ORLEANS – After some initial concerns about project cost and location, the select board has gotten behind plans to seek Community Preservation Act funding to support improvements to the Nauset Beach bandstand.
The board indicated its intention to author a letter of support for the project at its Jan. 11 meeting. The board was expected to vote to draft the letter Wednesday.
The application to the community preservation committee was submitted by Public Works Director Tom Daley in November. The $55,000 sought for the first phase of work would cover the cost of local permitting and crafting a design for the aging bandstand, which dates back to the 1920s.
Originally located at Eldredge Field, the structure was relocated to Nauset Beach in the 1950s. It was relocated uphill from the beach to the abutting motel parking lot in 2018 following a series of winter nor'easters that caused significant beach erosion.
The bandstand was moved back to the beach in 2022 after discussions with the conservation commission and the town's post-sewer hardscape improvement task force, Daley said.
The project is seeking CPC funding in the areas of historic preservation and recreation. The bandstand has long been the scene of weekly summer concerts and has also accommodated weddings and other events over the years. Other people use it recreationally as a spot to visit or have lunch.
While an engineer has found the bandstand to be structurally sound, Daley said there is some "urgency" to making improvements to the structure, including making it handicap accessible, so that it can continue to be safely used by the public.
"I think it's a viable project," he told the select board. "Everyone I talk to about it is excited by the possibilities."
But board members reiterate their concerns about the project, including whether or not the beach will continue to be able to support the structure given the potential for future storms.
"If climate change keeps taking the beach, will that capacity to be moved be built into the design and the location selection?" Select Board Chair Andrea Reed asked. Daley said the bandstand could be easily moved as needed using a pallet and a loader.
Others on the board questioned whether the overall cost of the project might be too much. Michael Herman raised concerns that the project could ultimately cost around $500,000, noting that design and engineering costs typically come in at about 10 percent of the cost of construction.
"I'd hate to have wasted this $55,000," he said. "While it is CPC money, it could go to other very worthy applications, and I believe they won't be able to fill all their applications."
Daley, however, expects that the cost of construction on a smaller project like the bandstand would be less than $200,000.
Mark Mathison of the select board asked if the town could bring the project cost down further by taking on the bandstand design itself.
"The less the cost is, the more likely people are to back it," he said. But Daley said the town may be better served by contracting the design work out.
"People hang out under this thing," he said. "How do we certify that this structure can do that? We can't do that."
Select Board member Kevin Galligan, meanwhile, had questions about how plans to apply for the funding unfolded. He questioned why Daley didn't come to the select board with the idea before submitting the application to the CPC.
"You would have had your support letter," he said. "We would have provided input."
But Reed applauded the proactiveness Daley showed in applying for funding to shore up what she called a "cultural asset."
Mefford Runyon of the select board said he favored drafting a letter of support for the project, but added that the project might be better suited going forward strictly as a recreation project and not historic preservation.
"Asking this to be designed to historic standards I think is more than anyone wants," he said.
"We don't want to necessarily be locked into the preservation," Nate Sears, the town's natural resources manager, said in agreement. "If it turns out that a full rebuild and replacement of the building will be cheaper than bringing it up to standards, we want that option, right?"
Because the agenda for the board's Jan. 11 did not call for members to vote on drafting the letter of support, Interim Town Administrator Charles Sumner advised that the board instead take action on the matter Wednesday night.
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