Tumultuous would be too gentle a word to put on the year 2020. The impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus was devastatingly historic, but it was by no means the only story to impact the lives of Bourne residents this past year. What follows is a small wrap-up of some of the stories that reflected the year that was.
No story was bigger in 2020 than the COVID-19 pandemic that struck every corner of the planet. In Bourne, the virus led to schools being shut down and students forced to learn remotely, businesses closing, annual events not held, and town boards and committees being forced to hold weekly meetings via Zoom. Events that were held in person called for special accommodations to ensure health and safety.
Town officials chose to reduce the warrants for Annual Town Meeting in June and Special Town Meeting in November. The rationale was that by reducing the warrant, attendees would spend less time in close proximity to each other, thereby limiting the chance of virus transmission.
The reasoning worked well for Special Town Meeting, which lasted a rapid 32 minutes. Annual Town Meeting, however, lasted considerably longer, as residents took more than an hour to debate a petition for Bourne to abandon its membership in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Restaurants in Bourne reported declines in business that ranged from 15 percent to as much as 35 percent. One restaurant owner reported hearing from some of his contemporaries on the Cape that their business was off as much as 75 percent from pre-COVID days.
The only businesses that seemed to proliferate as the virus raged on were golf courses. Across the Upper Cape golf course managers reported a record year, as people looked for something to do outdoors and many settled on teeing up that little white ball.
The coronavirus forced some yearly events to be put off for at least a year or modified. Main Street was mostly empty on the Fourth of July because town officials did not permit the annual Bourne on the Fourth of July Parade. At Halloween, Trunk-or-Treat was held, with everyone masked and socially distancing.
The pandemic also affected slightly Homeless for the Holidays—the annual Yuletide season food and toy drive—as well as the annual Stuff-A-Bus event to help families in need during the holiday season.
The announcement last month that several vaccines had been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, along with the subsequent start of vaccinations, was welcome news to a population weary of the toll the virus has taken on daily lives.
JBCC Firing Range
In late August, the Army National Guard announced plans to construct a new Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Firing Range on Joint Base Cape Cod. National Guard officials said the new range is necessary to meet soldier training requirements. The Guard also argued that the new range would cut down on travel costs as soldiers currently have to travel to ranges located out of state to meet their weaponry requirements.
The Guard’s decision raised deep concerns among area residents, notably the Association to Protect Cape Cod. The location of the new range is within the Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve, which has raised questions about the impact of ammunition on the area’s drinking water.
Installation would also require clearing more than 170 acres of forested land to make room for the firing lanes. The APCC has argued that clearing so much land would be detrimental to the environment.
The project is now being finalized by the National Guard Bureau, the federal body responsible for administration of the National Guard. Once the bureau gives its approval, the project moves on to construction. The project would take two years to complete.
State Trooper Shot
Bourne residents were shaken by the news that one of their own, Massachusetts State Trooper John Lennon, had been shot during a traffic stop in Hyannis. Trooper Lennon, 28, had pulled over a car around 11:30 PM on November 20. The driver, later identified as Andre K. Sterling, 35, shot the trooper in the hand and torso before fleeing the scene.
Trooper Lennon was initially treated at Cape Cod Hospital before being transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital. He was released from the hospital several days later and given a state police escort home from Boston to Monument Beach, where he grew up.
A GoFundMe page has raised more than $162,500 to help Trooper Lennon pay his medical bills.
Federal and state authorities eventually tracked Mr. Sterling to an apartment in the Bronx, New York, where he was killed in an early-morning shootout on December 4.
Town Employee Departures
The past year saw a number of key town personnel depart, among them longtime employees who rose through the ranks to lead their departments.
After more than three decades with the Bourne Police Department, Chief Dennis R. Woodside announced last month his decision to retire. Chief Woodside started as a patrolman in 1987 and has spent the past 10 years as the chief of police in Bourne. Friday, January 8, will be his last day on the job.
September saw two retirements of longtime employees. Debbie M. Judge retired after 39 years working as an administrative assistant in the town administrator’s office. That same month, George M. Sala announced his retirement from the town department of public works. Mr. Sala was with the department for 23 years, having joined in 1998 as a truck driver. He was named DPW director in 2012.
