May The Best Location Be Chosen
Chatham COA Director Mandi Speakman gave a report about the COA’s good work to Chatham’s finance committee at its Feb. 18 meeting. It was very impressive. Chatham residents are fortunate to have these needed services and support. We all recognize that the COA needs a new facility. They have been waiting a long time. I remember at last year’s annual town meeting when someone representing the COA said, “It is our turn.” And it is, but why not ensure that a new facility is at the optimal site? Why not support the citizens’ initiative (a grassroots effort) to provide consideration of another option for the COA? Without this option, if the 1610 Main St. site fails at the annual town meeting in May, the COA is left with nothing. The petition article asks for a feasibility study of the Stepping Stones Road site, which has so many advantages over the 1610 Main St. site. The site that Mr. Marsh has offered to the town has many limitations (topography, conservation, location on a busy state-owned highway, lack of adequate and safe parking, on and on). Also, the Stepping Stones site is owned by the town and already zoned municipal, so there’s no need for a zoning change. It has room for a single-story facility with staff and clients all on the same floor. That alone could potentially save us over $1 million. If you are not familiar with the site, it is on Stepping Stones Road midway between Old Queen Anne Road and Crowell Road. Take a look at it. More importantly, come to the special town meeting at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, and vote for the feasibility study so that our COA facility can be built in the best possible location as soon as possible.
Working Group Lacks Transparency
Chatham has a “working group” which was established to study the feasibility of the 1610 Main St. site for a council on aging facility. In searching for their meeting place, agendas, and minutes, I learned that the meetings are not open to the public, are not televised, and do not follow Open Meeting Law (OML) requirements. They meet at the fire station, and members have been advised not to speak about material discussed or provided at their meetings. What is it that they don’t want the public to know? Why secret meetings on such a controversial matter? Why would this public body composed of citizens, staff, and two selectmen not be subject to the Open Meeting Law? According to the Attorney General, a “public body” is defined as “a multiple-member board, commission, committee or subcommittee within the executive or legislative branch or within any county, district, city, region or town, however created, elected, appointed or otherwise constituted, established to serve a public purpose” — all subject to the Open Meeting Law. Are some town officials looking for ways to do their business without OML compliance, and why? Chatham’s COA needs a new, safe, and appropriate home as soon as possible. Transparency brings trust. Who among us can trust deliberations made in secret? If town meeting approves a feasibility study for the Stepping Stones COA site, meetings should be open to the public. Also, there must be a different owners project manager; otherwise, it would be a serious conflict of interest and another breach of trust.
Seeks Support For Petition Article
If you signed the citizen's petition to determine the viability of the Stepping Stones site as an alternative for the proposed council on aging (COA) facility, please attend the March 7 special town meeting at 3 p.m. at the Monomoy Middle School on Crowell Road. Anyone who has concerns about the proposed COA site at 1610 Main St. in West Chatham should also attend.
The Stepping Stones Road site was overlooked during the COA initial search for a suitable parcel of land. But now that we are aware of this town-owned site's many benefits, we should look at it closely and consider its use as the best opportunity for our senior center. The Stepping Stones site is large enough to accommodate the COA's preferred one-story, less costly, and user-friendly facility. There are minimal topographical and minimal conservation challenges, and the site also offers space for easy-to-navigate, angled parking for 60 vehicles.
Because we strongly support a new COA facility, we are suggesting this alternative choice to 1610 Main St., which conceivably could be rejected by town voters as too expensive, too impractical and ill-suited to meet the needs of our senior citizens.
Consequently, we are asking our board of selectmen to support a feasibility study of the Stepping Stones Road site. We hope our town voters agree. Please demonstrate your support by voting for Article 1 of the special town meeting warrant.
Editor's note: The writer was one of the sponsors of the petition mentioned above.
Once Again Community Comes Through
As coordinators for the Chatham Children’s Fund Holiday Project, each year I am overwhelmed with the wonderful support we receive to help struggling families stay afloat during the holiday season. The many elves in our little town demonstrate how special it is to be part of this community we call home. In collaboration with Monomoy Community Services and the Chatham Angel Fund, we can again look back on another successful year.
Year-rounders and summer residents, visitors, local businesses, special donors, churches and organizations come together each year to accomplish Christmas magic. Our combined efforts provided warm winter clothing and holiday wishes to 237 children this year. Because we help support families throughout the year in a variety of ways, your participation and donations are important to our success.
I applaud the people of Chatham for their ongoing concern for all who live in this town. Our team extends a heartfelt “thank you” to everyone who helped in any way this year. We look forward to your participation next year and we welcome anyone who would like to join our efforts. Wishing you a happy and healthy 2020!
