Preview of Special Town Meeting — October 16, 2023

With our new Town Manager, Kim Newman, at the helm, Orleans is entering a new era. Newman is hitting the ground running — you can see some of her initiatives taking shape at Monday’s Town Meeting, where residents will vote on 33 Warrant articles.

Along with some regular housekeeping, a number of Warrant articles are designed to make Orleans’ town government more modern, more nimble, and more prepared to act — staffing, human resources, and personnel are recurring themes. So is our natural environment. Nearly one-third of the 33 Warrant articles pertain to restoring or protecting our waters, flora and fauna, reducing fossil fuel dependence and the use of harmful chemicals, and encouraging sustainable energy use.

Want to get prepped? First, take a look at the Warrant — printed copies are available at Town Hall, or you can find it online here. Looking for some context? The Orleans Citizens Forum hosted a 90-minute discussion with Kim Newman (find EXIT 89’s July Q&A with her here), Select Board Chair Michael Herman, and Finance Committee member Constance Kremer — moderated by EXIT 89 — which you can watch by clicking here. (Fast forward or jump directly to 10:23, when sound issues are resolved.)

Never been? Attending Town Meeting is a truly special experience — and a rare privilege. Democracy doesn’t get any more direct than this. Mark your calendars now:

Orleans Special Town Meeting
Monday, October 16 at 6:00 PM
Nauset Regional Middle School gym

You may want to get there early to check in, grab a handheld electronic voting gizmo, and find a seat. Childcare may be available; information will be posted on the Town website. Bring water, maybe a snack, and your copy of the Warrant.

Without further ado, let’s zoom in on some of the articles we’ll be considering next Monday night…

Articles 3+4: Fire & Rescue Staffing and Equipment

Fire & Rescue needs more staff. Currently, the station is unable to respond to two or more simultaneous calls, according to Chief Geof Deering, and “cannot deliver the level of service that our community deserves and expects.”

Article 3 would allow Orleans to hire, train and equip eight new full-time firefighters, raising the number of responders per shift from 5 to 7. To hear Chief Deering describe what he calls the “urgent need” for the funding, click here.

Article 4 seeks approval for an additional $500,000 for the $1.6 million aerial-ladder fire truck approved at last May’s meeting. The price hike is partly due to the current truck’s trade-in value being less than previously anticipated, coupled with ongoing, rampant cost increases. Both the Select Board and the Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend these two Articles. A simple majority vote at Town Meeting is required for the articles to pass, plus approval of Prop 2 ½ overrides on the ballot.

Articles 1, 11-14: Town Hall Changes

The pool of qualified individuals seeking careers in municipal government is ever smaller (you can read more on that here), and recruiting, especially in our region, has become a major challenge. Competition for talent across the Cape is fierce. A related issue — and a major one for Orleans, according to Kim Newman — is the lack of succession plans for our much-valued and talented Town Hall staff. These five articles relate to reorganization, staffing and succession planning at Town Hall, and represent both ongoing and one-time expenditures.

Article 1, Provision #5, would add $50,000 to the Select Board/Town Manager Expense Fund. This money would give Orleans the option of offering salary or benefit increases as needed throughout the year instead of having to wait for approval at Town Meeting, which would allow Orleans to be more competitive in the marketplace when it comes to recruiting, hiring, and retaining staff.

Article 11 would fund a review of succession planning, regionalization, modernization, and efficiencies. Professional consultants would examine the warrant and Town Meeting process, recruitment methods, and staffing structures, among other practices. The article asks for a one-time outlay of $150,000.

Article 12 would fund a full-time Human Resources Director position. As Kim Newman told the Orleans Citizens Forum on September 28th, human resources are more complex than ever, especially with our growing numbers of seasonal workers. This would streamline Town Hall recruiting, hiring, and HR efforts to one office.

Article 13 asks for $168,000 to fund two new positions in the Recreation Department — one full-time (either Assistant Director or Program Manager) and one part-time supporting role — and would require approval of a Prop 2½ override on the ballot.

Article 14 seeks to amend the Personnel Bylaw by adding eight new job titles — a change that would allow Town Hall to hire or reclassify staff as reorganization and succession planning efforts unfold, without having to wait for the next Town Meeting for approval. A simple majority is required for each of these articles to pass. The Select Board and Finance Committee both voted unanimously to recommend all five.

