What's up in Town Administration?
This time of year, we are busy initiating preparations for the upcoming Annual Town Meeting and budget development for the next fiscal year. This involves scheduling dozens of meetings, looking at what has come up since or before the last town meeting with respect to potential warrant articles; economic indicators; and numerous other factors and emerging information for both the town meeting and the budget.
2022 Annual Town Meeting and Town Election
Mark your calendars:
- Monday, May 2 – 2022 Annual Town Meeting will start (at 5:00 pm)
- Tuesday, May 10 – 2022 Annual Town Election
Note regarding Citizen Warrant Articles: If you are considering submitting a Citizen Article, please visit this link. Citizen submittals are due by Monday, November 15th at 4pm.
FY 2023 General Fund Budget
While a strong real estate market is certainly an indication of economic conditions – and to say Nantucket’s real estate market is strong right now could be an understatement - there are other indicators as well, such as unemployment, interest rates, inflation, wages, economic sentiment, local receipts, grant opportunities and state aid. We are monitoring these on a regular basis. Unlike planning for the FY 22 budget, we believe that, with caution, for FY 23, we can focus on areas that need additional resources, including infrastructure, project management, staffing, recruitment and retention, and furthering items in the Select Board Strategic Plan. We are planning to review the Town Administration budget recommendations with the Select Board on December 8th.
FY 2023 Capital Requests
The Capital Program Committee has been meeting weekly since early September, reviewing departmental capital requests. There are some “big ticket” times likely to be brought forward, including design funding for a new Our Island Home facility to be located at Sherburne Commons ($6,000,000 - $8,500,000); design funding for a centralized municipal facility at 2 Fairgrounds Road ($5,000,000 - $7,000,000); School athletic facilities improvements ($16,400,000); and several others as contained in the above presentation.
Select Board Strategic Plan
At the Board’s October 13th meeting, Town Administration provided a comprehensive update as to implementation of the Board’s goals. Some of the goals stalled during the COVID pandemic, some require more resources and direction, and some have been completed or are in progress. A goal that requires a focused discussion, is long-term solid waste planning. We are in the process of scheduling a workshop meeting for this discussion on Monday, November 15th – stay tuned on this.
Downtown sidewalk repairs
Several sidewalk areas downtown have been repaired since the beginning of September, including upper Broad Street near the Jared Coffin House; a section on Main Street in front of Murray’s Toggery; a section on India Street along the Atheneum fence line; in front of the Town Building at 16 Broad Street. A few more areas are planned to be done this fall.
Still a trend! Slow DOWN, people! Remember, you’re already on Nantucket. You (most likely) wouldn’t like speeding in your neighborhood – don’t do it in others.
Still a disappointing trend. Secure your loads! It’s not that hard.
Other Select Board/Town Administration News/Activities
- The Nantucket Pond Coalition gave an annual report to the Select Board on September 29th. A proposed capital project for FY 23 includes $300,000 for design-related costs for dredging Miacomet Pond. If approved, this would be followed by an additional request of $2,000,000 - $4,000,000 for the actual dredging.
- On October 6th, the Board heard a final presentation from Arcadis with respect to a report Arcadis was engaged to prepare earlier this year for options for Baxter Road. At some point over the next several weeks or months, the Board will engage in a more thorough discussion as to the planning options and recommendations of the report; meanwhile, Town Administration is working to engage a consultant to assist with developing a specific long-term plan for the relocation of the road.
- At its October 20th meeting, the Board considered a draft Position Statement regarding the Sconset Beach Preservation Fund (SBPF) erosion control project. The Board took in public comment and will have a continued discussion at its meeting on November 3rd.
- On October 22nd, the department head Cabinet held a facilitated retreat at the Hayloft at Bartlett Farm. We had not been all together, in person, for over a year. We discussed how Town Administration and the departments can be more effective with each other; we engaged in a Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) exercise, with a presentation from DEI Director Kimal McCarthy; and we had a brainstorming session as to ways we could improve recruitment and retention of employees. The session was well received and productive. We are fortunate to have a strong team of dedicated staff.
