Town House Headed for Incremental Upgrades

Town Administrator Paul Dawson thought it was time to address the Town House conundrum and start the discussion again on July 10, now that the two new members of the Marion Board of Selectmen have had time to familiarize themselves with the Town’s most pressing issues.

Dawson said he spoke with each selectman individually on how they stand on the future of the Town House because, as he put it that night, “The public wants to know where we stand.”

“If we don’t begin to have that discussion sooner rather than later, it tends to drop off the radar screen.” Dawson said. “Where do we go from here as it relates to the Town House project?” Dawson asked. “What is the path we need to take?”

The consensus was clear: bit-by-bit, year-by-year.

“Right now it sounds like the only way forward is to look at [what we can do] incrementally,” said Selectman John Waterman, rather than just gut the building and repair it. He mentioned Community Preservation Funds that could be allocated every year, just like last year when the Community Preservation Commission allotted nearly $1 million towards the project.

“I think we need some expertise to see how we could break it down,” he said. And rather than reconstitute the Town House Building Committee, Waterman suggested getting former THBC Chairman Bob Raymond, architect and resident Bill Saltonstall, and Dawson together to discuss how to go about a Town House project in phases.

Selectman Randy Parker said he shares Waterman’s view because, like it or not, Marion has to put its wastewater problem at the top of the priority list.

“[With] the lowest amount of exposure to the taxpayer in the town,” advocated Parker, while addressing the wastewater treatment plant.

Waterman suggested the board must first identify the projects that must be undertaken at the Town House, but Parker argued that securing funding should come first.

“Have the money in the pot first and then decide what projects would work,” said Parker. “That would be a start.”

A plan, Parker said, “That’s not going to pressure the taxpayer, and gives us some wiggle room on what we have to do with the sewer and water.”

“There are definitely some problems with the building that have to be addressed,” said Dawson, suggesting maintenance work be undertaken to protect the building from future weather-related damage.

Chairman Norm Hills, who along with former selectman Jody Dickerson, jettisoned an alternative project at the Community Center property from the Annual Town Meeting Warrant back in April and witnessed the $8.7 million article to renovate the Town House fail on the Town Meeting floor. He now concurred that upgrades would have to begin in stages in order to protect the building from further devaluation.

“We have a Town House, and we have to take care of it, and we haven’t been taking care of it,” Hills said. “We’ve got to start doing maintenance. We can’t just sit here, suck our thumbs, and let the building fall down.”

Dawson said this was a good first step.

“[Let’s] look at how best to incrementally do this, and then, based upon how we might do that and what the cost of that might be … how do we fund it … [and] how do we adjust accordingly to meet the code requirements.”

It could boil down to a million a year, said Parker, with CPC funds dispersed in this way that would be “less taxpayer intrusive”.

“Starting with the exterior makes sense,” said Dawson.

The selectmen agreed that it was important that members of the former THBC knew how appreciated their work was.

“It’s important that they hear that their work is appreciated,” Waterman said.

Also during the meeting, the Town isn’t sure if the dog and his owner still reside in Marion, but the board went ahead and deemed the dog “dangerous” during the duly advertised dog hearing.

According to Dawson, two letters informing the dog’s owner, Andrew Garvey, of the public hearing were sent to 49 Joanne Drive, but receipt of delivery was never returned to the Town House. Police were sent to the address and determined that the Garvey family no longer resides on Joanne Drive, but it was town counsel’s opinion that the selectmen could still hold the public hearing.

While not knowing whether Garvey has moved out of Marion or just to another part of town, the selectmen held the public hearing and made a decision after considering the seriousness of the allegations that “Gideon”, Garvey’s husky, has escaped from Garvey’s property and attacked a neighbor’s animals, causing injury.

Joan Wing, in a letter dated April 23, states that on three occasions, Gideon entered her yard and, at one point, was able to get inside the enclosure where her horse and goats are kept, seriously injuring one goat and tearing off a chunk of the horse’s mane.

Hills commented that Gideon, at a prior address in Marion, had entered a neighbor’s yard and killed their rabbits.

