Letters To The Editor: Feb. 11, 2021

Letters to the editor.

Committee Supports Boathouse Return


The South Coastal Harbor Plan committee had a full discussion of the issues of the history and conditions of the USCG Chatham boathouse at our meeting on Monday, Jan. 25. Committee members reviewed the December 2020 “Due Diligence Report” by GEI consultants, among other documents. We regret decisions wrongly made by former boards of selectmen not to accept prior offers of this building.

We feel strongly that the boathouse belongs back in Stage Harbor.

We also feel, as do Don St. Pierre and Dick Ryder, coxswains of USCG 36500, that Chatham should be honoring the human history as well as the physical history symbolized by this structure. Chatham has long been home to coastal rescues by the Massachusetts Humane Society, the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the Coast Guard, who have saved numerous fishermen and other mariners in addition to those aboard the tanker Pendleton. The 36500 has moved to Orleans. The Old Harbor Life Saving Station has been moved to Provincetown. This building is the one structure remaining from our past to complement Chatham Lighthouse (active Coast Guard) and Stage Harbor Lighthouse (privately owned).

The footprint of this building coincides with that of the proposed shellfish upweller at 90 Bridge St. Its mass will be greater, due to increased height. But that is offset by its historical character and its ability to connect Chatham residents and visitors alike with our maritime past. Any increase in cost, compared with new construction, is very likely to be offset by contributions to this historic building other than the town budget.

This USCG boathouse is specifically cited as to be preserved in the South Coastal Harbor Plan approved by annual town meeting and by the commonwealth in October 2005.

From the minutes of our January 25, 2021 meeting: "A motion that the South Coastal Harbor Plan committee is in favor of the town accepting the donation of the former Coast Guard building to be used as an upweller, was made by Ms. Andres, seconded by Mr. King and unanimously approved by roll call. Vote: 7-0."

Michael Westgate, chair
Chatham South Coastal Harbor Plan Committee


Be Bold With Housing


I urge the members of Chatham Select Board to designate the town-owned property on Middle Road to be used as a future site for attainable and affordable housing. The property on Middle Road is a perfect site to build an "Elkanah-style" neighborhood, which could become another beloved neighborhood filled with families and year-round residents in our community.

Now is the time to be bold and act with urgency. We are in a housing crisis, and need to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way to create affordable and attainable housing.

Danielle Tolley


Beware Of The 'Experts'


A while back, reader Betsy Abreu recalled Officers John Brooks and George Olson, my dad. They were “experts” in ticketing all those to whom the term “parallel parking” was a mystery. We could surely use “Fred and Ginger,” as we called them, every summer on Main Street.

As to “experts,” how many hundreds of thousands of our hard-earned dollars have gone to the “experts” that didn't didn't know moisture and cold could affect the function of the Mitchell River Bridge? And ditto for the elevator at the fish pier, yet to elevate anyone. Not to forget the “experts” in rotary design, who did not seem to know that we don't drive pedal cars here. We would like to be able to enter and exit this “highway improvement” project more than one vehicle at a time from, say, the West Chatham Post Office.

Are these “experts” the same ones who have designed the Stage Harbor docks? If so, I'm glad to be an ex-fisherman!

And beware, seniors, when you eventually get to use the “new” senior center. These “experts” may soon put you in peril too!

David G. Olson


Fight To Save The Future 


Let's wax nostalgic for the future’s past. Wait, what?

You know, “the way it used to be.” You hear that a lot in Chatham. We all have memories of our favorite places, moments and experiences, holiday celebrations, trips to the beach and family gatherings, summer nights at the A's, the band concerts, or at the theater.

Ahhh, the good old days.

We can fight to save those facades and historic buildings, so we can walk by them and say “that's where it used to be,” and the nostalgia will wax and wane between pleasure and pain. It hurts when time passes.

But let's be clear: there's no going back.

But we can fight for the future’s past, that's right now.

Let's make 2021 the year that we commit to making sure that there is a next generation. A generation that will one day remember the magic of living in Chatham. By building neighborhoods where families can create communities and memories, where kids can walk to a friend's house and bike to a pond or a beach, and families can celebrate First Night, the Fourth of July and summer festivals, we can ensure that there is a continuum from one generation to the next.

All that you fear that is lost of Chatham's past is actually preserved in the possibility of the next generation.

But we have to recognize the immediacy of the problem. We have to recognize the obligation we have as current residents to ensure there's a space for future ones.

