Harwich Voters Face Lengthy Ballot In Tuesday's Election

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Politics

Voters at the polls.  FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — Voters will face a lengthy ballot when they go to the polls on Tuesday for the town's annual election. They will choose two new selectmen from the three candidates vying for those positions, and will be asked to act on 15 questions, seven relating to funding issues, seven charter amendments and one non-binding referendum relating to Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.

The ballot is three pages long, with the town election on the first page and ballot question on the front and back side of that page and additional ballot questions on a second sheet, said Town Clerk Anita Doucette.

There is only one contested race on the ballot, for the two seats on the board of selectmen. With selectmen Peter Hughes and Angelo LaMantia deciding not to run for re-election former selectmen Larry G. Ballantine and Donald F. Howell, along with conservation commission member Robert J. Mador, are vying for those seats (see page 5 for candidate profiles).

There are seven ballot questions seeking funding outside the limits of Proposition 2½, with the major one seeking a $9,035,000 debt exclusion to implement a portion of phase two of the town's comprehensive wastewater management plan, which includes $6,765,000 to cover the cost of sending up to 300,000 gallons per day to the Chatham wastewater treatment plant. Additional funds will be used for the design of sewers in the Pleasant Bay Watershed and for a connection to the Chatham system. On Monday night, Chatham town meeting approved the inter-municipal agreement with Harwich by a 220 to 61 vote after an hour of debate (see related story in page 27 of the Harwich edition).

The second debt exclusion ballot question associated with phase two of the CWMP seeks $2 million for the Cold Brook project, which includes land acquisition and associated wetland and water body alterations to enhance remove nitrogen from the Saquatucket Harbor Watershed. The project is anticipated to reduce the need to sewer 200 homes. The property is presently owned by the Harwich Conservation Trust and is located east of Bank Street.

The third ballot question seeks $420,000 for a capital exclusion to purchase a pumper truck for the fire department. There is also a debt exclusion ballot question for $310,000 to hire an architectural firm to develop plans and bid documents for the construction/renovation of fire station two on Route 137 in East Harwich. It is anticipated funding for the estimated $4 million construction and renovation of the station, which was built in 1976, will be sought in the 2018 town meeting.

Voters will be asked to approve another debt exclusion vote for $1.2 million to complete facility improvements at Cranberry Valley Golf Course, including the construction of a solar-capable cart barn with the ability to house an electric golf cart fleet; re-skin and re-roof the major maintenance storage facility; provide environmental upgrades; and reconfigure the existing parking lot and lanes to access the club house and pro shop facilities. Town officials have made it clear the majority of the funds for the project are expected to come from the infrastructure revitalization fund, monies generated from golf fees to offset the cost of maintenance projects.

A debt exclusion ballot question seeks $700,000 to fund approximately half of the road maintenance program. The program will be augmented by Chapter 90 funds from the commonwealth. The town is anticipating $682,328 in Chapter 90 funds in FY 2018.

The last debt exclusion ballot question seeks $3 million to design and construct the Saquatucket Harbor landside renovations, which include a new harbormaster's office building, a leased waterfront snack shack, six rental seasonal vendor shacks, a boardwalk with viewing areas overlooking the marina, passenger boat ticket booths and a harbor department maintenance facility and upgraded parking on the former Downey property. It is anticipated revenues generated from harbor fees and leasing will cover approximately 75 percent of the cost, town officials predict.

The town has shifted its previous position of having Harwich Home Rule Charter amendments approved in town meeting finalized through special legislation, instead reverting back to the old practice of having town meeting approve the amendment and then having voters ratify the amendments in the annual election the following year.

There are seven such charter amendments that were approved a year ago in town meeting. The amendments include adjustments to the town administrator's powers in executing contracts for goods and services and for the town administrator to have the power of appointment of the harbormaster and assistants. Another seeks to clarify that the fire department is organized and operated as a so-called strong chief department.

Another amendment adjusts language relating to the school committee in the charter to account for the change to the Monomoy Regional School District. Another question seeks to adjust the board of selectmen's appointing power relating to alternate members of policy-making agencies, and the final one extends the powers of the waterways commission when enacting regulations.

The non-binding public opinion advisory question seeks to direct the town government to communicate with Gov. Charles Baker to employ any means possible to ensure spent nuclear fuel generated at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plan be placed in secure, dry casks as soon as technically feasible.

Absentee ballots are available at the town clerk's office in town hall until noon on Monday, May 15, the day before the election. The polls on Tuesday are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with all four precincts voting at the community center on Oak Street.