Wastewater, Saquatucket Projects Headline Town Meeting Warrant

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Town Meeting


HARWICH — Voters in the May 1 annual town meeting will face a weighty warrant of town business, including an article that seeks around $34 million to build a sewer collection system in East Harwich. Around 50 articles are on the draft warrant, which closed on Friday at noon.

Town Administrator Christopher Clark warned that the draft warrant remains subject to change. It will be reviewed and revised by the board of selectmen, which is expected to finalize it in a vote on March 6.

The town's largest capital project by far this year, Phase 2 of the wastewater project, will likely be of special interest to voters. The plan (see story, page 5) calls for the installation of sewer mains in parts of East Harwich, connecting with the wastewater treatment plant in Chatham.

The installation of those sewer pipes and pump stations is expected to cost about $22.3 million. The article includes a proposed $6,765,000 payment to Chatham to purchase treatment capacity at its wastewater plant, and an additional $2.4 million to connect to the Chatham system. Clark stressed that the $34 million cost for Phase 2 is not an annual expenditure; it will cover the cost of the project for the next three to five years.

Also on the warrant is an estimated $3 million for the construction of improvements to land-side facilities at Saquatucket Harbor. The plan calls for the redevelopment of the marina, with a new office for the harbormaster, a waterfront café, six small shacks to be leased by artisans or other vendors, and a consolidated ticket office for passenger and charter boats. Using the recently purchased Downey property next door, officials will also build a new maintenance building for the harbormaster department.

The plan “improves the safety of public access, improves the efficiency of harbor operations, and enhances the character, beauty and attractiveness of the harbor for boaters and non-boaters alike,” the article's explanation reads.

There are a number of other big-ticket capital projects on the warrant, including $420,000 to replace a 1985 fire engine and $310,000 to hire an architectural firm to develop construction plans and bid documents for the expansion and renovation of the East Harwich fire substation. Voters will also be asked to spend around $136,000 for the first phase of a town-wide radio system that will allow communication between town departments.

The police department is seeking a smaller set of capital items, including nearly $18,000 for an electronic sign board, $22,000 to help purchase bullet-resistant vests for police officers, $10,200 for bullet-resistant helmets, and $153,789 to upgrade the security system at the police station. The current security system has technical flaws that cause occasional failures, during which time officers cannot remotely monitor suspects in the police station's lockup or open the interior doors electronically.

Voters will also be asked to spend around $177,000 to rebuild the boat ramp at Round Cove, and another article seeks funding for a new generator at Brooks Free Library capable of powering the entire building, not just just the emergency lights. The public works department is also seeking $42,000 to replace the fuel management system at the highway garage.

Another article seeks $400,000 to replace aging water pipes under Great Western Road, Queen Anne Road, Route 39, and several other streets where National Grid will be installing new natural gas mains. The replacement is preventative maintenance and is being done to coincide with the gas main work.

A variety of Community Preservation Act projects will go before voters during the annual town meeting, including about $5,000 to restore the Chase Library chimney; $28,500 to replace the irrigation system at Whitehouse Field; $167,900 to continue the expansion of Brooks Park; $13,800 for fitness stations to be installed around the perimeter of Veterans Field; and $39,000 to restore fence rails at Evergreen Cemetery.

By vote of selectmen last week, the warrant includes a zoning bylaw amendment that would place a temporary moratorium on marijuana retailers in town, giving town officials time to craft permanent zoning changes to do so. Also on the warrant is an article to establish an annual revolving fund the the care and maintenance of the former Harwich Middle School, recycling fees from those who lease space in the building to pay for its upkeep.

Three petition articles are included on the warrant, including an initiative to identify Harwich as a “safe community” that refrains from using town resources to enforce federal immigration laws. A second petition seeks to prohibit the demolition or dismantling of the West Harwich School, and a third seeks to have the town install historically accurate windows in the old school.

The warrant includes a host of customary articles, including the budget (see related story), school assessments and the capital plan. One article also seeks to make 17 changes to the town's home rule charter, mostly reflecting minor clarifications.   

This article was corrected to specify that a petition article is seeking to have historically accurate windows installed in the West Harwich School.  Funds for those windows were previously approved.