Community Center Improvements, Cemetery Maintenance Discussed

            While a heatwave outside was tempered only by a sea breeze, the Marion Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday afternoon inside the air-conditioned Music Hall with a busy agenda, including a pair of appointments to discuss a landscaping project at the Community Center and the need to improve maintenance of the town’s cemeteries.

            In the 4:15 pm appointment, Harry Norweb of the Marion Council on Aging brought to the board a Community Center landscape project. “We’re looking for Board of Selectmen approval to start fundraising for our landscaping plan.” 

            For two years according to Norweb, the Cushing Community Center Park Project has been a concept that, if pursued and funded, could become a reality in 3-5 years. It would include a playground. The driveway and parking lot are outside the project’s scope, and Norweb hopes it will work its way up the priorities list for the Capital Improvement Planning Committee.

            According to Norweb, no work on any phase will commence without Board of Selectmen review, and no work on any segment of any phase will begin without funding secured. Norweb says that the project advances the AARP-friendly initiative signed earlier in 2020 by the selectmen.

            “We need this support to justify the time and effort. We are seeking no funding, just support of the selectmen,” said Norweb. “We’re not prepared to start fundraising yet… Donors like some assurance that the plan has been blessed by the authorities.”

            Selectman John Waterman said, “I don’t think that building has curb appeal, and we should be thinking about that.” Waterman indicated the belief that the Community Center’s outside appearance can be significantly improved without major work. A paint job is likely to occur in the near future.

            The renovations would include a 35 by 46-foot, open-air pavilion.

            Board of Selectmen Chairperson Randy Parker introduced infrastructural unknowns to the conversation and suggested that more should be learned before making decisions with limited information. “I think we have to look at the bigger picture on our end, replot the roads. Now is our opportunity,” he said.

            Having been instructed by Town Administrator Jay McGrail that the matter required no vote at this meeting, Parker told Norweb, “Take your time and see that it’s done right.” Norweb said his group will come back to the selectmen when it is ready.

            In the delayed 4:30 pm appointment, Margie Baldwin and Becky Tilden appeared to inform the selectmen about the challenges the town is facing with its maintenance of cemeteries. Baldwin reported that $30,000 was raised for headstone repair.

            Waterman reported seeing bush stumps strewn about on Marion cemeteries, paling in comparison to Boston-area cemeteries he described as “impeccable.” Selectman Norm Hills reported having cleaned out a cemetery section himself three years ago, only to see the brush all grown back.

            “We currently spend a lot of our workforce and our fees on cemetery maintenance; our fees don’t pay that bill,” said McGrail, who explained that a cemetery lot can be sold to a resident for $300, the money going into an account currently at $140,000 and needing Town Meeting approval to spend. On top of that, said McGrail, $200 is charged as a one-time fee for perpetual care (that money goes into an account currently at $36,000 that the Board of Selectmen can access — some of it was used it for mowing last year). Hypothetically, a surviving spouse would pay the town $500 for digging a hole for burial, that money going to the general fund. It costs $800 to be buried on a holiday and $175-$250 for cremation.

            Tilden was asked what other towns are charging their residents. “It’s hard to compare apples to apples because everyone does everything a little bit differently,” she said, explaining that in Marion, a maximum of six cremation remains are allowed atop a full burial.

            Waterman suggested that Marion need not be concerned with what surrounding towns do but rather figure out how much of the cost to subsidize the cemeteries comes through fees. He believes that the town should try to reconcile the fees closer to the costs.

            “I don’t know that you could charge a proper fee that would cover our costs,” said Baldwin. “Nothing against the DPW, but they’re just used to mowing and weed-whacking… Maybe we can charge more, but you can’t charge the full amount.”

            Tilden reported that, for the season, $51,681.28 is the estimated cost.

            “We’re not close; we bring in about ($10,000) a year,” said McGrail of the revenue gained through fees. He indicated that more research might yield some advice as to what Marion can do to better offset the costs of cemetery maintenance.

            McGrail opened his Town Administrator’s Report with a plan of bringing the Marion Open Space Acquisition Committee (MOSAC) in for a joint meeting on September 8.

            “It’s my view that if we are going to acquire more land for the town, it should have some strategic value,” said Waterman. “I want that to have public discussion.”

            The selectmen will also hold a public meeting with the Marine Resource Commission on September 22.

            Over the next month, the Department of Public Works facility project will issue an RFQ to achieve a preliminary design and needs assessment from an architect with a civil engineering component so that the final project can be lined up for spring Town Meeting. DPW Director David Willett said the Harbormaster headquarters project is not scheduled to be ready for proposal until spring. McGrail said, “We’ll have to move that up.”

            Parker is happy with the work be done on the Mill Street Water Main project, where a 12-inch main has been completed and chlorinated. 

            McGrail reported that the Town House renovation, a CPC project, saw its second run of windows installed on Tuesday. He said a majority if not 99.99 percent will be done. Sippican Historical Society’s donation helped complete the roof, and next up is the front entrance. McGrail said it will be on the board’s September 8 meeting agenda to approve the agreement and accept the donation.

            The sale of town property at Atlantis Drive was completed on August 5; the town no longer owns the property. Waterman said, “The public needs to understand that we sold it to move forward… will need another (DPW) building within a couple of years.”

            Parker suggested a walk-through of the existing DPW facility. He also thanked the Marion Garden Club. “Everything looks so nice,” he said. McGrail noted that the Garden Club “almost got the entire village done.”

            Among the 28 action items on the agenda, the selectmen approved the COA’s request for the appointment of Margaret Gee to full membership. That gives the COA a voting body of 13 members, four above the minimum. The council typically sees two members leave per year.

            The selectmen approved the donation of two surplus vehicles to the Town of Rochester. According to McGrail, Marion had been successful selling other used vehicles on an auction website but had no takers for the two in question.

            The approval of the additions of Tom Friedman, Alanna Nelson, and Alex Roy to the Energy Management Committee was tabled with an agreement that McGrail would discuss the matter on Wednesday with Chairperson Cristian Ingersoll. The committee, originally having five members, would now have eight. Waterman said it is better to have five regular members and three alternates.

            In keeping with the recommendation of Harbormaster Isaac Perry, the Bird Island Restoration Committee, which has not met in five years, was dissolved.

            The selectmen appointed Connor Flynn as a Student Police Officer. Chief of Police John Garcia, who is retiring in January, opening a position on the force, anticipates a graduation date of December 19 for Flynn.

            The selectmen approved McGrail’s proposed policy that all access to Town Counsel go through his office with the exception of the selectmen. “The most important part of this is this policy has been playing out for the last year and playing out well,” said McGrail. “I’ve never said, ‘No,’ but it keeps me in the loop and keeps you guys informed.” 

            The selectmen approved the closing of the A&J Boats land swap, ending a process that lasted a year and a half, according to McGrail. On Wednesday, the Conservation Commission was to vote to give the selectmen the authority to close on the land.

            Joe Zora and Turnbull Lynch were publicly thanked for their donation of $100 to Marion Fire/EMS. 

            The minutes for the board’s July 14 public meeting were approved. Before the meeting, McGrail clarified that those are not the minutes of the 2:00 pm executive session that preceded the 3:00 pm public meeting that day. The executive session on July 14 was held pursuant to Purpose 1 of General Law c. 30A, s. 21(a)(1) to discuss a personnel matter unrelated to performance.

            The next meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Tuesday, September 8, at 4:00 pm.

Marion Board of Selectmen

By Mick Colageo

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