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400 East Blog


By Jamie Balliett
Wicked Local Harwich
Posted Nov 09, 2011 @ 02:10 PM

HARWICH — Taking a substantial step towards a physical reality for the new Monomoy Regional School District, attendees at Monday night’s special town meeting quickly approved spending $2 million towards the design of new high school to be located in front of Harwich High School.
Monomoy School Committee Vice Chairman Brian Widegren explained that the plan would be to use a previously utilized school design and that this would translate into, “Significantly less,” in architectural costs.
The state will cover $1,030,600 and following the formula between Chatham (28 percent) and Harwich (72 percent), the towns will borrow $271,432 and $697,968, respectively.
The estimated $54 million school will open in 2014, housing 700 students from grades 8 to 12.
Monomoy officials announced that the state School Building Authority would pick up not the expected 49.6 percent of the project but instead 51.5 percent of the total costs.
“That starts to add up,” said Widegren of the increased percentage, which will reduce the local borrowing by another $1 million.
The measure passed with a nearly unanimous voice vote.
In other action, voters also quickly approved spending $185,000 towards the purchase of a new ambulance.
While the town has typically bought a replacement ambulance every two years, this one is being sought earlier due to several factors. Ambulances are racking up high miles and soaring maintenance costs due to the surging number of emergency medical calls, many of which must drive to Hyannis for the closest hospital. 
The fire department also has secured the option to purchase a showroom ambulance at a savings of over $40,000. After this, the town may have to spend up to $240,000 on their next ambulance – bigger truck engines and frames are being required as part of new emergency response standards.
A measure to allow the town to formally lease the town’s Allen Harbor parking lot for winter boat storage was approved.  Earlier in the evening, the selectmen voted to award the contract to Allen Harbor Marine.  Payments to the town for 2011 and 2012 will be $15,092 each.
An article to fund $7,500 towards a management reorganization of town government was ultimately turned down after considerable debate.  While currently 17 department heads report directly to Town Administrator James Merriam, this proposal would establish two new divisional directors to serve as a filter so that Merriam would only hear from 9 heads.
While Merriam explained that part of the town reorganization has already been put into place, voters were critical with his proposal.
Former selectman Don Howell said, “What you are seeing is the corporatization of Harwich,” through the installation of extra management personnel.  “I think this is nonsense,” he concluded.
Selectmen chairman Larry Ballantine replied that, “We want the town to be all moving in the same direction,” adding that, “Give us a chance to move our organization forward.”
Resident Colleen Springer noted that, “It sounds more like the town administrator is having trouble receiving this data and doing something with it.”
Cranberry farmer Leo Cakounes added, “Clearly if it’s not broken why are we spending money to fix it?”
“If you approve this, you will be paying more money, for certain positions, to do less,” Cakounes warned.
After multiple speakers opposed the measure, Merriam tried to respond but ended up getting some sour faces from attendees after he commented that, “We are not proposing this to make our jobs easier.”
The measure failed with a voice vote, followed by a round of applause.
After several years of turned down proposals to set aside funds to manage their infrastructure, the Cranberry Valley Golf Course received an approval to set up a new revolving fund to pay for capital expenses.  The measure will utilize a new $50 fee per golf member to expend up to $50,000 a year towards property improvements.
Selectman Ed McManus explained to attendees that both the Finance Committee and the selectmen have been asking the Golf Committee to take responsibility for their capital costs by funding it with member dues and that this proposal is a good step in that direction.
Selectman Angelo La Mantia added that the measure was intended, “To keep our golf course at the quality level that it is – and it is an excellent level.”
The measure passed with a voice vote.

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