To the editor:

Respectfully, please consider this before listening to the discussion and voting on Article H, the Department of Public Works Operations facility issue at Fall Town Meeting on Monday, Sept. 9. The DPW is asking for and needs your help. Help in the form of giving this important question a fair and objective look before deciding because there’s a lot you may not know, information that didn’t come out three years ago.

The unfortunate reality and truth is that our public works employees are currently working under substandard conditions in an unsafe, unhealthy and deplorably obsolete barn built during the Eisenhower administration (1956), a building never designed to meet 21st century needs. It is singularly the most run-down in-use building in town and a Band-Aid of repairs won’t fix it. DPW guys are modest and aren’t complainers or self promoters so they won’t say this, but I will. Those who serve the town so well under some of the most dirty, difficult and dangerous circumstances deserve better. They not only deserve but have earned the support of the community for approval for a modern, functional and building code-compliant operations facility. Here is what they do, who they are and how approval both solves the town’s most urgent building deficiency and ends cost escalation.

The Rockport DPW supports the community with direct oversight and maintenance in production of clean, potable water, water meters, an efficient sewer system with the waste water treatment plant, fire hydrant and water and sewer main replacement, parks, public buildings repairs and custodial, roads, beaches, carpentry and metal fabrication, cemeteries, trees, line marking, vehicle maintenance, sea walls and railings, solid waste and recycling, wharves, ball fields, street sweeping, roadside clearing, drains, sidewalks and curbing, masonry, engineering, Christmas and Hanukah decorations, signs, blasting, restrooms, plowing, sanding, salting, snow removal, non-winter storm management like responding to the damage caused by nor’easters and hurricanes and administration. Most employees are required to acquire and currently hold specialized state and federal licenses necessary for their jobs. Emergencies are responded to 24/7/365.

DPW employees have done for generations and are still doing double duty as first responders on the volunteer fire department, forest fire department and ambulance crews. It’s an excellent example of stepping up for the community and going well beyond the call of duty. This alone has saved the town of Rockport tens of millions of dollars when compared to the cost of maintaining a full-time fire department. In addition, they give back in another way by funding scholarships for graduating Rockport High School seniors planning a course of study that would lead them to a career in public service. The DPW has provided hundreds of summer jobs to college-age men and women over the past 60 years.

As a lifelong Rockport resident, I worked four summers, 42 years full time and spent 22 years at the town barn (1968-1990). I fully vouch for the highly skilled, knowledgeable, versatile and dedicated supervisors and rank-and-file men and women in their various crafts who make up the eight crews of the DPW. They take tremendous pride in their work and it shows. I wholeheartedly support its needed replacement now because it is long overdue and I’ll gladly pay my fair share of a $1 a day extra to help fund it.

The deteriorating town barn is way too small to house the town’s fleet of trucks, loaders and other equipment. That is the reason so many vehicles are parked outside overnight exposed to the weather. The Building Study Committee has data showing this alone costs the town hundreds of thousands of dollars over the usable lifespan of the fleet’s vehicles. In addition, the town barn’s plumbing, electrical, ventilation and drainage systems are now inadequate and no fire suppression plan was ever included in its original design. This puts the entire building and its contents in jeopardy. The town will be offering the public an opportunity to see the barn themselves to answer one simple question. Is this or is this not the building to meet the town’s needs in the decades to come?

The replacement no-frills DPW operations facility on the drawing board is proposed to cover the town’s needs for the next 50-plus years. The design will meet all 2019 building code and OSHA requirements and be constructed to be as energy-efficient as possible. The only alternative is to spend even more money renovating the town barn. A new DPW operations facility is the indispensable resource required to allow employees the capability to deliver services Rockporters expect and rely on. The cost of the DPW new facility is directly proportional to the length of delay we continue to allow. It is a long-term investment in ourselves and the quality of life in Rockport that we value so much. Modernizing public facilities such as the schools, the police station and library is both inevitable and something citizens look back on with pride and satisfaction, its called progress. This is the return on your investment ensuring that our grandchildren and great grandchildren are served and protected when we are gone. We all strive to leave a legacy for the next generation to build on.

A community with superior services across the board backed up by modern facilities reaps the benefits in higher property values as well as an improved local economy and enhanced family life. I understand and respect those who disagree but kicking the can down the road only compounds the dilemma instead of facing it and finding a solution If we can’t count on one another for the common good and greater good, nobody else will do it for us. With a sense of civic pride in Rockport, a vision of your children’s future and an appreciation for those talented people who every day contribute so much to move us forward, cast a “yes” vote and you’ll only benefit and never regret it. Your town will grow and is well worth it.

Mel George


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