Town-Owned Housing Helps Retain Seasonal Workers
ORLEANS – Summer has arrived, and the town’s public works and natural resources departments are ready for the seasonal influx at Nauset and Skaket beaches.
Some Cape towns have encountered staffing issues for their beaches. In Chatham, for instance, the town had 19 lifeguards ready to work as of the end of May, far less than the 26 to 32 that typically cover the town’s beaches. Bourne, Falmouth and Sandwich have also had staffing issues, resulting in the decision to let some beaches go unguarded this season.
But Tom Daley, the town’s public works director, said that’s not the case in Orleans, where the town is near its full seasonal complement of beach employees this season.
“We’re in good shape,” he said. “We have a lot of returning people.”
Daley said there are 64 seasonal beach personnel this season between Nauset and Skaket beaches, including 25 lifeguards who will begin work June 21. Other employees include parking attendants, beach rangers, booth attendants, sticker salespeople and EMTs.
The town owns housing for its lifeguards, including property at 223 Beach Rd. near Nauset Beach and 17 Wildflower Lane at Skaket. At a time where available housing is in short supply locally and regionally, especially during the summer months, Daley said having the housing has helped safeguard Orleans from the types of staff shortages other towns are facing this season.
“I think that puts us in a good position. They pay for it, not a lot, but they do have it, and it gives them a place to be at the beach. It’s a short commute,” he said.
One area where beach operations are lagging is in managing sticker sales. Daley said DPW and natural resources are shorthanded this season following the recent retirement of two staffers who helped handle in-person, online and mailed sticker sales. As a result, the town is not selling stickers in-person this season. Meanwhile, Daley said staff are about a month behind on getting out stickers by mail and a week behind on online orders.
“I’ve got existing staff who are busy full time anyway filling in the void, so it’s been rough,” he said. “We’re getting it done, but we’re behind.”
Two people have been hired to fill those retirement vacancies, but Daley said they are being trained for next season.
In an update to the select board June 8, Daley said work on the upper beach parking lot at 223 Beach Rd. is nearly complete. Line striping was expected to be done this week and all outstanding electrical work is due to be done at the end of the month, he said.
Michael Herman of the select board asked about plans for plants and vegetation in the area of the parking lot and the beach. He said he’s heard concerns from some residents about what the areas will look like when work at the lot is complete.
“That is our crown jewel, if not one of our crown jewels, in this town, where a lot of our visitors are going to come and see it,” he said. “Our vegetation and planting right in front is going to be the first impression that they get.”
Herman also had questions about hydroseeding in the area, which he said requires the use of more water as the town is asking residents and visitors to curb their water use in the face of drought conditions. Daley said native plants and trees are being placed near the lot, and that hydroseed holds water well and is better for water conservation.
Residents and visitors were urged by select board member Mark Mathison to exercise patience regarding vegetation in the area.
“People need to understand that the plants will grow down at the beach,” he said. “If things don’t survive down there, something else will be put in there. We’re not going to let it become some wasteland, some desert, some horror show. But it takes time.”
Daley also addressed questions about lighting at the parking lot after some abutters to the lot on Beach Road raised concerns in recent weeks about how it might impact their properties. Shades have been purchased for the lights, which Daley said are each individually controlled by staff in the gate house below the lot. He said with a closing time of 5:30 p.m., lighting from the lot shouldn’t pose a problem for residents.
New kiosks for the lot are due to arrive around Labor Day, Daley said. The kiosks give beachgoers the option of paying for parking using their smartphones and other devices, he said. New license plate recognition technology also could go online in time for a “soft opening” sometime in August, Daley said.
Use of Nauset Beach by oversand vehicles was also addressed. The north portion of the beach in Chatham closed to oversand vehicles June 1, while Olreans’ portion of the beach to the south was due to close to vehicles this week, Daley said. But he said a private stretch on the northern portion of Orleans’ side of the beach will remain open for oversand vehicles.
Mefford Runyon of the select board said there are stretches of hundreds of yards of beach in the area that are very difficult for vehicles to drive on, especially if drivers don’t properly deflate their tires.
Town Administrator John Kelly said drivers are not billed by the town when they get stuck on the beach. But given the town resources that are often used to help stuck drivers as they wait for a tow, Kevin Galligan of the select board said perhaps they should be.
“It’s certainly something to think about,” he said. “They’re using staff time.”
For more information about beach rules and regulations, or to purchase a beach permit, visit the town website at www.town.orleans.ma.us