TRURO — Residents are rallying against Dept. of Public Works Director Jarrod Cabral’s plan to replace a damaged culvert that is restricting tidal flow into Mill Pond.
Cabral told the select board that the culvert should be replaced by a 95-foot breach with a 10-foot-wide inner channel, which would permanently close that part of Mill Pond Road to vehicular travel.
Scott Horsley, the town’s water resources consultant, concurs. “This is the best long-term solution and will provide the best water quality and ecological restoration results,” he wrote in February.
Mill Pond Road, just over a half-mile long, connects Depot Road with Old County Road. Those two roads intersect about a half-mile east of Mill Pond Road — together they form a triangle that surrounds the eponymous pond.
“Everyone is for restoring tidal flow into Mill Pond,” Cynthia Conroy, a Depot Road resident, told the Independent, “but the residents want Mill Pond Road to remain a thoroughfare from Old County Road to Depot Road.” Conroy is the author of a petitioned article on Truro’s town meeting warrant asking the select board to avoid permanently closing Mill Pond Road to drivers.
A low-lying roads study conducted by the Cape Cod Commission classified Mill Pond Road as vulnerable but gave it a low criticality score based on emergency services, vulnerable populations, economy, and usage/daily traffic.
The DPW noted at a March 8 public information session that “this sort of analysis does not consider people’s emotional feelings toward the road.”
The three other alternatives, according to consultants at Woods Hole Group and Fuss & O’Neill, are a 65-foot-wide channel breach, a 10.5-foot-wide culvert, and an 8-foot-wide culvert.
If the town opts for a culvert, Mill Pond Road would remain a through street, and it could be raised later to protect it from sea-level rise. Raising the road two feet, the consultants say, would protect against a 100-year storm — for a while. By 2070, a raised Mill Pond Road would again be vulnerable.
A culvert or a breach would improve tidal flushing and contribute to salt marsh restoration and shellfish habitats, the consultants said. The breach-specific environmental benefits would come from the road closure and the ensuing drop in vehicle contaminants.
The estimated cost of the long breach is $1.48 million; a smaller breach would cost $1.1 million. The 10.5-foot and 8-foot culverts are estimated to cost $2.42 million and $2.2 million, respectively. All four alternatives would be 75-percent funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Cabral said.
An online petition started by Louise Heard titled “Save Mill Pond Road” had garnered more than 1,200 signatures as of March 14. Some residents have pointed out that the cost of a pedestrian bridge and other adjustments to accommodate the fire dept. are not included in the DPW’s cost estimates for the breach options, Conroy said.
The DPW materials sparked confusion by stating, “The town is not discontinuing any portion of Mill Pond Road.”
Cabral told the Independent that the road would be considered “discontinued” only if the town gave up ownership. Were a breach installed, he said, “the road would still be accessible, just not for vehicles.”
Raising the road after a culvert installation would also be expensive, Cabral said. “Getting that through the permitting cycle is no guarantee,” he added, “and whenever it gets kicked back to the town, that’s more you have to spend.”
The select board is planning to pick an option for Mill Pond Road at its March 28 meeting, according to select board Chair Kristen Reed.
Some residents have asked why there won’t be a town meeting vote other than on Conroy’s nonbinding article. Town Planner Barbara Carboni told the Independent that town counsel law has advised that a town meeting vote is not required in this instance.
“The town is hearing us but not listening to what the citizens are telling them,” Conroy told the Independent. “It has been an information highway that is one-way.”
$30-Million DPW facility
Almost 150 people joined the March 8 DPW public information session, but fewer than half of them stayed for its second half, which described options for a new DPW facility that would cost almost $30 million.
The new building would store the town’s trucks indoors during Cape Cod winters, which would prolong their working life and would also improve the working conditions for DPW staff.
Three locations are being considered: 24 Town Hall Road (the current DPW site), 340-344 Route 6, and the Walsh property, a 70-acre parcel that the town purchased in 2019.
Each location has accompanying site-specific costs, with the Route 6 spot projected to cost an added $2.9 million, the current site $2.7 million, and the Walsh property $2.5 million.
Betty Gallo, a member of the Walsh Property Community Planning Committee, said that a DPW facility would upend the planning currently underway for the parcel.
“I would be very upset if we actually put it on the Walsh property,” Gallo said. “That is the best place on the Walsh property for housing. Given our crisis, I think it’s important to keep that in mind.”
Cabral said that he does not expect to see a DPW building on the town meeting warrant this year and that a finance dept. review is the project’s next step.