Clean Sweep: Community Preservation Recommends All Requests

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Community Preservation Act

Harwich news

HARWICH — The community preservation committee has recommended approximately $825,000 in Community Preservation Act funds be approved in the annual town meeting this spring, including funds for a Red River Beach revetment, Brooks Academy repairs, affordable housing and restroom facilities at Sand Pond.

The committee made its recommendations last Thursday night, approving all eight applications it had received.

Several of the requests drew debate from the committee over the past two sessions. Committee members wanted specific details on the plans for the Red River Beach revetment project. The town has been wrestling with erosion issues on the east end of the public parking lot, specifically the vehicle turnaround section. Several attempts to use soft solutions over the years have not abated erosion.

Conservation Administrator Amy Usowski said the plan is to add 55 feet of revetment to the existing structure at an estimated cost of $100,000. She said adjustments have been made to the design, which initially called for 50 feet. She said the present proposal is still preliminary, noting that the conservation commission has yet to act on the notice of intent. A hearing is set for Feb. 20.

The latest plan, Usowski said, will provide more of a tapered, gradual turn of the revetment to better blend into the topography. It will also include foot-traffic access on the marsh side. The former plan, she said, proposed the use of gravel in sections, but the use of plantings has been determined to better protect against erosion.

Committee member John Ketchum, a member of the conservation commission, wanted to know what the risks are if this work is not done.

“If we do nothing, we will lose that turnaround,” Usowski said.

Committee member agreed the 194-space parking lot is important and Red River Beach was cited as one of the jewels of Harwich beaches. The commission voted to recommend $100,000 in CPA funds be approved in the spring town meeting. Usowski said if funded, the work would be done between November and March.

The committee had a little harder time understanding the particulars of the request for $130,000 from the Brooks Academy Museum Commission for preservation work on Brooks Academy. Several needs were highlighted by BAMC chairman David Spitz, including basement improvements, climate control improvements to allow historic records storage, a proposed elevator, potentially the relocation of some interior walls and the need to address interior and exterior water damage.

Spitz said an architect declared the historic building sound in a report his commission received in December. The report recommends a number of projects for the structure as well as a structural engineer to do a design analysis.

“We need to present something to the taxpayers in town meeting. What do we tell them?” Ketchum inquired, referring to the different projects presented.

The committee focused on the exterior of the structure, especially to the east side. Committee member Robert Doane said there is “tremendous water damage” and repairs should be addressed immediately. There was support for the use of $70,000 for a structural engineer assessment and design to address that issue. There was also discussion about the recommendation of facilities maintenance director Sean Libby who highlighted the need to address abandoned heating ducts that add to the problem.

In the end, the committee approved the $130,000 requested to address the need for exterior repairs to the envelope of the building, but added an amendment to use remaining funds for interior work that relates to the exterior repairs.

The committee also recommended the use of $125,000 in CPA funds to provide a new restroom facility at Sand Pond. Member Christopher Rockett thought the request was “a little pricey,” but he agreed the facilities needs to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Committee members were concerned that the pond did not get a lot of use. Doane said it is not a popular place to swim, adding the beach is not that pleasant because of growth there. He requested a more complete master plan for improvements.

Recreation Director Eric Beebe said that is a goal, adding that the beach gets crowded at times and a new bathroom is needed. He explained additional phases of a plan include establishing a playground and potentially basketball courts. The pre-cast restroom would be good for the next 99 years, Beebe said.

Committee member Kathy Green also expressed concern for the lack of a plan and agreed something is needed to draw more people to the pond. But she emphasized the importance of ADA compliant restroom facilities, adding with the small number of funding requests this year, now is the time to do it, because funding might not be available in the future. The committee recommended funding the restroom facility.

The committee, with little discussion, recommended $340,000 for the affordable housing trust to be used to develop affordable housing. The plan is for $300,000 to go toward affordable housing and $40,000 to be used for consultant fees. The committee also endorsed the use of $7,500 to assist with the Cape Housing Institute educational efforts.

The committee also recommended $55,000 for a new scoreboard at Whitehouse Field and safety netting to be added along the first and third base sides of the field. The committee also recommended $37,500 for 11 new lifeguard stands for public beaches. The funds would be for materials and the stands are to be constructed by the town's department of public works. They also endorsed the use of $27,000 for the placement of bike crossing signals at Depot Street in North Harwich.

Voters will have the final say on the funding requests in the annual town meeting.