PROVINCETOWN — Provincetown’s second outdoor, Covid-safe town meeting was held on Saturday, May 1 and it was relatively uncontentious, with nearly every article passing by large margins.
Articles that added members to the Pier Corp. board, funded a new pump house at Court Street, and created a new diversity, equity, and inclusion office in town hall drew the most discussion, but all three passed easily. A fourth article that would have disbanded the Pier Corp., the autonomous body that manages town-owned MacMillan Pier, was discussed at length before the voters decided to indefinitely postpone — effectively killing it.
Town Moderator Mary-Jo Avellar could not make the meeting because of a health emergency, and Steve Katsurinis was elected temporary moderator at the outset.
Avellar had a fall in March, her sister Susan Avellar told the Independent. A scan conducted to investigate continuing headaches revealed a subdural hematoma, and emergency surgery was needed. “She’s going to be fine,” her sister said. “We’re all pretty hard-headed.”
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion
More than a dozen people spoke on Article 13, a citizens’ petition to appropriate $136,000 for a new office of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Lead petitioner Donna Walker said the allocation could fund salary and benefits for one full-time professional, as well as an assessment that would provide data on access to town resources as well as equity issues in the broader community.
“In order to make our town work, we ask people to move here temporarily, to be the power behind our business economy,” said Ngina Lythcott. “These are people who are very vulnerable to abuses. We need to have something here for people who are vulnerable and being discriminated against.”
“In the two-plus years that I’ve lived here, I have experienced acts of racial bias and unfairness because of my ethnic appearance,” said Isaac Lopez. He added that he knows other BIPOC — Black, Indigenous, and People of Color — people who have been threatened or discriminated against. “Most of those people no longer call Provincetown home,” he said.
“In the early 1900s, crosses were burned on this very lot,” said Rachel White. “The Portuguese were not welcomed here. They were Azoreans, they were hardworking people, but they were considered riffraff. That’s why the people who have been here a long time have welcomed everyone.
“I was surprised to learn there was maybe some discrimination here,” White continued, “but if you believe we still have problems here, then the money would probably be well spent.”
Because it was funded as a Proposition 2½ override, Article 13 needs both a two-thirds majority at town meeting and a majority vote on the May 11 town election ballot to take effect. The measure passed overwhelmingly at the meeting. From the back of the gathering, there were not any visible “no” votes, although acting town moderator Steve Katsurinis reported that a smattering were visible from the front of the assembly.
Court Street Pump Station
The largest number of “no” votes came on a proposal to borrow $3.5 million to mitigate recurring flooding on Court Street. The measure would pay for a pump station to move rainwater to a retention pond in the rotary planned for the intersection of Shank Painter Road and Route 6. Any overflow would go into the Duck Pond watershed.
About 30 people voted against the measure — although, with more than 200 voters present, it still had more than the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
The finance committee had voted not to recommend the article, and initially didn’t report their reasoning. After two voters asked their concerns, two committee members agreed to speak.
“The committee was split,” said Tony Valentino. “Five members voted not to recommend, the other three abstained. It is a big price tag. The benefits may outweigh the price tag. There may be other options. We weren’t completely satisfied.”
“It’s just that, for the price, we didn’t have adequate alternatives presented to us,” said Gloria McPherson.
“This is part of an overall $14-million project funded by the state,” said Town Manager Alex Morse. “We realize this is quite an expensive project. Rich Waldo wanted town meeting voters to know, our goal is to secure state and federal grants to get this project down to a more realistic number of $2 million.”
Morse had previously explained that DPW Director Rich Waldo was not at the meeting because his son had just been born that morning.
Provincetown environmental planner Tim Famulare said that final designs would still need to undergo review by the town’s conservation commission and by the state’s Dept. of Environmental Protection.
Ian Leahy said he has rented a commercial space on Court Street for 18 years, and that flooding has gotten worse every year. “I can tell you from experience, every small solution has not worked,” Leahy said, predicting the town stands to lose both residential and commercial properties there in future floods.
Pier Corp. Advisers
The third major discussion was about the Pier Corp.
The select board sponsored a measure to add one alternate and two nonvoting advisory members to the Pier Corp. board. One of the nonvoting members would represent the commercial fishing fleet, and the other would represent the excursion and ferry fleet. That article passed almost unanimously.
A competing article had been introduced by citizens’ petition — although Laura Ludwig, a harbor committee member who had signed that petition, said the petitioners were unaware of the select board’s measure when they circulated their own. The citizens’ petition called for the dissolution of the Pier Corp., which presumably would return MacMillan Pier to the direct purview of the select board and town manager.
Town Manager Alex Morse said this petitioned article was not consistent with state law, and therefore would functionally be an advisory measure if it did pass. Multiple speakers suggested it should be indefinitely postponed, but several people took the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the Pier Corp. anyway.
“I think we need a town-wide forum about what we want our pier to be, and how it runs,” said Jennifer Cabral. “I think the mission is muddled. I understand the pier has to be self-managing to an extent. But, like with Harbor Hill, or anything in town that serves the entire community, I think it has to be subsidized. It could turn into the pier next door, and bring in lots of money, and never need to come to the town for money — but it wouldn’t be serving the community functions we want it to serve.”
And in this town meeting, where nearly every article ended in widespread agreement, the motion to indefinitely postpone the abolition of the Pier Corp. also passed almost unanimously.