Letters To The Editor: Jan. 25, 2024
The Elves Come Through Again
Thank you, Chatham, you have done it again! Our local Holiday Project touched more than 200 children with warm winter clothing and holiday surprises. Local elves come from every corner of our generous community, and you have made Santa proud.
Working in collaboration with Monomoy Community Services and with the support of the Chatham Angel Fund, we are appreciative of all the donations, shopping sprees, wish fulfillments and “elf hours” contributed by so many of you. Thank you for continuing to spread Christmas joy throughout Chatham.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2024. We look forward to your participation in the future.
Chatham Children’s Fund Coordinator
A Septic-Sewer Mess
While sitting through the Chatham Water and Sewer Advisory Committee’s presentation to the select board on Jan. 16, I had to think of what Albert Einstein once said, namely that “the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” So, here we are with a sewer line in the street, an incomplete pumping station and a letter advising us to connect by a certain date or be fined $200 a day, though the totally ineffective W&SAC failed to inform or educate the populace as to the dissimilarity between a low pressure and a gravity installation and, consequently, the financial obligations and inequities to the affected homeowners.
Forty years ago we installed a Title 5 septic system, the gold standard, which has served us well, and except for pumping out the tank every seven to 10 years, needed no maintenance. Now it has been decided that this arrangement is not good any longer, and we are forced to spend between $12,000 to $24,000 to save the environment, while landscapers still put tons of fertilizer (organic or not) on putting-green lawns. Furthermore, people on a fixed income — even in Chatham — just simply don’t have the money, nor are they willing to go into debt by taking out a loan for something they don’t want or really need.
The proposed idea that the town purchase and sell the grinder pumps (the actual price being $7,786 and not $10,000, as stated by the chairman of the committee, to make the discounted $6,000 price look better) is a non-starter because the heavy expense is in the installation and the future maintenance. Therefore, as many other Cape and Massachusetts towns have done, the town of Chatham has to sort things out equitably between a pump vs. gravity installation and arrive at a fair financial contribution to the “pumpers” out of the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. It also behooves the town to look at planned future gravity over low pressure construction for a less complicated sewer setup. Until then enjoy your reliable present septic system as invented by a Frenchman in 1860 who did not want to go into the woods as we would have to when the grinder pump stops working due to a power outage.
Is Anyone Listening?
Last Wednesday evening, I, along with many concerned residents, attended a meeting of the Chatham Affordable Housing Trust. We were shown affordable housing plans for the Main Street (Buckley property) and the Meetinghouse Road (South Chatham} locations.
The majority of the concerns, voiced by the residents present, centered around the high density at both locations — 50 homes at Main Street and 40 homes at Meetinghouse Road. These homes will consist of 50 percent one bedroom and 50 percent two to three bedrooms, each having one and a half parking spaces.
Aside from the high density, think about a two- or three-bedroom home with only one and a half parking spaces. (And what exactly is a half parking space?) Unless your second car is a smart car, you are out of luck. Where will people park if spaces are filled or if they have company? Certainly not on the street at either location.
We would assume Chatham wants to create a community. With that community come children, yet there are no designated play areas for children or any common green space to hold outdoor family gatherings.
Are we the only people to see that there is no logic to these designs? Town leaders encourage us to attend meetings and voice our concerns. We have, and now "is anyone listening?" I hope the comments shared at Wednesday's meeting will be reflected in these affordable housing plans. We'll see.
Confusion Over Grinder Pumps
At the Chatham Select Board meeting of Jan. 16, much information was revealed about the 2:1 cost disadvantage for the 1,000 homeowners who must install a grinder pump versus those who will have gravity sewer connections. Being one of those households requiring a grinder pump, my frustration came to a boil as I tried to get quotes to help me obtain financing.
I found, for example, there is no betterment loan option in Chatham. I also learned that low-interest financing is available through Cape Cod Aqua Fund, but it requires multiple quotations, and the fund will not reimburse costs incurred by the applicant more than 30 days before the loan is effective.
There is a problem with this. Although there are a few exceptions, engineering and contracting (for excavation, electrical, etc.) are not generally quoted by one firm. This leads to having to pay for and await completion of an engineering plan before being able to get a quote for excavation, and the rest. I spent two months trying to get a contractor/excavator on the town of Chatham licensed contractor list who would manage the whole project and give me a quote.
I contacted the water and sewer department about this, but they offered no solution. It seems to me that the town needs to get its act together on the myriad of issues with grinder pumps, including financing support. Obviously, the issues are complicated, but the groundwork by the town has not been done, yet letters mandating connection have already been mailed.
