What's up in Town Administration?
2021 Annual Town Meeting
As of March 29th, the Finance Committee was working to complete its motions to the Annual Town Meeting warrant articles. Planning Board motions are complete for the zoning articles. On Monday, April 5th, the Select Board, Finance Committee and Planning Board are scheduled to have a joint meeting at 4:00 pm to review any comments or questions about any of the motions. The Select Board is then scheduled to adopt any comments it may have on any of the motions at its April 14th meeting. The warrant will then be finalized, sent to the printer and the mailer and should arrive in voters’ mailboxes well before the June 5th Annual Town Meeting starts. Once finalized, it will also be posted on the Town’s website so that people may access it as soon as possible. Some of the warrant articles are contingent upon the passage of ballot questions. Those may be found at the very end of the 2021 Annual Town Meeting and Election warrant.
Reminder: Town Meeting will be outdoors this year, under tents and with electronic handheld voting devices (these are only for voters who are present at the Town Meeting) and without a projection screen. We will have to handle amendments and other issues the “old fashioned” way. We are also working on our outreach program for Town Meeting to get out as much information as we can as widely as we can in advance of the Town Meeting. You will most likely be hearing and/or seeing information on the local radio station, 97.7; NCTV; weekly Select Board and other public meetings and/or informational forums; e-newsletters; newspaper articles; social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Other activities with which Town Admin has been busy:
- Summer planning: While vaccinations are well underway, it is unlikely that every single person who lives here or visits will be completely vaccinated by summer; or, even by fall. Most likely certain restrictions will remain in place throughout the summer – such as mask requirements, physical distancing, hand sanitization, gathering and occupancy restrictions. It is important to remember that even if YOU have been vaccinated, you still pose a risk to the unvaccinated. The long-term impacts of COVID are unknown, variants have been detected in the wastewater of the Island and it is necessary for safety protocols to remain in place. We are working on summer planning with respect to enforcement, education, outdoor dining, what activities will and will not be allowed. These issues will be reviewed with the Select Board at its meeting on April 7th. An Economic Task Force continues to meet and work on ways to assist businesses.
- Parking: Barring any unforeseen complications, Valet Parking looks promising at the Candle Street location this summer. Parking restrictions that were temporarily relaxed last summer will be back in effect this summer. Parking is expected to be challenging this summer with an expected increase in visitors and seasonal residents, as well as outdoor dining on certain sidewalks with parking spaces not available, and at least a couple of streets are expected to be closed. Please review your options for getting into Town without a vehicle. We are working on the potential for an NRTA shuttle route designed for people who work downtown. More on this next month, hopefully.
- Police Reform in Massachusetts: On December 31, 2020, “An Act Relative to Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement in the Commonwealth” was enacted. This 139-page Act contains many requirements that Police Departments across the state are working to implement. Here on the Island, we have an internal group working on implementation planning, which includes the Police Chief, DEI Director, Human Resources Director and others. We are anticipating providing the Select Board with an update in May.
- “Large Projects” Update to Select Board: At its meeting of March 24th, the Board received an update on several large projects which are either about to be underway, are underway or will be underway by fall. One of these is a Surfside Road area sewer project which is going to be disruptive to the area between Vesper Land and Miacomet Road from early April through the end of June. The Select Board approved the work to occur at night (4pm – 2am) in order to mitigate traffic disruption. Please be patient! There is no “good” time to get this necessary work done.
- NOTE: we are painfully aware of the unsightly (to put it kindly) modular trailer located at 131 Pleasant Street. Had a Global Pandemic not occurred just as the trailer was moved to this location to address much-needed (at the time) meeting space and placed as originally planned Pleasant St Project webpage, most likely its presence would not be so much of an issue. However, it is there, landscaping plans are in the works, it is not expected to be in place permanently and we hope that once a Facilities Master Plan is completed (in progress now), we will be able to, with voter approval, implement that plan and consolidate Town offices at the 2 Fairgrounds Road campus.
Trending – Trash!