Let's be clear, circa 2021 isn't about saving buildings. It's about saving local families, the next generation.

A generation that's endangered and worth preserving!

Karolyn McClelland, chair
Chatham Community Housing Partnership


Another School Choice Perspective


Bill Dugan’s Feb. 4 letter (“A 'Right Size' Nauset High Needed”) is the latest iteration of the discredited zombie argument trotted out every so often that school choice costs the receiving schools money. The sending districts only pay $5,000, so the fallacy goes, while the per pupil cost is manyfold more. Shockingly profligate! The error is in failing to recognize that most of the per pupil costs are fixed: physical plant, utilities, and the salaries of the teaching staff. Adding five choice students to my class of 15 nets the school $25,000 without adding a nickel to my salary. Nauset brought in $1.74 million in choice revenue in 2020. The per pupil cost would have been thousands more without that added revenue.

Couldn’t we eliminate programs, let some teachers go, and keep the per pupil cost the same without choice? Doing so would render an extraordinary school ordinary, undistinguished, and more provincial. My three sons who attend and attended Nauset under choice enrolled in an array of AP courses, studied multiple languages, played in orchestras and jazz bands, performed on stage in state theater competitions, traveled internationally on one-of-a-kind educational programs, ran cross country and indoor track, and helped lead the soccer team to a state championship, all in the company of what passes on Cape Cod for a relatively diverse student body. Without choice this would have been impossible.

We can’t agree on much in the arena of public policy these days, but the one exception may be that nearly all Cape residents understand that attracting young professional families is vital to the long term health of our towns and communities. Affordable housing and quality schools such as Nauset are the appeal.

Sean Mulholland

The writer is a teacher at Nauset Regional High School.


Appalled By Lack Of Vaccine


The following letter was sent to Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr:

I truly appreciated the informational phone call on Feb. 3. I can see that a lot of effort went into making it happen. When reading The Cape Cod Chronicle this week, an article about the COVID pandemic stated that the Cape is receiving a little over 950 vaccines a week. Additionally, Governor Baker stated this week that the state has received one million vaccines and 700,000 vaccines have been given. There are about 6.9 million people in Massachusetts with 215,00 residing on Cape Cod. If you do the math, proportionally, 32,000 vaccines should have been allocated to our county. I find it appalling that the county, with the oldest population in the state, has not received its fair share of vaccines. As was stated in the phone call, Barnstable County is the “oldest” county in Massachusetts, oldest meaning the ages of the population living there. Why would a county that has an elderly population be receiving such a low amount of vaccines? Can you explain to me why the people who live in your district are not being taken care of as is the rest of Massachusetts? Honestly, it is reprehensible to me that our population is not on equal par to the rest of the state.

Paula Nickerson Plock
Harwich Port


Dismayed At CPC Rejection


Last week, the Protect Our Past proposal to seek funding for three short documentary films (highlighting the plight of the Coast Guard Boat House, 68 Shell Dr. and the Monomoy Theatre complex) – that received approval by a 6-1 vote by the Chatham Historical Commission – was unanimously denied by the community preservation committee (CPC).

Their decision was based on a technical definition in the CPA rules, not on the merits of our proposal. Because we were not physically rehabilitating or preserving a structure, we did not meet their litmus test. They chose to overlook our letter, in which we pointed out cases where historic monies were allocated to other non-physical historic areas: funding of a book (“A Sense of Place”), an archaeological survey and the funding of Form Bs.

This is a defeat not only for POP but for the town of Chatham. After interjecting ourselves in the desperate attempt to save historic structures that contribute to the character of the town, we have been paid back with an attempt to silence us. Our mission to Protect Our Past, the historic fabric of Chatham, also depends on this town’s commitment and resolve. Yes, affordable housing is an important issue. However, the imbalance of the dedicated funds for affordable housing and related housing issues versus historic preservation was approximately 96 to 4 percent. As the “loudspeaker” for the need to save historic properties, we were denied any consideration. Had the CPC said they would give us something, even $10,000, a third of our asking, or even $5,000, this would have sent a message that they understood that increasing public awareness of and engagement for ending the demolition of historic Chatham is important for this town’s future.

We are often asked why we lose so many historic houses in Chatham. We have our town officials and ourselves to look at for the answer. Let CPC and others know your position on this issue. Join us in our effort by visiting www.protectourpast.org. Remember, try as you may, you cannot build an historic house.

Ellen Briggs, president
Protect Our Past