- The Park & Recreation Commission held a meeting on October 19th to discuss: the School’s athletic facility improvement plan; the Parks Master Plan with respect to Tom Nevers Park and revisions to the plan as a result of sea level rise projections which came out after the Plan was released; and, potential playing field reconfiguration with the potential of the Public Works facility being relocated to the Delta Field property. These discussions will most likely continue throughout the fall and winter.
Nantucket Named a "Cyber Aware Community"
On October 20th, Nantucket was one of 34 Massachusetts municipalities (out of 351) notified that “In recognition of your efforts in the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS) 2021 Cybersecurity Awareness Training Program, your Municipality/School has been named a “Cyber Aware Community. We will be holding a virtual Award Ceremony on Tuesday, October 26th at 10:00 am. Secretary Wood will be the Master of Ceremony and we will also be joined by several speakers.” Chief Technology Officer Karen McGonigle and I attended the virtual ceremony and were very pleased to have received this important recognition. Karen and her staff have been diligent in ensuring that cyber security awareness training is an on-going priority; Town staff have been diligent in participating in the training and bringing forward any issues or concerns to the IT department. Cyber security is a growing threat and requires constant vigilance from all of us to ensure that municipal systems are not compromised, or worse. We are going to see a growing need for resources to be dedicated to cyber security issues.
Sewer Operators Obtain National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO) Certification
All 15 sewer operators and Sewer Director David Gray have passed the MACP, LACP and PACP exams. Passing of the exams is both recognized nationally and internationally. NASSCO’s Pipeline Assessment Certification Program (PACP®), Lateral Assessment Certification Program (LACP®) and Manhole Assessment Certification Program (MACP®) are the trusted sources for proper and consistent assessment condition coding of pipelines, laterals and manholes.
The goal of these programs is to help pipeline system owners create comprehensive databases to properly identify, plan, prioritize, manage and renovate their assets based on condition evaluation.
Allyson Mitchell, New Hire Housing & Real Estate Office: Allyson started with the Town on October 18th as the Office Manager for the Housing & Real Estate Office. Allyson joins the Town with career experiences as a Director of Business and Development in education, office management and a former member of the Affordable Housing Trust. Welcome Allyson!
Jake Visco, New Hire Health & Human Services Department: Jake started with the Town on October 18th as a Public Health inspector for the Health & Human Services Department. Jake joins the Town with a background in managing a septic system inspection business, property maintenance and paraprofessional experience in multiple clinical roles in the community. Welcome Jake!
Morgan Sayle, New Hire Natural Resources: Morgan started with the Town on October 18th as the Coastal Resources Technician for the Natural Resources Department. Morgan joins the Town with prior work experience in monitoring endangered shorebirds on Nantucket and providing public education on shorebird management and seal and shark populations off the coast of Nantucket . Welcome Morgan!
Hello! My name is Morgan and I am the new Coastal Resources Technician in the Natural Resources Department. I grew up on Nantucket and I am excited to be part of the team. My work involves monitoring and documenting erosion on the island as well as monitoring some of our protected species, especially during the summer months. I enjoy being out in the field and keeping tabs on the island and its resources.
Christine Herrmann, promotion within Sewer Department: Christine has been employed with the Town since 2018 and has recently accepted a new position as Sewer Office Administrator for the Sewer Department. Christine joined the Town with a background in office management, customer service and sales. Thank you Christine for your continued service to the Town.
Sewer Director David Gray: A true asset to the Sewer Department since joining our team in 2018, Christine hit the ground running during a time of great transition. Efficient, organized and an excellent communicator, Christine is on the front lines of all we do. Of her many achievements she is instrumental in our department’s success with the Town’s online permitting system, EnerGOV. Her recent accomplishment in delivering by the August 1st deadline the permitting processes for 350+ properties in the Shimmo Sewer Project is indicative of her grace-under-pressure work ethic.
Christine is highly respected and appreciated by her teammates, fellow Town employees and the many professionals and agencies we partner with. She’s especially valued by our grateful patrons who convey their accolades on a daily basis. We congratulate Christine on her well-deserved advancement to her new position!
Alexa Lawrence, promotion within Our Island Home: Alexa has been employed with the Town since January 2021 and has recently accepted a new position as 24hr Dietary Aide for Our Island Home. Alexa joined the Town with a background in landscaping and customer service. She is passionate about helping others and working with our elderly community at Our Island Home. Thank you Alexa for your continued service to the Town!
