessica Benson April 26, 2012 at 10:13 PM
I hope the selectman take action to form a committee on this as soon as possible. I dont understand the hesitation to do so. The town should be taking an active, engaged role in this process. As an abutter, I'm not just concerned about potential reuse of the land, I'm also concerned about when/if the buildings full of asbestos, come down? We need experts to guide the town on developing a process so that all citizen concerns/issues about the potential reuse/hazards are explored and understood.

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