October 25, 2000 Meeting Notes

In attendance: Gene Benson, Colin Browning, Joe Connnelly, Cathy Garnett, Bryan Hasbrouck, Jane Howard, Elizabeth Karpati, Ann LeRoyer, Leslie Mayer, Sharon Stafford, Don Vitters, Susan Wheelock, David White. The meeting was facilitated by Gene Benson.  The minutes are by Elizabeth Karpati.

MONDAY, November 27, 7:30 P.M. TOWN HALL ANNEX, 2ND FLOOR.

Consultant's report and prospects for the trees and swimming:
As reported at the last meeting, the recommendations in the new consultant's report are as follows: 
Keep water low at all times, make repairs to dam, AND remove trees from all but center portion of dam. Trees are dangerous on an earthen dam because they can be uprooted by a storm, tearing a hole in the dam at the worst possible time, and because water can infiltrate along their roots and weaken the dam. But center portion of dam is so wide that such damage wouldn't endanger it. 
The new consultant and Rich Bento seem to think that Option 4 in the original report, which we thought would save the trees, did not say so definitely.  However, the new consultant still thinks the Town could get approval for planning for the 500-year storm instead of the a ½ PMS (probable maximum storm). [see January Notes and Summary]

Rich Bento seems ready to go ahead and follow these recommendations promptly. He has the money ($300,000 from water/sewer fund), to make the repairs next construction season (spring/summer). There is no deadline but the Town is worried about liability. It is unclear whether the swimming area could or would be isolated (leakproofed) in time to provide swimming next summer.

The dilemma is that if the Res is not used for flood control (if the trees are retained and the gate is kept open at absolutely all times), there will be more flooding downstream in heavy rains. If the Town wants to be able to use the Res for flood control, it has to make the recommended changes or accept liability in the unlikely but possible event that the dam fails. If the water stays low at all times, the Res would fill in slowly and lose flood control capability anyway, but it would probably take centuries. Turning it into a real flood control structure, however, would cost millions (building a higher, all-concrete

Unanswered questions: Liability is the big issue. Could the Town buy insurance to buy time for studying the options further?  Who would make the decision -- Rich Bento and the new Town Manager, or would the Selectmen be involved? Would ConCom approval be needed before the trees could be cut, or would public safety override the ConCom's jurisdiction?  Probably there would have to be at least a hearing by the ConCom, maybe also by Parks & Rec.  (Since the money is available, Town Meeting would not be involved.)  Might it be sufficient to remove the trees from the inside of the dam only?

Census Mailing Survey Results:
The survey taken on Town Day 1999 and in a couple of schools was analyzed in detail and a summary was given to Town Meeting 2000. The census mailing survey allowed for more open-ended replies which don't lend themselves well to such statistical analysis. Leslie Mayer brought in all replies (nearly 1400), sorted into broad categories, e.g. users vs. non-users, want to keep the swimming area vs. don't care. 

Only 4 respondents had never even heard of the Res, and only 8, mostly from the precinct that includes Colonial Village, said that flooding was a big concern (but that was before the gate screw broke this summer, causing brief flooding in Colonial Village). 

A smallish group (maybe 10% judging from the size of the piles??) was not in favor of swimming or favored a pool rather than the existing area. A larger group stated no preference about swimming but expressed much concern about habitat preservation. A sizeable group of non-users declared in favor of keeping the swimming area (probably adults who don't swim but want the opportunity for children). Over half of respondents are in favor of swimming, many passionately so.

There is a lot of concern about goose droppings, ducks getting into the swimming area, and the like. Unfortunately the desire to keep creatures from the swimming area runs counter to the desire to have a natural swimming area and to maintain habitat for these creatures. The water in the swimming area is tested and it is safe, so this is an aesthetic or ā€œPRā€� problem.

Do we need a Town recreation complex with a pool? There is no Town plan for such a thing, and the general preference seems to be for a natural swimming area. Since the playground was built at the Res, the area has had year-round recreational use. But in summer you can't get into the playground without a Res tag and can't walk around the Res without going out onto Lowell Street.

It was decided that Leslie would do a tally of the replies falling into each of her categories, and maybe a pie chart. This could be put into the 2001 census mailing as a follow-up. It would also be valuable for updating the Open Space plan, which needs to be done this year.

Recreation Department Beach Issues:
Joe Connelly presented six years' worth of statistics on use of the Res swimming area (tags sold, daily passes, etc.). This year the numbers are down because of the weather, but usually the Res brings in some $30,000 in revenue.  I.e., if there were no swimming at the Res, there would be a shortfall of that amount in the funds available for other Town recreation activities, which would have to be cancelled or their fees increased or Town Meeting would have to be asked to fund them from general revenue.

The swimming area has no legal capacity limit but pools do.  It would take two pools to replace the Res area, and if the pools reached their capacity on any day, some people would have to be kept out.  Pools would cost about $3.5 million for only about 60 days of use per year.  Pools are subject to more regulations than a beach, so operating costs would be higher and tags would have to cost more (now $25). 

Would a leakproofed swimming area still qualify as a beach rather than a pool? Probably yes.  Rich Bento doesn't have the funds to pay for an engineering study for leakproofing so who could pay for it?  Such a study may cost less if done as part of the overall study for the needed dam repairs. What is needed is an overall plan which covers the swimming
area and environmental matters including water chestnut control and maintenance.

ConCom news: Susan Brent has left Arlington and the Commission; there has also been other turnover. The good news is that David White will be on the Commission and we will therefore have a liaison.

Possible Alternatives to consultant's recommendations:
-- Take out part of the dam, leaving most of it and the trees? But decommissioning a dam is a five-year process that can cost $300,000!
-- If trees can remain on wider part of dam, could rest of dam be widened to match and all the trees saved? But this could be done only on the inside (no room on the outside of the dam, where the brook flows) and would require a permit to fill in a small amount of wetlands.  Feasibility? Cost?

The dam is classified as a high hazard  because of development downstream, regardless of its condition.  The town of Sharon accepted the liability and refused to cut down the trees on an earthen dam, but it probably has less development downstream.

Don Vitters will talk to Rich Bento about recreation issues involved as Bento seems to see the Res only as an engineering problem.  We need to make him aware of the gist of the survey responses, else he will think this committee is concerned only about the trees.

Do the Selectmen know the Res is an issue?  They know about the DEM report saying that the trees have to come down, but they probably don't know how fast things are moving.

Process issues: 
  •  Relations between us and Rich Bento; between him and others like the Selectmen and the new Town Manager. We should try to meet with Bento and the new Town Manager soon.
  • We need another public meeting with the consultants, to present the new recommendations and ask for public input. This needs to be arranged with Bento. December or January? 
  • If the trees really must go, the Town must do something about swimming: if there will be none next year, there will be a big public outcry. 
  • We should try to make sure than the whole job is done next year -- not just cutting the trees and leaving the swimming area and landscaping for later.
  • Do we need a  "Friends of the Res" group that can raise money?
  • We should make sure that Rich Bento attends the next meeting (reschedule if he can't make Nov. 8) and find out his plans for timing, landscaping, swimming, coordination, public forum.


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