What's up in Town Administration?
The COVID-19 Global Pandemic has certainly dominated the activities of most Town departments and agencies since mid-March. With limited exception (Public Safety Facility and Culture and Tourism office) most Town offices remain closed to the public; however, Town staff is available to serve the public remotely and in some circumstances, by appointment. You can email us or call us and we can help you with what you need. We do not currently have a specific date by which Town offices will open up to the public. We are assessing what other towns are doing and are very much paying attention to what the Governor has to say. For the most part, it seems that many towns across the state are taking their time with reopening plans to ensure the utmost safety for employees and the public.
At the Select Board meeting of July 15, I recognized Town staff and others for their contributions in the early days of the pandemic. A lot of people worked very hard for the Town and community – seven days a week, for weeks. A link to that part of the Board meeting, may be found here. THANK YOU to everyone who has worked to keep our community safe! Speaking of which – click here for the latest COVID news on the Town’s website. And please do not forget to wear your face covering in the Old Historic Districts of Nantucket and Sconset. Most of us do not love wearing a face covering; however, it is important for ALL of us to do so when we cannot social distance (and, as noted above) so that we can “keep the curve flat” and keep transmission of the virus to an absolute minimum. The Select Board is provided with a weekly COVID-19 update and the Public Health Director provides the status of metrics developed to gauge the Island’s response and preparedness.
Meanwhile, we are now faced with another public health emergency: PFAS. It is evident that addressing the PFAS issue(s) will be time-consuming and costly. Yesterday's Airport Commission public informational session on PFAS was recorded and can be found on the Town's YouTube channel.
We are working on other initiatives and on-going projects as best we can, including:
Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
The Select Board has this matter on its weekly agenda, for updates and continuing action and discussion. Mostly recently, we developed a job description for a new position of Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Coordinator and have started advertising for the position. We have a Request for Proposals under development for a Town-wide assessment/evaluation of where the Town government is with DEI, including recommendations for improvement. An independent group (Nantucket Equity Advocates – NEA, email@example.com) has communicated with the Town as to organizing a Community Forum to discuss race relations and equity. NEA’s July 15 presentation to the Board can be found here.
Select Board Strategic Plan Update
We are currently planning for a fall retreat for this.
An abbreviated Annual Town Meeting was held on June 25th. We were able to adopt a revised FY 2021 budget, as well as some “essential” financial articles. Click here for a summary of results. About half of the 51 citizen articles were passed over to a future town meeting. At its meeting on July 22, the Board discussed whether or not to schedule a Special Town Meeting and agreed not to. Overall safety concerns, logistical challenges and lack of urgent matters were factors in the decision.
Looking ahead, we continue to work on long-term solid waste planning, employee housing, long-term planning for Our Island Home and the Senior Center, road and sidewalk improvement projects, collective bargaining among other current activities.
Political signs have sprouted up in a variety of locations around the Island and we have received inquiries about them (“I thought all signs had to be removed within 30 days” – Untrue; “Can the Town remove the political signs, there are too many of them” – Not easily and not without specific determination that they cause a public safety hazard; “So can I put a sign out in front of my house advertising my business?” No – commercial signs are regulated). We have developed an explanation about signs on the town's website.
Numerous complaints about roadside litter and trash along beach areas. Roadside: DPW was delayed in roadside litter patrols throughout the spring due to the COVID pandemic. DPW has a staffing shortage at the moment. Both of these have contributed to the roadside litter problem; however, the real reason there is roadside litter is because of irresponsible people who allow litter to discharge from their vehicles and/or themselves. Just stop it! While the Clean Team is back in action as of July 18, they cannot keep the entire Island clean on their own. EVERYONE needs to help (see new DPW program below). Beaches: a lot of beach trash drifts in from the ocean, which we cannot control. We could all bring a trash bag to the beach with us, do a few minutes of trash patrol and “carry in – carry out”. It’s pretty simple.
With the arrival of outdoor dining, we are seeing an increase in litter downtown. Some businesses are very good at cleaning up around their areas, daily; others not so much. "Clean Your Block" should be a motto of every business. Here is Dep. Sheriff Rich Harrington doing litter patrol around the Town Building block. Thank you, Rich!
Aside from trash issues, visitors and residents alike have been enjoying a unique experience on Nantucket this summer. In May, the Select Board approved a plan to expand outdoor dining to town streets and sidewalks and private parking lots. By mid-June, several restaurants had set up socially-distanced dining spaces adjacent to their physical locations. The restaurants have been incredibly creative in designing the spaces and so many businesses and community members have stepped in to collaborate from the beautiful ‘landscaping’ turning streets into gardens, to the Artists Association transforming concrete barriers and a dirt parking lot to an Art Gallery. We are already working on plans to extend our enjoyment of the outdoors to the Autumn months. The people frequenting the spaces are having a great – and safe -- time enjoying their favorite restaurants al fresco and with a very European feel.
