Marion Recreation Director Jody Dickerson received approval from Marion Selectmen on Tuesday, February 21 to pursue a new parking plan for Silvershell Beach that would limit nonresident guests to up to 20 per day.
Currently both Marion and Rochester residents are entitled to beach access (with beach permits), thus the rule would apply to guests from other towns. Silvershell Beach parking has space for up to 700 spots, but Mr. Dickenson said he has never seen the lot completely full.
These guests would be required to pay $10 for a daily pass and a maximum of 20 spots would be available per day. Mr. Dickerson said the new policy could generate up to $14,000 per year for the town – and that these monies would help recreation staff fix playground equipment, maintain beach buildings and perform other upkeep at the beach.
The plan was approved despite concerns expressed by Selectman Roger Blanchette, who worried about the transport of cash from beach attendees to the eventual destination of the Treasurer’s Office.
“I worry about it … People are people, when cash is around, some of it has a tendency to disappear,” he said.
Mr. Dickerson said the monies would be sealed in a plastic envelope and delivered each day to the Marion Police Department, where the Recreation Department would retrieve it for deposit in the town treasury. He said once the money is sealed inside, it could only be obtained by ripping the bag apart.
Upon hearing Mr. Dickerson’s plan, Selectmen Stephan Cushing said, “It seems like a feasible plan. I have no problem with the cash accounting, there is checks and balances.”
Town Administrator Paul Dawson suggested the creation of a revolving account to help manage the funds.
Although the board approved the new policy, they agreed that it remains to be seen how it will pan out this summer.
“Let’s take the recommendation, run with it, and see what happens,” Selectman Blanchette said.
Resident Carol Sanz expressed concern how the policy would stop nonresident pedestrians from entering Silvershell Beach by foot, but Mr. Dawson said state law prevents restricting access.
“We can’t prevent people from walking in by foot. It’s a way of life, you can’t stop that,” Selectman Blanchette said. Mr. Dickerson said the guests who park on prohibited streets are taking the risk into their own hands.
On a related topic, Mr. Dawson suggested that the Rochester and Marion Selectmen hold a joint meeting to discuss disparities in contributions towards maintaining Silvershell Beach, in particular the lifeguard costs.
Mr. Dickerson said it costs $60,000 to run the beach each year, but Rochester fees only account for $3,500 of that amount.
“The point is that it’s nothing compared to the entire picture,” Selectman Blanchette said.
In other business, Town Administrator Paul Dawson received authorization from the Selectmen to pursue a Memorandum of Understanding from the town with Future Generation Wind to negotiate buying green energy, for which the town would earn credits. Mr. Dawson explained that Marion’s Energy Management Committee recommended entering into an agreement with the company.
“It’s a pretty competitive business. The nice part of the thing, is there is absolutely no consideration for construction anywhere in Marion but we can avail ourselves to buying credit and it could be a substantial savings over what we currently pay for utilities,” he said. Future Generation Wind recently completed the permitting process to construct windmills in Plymouth.
Town resident Ted North cautioned against entering into an agreement, however. He said windmill energy is not a viable economic business and relies on “credit, subsidies, and accelerated depreciation.”
“If these credits disappear, the whole project fails… I think we’ll end up taking a big risk,” Mr. North said.
Mr. Dawson stressed the MOU – which would expire automatically in six months – does not bind the town to a contact but opens negotiations, and that an exit policy will be available given that any issues arise.
“We still have an obligation to help reduce our carbon footprint without putting up with the degradation of having equipment in our community,” Selectman Jon Henry commented.
Other business of interest included word from Mr. Dawson that the YSI Building, an industrial building recently acquired by the town, soon will be utilized by the harbormaster’s office for marine repair space and storage.
“I think there is possibilities of broad uses in that building, and we’ll look at that,” Mr. Dawson said, noting that the town is taking over the building the next day (February 22).
Three residents did express some concern about taking the building off the market, and whether operating costs would prove burdensome to the town over time.
“Would it be better to sell it, and put it back on the tax rolls for business?” asked Carol Sanz. “I just really question going at this piecemeal”. Ted North also spoke, claiming that the building’s hard economic cost in 10 years to the town would be $48,000.
“The concern I have is does this building fit a specific need for the town, or are we taking a building and trying to convert it into a need for the town,” he said, adding, “In other words, are we taking a square peg and pounding it into a round hole? I’d hate to see us spending a lot of money converting a building that does not fit a specific purpose of the town.”
Mr. Dawson assured the residents that the building would be put to good use, and is needed.
“The opportunity to sell it will always exist, whether today or far from now,” Mr. Dawson added.
By Laura Fedak Pedulli