Animal Control Officer Susan Connor recommended an order to at least restrain the dog given her history with the dog’s owner.

“These people have been on my radar since at least 2012,” said Connor. “They are never compliant with even the simplest tasks such as licensing their dog.”

Connor said the issues stem back to prior addresses on Point Road and Delano Road prior to Joanne Drive.

“It is true,” said Connor. “It killed some rabbits on Delano Road.”

Connor said she has cited Garvey and has also taken the dog into custody at least once because of Garvey’s unwillingness to license or vaccinate the dog against rabies.

“It’s not a mean dog, but I do think that it’s not well supervised,” said Connor.

The board considered the two options: deeming Gideon a ‘nuisance’ versus ‘dangerous’, and selected dangerous and ordering four remedies: the dog must be restrained at all times; confined to the property and enclosed securely; muzzled and restrained when leaving the property; and an insurance policy of not less than $100,000.

“How do you force them to do that?” Waterman asked.

“Somebody’s going to have to verify that all that stuff is in place,” said Hills, and Dawson pointed out that there are rather severe fines for violating the order.

Wing commented that she didn’t consider Gideon to be “dangerous,” per se, but when Dawson read the definitions of dangerous versus nuisance, Wing concurred that Gideon is a dangerous dog.

“The dangerous dog definition fits,” said Waterman.

Wing’s daughter Pattie Wing added that Gideon has never been a threat to people.

“But it doesn’t have any problem taking and tearing up other people’s animals,” said Hills.

In other news, Bill Napolitano, environmental program director for SRPEDD (Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic development District), reviewed the progress stemming from a series of workshops that provided data for the Town’s Municipality Vulnerability Preparedness Plan (MVP) and subsequent action items after receiving a state grant for funding.

The program addressed climate change and how it is affecting and will affect municipalities in the future.

“The response from the community was great,” said Napolitano. “We had a lot of people come out and participate.”

Public workshops helped identify the vulnerabilities, as well as the strength of Marion under the threat of climate change, narrowing concerns down to four threats: sea level rise and coastal flooding, extreme precipitation, wind blow-down, and extreme temperatures.

Factoring into that are septic systems and wastewater pumping stations that are vulnerable to natural disaster, with seven out of eight pumping stations located within flood zones, and three of those within flood and velocity zones. If pumping stations are inundated by water, the mechanical components will fail, … “and then you’re really in trouble,” Napolitano said.

Those mechanisms, he said, might have to be elevated as part of the eventual action items, with other potential action items being regionalized emergency shelters, and studying protected conservation lands and how they can be used as natural implements of protecting the Town from storm damage. For example, Napolitano said, salt marshes are excellent at dissipating waves from storm surges, and other land might be suitable for capturing excess water flow.

“Marion is about 49 percent protected land,” said Napolitano. “It’s a large amount of land that’s protected . … You may have to look at how it’s used … in the future. … You may be able to reassess how it can be weaved into a community defense plan.”

According to Town Planner Gil Hilario, a potential grant he is chasing worth $125,000 might fund some of that pumping station work, including waterproofing and elevating.

The Planning Board has been actively working towards the MVP and will continue to update the board in its progress.

In other matters, Dawson said that once again the Town was faced with nowhere to unload its curbside recycling materials last week, so again he was forced to apply for a waiver from the DEP to dispose of the recyclables at the Bourne landfill. Now, however, Casella is again accepting Marion’s recycling, but with no guarantee that this won’t happen again.

“We had no alternative,” Dawson said. “This is the way the recycling market’s going these days because of the decision made in China. It’s had a ripple effect across the country … and I suspect this will not be the last time I’ll be reporting to the board.”

Dawson said Casella is happy to take Marion’s recyclables as long as it can, “But they have times when they have no place to take material themselves and they’re chock full.”

Also on the agenda, the board approved a connection to the municipal sewer at 173 Spring Street, the location of the new Buzzards Bay Coalition site. According to Dawson, there is an existing sewer stub there, but a new sand and gas trap is required.

The next meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is scheduled for July 24 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Police Station.

Marion Board of Selectmen

By Jean Perry


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