64-article Town Meeting Starts At Noon Saturday At Veterans Field

By: Tim Wood

Last year was the first time Chatham held a town meeting outdoors. This year's annual session will also be held at Veterans Field beginning at noon on Saturday, June 12. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – For the second year in a row, the annual town meeting will be held outdoors at Veterans Field. The session begins at noon on Saturday.

Unlike last year, when the warrant was kept short to reduce the length of the session, this year's meeting weighs in at a healthy 64 articles, although nearly half may be folded into a consent calendar and addressed in a single vote.

Along with the usual budgets and bylaw changes, the meeting includes a handful of measures designed to address the lack of affordable and attainable housing (see separate story, page 3), as well as a raft of expenditures under the Community Preservation Act. Voters will also, finally, decide whether to build a new senior center on donated land at 1610 Main St. or on Monomoy Regional School District land off Stepping Stones Road (see story, page 48).

Voters will also address a number of petition articles, including a ban on the sale of single-use plastic bottles, as well as support infrastructure for the town's wastewater expansion project.

Moderator William Litchfield assembled a consent calendar containing 27 articles that have the unanimous support of the select board and finance committee. All can be approved in a single vote, thus substantially shortening the meeting, although any voters can request that an article be removed and addressed separately. Included are articles 5, 6, 11, 28, 30 through 34, 36 though 39, 41 through 46, 48 through 50, 54, 56, 57, 58 and 60. Seventeen are community preservation funding requests, and others are routine articles that have been included on the consent calendar in the past, Litchfield said.

“If we can have a little bit more efficiency without limiting democratic rights, so much the better,” he said. A handout listing the consent calendar articles will be available at the meeting.

The annual town operating budget seeks $33,045,296, with the Monomoy School District requesting $8,524,697 and Chatham's share of Cape Cod Tech's budget at $451,856. The water department is asking for $3,581,052, and $2,881,200 in capital spending is being sought.

A number of articles were deferred when last year's annual town meeting was scaled back to shorten the session. Those include $1,111,800 for repairs to the outer shell of the historic Eldredge Public Library building, as well as access and site safety improvements. The new senior center proposal was also postponed, and will come before votes with a long-awaited $8.3 million project in West Chatham, as well as a competing proposal utilizing land on Stepping Stones Road.

The $7 million wastewater request is to upgrade and expand the capacity of one of the sewer system's main backbones, the existing pumping station on Queen Anne Road (near the Chatham Village Market parking lot). The town is seeking zero percent loans for the project from the state revolving fund. The station dates from the original sewer system constructed in the 1970 and will be completely rebuilt. The funding also covers additional wastewater pump stations and radio upgrades at existing sewer and water pumping station. Officials intend to borrow the cost of the projects so the measure requires a two-thirds majority to pass; it must also be approved in the June 17 annual town election.

Officials are also proposing to borrow $4.5 million for a number of drainage and stormwater projects, a measure that will also require a two-thirds majority to be approved. Three other articles seek funds to study iron and manganese in two town wells, including well 5, which was recently shut down due to high levels of the chemical PFAS.

Dredging of Chatham and Stage Harbor is covered under a $300,000 request, and a petition article asks voters to adopt a provision of state law that allows the town to set a lower property tax rate for year-round property owners.

Community preservation articles include requests for $19,700 to repair the town clock in the Chatham Methodist Church steeple; $135,600 for the town clerk's office to preserve old vital town records; $243,250 to move the historic Stage Harbor Coast Guard boathouse from Quincy to Chatham (see separate story, page 12); and funds to preserve the Frost Fish Creek marsh, create a Revolutionary War memorial, make town beaches more accessible; improve Sears Park; and a feasibility study of an alternative route for the section of the bike trail along George Ryder Road.

A general bylaw amendment would memorialize the title “select board” in the town's bylaws, while a second amendment would allow the board flexibility in setting the date for the annual town meeting.

The plastic water bottle ban would prohibit the sale of single-use plastic water bottles of less than one gallon. It contains an exemption in the case of a declaration of emergency that impacts the availability or quality of town drinking water. This has come up in recent discussions regarding the recent shut down of the town well noted above.

Childcare is available during the meeting by reservation, which must be made by emailing smabile@chatham-ma.gov by noon on Friday, June 11. Drop off begins at 11:30 a.m. at the community center.

Police have announced some parking restrictions in connection with the meeting. Parking will be prohibited on Depot Road from the traffic lights to Hitching Post Road in order to keep the street passable for emergency vehicles. On Hitching Post Road parking is restricted on the east side to Tip Cart Drive. Because it is a state highway, parking is prohibited along Route 28 north and west of the rotary. Restrictions begin Saturday morning and remain until the meeting concludes.

Police recommend parking at the community center, elementary school, Oyster Pond, and the public parking off Stage Harbor Road behind the Orpheum Theater.

Because the session is being held outdoors, officials urge attendees to be prepared for variable weather. Rain date for the meeting is Monday, June 14. The time and location will be determined if that happens.