HARWICH — The turnout was thin Monday night for the annual non-resident taxpayers meeting. Those in attendance learned about building and road projects on the horizon and the financial health of the town.
Public access to Beach 22 off Shore Road in West Harwich continued to be a topic of discussion as it has for a number of years. Town Administrator Christopher Clark said the number one priority for beach nourishment goes to public beaches with parking; smaller, neighborhood beaches with no dedicated parking had less of a priority. The town has conducted a survey at Beach 22 and there is only a little public beach above water at low tide there. There are plans to place boundaries to mark where the adjacent private beach begins to settle the public versus private beach battles that have occurred over the years at the little beach connected to Shore Road by a public easement.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill said the boundary is an effort to curb neighborhood tension, providing a demarcation for public and private beach areas. He said people in the neighborhood are not allowing property owners to enjoy their private beach.
“We as a town want to make it clear these people have the right to enjoy their beach,” MacAskill said. “People need to know where these properties are now and there's nothing defining it.”
One neighbor questioned the installation of bounds, wanting to know if someone gets injured as a result of the bounds what the town's liability would be. MacAskill implied the markers would be visible even on the high tides.
Police Chief David Guillemette encouraged non-residents to contact the department if they have issues. “Your police department doesn't discriminate with residents, non-residents, so call,” he said.
Guillemette praised his officers' commitment to community policing and to the community in general, citing several who have started sporting programs and serve as coaches for kids in the community. He said there are efforts within the department to try to curb opiate use; there were four deaths and 15 overdoses in 2015, one death last year and so far this year the department has responded to 14 overdoses and one death. He said he'd like to work on prevention and education inside the schools.
Fire Department Lt. Scott Tyldesley provided details on the revamping of fire station two in East Harwich, constructed in 1976. A needs assessment was done and six architectural firms are now being evaluated to do the project, he said.
Harbormaster John Rendon said landside improvements at Saquatucket Harbor will begin by Sept. 15 and the waterside dock and slip improvements will start Oct. 15. It's going to be a busy winter, he said of construction projects at the harbor.
Department of Pubic Works Director Lincoln Hooper spoke to plans to reconstruct Lower County Road and work planned a few years out for Route 28 roadway improvements in West Harwich (see separate story).
The town's new finance director, Carol Coppola, provided a brief budget presentation that highlighted financial improvements and plans to develop a comprehensive financial report to assist in weathering financial storms.