Pat Vreeland, Chatham Children’s Fund
Theresa Malone, Monomoy Community Services
Ginny Nickerson, The Chatham Angel Fund
Selectmen Bully Petitioners
The Chatham Board of Selectmen seem have an issue with the taxpayers. Why are town officials being so tough on the petitioners for a feasibility study on Stepping Stones Road? In my years of watching politics in Chatham, I've never seen the BOS bully petitioners about the wording of their explanation for town meeting. A mistake was made when the Stepping Stones land was overlooked by the town manager, staff and the BOS. But so what? Now we can make that right and give the council on aging the best situated senior center.
I urge you to watch the finance committee meeting on Feb. 27 when they review the COA warrant article.
Disputes Critic's Airport 'Facts'
Dr. Michael Tompsett, over the years, has cited advanced credentials, awards, professional memberships and benevolent intentions to establish credibility with the Chatham community. With this credibility, he accuses the Chatham Airport Commission of "obfuscation and omissions” although without evidence, or false information that's easily disproved (“removal of the bike path” is false). He states the commission's master plan "clearly violated FAA rules" with a high degree of certainty. Strangely, the FAA itself has not objected to any submitted plans. Why not bring these violations directly to the FAA so the commission can be censured for its rogue proposals? Dr. Tompsett represents that he has a clearer understanding of FAA rules and regulations than the FAA itself, longtime airport consultants Gale Associates, the commission, airport management, and the pilots who are based at CQX. Does Dr. Tompsett have some aviation industry background and experience he has yet to reveal?
It does appear that Dr. Tompsett understands his proposal (“Do Nothing’ For Runway Approaches,” Feb. 20) would likely mean the demise of the Chatham Airport. Without the 95 percent federal and state funding currently in place, does he truly believe that Chatham voters would approve the $500,000 dollars per year (on average) in capital funds that the airport needs for ongoing improvements and maintenance, from Chatham coffers? In the past, Tompsett and other airport neighbors have cited their desire to preserve the “character" of Chatham. But Chatham Airport has been a part of the town's character since the 1930s. And by the way, CQX was far busier from the 1970s to the 1980s than now. Just ask Dan Wolf (Cape Air founder and former CQX manager during the 1980s). Would closure of the airport maintain the character of Chatham or irreversibly change it?
With regard to a possible reduction in runway length that could be imposed by the FAA for not trimming vegetation for approaches, Dr. Tompsett states this would have the positive effect of preventing the "five-ton turboprops" from operating at Chatham Airport. But in fact, the specifications for the Pilatus PC-12 aircraft reveal a takeoff distance of only 2,485 feet over a 50-foot obstacle, well within the dimensions of a shortened runway. The landing distance is even shorter. And there are other similar examples that dispel any notion that runway shortening will stop such aircraft operations at CQX.
In all of these matters, could it be that Dr. Tompsett's technical analyses are skewed by his negative feelings toward the airport? Could his intentions simply be to promote opposition to the airport and bring about its eventual closure?
Upweller Vital To Chatham
Chatham’s successful shellfish propagation program is instrumental in generating a $2.5 million commercial harvest each year and brings enjoyment to 2,400 recreational permit holders. The heart of this program is the upweller which was built 22 years ago and serves as a nursery for raising baby shellfish. Nutrient filled water is drawn from Stage Harbor to nourish the animals until they can be distributed for harvest.
The upweller is in peril. It is an aging facility that is running out of jury-rigged solutions. The survival of the animals is at risk from failing equipment, power outages and contamination from nearby vessels.
For all these reasons Chatham needs a new facility at a safe location. From November 2016 through December 2018, three town water-related committees held six public meetings to develop a viable plan. After hours of deliberation and public input, the joint committees voted to build a new upweller at 90 Bridge St.
Meanwhile, in 2017 taxpayers approved an $11.3 million waterfront bond which included $2 million for 90 Bridge Street. However, in November 2017, when the board of selectman was presented with a cost estimate of $4 million, they immediately asked the committees “to develop a scaled down version…giving priority to the installation of the upweller facility.” Finally, on April 1 after two and a half more years of study, the BOS voted unanimously “to endorse the revised (90 Bridge St.) master plan.”
On Feb. 10, the chairman of the finance committee announced that 90 Bridge St. was “our poster child” for out-of-control capital projects. This rather provocative branding diminishes three and a half years of committee and staff work invested in a project, the necessity and importance of which is outlined above. It is a premature to indict a project that is still developing. Further, there are certainly more worthy candidates for scrutiny (e.g. $8.6 million for a transfer station revamp).
The upweller is vital to Chatham. Its future is dependent on the successful completion of the 90 Bridge St. project. So, how about we lower the rhetoric and work together to get the best outcome for all Chatham taxpayers including the 2,000 who hold shellfish permits.