Island-Wide Efforts to Protect Nantucket’s Ecosystem
2020 Single-Use Plastics Ban
At the October 10, 2018 Special Town Meeting, a single-use plastics ban was approved. It was subsequently approved by the Attorney General and technically became effective on June 1, 2020. The ban applies to the commercial sale and distribution of the following single-use plastics:
Because of the COVID pandemic, the supply stream for substitute items has been drastically interrupted and delayed. While our public outreach efforts were also interrupted we understand that many businesses simply could not comply with the ban by June 1. We have met with some of the larger retailers (Stop & Shop, Cumberland Farms) and distributors such as US Foods and believe that we can start expecting compliance by the end of July. Initially, our approach will be one of education rather than strict enforcement.
CARE for the Cape & Islands released a “Compostable Food Serviceware Buying Guide” that aims to provide restaurants and other food service businesses alternatives to plastic take-out containers and serviceware, like cups, plates, bowls and utensils. The guide was released by CARE for the Cape & Islands and created in collaboration with the Wellfleet Recycling Committee and Woods Hole Sea Grant.
Take It or Leave It Update
The Take-It-or-Leave-It (TIOLI) remains temporarily closed due to COVID-19. The DPW looks forward to it safely reopening in the future as the TIOLI is an important part of the island's waste management system, facilitating the reuse of items locally. Once the TIOLI reopens, the opportunities for reuse will extend off-island, thanks to a new partnership with Salvation Army.
Previously when the TIOLI was cleaned out weekly, most of the contents (an average of 3.33 tons per week) went into Construction & Demolition Debris Waste to be taken off-island, ultimately to an Ohio landfill. Through our new partnership, the DPW will divert the leftover reusable items from our TIOLI to Salvation Army's regional center in Brockton for off-island beneficial reuse. In addition to being more sustainable and environmentally responsible, it is expected this program improvement will save the Town over $72,000 annually.
Anaerobic Digester Feasibility Study Public Forum
Today at 6 pm the Sewer Department with Weston & Sampson will host a virtual public meeting to present preliminary results of a study to determine the feasibility of installing anaerobic digestion technology at the Surfside Wastewater Treatment Facility. Utilizing organic waste streams from around the island, anaerobic digestion has the potential to provide the Treatment Facility with a source of renewable energy, decreasing operating costs and reducing the amount of solid waste sent to landfill.
National Grid Recycling Pickup Event on Friday, August 14
Schedule a pickup by August 12 to receive $125 incentive
National Grid is heading to Nantucket on Friday, August 14 to pick up and recycle old, inefficient appliances such as fridge, freezer, and dehumidifiers. For a limited time, customers will receive a $125 check for every recycled refrigerator or freezer, and $30 for recycled dehumidifier. This service comes at no cost to customers and a safe contactless option is available.
Schedule a pickup by August 12 to qualify for this offer. Call 1-877-889-4761 or go to www.MassSave.com/Recycle. Limited spots available.
Interested in saving more energy this summer?
Schedule a no-cost Virtual Home Energy Assessment!
Mass Save is now offering remote home assessments. Participate in a live virtual discussion with an energy specialist to learn more about your home and find opportunities to save you money and energy– including a limited-time offer of 100% off approved insulation, equipment rebates, no-cost products, and 0% financing. Call 1-866-537-7283 to schedule.
Questions? Contact: Lauren Sinatra, Energy Coordinator, at LSinatra@nantucket-ma.gov or 508-325-5379.
News from the Natural Resources Department
Bird Protected Species
The Natural Resources Department works with all of the organizations on island that look after protected birds species. The Town bird monitor along with bird monitors from Nantucket Conservation Foundation, Massachusetts Audubon Society and The Trustees of Reservations Coskata / Coatue all contribute to determine where birds are present and nesting, and which beaches should remain closed to beach driving in order to protect them.
- NRD staff has added more cured, recycled shells to the Shimmo Creek Oyster Restoration Project.
- The shell recycling program is up and running, all of the participants from last year are participating again in some capacity. The team does pickups twice a week. There are also two public drop-off locations for the public to recycle oyster and quahog shells that are later used to build more oyster reefs!
A few weeks ago, surveyors from Horsley Witten Group conducted field work at Sesachacha Pond. This is the first step for the Sesachacha Pond Oyster Restoration/Living Shoreline project. The data gathered will be used for designing the project which will consist of reef ball structures that will serve as habitat for oysters as well as building up the bank between the pond and Polpis Road with natural vegetation.