Town Meeting voters approve $208,909 for maritime center

Oct 20, 2016

More than 200 elected members of the town's legislative body convened on October 18, and voted to move the Padanaram maritime center project forward with $208,909 in town monies.

Town officials expect the $1,208,909 project to be mostly funded by a $1 million state grant. Voters were asked to cover the difference by appropriating monies from the Waterways Department, the Department of Public Works, and the Community Preservation Act funds.

Waterways would fund the construction of a dinghy storage rack and an aluminum gangway for the project, totaling $13,500, while DPW would contribute $9,200 for new pavement, explained Harbormaster Steve Melo.

CPA funds — raised through a a 1½ percent property tax surcharge — would cover the $186,209 difference, as long as the Community Preservation Committee can justify the project's recreational component.

CLE Engineering President Susan Nilson confirmed its public use, saying "We feel it's a real gathering place where people would be able to access it by boat, by car, and by bike."

After several design iterations and extensive feedback from the community and abutters, officials have proposed the single-story center be located town-owned land at the corner of Bridge and Water streets. The 530 square-foot maritime center and pier would include a public deck to give residents and visitors to Padanaram a place to enjoy the harbor, a public boat ramp, two bathrooms and two showers, and a 14-by-14-foot, multi-purpose room to be used as a welcome center and seasonal office for the harbormaster.

Select Board members voted 4-1 to support the project, with Board Chair Stanley Mickelson voicing concern.

"Spending money for the sake of spending money is inappropriate. I just can't believe we'er going to spend $1.2 million for a bathroom," he said.

It is currently unclear how much would need to be set aside for early operating costs — including utilities, water, sewer, and general maintenance — and insurance.

Waterways Commission Chair Gerald Hickey addressed voter concerns that the proposal was lacking compared to a $1.7 million proposal that would have turned the 4 Water Street property into a maritime center and recreational hotspot.

"It is the entrance to our village. Visually, it's a deteriorated landing," said Hickey, explaining the need to service boaters and transient boaters, not youngsters.

The 4 Water Street proposal was rejected by voters at Spring Town Meeting, partly due to dangerous waters, the $765,000 purchase of the property itself, lack of parking, and the town-owned landing bordering the property that needs updating.

The current proposal adds parking — although voters did comment that three of the five spots are reserved for the harbormaster, the bridge tender, and a handicap space — and officials assured voters that the location's proximity to the bridge offers some shelter from rough waters.

Select Board member Shawn McDonald made closing comments before voters approved the item: "This is an opportunity to increase access to the water on this side of the causeway. This is a chance for the town to step up and say Padanaram is a jewel in this town."

Town officials must submit a revised application for the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council grant by November 1.