A Note From A Friend
We are inundated daily with political hype, projections, poll numbers, and constant, pervasive debate about who can beat whom? It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s Fox News, NPR, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal; whether it’s at the counter at Larry’s PX, at the bar at the Squire, or just chatting with a neighbor next door. It seems we are obsessed with figuring out who can win in order to decide who we believe is the most capable and worthy candidate for the highest office in the United States.
Really? Winning? How about “Who is it that can heal the divisiveness, the hatred, the pathetic ‘us versus them’ culture that has, sadly, become empowered and sanctioned in our country?”
Why are we not asking which candidate has the knowledge, the leadership and the understanding of how this unfortunate phenomenon came to be in recent years and how it can be mended?
I don’t have the answer. I’m just disconcerted that I’m not hearing anyone addressing this question as we evaluate the candidates.
I grew up believing in justice, the quest for truth, integrity and civility in those who governed in our great democracy and assumed the same was true for all Americans. Whether we have another four years of current leadership or elect a new leader, if we remain as divided as we are today, what have we gained? How can we move forward or, perhaps, move back, into a place of mutual respect and reasoned discourse with a focus on what we have in common?
How do we begin to undo the partisan politics that continue to render our system of government ineffective, poison relationships amongst friends and neighbors, and tear our families apart? Who, amongst our candidates, regardless of party affiliation, regardless of ideology, can best begin the process of reclaiming the art of civil discourse with the intention of promoting mutual understanding?
I hope we will hear more in-depth reflection on these concepts as we are propelled toward November 2020. Meanwhile, I find comfort in the following quote from Thomas Jefferson: "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
No Parking Lot View, Please
My wife, Suzie, and I (as well as neighbors on either side of us) have just recently learned of possible plans to build a new senior center directly across the street from our homes on Stepping Stones Road. My family has been coming to Chatham since the late '60s. Right now, I have my parents, two sisters and a brother living year-round in Chatham.
Two years ago, we were finally able to realize a 40-year-old dream and move here from Upstate N.Y. Stepping Stones is a very highly traveled "cut-through" (especially in summer) for people avoiding backups on Old Queen Anne Road. The bike path crosses Stepping Stones Road twice within 50 to 60 yards (and hosts non-stop bike/pedestrian traffic during the summer). When we purchased the home, we were told that the woods across from us, and the bike path, would remain "forever wild" (and part of the Monomoy Middle School grounds). Over the past two years, the adjacent cemetery land has been bulldozed and leveled, prepping for future grave sites. We expected this and were prepared for it, although the cemetery has also become a cut-through to Route 28. One of the reasons we bought here is the fact that we can look out our front window and view the beautiful pine/oak woods across the street. We do not want to look out and view a parking lot full of cars and vans that are coming and going throughout the day.
As a retired teacher and full-time musician, I often spend my days performing at various Cape Cod senior residences and assisted living facilities. Now that we're full-time Cape residents, I would consider volunteering to help at the Chatham senior center. We do not want this construction/building to be put on Stepping Stones Road. Either rehab the existing structure or use the land that was granted to you.
Share For Seniors’ Sake
We need to unite the young and the old here in Chatham as well as the in-betweens. We need to take an honest look at the Stepping Stones property for a COA site. Some people feel that it is wrong to use Middle School property. Some say 1610 Main St. is the place to build. I am in favor of looking at both 1610 Main and Stepping Stones Road. A feasibility study of both properties is essential to make the right choice. What’s so wrong about that?
The COA patrons want and need a new site. The present location is painfully inadequate. The elderly have been extremely patient in their quest for a new site. We want and need to share property with each other so that we can have a good COA home.
This reminds me of something I witnessed a few years ago. The Harwich UMC had an Easter party with an egg hunt. A grandmother was there with her young grandson. As they went out to hunt eggs with many other hunters, the little boy could only find one egg. He was disappointed and the anguish on his face was heartbreaking. Then the grandmother saw another little boy who had a whole basketful of eggs. She told this little boy that her grandson only had one egg in his basket, could he please share some of his eggs with her youngster. The boy gave him some of his eggs and then both boys were happy.
The COA has one lowly egg in their basket—the present site on Stony Hill Road. Why can’t we share the school property with our seniors? Don’t forget that the seniors of the town have always voted to spend millions upon millions of dollars through the years in support of us, our children and grandchildren. Do you think maybe, just maybe, that we could share less than one-sixteenth of land at the middle school for the COA?
No matter what property is chosen, there will be some give and take, some compromise, some sharing, some sorrow and some joy. Let’s keep our minds open for joy that the elderly will feel when the town finally votes in favor of a new site. Let’s unite and keep our eyes, our minds and our hearts open to give the seniors a new home wherever that may be. Let’s say yes on both properties, then pick the one that’s the best.