Please, keep your loads covered and do not litter! As we can all see, the roadsides are littered with masks, gloves, nip bottles, papers, Styrofoam, plastic bags and other materials that degrade the environment and appearance of the island. Some of this trash blows out of construction sites, some out of unsecured vehicles and some is clearly carelessly tossed along the road. I’d like to think that viewing this trash is unpleasant for all of us and it’s very easy NOT to litter. It should also be very easy for local businesses to help keep our island clean by picking up trash in their immediate areas and for construction sites to keep adjacent roadways and properties free from their debris. Meanwhile, from time to time, grab a trash bag when you are out for a walk and pick up! There are several areas that the DPW has established for roadside litter drop-offs. Thank you to all those who have taken advantage of the roadside litter drop-offs!
The Clean Team will start up soon at the end of April and the Nantucket Litter Derby is scheduled for April 17 & 18.
New and updated information for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has been added to the Town’s website in the month of March.
The second round of quarterly PFAS testing results for the Nantucket Natural Compost (co-compost) were received by the Town. On January 27, 2021, Waste Options Nantucket collected samples of three different materials for testing: (1) Nantucket Natural Compost (co-compost), (2) Reclaimed soils, and (3) Wastewater Treatment Facility dewatered sludge (residuals) per the MassDEP Approval of Suitability permit. The test reports and fact sheet are available for download on the Town’s PFAS/Solid Waste webpage located here.
A list of 32 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about PFAS is now available on the Town’s website. Information includes general information about PFAS, PFAS testing, and PFAS and public health. Click this link to see the FAQ list.
The PFAS Preliminary Assessment and Planning Approach Report, posted in February has been updated to correct an error in Table 6-1. A revised copy with an errata sheet can be downloaded here. If you prefer an easy to read, five-page fact sheet that summarizes this Report, it can be downloaded here. Additional information can be found at our PFAS webpage. If you have questions or you need additional information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-325-4171 ext. 1400.
Nantucket's Efforts to Stop COVID-19
From the Public Health Department: Why You Still Need to Wear A Mask
There are a lot of reasons, but let’s start with the big one:
There are significant signs that more virulent mutations of the COVID vaccine are becoming prevalent across the US. These variants spread faster and more efficiently than heirloom COVID, lingering in the air longer and spreading farther. The UK variant, in preliminary testing, spread 70% better than heirloom COVID. Social distancing and mask wearing were effective against it, but the models and behavior that we’ve been accustomed to for the last year will not protect against it. If you’ve successfully protected yourself against COVID so far, you’ve only dealt with the heirloom version. The same behaviors, even during the spring and summer months, may not be sufficient against the more virulent strains of COVID.
Not only are variants more likely to spread, there are several variants that have been confirmed to infect people who have already had COVID and should be immune to it. Similar variants show a worrying potential to compromise vaccine provided immunity. By not wearing masks, social distancing and minding exposure groups, we’re producing an environment that encourages the spread of variants through essentially breeding out the weaker heirloom variety of COVID, leaving only faster spreading or more dangerous variants.
Second, even heirloom COVID has killed over half a million Americans. These are excess deaths, that is deaths over and above statistically expected deaths from previous years. Risk of death for those with COVID is significantly above that for being bitten by a snake, for example. But because of the way our brains assess risk, we rarely need to tell people why they should back away from a rattlesnake in the same way we need to explain why wearing a mask is necessary.
Third, masks work. We have copious amounts of natural experiments demonstrating their effectiveness. Regions with mask mandates have shown lower rates of spread, fewer hospitalizations and deaths and reduced economic impact from mitigation efforts. Nations with early adoption of masks had shallower and shorter initial outbreaks, saw reduced second surges and significantly lower excess deaths and hospitalizations. Biophysical modeling of contagion show marked reduction of COVID transmission with all types of masks, from cloth to surgical.
Finally, the biggest potential danger from COVID may be its chronic and long term effects. Over two thirds of the members in a Clinical Microbiology and Infection journal study presented COVID symptoms for months after they no longer tested positive. Fully a third of COVID positive college football players developed enlarged hearts after their infection, both those with COVID symptoms and those who never had COVID symptoms. Sufficient numbers of people with no history of mental illness developed rapid onset psychosis, leading to at least one suicide. The health consequences of COVID will be unfolding around the world for a decade at least before we fully understand the potential for long term issues stemming from COVID infection.
