$1.4 million, $333,000 October Town Meeting requests earn OK from Wareham Selectmen

Sep 18, 2018

Selectmen on Tuesday recommended voters approve 17 of 20 agenda items at October Town Meeting. Among them are a $1.4 million request to clean up environmental hazards in the Tremont Nail Factory District, a proposal requiring all addresses be clearly marked and a $330,000 request to replace the Lillian Greggerman Bandshell in Onset.

Board members did not recommend approving two agenda items brought forward by residents, including a request for $10,000 to hire a consultant to study dredging options for the Wareham River and spending nearly $1 million on building six affordable housing units for seniors at Agawam Village. The third item not recommended for approval would transfer an amount of money to be determined from the Water Pollution Control Facility Capital fund into the sewer department’s grant account. Those funds would be used to fund a Water Warriors grant, designed to attract and train veterans for careers in the water/wastewater field.

The affordable housing proposal was brought forth by Bob Powilatis, chair of the Wareham Housing Authority. The authority is requesting a transfer of $650,000 from the Community Preservation Affordable Housing Reserve fund and a $330,000 transfer from the Community Preservation Undesignated Fund. The Community Preservation Committee allocates funds every year for a variety of community projects. Each year, the committee allocates money through the state’s Community Preservation Act in four categories: open space, historic preservation, affordable housing and recreation. The money is raised through a surcharge on property tax bills. The state then matches a percentage of the town-raised money. Funds must be approved at Town Meeting.

Selectmen informed Powilatis that the agenda item as written may run afoul of state law. They urged him to rewrite the request and bring it back to voters at the Spring Town Meeting.

“Given all the flaws, rather than rush to get this approved, I would recommend you ask the body to pass this over and return in the spring,” said Selectman Peter Teitelbaum. “I think it would be more helpful to you going forward.”

Powalitas agreed.

“I’d rather not jeopardize the article at Town Meeting and have it fail,” said Powalitas.

Regarding the funds to study dredging the Wareham River, which would deepen it and make it safer for recreational boaters, Selectmen said the request duplicates one already on the agenda from the Wareham Department of Natural Resources.

Resident Don Jepson, the former chair of the Marine Resources Commission, brought forth the proposal. On Tuesday, he said town officials weren’t doing enough to explore dredging options. A deeper channel reduces the risk of boats running aground and would open it up to larger vessels, possibly improving the town’s ability to attract tourists, officials have said.

Town Administrator Derek Sullivan assured Jepson that Director of Natural Resources Garry Buckminster was aware of the issue and is taking steps to move forward. Selectmen said a request to transfer $146,330 from the Harbor Service Permits Receipts account to the department’s maintenance and improvements account would address the matter and many others. 

The $1.4 million request to clean up the Tremont Nail Factory Complex would pave the way for more economic development at the site, said Teitelabum.

Starting in 1819, the site was home to the Tremont Nail Company. For more than 100 years, cut nails and other products were manufactured in the complex before the company moved to Mansfield. In 2004, the town of Wareham bought the site using Community Preservation Act funds.

Until recently, the property has languished, attracting few tenants and drawing ire from residents tired of town funds being used to maintain the eight buildings on the property. Over the past two years, planning officials have stepped up efforts to revitalize the property, developing a master plan and hosting events at the site to generate interest.

But the presence of pollution from the site’s industrial past has hamstrung development efforts. Selectmen said a presentation on how the funds will be used will be shown at Town Meeting.

“This is going to fix it once and for all and we’ll be going forward with this property,” said Selectman Patrick Tropeano.

According to members of the Onset Bay Association, the Lillian Greggerman Bandshell is in dire need of replacement. Selectmen recommended approving a request to spend $330,000 in Community Preservation Act that would entirely replace the bandshell, located in the heart of Onset.

Town Meeting is set for Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium. All registered votes may participate.