Urge Careful Consideration Of Contract
I have lived in Harwich for over 10 years. I have served on two town committees, attend our annual town meeting each year, serve as an elected member of the Democratic Town Committee, and participate as fully as I can to ensure the highest quality of life for town residents. As I read this week’s Chronicle, I became angry and upset by the content of two articles about our current town administrator, Joe Powers. The article about recent floods in several areas of the town detailed a conversation between Powers and a town resident with legitimate concerns about the effects of this situation. The resident stated, “I’ve been calling Joe Powers for weeks with no avail.” In a more recent conversation, Powers told this resident that “...it was up to the county to do something and that I should not call him again… He also called me ‘unhinged’...He was patronizing, rude, and dismissive.”
The second article featured an update about Powers’ application for a town administrator position in Foxborough for which he was turned down. This piece shared Powers’ response to a question about his leadership style saying that “...he is a collaborator, someone who partners with people.” I take issue with that statement if Powers’ interaction with a town resident with a legitimate concern is as unhelpful and discourteous as described in the first article.
I find myself angry and frustrated by the way in which town business is conducted, especially by the way in which our current town administrator, Joe Powers, responds to town residents with legitimate concerns. I know that his contract is coming up for possible renewal, and I encourage our current select board to take a really close look at the way Powers conducts himself and relates to town residents. Contrary to his self-description above, he is not a collaborator and does not partner with people. I urge the select board to consider this decision very, very carefully and I ask members to ask themselves if they want to subject residents of our town to three more years of dismissive, discourteous behavior that fails to address our concerns appropriately.
Peake Was There For Them
The following letter was sent to Rep. Sarah Peake:
I still remember the afternoon Chuck Bartlett and myself introduced you to the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center and our grand plans to create a museum and education center in the historic Marconi-RCA National Register District operations building. We met at town hall. You were beginning your first campaign for office in 2006 and we were starting on a journey to restore and renovate a historic site into a modern museum and education center.
You were always there, from the beginning, always available to help us, from necessary legislation to make it happen to joining us at opening dedications and celebrations.
Congratulations and good luck…it has been a pleasure knowing you.
Director Emeritus, Chatham Marconi Maritime Center
Chairman, Chatham Historical Commission
Grinder Pumps A Financial Issue
The Chatham Select Board, in the Jan. 16 meeting, recognized the inequity of the water and sewer committee recommendation that approximately 1,000 Chatham homeowners pay the purchase, installation and maintenance costs of grinder pumps needed to connect to the sewer system. This recommendation would have impacted about 20 percent of homeowners downhill from the sewer treatment plant, and cost each homeowner more than $15,000 over the pump’s working life. This unequal treatment is simply due to the home’s topography relative to the sewer lines that gravity feed to the treatment plant.
The water and sewer advisory committee never explained why they reneged from the design recommendation of the comprehensive wastewater management plan (CWMP). The CWMP explained in 2010 in a Q&A, still available on the town website (www.chatham-ma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2484/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Updated-December-2010-PDF?bidId=), that in order to save the town millions in wastewater gravity loop construction costs, whole neighborhoods were without central pumping stations and each home would need grinder pumps to connect to the loop. In pages two and nine the CWMP proposed that the town of Chatham would bear the costs of the grinder pumps and the ongoing maintenance for the homes requiring grinder pumps.
The committee studied and deliberated about the grinder pumps for over two years. And now disappointingly, the select board remanded the issue back to them.
Instead, the select board should assign the grinder pump issue to the finance committee to implement the proposals of the CWMP.
A “Tourist Destination District '' designation for Harwich will distribute $3 million as 60 percent for sales, marketing and destination development, 25 percent for workforce and business development and 15 percent for admin costs. And not one cent for the preservation of the ecology of Harwich, the single reason tourists come to Harwich.
OK. Answer these questions:
Why do tourists come to Harwich? Shopping and restaurants?
Do tourists come to Harwich for: Unswimmable cyanobacteria ponds? Contaminated shellfish? Polluted seashores where 80 percent of all embayments are in decline?
No. Tourists come to Harwich, in fact all residents of Harwich are here, for the seashore, ponds, and woodlands.
What are the priorities? Is Harwich going to contract with Disney and Coney Island to sell tickets?
Is this just another way to exploit Harwich and not preserve Harwich? Who does a Tourist Destination District benefit? Businesses? Residents? Nature? Do 12,000 residents need to lose what is precious to accommodate more tourists? When will there be respect and representation of the residents and Nature of Harwich instead of business? When nature is gone, what are you going to do?
Who Profits From Housing?
Will the affordable housing units on the Buckley property be built by a developer for profit who owns and manages the buildings?
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