Paul Berard, promotion within DPW: Paul has been employed full time with the Town since December 2012 and has recently accepted the position of DPW Deputy Director of Facilities. Paul is a leader of the facilities division within DPW and possesses a wealth of experience in maintenance of building and property assets. Paul also brings career experiences in parks and recreation and management of cinema operations to his work at the DPW. Thank you Paul for your continued service to the Town.
Are You Ready for the Winter Season?
Tips from Energy Coordinator Lauren Sinatra, Emergency Management Coordinator Brendan Coakley, and Preservation Planner Holly Backus.
Tips to Winterize your Home - Energy Coordinator Lauren Sinatra
- When home, set your thermostat to 68° or less and decrease it 7 to 10° each time you leave the house for two or more hours, and then again when you go to sleep at night.
- If you have a condensing boiler or an air-source heat pump (“minisplit”), leave your thermostat set at a low, but comfortable temperature. These technologies efficiently adjust in response to the changing outdoor temperature.
- Schedule an annual tune-up of your heating system and clean out filters regularly to improve system performance.
- Remove window AC units and make sure to close and secure storm windows properly.
- Open window shades during the day to capture warmth and close them at night to prevent heat loss.
- While space heaters provide extra warmth to chilly corners or rooms, just remember they are expensive to run and not intended to replace home heating systems.
For more energy saving tips, check out these helpful resources:
Other Ways to Save
If your home is already energy efficient, consider the following programs to save on energy costs this fall and winter:
- Enroll in the Town’s Electric Aggregation Program, Nantucket PowerChoice, which offers a supply rate that is 25% less than National Grid’s winter basic service. Learn more here.
- If you are having trouble paying your electric bill, National Grid offers a number of assistance programs and payment options, such as Budget Billing.
- Heating Bill Assistance: The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps low-income individuals and families with the cost of heating their homes during the winter season. For more information, call the state hotline for social service programs by dialing 211 or (800) 632-8175 or you can visit the LIHEAP website. If you are not eligible for LIHEAP, you may be eligible for help from the Salvation Army's Good Neighbor Energy Fund. For more information, call (800) 334-3047 or visit the Salvation Army’s Good Neighbor Energy Fund website.
Covid Mask Update
The Town's Board of Health has revised its mask order. Masks are now advised, rather than required, in all public indoor spaces. As the changing seasons and upcoming holidays may lead to a sudden spike in cases, the Board of Health has added a trigger condition allowing automatic escalation to a mandatory mask order should COVID surveillance indicate an increased degree of community spread.
As the volume of testing makes PCR testing insufficient to give a granular picture of actual COVID numbers on the island, the Health Department has decided to use the local Wastewater testing results to gauge the risk level necessity of a mask order. This works as follows:
The Town receives weekly reports from BioBot comparing our wastewater to other towns. These numbers are compared on a number line like this:
This sample shows us well below the median levels nationwide, meaning the mask advisory is sufficient. Should the testing pass the threshold of the median sample, that would indicate we're doing worse, in terms of COVID, than the majority of other towns sampled. This triggers the mask order, escalating from an advisory to a mandate lasting 2 weeks past the most recent test showing lower than median test results.
COVID Vaccination Walk-In Clinic
Every Sunday from noon to 3 pm, the Town's COVID Vaccination Clinic is open to the public at 131 Pleasant Street trailer.
Other sites offering COVID vaccines on-island
- Dan's Pharmacy: COVID vaccine wait-list open. Currently providing Moderna vaccine. Wait list available on the website, call in requests at (508) 825-9100.
- Health Imperatives: Offering Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer. Call (508-228-9189) or visit www.healthimperatives.org/Nantucket to schedule an appointment.
- ACK Dental Arts: Offering Johnson and Johnson. Visit their website for more information: https://ackdentalart.com/.
COVID in Numbers
Every week, we report the total number of vaccinations administered on Nantucket (on Mondays), the results of COVID presence in Nantucket's Wastewater (on Thursdays), and the Testing Positivity Rate (reported daily). Visit COVID in Numbers for updated information.
