Updates from Town Hall
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Occasionally, it comes time to provide a set of updates on various topics – now is such a time!
Town Capital projects: The rejuvenation of the Town Common is finally nearing completion. COVID induced delays have dragged the project out. The new layout has taken shape and once the rest of the pavers are installed and the sod planted the “green” will be back and the front doors usable again. Later this fall the installation of the new Soldiers Honor Roll Memorial will take place, but this will only disrupt a portion of the Town Common closest to Seaside 1. The granite quarries were shut down due to COVID thus the work was not able to be done at the same time as the rest of the Town Common work.
Waterline work is underway on Boardman Avenue. Voters approved the funds for this next section of pipe upgrades at the recent Annual Town Meeting. Paving of roads where waterlines were recently replaced will take place later this fall, likely in October. This will include Raymond Street, Magnolia Avenue and Ocean Street.
Installation of the new HVAC system for Town Hall is progressing well. The new heat pumps and ventilation system will improve the efficiency and comfort level for staff and visitors alike. Having a working ventilation system will also enhance air quality, a critical need given the pandemic.
Engineering efforts continue at the Rotunda and the floats at Tuck’s Point. Once we receive the various options the engineers identify, we will need to make some hard choices as to how best to proceed. Can we make needed repairs in phases or is a major rebuild, including elevating the Rotunda itself, best done now? Stay tuned as we develop options and seek funding support.
Planning Initiatives: As highlighted a couple of weeks ago, many efforts are underway based on the priorities of the recently approved Master Plan. These include studying the suitability of creating a 40R Smart Growth Overlay District in our Limited Commercial District (lands to the north of Rt 128); updating our Open Space and Recreation Plan (tune in to the presentation and discussion slated for Wednesday August 26), and our Housing Production Plan; studying how the local Housing Authority and our Affordable Housing Trust might partner with a developer to renovate and expand the senior housing options at The Plains and Newport Park; a look into the feasibility of directing our wastewater to a regional facility; a forest management plan for the “western woods”, a 500 acre area in the western corner of town comprised mostly of conservation lands owned by the town or the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust; and on-going efforts to update and clarify our local zoning regulations. Many of these initiatives are being funded at least partially with grant funds. A lot of important activity that will be taking place over the course of the next 6-12 months. You can follow the progress of these efforts through updates provided on the Town’s web site.
Primary and general elections: All registered voters should have received a postcard regarding the option of voting by mail in the upcoming September primary (9/1) and the November general election (11/3). Ballots that are mailed out can always be returned in person either by using the drop-off box behind Town Hall or coming to the Town Clerk’s Office. Voters also have the option of voting in person either early at Town Hall (the week before the election day) or on election day at the high school. Please take the time to exercise your civic duty!
Speed Limits and Traffic Calming: After being sidelined by COVID, the Selectmen are returning to the recommendations of a study committee to fine-tune various speed limits in Town, to revise designated safety zones to better comply with state guidelines and to discuss possible other traffic calming measures along Forest and Mill Streets. At their next meeting (September 8) the Selectmen will be deciding on a game plan for how best to advance this work.
Boat Traffic: With a string of hot, sunny weekends, the amount of boat traffic in Sand Dollar cove at the mouth of the harbor and off Black Beach has hit the highest levels ever seen. Managing these crowds and keeping everyone safe overburdens our harbor staff. Coming up with effective strategies for managing these areas will be revisited during the fall. The Selectmen are asking Harbormaster Bion Pike and the Harbor Advisory Committee to take another look at the issues.
As always, there is a lot on the municipal plate. Information on these and many other town activities can be found on the Town’s web site. Want to follow the work of a particular committee? You can request notification of committee meetings as well through the town web site.