So, wear your masks, social distance, consider your exposure groups and be careful. We’re only months from approaching herd immunity levels of vaccination. The next two months leading up to the summer season will determine how much community spread we’ll have during the summer months.
Remember, a healthy Nantucket starts with you.
Stay home when you can, practice physical distancing, cover your nose and mouth and wash your hands frequently. Find downloadable graphics for social media and to share in your house/business windows.
Economic Task Force
The Economic Task Force continues to meet weekly to address its mission to support local businesses and non-profits to prepare for and execute a safe and successful 2021. In the past month, the Task Force held an Open Forum to receive comments and feedback from the business and non-profit community, responded to emails sent to its dedicated address: ACKtaskforce@nantucketchamber.org, and made recommendations for messaging on the Town’s Summer 2021 webpage. The Task Force also sent a March update on Small Business Administration (SBA) relief programs to its distributions lists. The Task Force has also discussed plans for outdoor dining in 2021 with the Licensing Administrator which were reviewed by the Select Board at its March 24, 2021 meeting and will be considered again at the Board’s April 7, 2021 meeting. Recognizing that street closures will have an impact on parking, the Task Force met with Officer J. Mack and affirmed its recommendation that parking regulations remain as provided in the Town’s Parking Enforcement Policy (link). To that same end, one of the Task Force members has joined a discussion between Town Administration and NRTA to develop a commuter shuttle program for the coming season to bring workers, shoppers, and diners into town without using a personal vehicle.
The deadline for proposals from businesses to the grant awarded to the Chamber of Commerce’s Rock Solid Fund(s) was March 29th. At this writing, nearly a dozen proposals totaling over $100,000 have been received and the Chamber anticipates that the requests will surpass the available funds once all proposals are received. Proposals are being submitted from businesses across the island’s economic sectors.
Meet Your Town Volunteers
Tom Desmond, Chair of the Parks & Recreation Commission
Tom with his wife Marcia and their daughter Nicole
How long have you lived on Nantucket? We have had our home in Tom Nevers for 20 years, but have been visiting for about 25.
Where are you from? I was raised in New York (Long Island) and Virginia (Shenandoah Valley), but we have been living in the Boston area for the past 40 years.
How did you come to live here? Marcie and I attended a wedding about 25 years ago and fell in love with Nantucket. We decided someday we would retire here.
What is your job? I am a Turnaround Consultant, I turn troubled companies around.
How long have you served on Town committees? Going on my second year in Parks & Rec.
Have you served on any other Town boards or committees besides that one? No.
What interests you about serving in the Town that makes you want to be involved? Love of Nantucket, it is the only place I can truly relax. The stress leaves my body as soon as I step off the ferry. Plus youth sports are very important, extremely important in fact. And healthy activities for young adults.
What is the most rewarding part about serving? Meeting my fellow board members and working with them. Jack, Emma, Blair and Diane (who recently stepped down because she was so busy).
What is the most challenging part? The scope of the Parks Master Plan. It is a great opportunity for the Island. We have to get it right from the beginning and educating people on what has to be done once it is completed.
If you could change one thing about Town government, what would it be? I am not sure I can say I would change anything, but the Town has a lot on its plate. Nantucket has a large talent pool to pull from so I think everything can be worked through.
What is your favorite spot on Nantucket? The old navy base at Tom Nevers.
Which of the following do you think would attract more voters to Town Meeting: e-voting; having a mime help out with the microphones; your idea(s)? Educating people on the importance of the meeting. There are always important issues to be dealt with: pocket book issues and quality of life issues both.
Thank you for dedicating your time to volunteer for the Town, Tom!
Town Clerk's News
2021 Dog Licenses
Dog Licenses for 2021 are now available to residents through the Town Clerk’s Office. (Dog Licenses expire on March 31st every year). There is a Dog Licensing Form on the Annual Town Census that was mailed out in January. If a resident does not have the form, they may still obtain a dog license through the mail and should call or email the Town Clerk's Office for the procedure: email@example.com, or call 508-228-7216/7217. Dog tags are mailed to residents and are $10 for spayed or neutered dogs, and $15 for non-spayed or neutered.