Pickleball courts are proposed for DPW's old garage

Article 10: Pickleball, Anyone?

It has a funny name, but to its devotees pickleball is no joke. This article requests $25,000 from the Community Preservation Fund for pre-construction planning and design of pickleball courts or “other municipal uses” on the town-owned property at 18-21 Bay Ridge Lane, the former location of a Highway Department garage. Both the Select Board and Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend. A simply majority is required for the article to pass.

Article 15: Comprehensive Town Plan

Orleans is already underway with a new long-range Comprehensive Plan for 2024/2025, as required by our Home Rule Charter. Consultants from Tighe & Bond have met with our planning board and been hired to do research, develop goals, and expedite a public engagement process so that the plan reflects the needs and interests of residents and the community at large. This article would fund (for $120,000) the completion of this work.

For a better understanding of the process of developing the Orleans Comprehensive Plan (OCP) and how it can help us make crucial decisions in the future, click here.

Key issues addressed: land use and development, housing, economic sustainability, natural resources, and public infrastructure. Both the Select Board and Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend this article. A simple majority is required for the article to pass.

Articles 17+18: Special Education Fund

Special education needs are variable and difficult to predict. To help Orleans Elementary School respond more effectively as needs arise throughout the year, these two articles would create a Special Education Stabilization Fund and seed it with $52,000. The Select Board and Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend both articles. A simple majority vote at Town Meeting is required for them to pass.

PIlgrim Lake was one of many closures this year

Articles 6-8, 24, 26+27, 29, 30, 32: Environmental Stewardship

Our natural environment is what makes Cape Cod so special — and it’s suffering. This summer saw the three-month closure of the Nauset Estuary due to Red Tide, the season-long closure of the residents’ OSV beach due to erosion, a month-long closure of Pilgrim Lake due to cyanobacteria, the emergency closure of Skaket Beach due to harmful bacteria levels from storm runoff, and most recently (October 4), the closure of Crystal Lake due to cyanobacteria. These events threaten our shellfishing and tourism industries, our flora and fauna, our health, and the quality of life in Orleans.

Nearly one-third of the Warrant relates to our environment — from water quality and energy efficiency to pesticide usage and sewering.

Here’s a rundown of key articles:

Article 6 asks voters to approve $200,000 to fund projects that could include the installation of electric-vehicle charging stations, hydration stations, solar-powered trash receptacles, and related initiatives on Town-owned property. The goal of this article is to have funds available so the Town can act quickly to pursue matching grants or other funding opportunities as they arise. The Select Board voted unanimously to recommend the article while the Finance Committee was split (5 yes, 2 no). A simple majority is required for the article to pass.

Article 7 would devote $25,000 to a Sustainability and Energy Manager position. Town Manager Kim Newman told the audience at the Orleans Citizens Forum’s September 28th meeting that this could be a regional position funded by multiple towns, since the Cape’s environmental issues are often regional, not local. The Select Board voted unanimously to recommend this article, while the Finance Committee was split (5 yes, 2 no). A simple majority is required for the article to pass.

Articles 8 asks for $25,000 to fund design services and grant applications for solar panels to provide electric power for Water Department purposes. The preliminary design must be completed before the town seeks permission from the state to install the solar array (a collection of solar panels) within the town’s watershed property. The Select Board voted unanimously to recommend this article. On October 5, after more information was provided to the Finance Committee, it voted unanimously to recommend. A simple majority vote is needed for the article to pass.

Article 24: Home Rule Petition for Pesticide Reduction Bylaw. The goal of this bylaw is to reduce toxic pesticide use in Orleans — on both public and private property. Like all Home Rule Petitions, it seeks approval from the State to create special legislation. Watch a PSA on the petition here. For more information, including FAQs, studies, and lists of which types of products would still be allowed, click here. The Select Board voted unanimously to recommend the article. The Finance Committee was split, with one abstention (3-3-1). A simple majority vote is required for the article to pass.