Coastal Resilience Plan
The recently issued Coastal Resilience Plan document contains 40 recommendations to guide the Town and alleviate current and future coastal flooding that sea level rise will exacerbate. There are also several pilot projects that are included to assist areas with ongoing erosion concerns. The centerpiece of this plan for the Downtown area is to have a Downtown Neighborhood Flood Barrier that will use a connected system of raised roads, bulkheads, beach berms and specifically located barriers with access to wharves. One of the newest pieces of information from the previous drafts are the project costs. These are planning estimates that are presented with a low and high contingency cost estimate, mainly for the structural projects. While some of these figures are high, we must also understand a few points. Some of the numbers are presented with an estimated benefit, to give some context. Also, projects are presented over a long timeframe, to spread the costs partly based on how soon a project may be needed depending on when sea level rise may affect an area. Funding for most projects will be sought from State and Federal programs to cover most or the majority of the costs, once each project is finalized and fully costed out. Other potential sources of funding from local groups, donors and philanthropies may also be sought to help further reduce impacts to the tax base.
More than 2 years in the planning and a year in research and development, the Coastal Resilience Plan is only a few steps from completion, including endorsement from the Coastal Resilience Advisory Committee (CRAC) and Select Board. On Tuesday November 2nd and also likely on Tuesday November 16th, between 10am and noon, this will be the focal point of discussion at Coastal Resilience Advisory Committee meetings to understand and question the content of this document and work towards a committee recommendation.
Once accepted, work is expected to begin to move forward on project planning and implementation so that we can see benefits to the community and start to reduce impacts from coastal flooding, erosion and mitigate sea level rise.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Actions
Thaïs Fournier: Natural Resources Department Water Resource Specialist
Meet Thaïs, the Town of Nantucket’s Water Resource Specialist at the Natural Resources Department (NRD). A Massachusetts native of Portuguese ancestry, Thaïs has always enjoyed being around water and over the years she has found opportunities to turn her childhood obsession into her profession. It is evident that Thaïs clearly loves her job, and it is one of few town positions with an ocean view office. Given the opportunity to talk about her work, Thaïs shared insights on the significances of water quality, coastal resilience, environmental justice, and much more.
Thaïs’ first visit to Nantucket was for leisure. At the time of her initial visit she was also on the job hunt and purposefully visited the town’s NRD. As she recalled, “It was really sunny and gorgeous. I literally walked from the ferry to the [NRD’s] Jetties office, to the hatchery, and then to a restaurant... [I thought Nantucket] was quaint, cute, small, beautiful; just like this hidden oasis.” Impressed by Nantucket’s charm, Thaïs decided to apply for the Water Resource Specialist position after learning there would be an opening during that initial visit. “My interview here was in February and it was a rainy, snowy, choppy boat ride [kind of day] … I got off the boat and I was like great, I am going to be nauseous for this interview… But I am glad I saw that side too, you know, I got a full idea that this is what it’s going to look like,” if she got and accepted the position, which she did, going on three years come March 2022.
Thaïs is a trained scientist with a master’s degree in marine science from the University of San Diego. Prior to working for the town, Thaïs was an employee at the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), doing what she described as important but “monotonous” work that lacked “hands-on field experience,” as she was focused on policy work at the headquarters office in Washington, D.C. For Thaïs, taking on the responsibilities of Nantucket’s Water Resource Specialist position have been exciting and fulfilling since the start.
Thaïs is a surface water specialist that focuses on bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, streams, oceans, etc. According to Thaïs, “My primary role for this position is going out monthly and testing our harbors, ponds, and streams for basic water quality parameters, so that we are meeting water quality standards that are put out by the [EPA].” She went on to explain that, “this data helps inform our decisions for how we are going to manage our water resources.”
Thaïs demonstrated her know-how and passion for her work when she causally referenced how the position’s responsibilities were coordinated by the seasons; but it was an insightful and relatable point, because ‘weather and work’ is a topic that many year-round residents can comprehend. “In the summer time it is very field-based. We are out on the boat a lot, we are collecting water samples, we are looking at phytoplankton samples and monitoring for our harmful algal blooms that happen in the summer… In the winter time it is a lot of writing reports, data analysis, getting grants in order for future projects in the springtime,” and more.
