Chatham Hosts 71st Summer Town Meeting Aug. 8

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Summer residents

The beaches aren't Chatham's only summer attractions. Many summer residents are deeply invested in the community and keep informed about local issues; Chatham is one of only a few Cape towns that has an official summer residents advisory committee, which will host the town's 71st annual summer town meeting Aug. 8. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – Summer residents will hold their 71st annual summer town meeting next Tuesday, Aug. 8. It may be the longest-running event of its kind on the Cape, and is evidence of the healthy relationship between year round and summer residents.

That's also shown by the fact that Chatham has one of the region's only official, town meeting-approved advisory committees composed entirely of summer residents.

“It's unusual,” said Michael Waters, chairman of the town's summer residents advisory committee. “I think it's an excellent idea, and gives summer residents a degree of input, gives them a voice.”

The summer town meeting isn't an official town meeting, at which voters set budgets, approve bylaws and generally conduct town business. Rather, as it has been for decades, it is an opportunity for seasonal residents to get up to speed on issues facing the town and ask questions, air concerns or give kudos to town officials.

Everyone – summer and year-round residents – are invited to the meeting, which takes place at 7 p.m. at the annex on George Ryder Road, Waters stressed. The session will be moderated by William Litchfield, the official town moderator who runs regular town meetings. The advisory committee, which meets almost every Friday morning during the summer, has developed an agenda including topics that are typically of concern to seasonal folks, he said.

The session will begin with a “State of the Town” discussion led by Chairman of Selectmen Cory Metters and Town Manager Jill Goldsmith. Jamie Meehan, who heads the group's finance subcommittee, will deliver “Chatham's Financial Scorecard.” Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon will provide an update on dredging, with information on boating local waters also thrown into the mix.

“It keeps changing,” Waters said of waterways conditions around Chatham. “People really want to know about that.”

There will also be plenty of time for questions, he said. Many town department heads and staff members attend the summer town meeting and will be available to address the issues and concerns of seasonal residents.

Each June the 11-member the summer residents advisory committee gets together to map out issues they wish to explore in their weekly meetings. They looked at the finance committee's annual report, taking note of that group's concerns, and expect to issue their own recommendations by the close of the summer, said Waters. In the past month they've met with Dr. Robert Duncanson, director of natural resources, and Tom Temple, director of public works, to talk about the town's drinking water resources, wastewater and the volunteer restrictions on water usage. They also met with Chief of Police Mark Pawlina to talk about parking and traffic issues, with Harbormaster Stuart Smith to discuss waterways and marine infrastructure, and David Oppenheim on downtown business and parking issues.

Future topics include Keon discussing dredging and waterways issues on Aug. 4; Principal Projects Manager Terry Whalen on future plans for a new council on aging headquarters on Aug. 18; and development issues with Planning Board Chairman Peter Cocolis and Community Development Director Katie Donovan on Aug. 25.

“There's often a fairly vigorous back and forth” at these sessions, Waters said.

The meetings are held at the annex each Friday at 9 a.m. Both summer and year-round residents are encouraged to attend, Waters said; the sessions are also recorded and can be viewed on demand through the town's website.

The committee also maintains a page on the town's website with links to past reports. That's where they'll post the recommendations they'll issue at the end of the season as well.

The committee gets “tremendous cooperation” from town staff and Goldsmith, said Waters. “I think the summer residents in general benefit from management that's open to discussion,” he said.

Summer residents care a great deal about Chatham, said Waters, a year-round resident of New York City whose had a home here for about 20 years.

“I think they add something and are very well integrated into the fabric of the community,” he said. “And it's good that they have a voice.”