Paul Niedzwiecki, County Commissioners Look Ahead To 2011
By: Michael C. Bailey
Paul J. Niedzwiecki has some big projects on his plate for 2011.
Mr. Niedzwiecki, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission, last week received a positive annual evaluation from the Barnstable County Board of County Commissioners, but the discussion focused more on the coming year than the past year.
The commissioners gave Mr. Niedzwiecki high marks under four critical areas of performance: leadership, planning and organization, communications, and problem-solving and decision-making. Mary L. (Pat) Flynn, chairman of the board, announced that Mr. Niedzwiecki rated “more than satisfactory and outstanding in every single category,” but said Mr. Niedzwiecki was particularly strong in the leadership category.
“Lots of people can be visionaries, but not everyone can take all those concepts and those ideas and plans and outcomes and make them work,” Ms. Flynn said. “There’s not very many people who have the ability to be the visionary and also to make it happen.”
Commissioner Sheila R. Lyons added that Mr. Niedzwiecki was skilled at engaging stakeholders so they did not feel “overwhelmed” by the Cape Cod Commission’s authority. “They have equal standing and a lot of input into the decisions they make,” she said.
Ms. Flynn added to that the fact Mr. Niedzwiecki has helped create a more positive image of the CCC among towns, to the point that a handful of towns that in the past have contemplating seceding from the Cape Cod Commission have since fallen silent.
“The person we have leading the Cape Cod Commission is not only visionary, but he is also capable of taking the many laws, rules, regulations, and integrating them in a manner that the common person can understand what they mean,” Royden C. Richardson, chairman of the CCC said.
“We’re intending to keep him on, right?” Commissioner William Doherty joked afterward.
“I’m humbled and I’m touched,” Mr. Niedzwiecki said. “It’s a great job and it’s a great place with great people, so it’s an honor to come to work every day. That’s the truth.”
He was quick to thank “an incredible group of people” in the Cape Cod Commission’s members and staff for their ongoing work and support.
Mr. Niedzwiecki was named executive director of the CCC in September 2007 to replace Margo L. Fenn. Before joining the Commission he served as Barnstable’s assistant town manager. Prior to that he worked for the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office as its chief financial officer; as vice-president of and general counsel to the Commonwealth Corporation; as a chief of staff in the state Senate and an administrative aide in the House; as a law clerk with Burns & Levinson of Boston, specializing in environmental law; and as a legal assistant for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority Advisory Board.
The Year Ahead
The commissioners outlined four major areas of focus for Mr. Niedzwiecki to tackle in 2011: water quality, wind energy, economic development, and communications.
Under water quality, the commissioners listed as specific goals completion of the regional wastewater management plan, and defining strategies for responding to the Conservation Law Foundation’s notice of intent for the Buzzards Bay Coalition.
The CLF and the Coalition have taken legal action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hold the agency accountable for failing to properly manage sources of nitrogen pollution on Cape Cod from septic systems, and from stormwater and wastewater treatment plant discharges.
Mr. Niedzwiecki said water quality issues would be “the most pressing” for Cape Cod next year.
The major project under wind energy is the completion of the Cape Cod Ocean District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) by the end of Fiscal Year 2011, and Mr. Niedzwiecki said that project is on-schedule for June at the latest.
The regulations crafted under the DCPC process would dictate where municipalities could locate offshore wind turbines. Special regional regulations are mandated under the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan (OMP), and the Cape Cod Commission is responsible for crafting regulations to determine the “appropriate scale” for offshore renewable energy projects, specifically for up to 24 offshore wind turbines.
A CCC policy committee is tentatively scheduled to present its formal recommendations to a CCC subcommittee in late January 2011, and that subcommittee would act on those recommendations in March.
“We’re marching along,” Mr. Niedzwiecki said, and he indicated that the final regulations will go beyond the state’s requirements in also providing a preliminary economic analysis of the turbines and a visual impact assessment.
Mr. Niedzwiecki may have to contend with a second turbine-related DCPC next year. The Falmouth Board of Selectmen last week directed Brian A. Currie, Falmouth’s town planner, to draft a letter to commissioners urging them to formally recommend the entire Upper Cape, perhaps the entire region, as a DCPC specifically for wind turbines.
Thomas F. Keyes, Sandwich’s representative to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates, first suggested a Cape-wide DCPC for turbines last month, when the Assembly voted to send proposed regulations for land-based wind turbine siting back to the CCC for further review.
If the commissioners recommend an area as a DCPC, an immediate limited moratorium is placed on the defined type of development. If adopted by the Assembly, the DCPC comes with a year-long full moratorium, during which time the region would be able to define zoning and siting regulations to go into effect once the moratorium is lifted.
“The commission has always shied away from regulating wind turbines and renewable energy because it’s another thing we want to promote regionally,” Mr. Niedzwiecki noted, but the controversial nature of such projects is pushing the CCC to revisit its stance.
Under economic development the priority was the OpenCape project, the county’s effort to create a regional broadband Internet infrastructure, and continuing work on the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).
That latter initiative recently got a boost through a new partnership with IBM dubbed “Smart Cape Cod.” The first phase of Smart Cape Cod, scheduled for completion in the spring, will focus on designing a CEDS Strategic Information Office and a Center of Excellence for Water Resources. The Strategic Information Office will guide data collection and management for use in program management and policy making as CEDS implementation proceeds.
The Center of Excellence for Water Resources, which would tie into Mr. Niedzwiecki’s water quality goals, will assess critical issues relating to water quality and management, centralizing water information and stimulating technology development needed to monitor and improve water quality and manage water and wastewater.
Mr. Niedzwiecki added that there will be a formal CEDS annual update in April 2011, which will be a joint effort with the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. He noted that in working with the chamber on the CEDS initiative, the two entities have ironed out some long-standing “turf issues” between the chamber and the Cape Cod Economic Development Council.
“We need to translate that level of cooperation to the locals,” meaning town-level chambers and economic development industrial corporations, he said, and the CCC will invite representatives of those entities to a joint meeting in the spring to discuss the CEDS.
Under communications, the commissioners simply requested monthly updates from Mr. Niedzwiecki. “I embrace that,” he said, stating that was his personal choice for the area most in need of improvement.
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