Nantucket’s Water Resource Specialist position can be adventurously dangerous; however, Thaïs’ calmness, experience, and professionalism in the interview did not give off any sense of worry when talking about: SCUBA diving, shark sightings, or the many potential perils associated with open water. “Any time you are recreating out on a body of water… there is always a risk. For example, there have been safety issues with people scalloping in waders and an incoming tide which can pose a threat, you know… so safe water practices are huge.”
One of Thaïs’ most intriguing stories about her work is the occasional warning she receives from other boaters on shark sightings. “To be fair [when SCUBA diving] we are in the harbor so half the time you can just stand up, I think the deepest we go is probably twenty feet under the water, so it’s not that bad. But, I mean, there has been juvenile white sharks in the harbor… it’s been documented, but I haven’t seen any personally,” she explained.
Though it was never stated outright, Thaïs is an environmentalist at heart. She takes her responsibilities to protect Nantucket’s surface waters seriously, which was evidenced throughout the many topics and work-related issues discussed during her interview. She shared graphic details about the dangers of algal blooms to humans and pets and she provided clear explanations on why people should care about environmental justice and coastal resilience, especially here on Nantucket. Thaïs also talked about her position’s impacts on other sectors of the island such as tourism, real estate, recreational activities, and more.
One objective of the Meet NEET initiative is to gauge employee’s perceptions of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), as well as, gauge how interviewees envision the intersections of DEI and their work. For Thaïs, her wish for NRD and the DEI Office revolves around future collaborations on public outreach, reaching Nantucket’s diverse population to participate in and enjoy the island’s natural resources. On a more basic level, for Thaïs, “just having a DEI office is a good start” for residents and the community because it’s a “resource” for ensuring “equality” and it will allow us to “see different sides” of complex situations such as race, gender, and opportunities in the workplace.
To learn more about the many responsibilities of Nantucket’s Natural Resources Department and the work Thaïs does, she invites you to follow the department on Instagram, @NRDACK, and on Facebook. To conclude, if you bump into Thaïs at Hummock Pond, at the beach, or in the harbor collecting samples be sure to say hello or ask what she’s doing, Thaïs welcomes opportunities to talk with members of the community about her passion and profession, water.
Meet NEET, a DEI/HR initiative that identifies unsung heroes who keep their departments performing at optimal capacity.
Did you miss Energy Efficiency Day on October 6th? Don’t worry, it’s never too late to improve the energy efficiency of your home or business. Check out these helpful tips and resources for saving energy and money this heating season.
Energy Efficiency Programs and Rebates
- Take advantage of the vast number of Mass Save® programs available to residents and businesses, including no-cost energy assessments and generous incentives on weatherization, lighting, HVAC equipment, water heaters, wifi thermostats, and appliances.
- Visit the Mass Save Marketplace to access instant discounts and deals on lighting, appliances, smart thermostats, and more.
Looking to take the next step with Climate Action?
Attend the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative’s Annual NET ZERO Conference—THIS FRIDAY
This virtual and free conference will convene federal, state, regional, and local leaders, businesses, and advocates to explore innovative policies and tools that will accelerate our journey to a clean and equitable energy future.
Friday, October 29, 2021 from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Fire Department News
Five employees of the Fire Department have started paramedic training. The program, which takes approximately 1 year, includes classroom time, hospital clinical training, field internships on ambulances, and a final certification.
Natural Resources Department
On Tuesday, October 26, Hummock Pond was opened with Sesachacha scheduled for next Monday, tentatively. Water quality monitoring and testing was performed for both ponds last week and will be repeated a week after the opening to assess changes. Bi-annual pond openings represent a hydraulic management technique and facilitate dilution of high-nutrient pond waters with low-nutrient ocean waters. In addition to flushing of the pond, openings also allow access for anadromous fish (fish that spend most of their lives in saltwater and return to freshwater to spawn).
Hummock and Sesachacha Ponds are opened to the ocean twice per year, spring and fall, with varied timing and duration over the years. In general, openings last one to three weeks, lower the pond by about half its volume, and refill it to about the 75% mark. The remaining 25% of pond volume is refilled more gradually by groundwater and direct precipitation, with refill requiring at least a month, longer during dry periods. There is variation in the duration of opening and change in pond volume, and the impact varies along a gradient from ocean to inland.