Selectmen, Department Heads Hear From Full House At Summer Info Meeting

By: Ed Maroney

Selectmen Chairman Mark Mathison talks about the future of the library at the town's summer informational meeting July 17.  ED MARONEY PHOTO

ORLEANSLots of new faces have been showing up at selectmen's meetings lately. Many of them belong to dog owners who are hoping for fewer restrictions on walking their animals, but on July 17, that contingent was joined by dozens who turned out for the annual summer informational meeting.

Several town department heads gave updates and took questions. Snow Library Director Tavi Prugno reviewed a building program that could lead to construction of a new facility by the middle of the next decade. Police Chief Scott MacDonald invited people to use the department's reassurance call program and to attend the police's annual block party on Main Street Aug. 21. DPW/Natural Resources Director Tom Daley gave an update on street improvement projects and the downtown sewer system and treatment plant. Natural Resources Director Nate Sears said the new arrangements at Nauset Beach are working well, especially for the 36 pairs of piping plovers who produced 197 eggs and 100 hatchlings, 42 of which had fledged by last week.

“In 1977, when Snow was built, it was known as the best library on the Outer Cape,” Prugno said. “With upgrades and support, it has served well for 40 years, including problems with systems breaking down and leaking roofs. Library users' expectations have changed. Snow Library increasingly faces shortfalls in meeting community demands for meeting space, current technology, and ready accessibility,” specifically parking, “our number one complaint.”

A study conducted for the library's facilities advisory committee “was charged with determining and addressing the deficiencies of the building,” Prugno said. “Among the salient findings [of the building program and current facility conditions report] is the conclusion that the current building has seven to eight, possibly 12, years of viable life remaining, and that current programming requires an enhanced facility almost twice the size of the current building.”

Unlike all other states, said the director, Massachusetts funds a library building assistance program with separate grants for planning and design and actual construction; these pay about 40 percent of those costs, with the rest coming from the town and other sources. Prugno said the library hopes to apply for the planning and design grant in 2022 and the building grant in 2024.

“Part of the requirements to be eligible for the grant is that we have to consider at least one other location as well,” Prugno said. “We haven't explored that too much yet.” Given the building's location adjacent to Nauset Regional Middle School, Selectmen Chairman Mark Mathison suggested the library discuss a cooperative arrangement regarding parking.

“We don't have the details, but we're hoping the library will also serve as the community center,” Prugno told Selectman Mefford Runyon, who had asked if there could be any “overlap” between the two purposes. “On a biweekly basis, we get calls to book meeting rooms and have to turn them away,” said Prugno. “We're envisioning a community meeting room with a divider.”

The extensive building program report can be accessed now on the town website via the board of selectmen's page (looking for July 17 under “meeting packets”) and will be posted by the library shortly. That's also one way to look at the police department's five-year strategic plan, which MacDonald presented at last week's meeting.

Highlights of the plan include attention to the department's organizational culture, including expanded recruitment programs and career development opportunities; engaging and adapting to legislative and societal change, including assigning team captains for societal challenges recovery and incident prevention teams addressing mental health, domestic violence, addiction, and homelessness; coordinate with the fire department on citizen education regarding preparedness for critical incidents; development of procedures to protect internal systems from cyber attacks; and efforts to increase awareness of the department's services to the public.

In that regard, MacDonald spoke last week about the PD's call reassurance program for at-risk residents. “If people do not call in, we call them,” he said. “If they do not respond, we dispatch a cruiser. If you have an at-risk family member, give us a call.” The department participates in Project Lifesaver, which allows tracking of individuals with cognitive complications to wander off. “This has been very successful in our community,” MacDonald said. “It has saved lives.”

DPW/Natural Resources Director Tom Daley said the town's Main Street reconstruction project should start in the fall and wrap up next year. The downtown sewer project is at the 90 percent design phase for the collection system and 85 percent for the new treatment plant. He expects bids for the plant could go out in January 2020 and that hook-ups could begin by spring 2002. Although state work on the Route 6A and 28 intersections with Main is suspended for the summer, Verizon has asked if it can squeeze in some digging at Old Colony and Main for a day or two during the season.

The water meter switch to a cellular version is about 60 percent complete, according to Daley, who urged listeners to respond to postcards from the conversion company for an appointment. The process should be complete by November, but it's already proved helpful. Daley said the new system reported leaks at the Rock Harbor bulkhead and, ironically, the new DPW facility; both were fixed quickly.

In response to a question, Town Administrator John Kelly said the long-needed stoplight at the exit from the fire department onto Eldredge Park Way should be up by the end of the year. Also, Daley said, the town has hired VHB to do a conceptual design of the Main Street corridor between Academy Place and Beach Road. “It's getting to the point where it needs an overlay,” he said. Sidewalks in certain sections are being looked at.

Natural Resources Manager Nate Sears had mostly good news from Nauset Beach, where the new dune that protects the parking lot “has been holding up. The vegetation is coming in that we planted. We're tying to work on accessibility.” With four food trucks bracketing the new picnic and changing room area, he said, “it's certainly a new look for the beach. I know there's some nostalgia for Liam's, but these are the cards we're being dealt by Mother Nature.

“If you want a mooring and don't have shorefront property, now's the time to get on the wait list,” he advised. “It's transferable among family. It'll probably take you 10 to 12 years to get one. If you're not doing it for yourself, do it for your kids, grandkids. Generally, that's who I'm calling to notify. Their grandparents put them on the list.”

Kayakers, paddleboarders, and canoeists were reminded not to leave their vessels at town landings, and to be sure to mark them with their name and phone number. “If we find it adrfit,” Sears said, “we have to mobilize with the expectation of a missing person. It costs the town a lot of tax money.”

Sears encouraged everyone to attend one of the Thursday night concerts at Nauset, the second annual Roots and Blues festival there Sept. 14, and the Paul Fulcher Memorial Bonfire on Sept. 21.