Article 26 + 27: The main goal behind our extensive Wastewater Plan is to mitigate the impact of nutrient pollution in our ponds and coastal waters. Article 26 would expand the area to be included in the survey and the preliminary design of Phase 3. A simple majority vote is required for the article to pass. Article 27 would expand Phase 2, the Meetinghouse Pond Area, to include an additional 41 properties. The Select Board unanimously recommended both articles. The Finance Committee voted to recommend with one abstention (6-0-1). A two-thirds majority vote is required for this article to pass.

Article 29 would change several fines and fees related to connecting to the Town’s new wastewater infrastructure. The current application fee for a sewer service area "expansion" would be reduced from $1,500 to $250 for single-family homes. The fine for failure to connect — after ample notice has been given — would increase from $50 to $250 per day. And last, a sewer “mark-out” fee of $40 would apply to new connections beyond the initial project. Both the Select Board and Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend. A simple majority vote is required for the article to pass.

Article 30 proposes Orleans adopt a new building code — the “Specialized Energy Code” — that would require certain new construction in Orleans to be more energy efficient. In keeping with the State’s goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector by 2050, the new code would apply to new mixed-fuel construction (buildings that use fossil fuels in addition to electricity), municipal buildings, single-family homes over 4,000 square feet, and multi-family housing over 12,000 square feet. The code would go into effect on July 1, 2024. The Select Board voted unanimously to recommend this article. The Finance Committee recommendation was not unanimous, (6-1-0). A simple majority vote is required for the article to pass.

Article 32 asks voters to approve $50,000 toward an alum (aluminum sulfate) treatment of Pilgrim Lake to help prevent future cyanobacteria blooms, after the lake was closed for over a month this summer when the toxic algae was detected. If the article passes, the Town would hire an environmental consultant and schedule a public hearing with the Orleans Conservation Commission, which would decide whether to proceed with the treatment, provided it is approved by the State. (Due to its size, Pilgrim Lake is classified as a “Great Pond” and publicly owned under State law.) The treatment could start in as few as 23 weeks; an appeal could add six months or more to the timeline.

Pros and Cons: Supporters of the alum treatment say it’s a proven solution to the cyanobacteria problem that worked at privately-owned Uncle Harvey’s Pond, and it should be started as soon as possible. Other residents, concerned about the long-term effects of alum, would like more time to study the issue. (For a fascinating dive into a diagnostic assessment of Pilgrim, in which other approaches to protecting its health are discussed, click here. For more information about toxic algae and how to identify a bloom, click here.) The Select Board voted unanimously to recommend the article, but may revisit this vote at its October 11th meeting. On October 5, the Finance Committee's vote was split, (4-2-1.) A simple majority is required for the article to pass.

Reminder to Vote Again

Our Special Town Election is Tuesday, November 7, 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM at the Council on Aging Senior Center. Here's what the ballot will look like:

  • To see the Town Meeting Warrant, click here.
  • For more information about Town Meeting, click here.
  • Can’t be there in person? You won't be able to vote, but you can watch a livestream of Town Meeting by clicking here.
  • Want to get involved in Town planning — or another interest of yours? For a list of committees that need members, click here.
  • A “Citizen’s Interest Form” to fill out can be found here.

EXIT 89 is an independent publication. Our mission is to help Orleans voters make sense of town issues by providing a clear and impartial overview of the latest developments. We want to help fill the current information gap, reduce the "mystery" of Town Meeting, and promote vibrant civic engagement.

Our hyperlocal digest is researched and written by journalists Martha Sherrill and Emily Miller. Elaine Baird and Lynn Bruneau are the founding advisors. Editing, infographics and tech support are provided by Kazmira Nedeau of Sea Howl Bookshop. We are all residents of Orleans.

Our digest is 100% free — and we aim to keep it that way. Contributions keep us going. If you made a gift to EXIT 89 in the past, THANK YOU! — and we hope you’ll consider giving again. If we’re not yet on your list of worthy causes, we hope to earn a spot there soon. With Lower Cape Television (LCTV) — a 503(c)(3) — as our fiscal sponsor, all contributions are now tax deductible. Donations by a check made out to "EXIT 89" will save us a processing fee. Please send these to EXIT 89, P.O. Box 1145, Orleans, MA 02653. To donate online, click here.

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