Onset Pier, Tremont Nail and Wesley United Church eyed for Community Preservation Act funds

Feb 7, 2018

Selectmen said “yes” to exploring an Onset Pier overhaul, a Tremont Nail Factory District upgrade and restoring the Wesley United Methodist Church. Now it’s up to voters at Town Meeting to fund those projects or not.

On Tuesday, Selectmen heard from members of the Community Preservation Committee who wanted those projects on Town Meeting's agenda. 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.

Voters will be asked to spend $250,000 to develop engineering plans for Onset Pier. Wareham Department of Natural Resources Director Garry Buckminster said the plans will identify exactly what must be done to make repairs.

Buckminster said a survey was done on the pier in 2014 that revealed structural issues, such as loose fasteners and failing siding. The same survey estimated an overhaul would cost $4 million. While the previous survey revealed the issues facing the pier, the new engineering plans will layout a path forward for making those repairs and get the project “shovel ready.” Buckminster said projects that have the necessary planning and engineering work already done receive priority when it comes to grants.

“I think with these plans in place, this will put us in a good position to seek grant funding,” said Buckminster.

Selectman Patrick Tropeano said the project is overdue.

“We should have started this 10 years ago,” he said.

Funds for the Tremont Nail Factory District project, which amount to $200,000, would help renovate the Freight Building, one of eight buildings on the 7.2-acre site on Elm Street. The complex was home to the Tremont Nail Company for more than a 100 years. In 2004, the Town of Wareham bought the site using Community Preservation Act funds.

The site has seen some activity in 2017 after an antique car show and successful gala were held there. Both were designed to generate interest for the property from businesses and residents If approved, the funds would be used to make more improvements to the Freight Building.

Another request will seek $142,750 for exterior work at the Wesley United Methodist Church, located on Main Street. This is the second time parishioners will seek the funds in as many years.

Their initial request was not voted on last year due to a Massachusetts Supreme Court case originating in Acton. The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State challenged the use of Community Preservation Act funds for restoring a church. That case hasn’t been decided yet, and Selectmen said if the issue remained unresolved, the parishioners’ request must be pulled from the Town Meeting agenda to avoid a potential legal challenge.

If approved, the funds will be used to replace rotting clapboards on the church’s exterior and repaint the building. While those repairs appear minor, church leaders said lead paint and asbestos mitigation add to the cost.

Town Meeting is scheduled for April 23 at 7 p.m. in Wareham High School. All registered voters may participate.