In January, Fire Chief Norman P. Sylvester announced his retirement after five years with the department. Assistant Fire Chief David S. Cody was named acting fire chief. The search is underway for Chief Sylvester’s permanent replacement.
New Police Station Opens
After more than a decade of hoping and planning, police department moved into a new home on Armory Road in Buzzards Bay in July.
The new, $17.6 million station is a far cry from the old Main Street building, where officers had to use area rugs in their locker room to keep asbestos from cracked floor tiles out of the air. A 2009 report commissioned by the Town of Bourne listed the police station as the worst public building in town.
The new cedar-shingled station is far more welcoming to visitors than the old brick-and-concrete building. Whereas the old building, at 8,000 square feet, was bursting at the seams with personnel, vehicles and equipment, the new station is much more spacious, with a footprint of 13,296 square feet and a total measurement of 29,379 square feet.
The building’s lifetime has been placed at 50 years, but Police Chief Woodside said it will likely last well past that. Town officials have yet to determine the fate of the old station.
Canal Bridges Replacement Nears
Potential replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges was given a big boost with an announcement by the US Army Corps of Engineers that it recommended replacement of the 85-year-old structures over continued repair and maintenance.
In its major rehabilitation evaluation report in April, the Army Corps formally adopted the recommendation to construct two new bridges that conform to modern highway design standards. A draft report recommended new structures that will include four travel lanes and two acceleration/deceleration lanes, as well as appropriate bicycle and pedestrian access.
In July, the Army Corps and the commonwealth finalized a formal agreement to transfer ownership of the new bridges to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The state Department of Transportation has agreed to perform the construction work necessary to deliver the two new bridges.
A memorandum of understanding that transfers ownership of the new spans also establishes a mutual intent between the Army Corps and MassDOT to secure federal funding for the project. The cost to replace the two bridges has been estimated at $1 billion.
News of the plan to replace the bridges has not been embraced by everyone. Some area residents and business owners have expressed concerns over property-taking by the state because the new structures will be located on land other than where the current spans rest.
Black Lives Matter Rallies
National outrage reached Buzzards Bay, as hundreds of people lined Main Street to protest the killing of George Floyd. More than 800 people attended a June 4 Black Lives Matter rally, calling attention to the death of Mr. Floyd, the Minneapolis man who suffocated and died as ex-police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against the man’s neck.
The BLM event was organized by Joycelyn Tompkins, 17, of New Bedford, a student at Sturgis Charter School in Hyannis. Ms. Tompkins said the turnout far exceeded her initial expectations of perhaps a couple of dozen people joining her at the Bourne Bridge Rotary, where the rally was originally scheduled to be held.
The crowd stretched from Buzzards Bay Park to the National Marine Life Center. Many attendees carried signs that read “I Can’t Breathe” and “Justice for George Floyd.” Cars that drove by honked in support of the movement, while people gathered on the sidewalk chanted “Black Lives Matter!”; “No Justice, No Peace”; and “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”
Mayflower II Sails Through Canal
Thousands gathered on the banks of the Cape Cod Canal to witness the Mayflower II make its way to Plymouth Harbor. Folks from near and far lined the canal on August 10 to watch the replica of the original ship that brought the Pilgrims to the New World 400 years ago, as it moved quickly through the canal and headed to Plymouth.
The 64-year-old replica returned to Plymouth Harbor after undergoing a three-year, $11.2 million restoration project in Connecticut. The ship’s arrival was to be part of Plymouth’s celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival. Much of the town’s planned celebration was scrapped due to COVID-19.
The original ship’s history of sickness and disease among the more than 100 passengers and crew was not lost on some spectators, who said there was a certain irony to the ship returning to Plymouth in 2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cataumet Schoolhouse On National Register
National recognition was given to a historic fixture in Bourne when the 125-year-old Cataumet Schoolhouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Announcement of the honor was made by Cataumet Schoolhouse Preservation Group president Carole A. Courey in August. Ms. Courey called the schoolhouse “a community treasure” and expressed delight that it would be “recognized for its historic significance.”
Built in 1894, the one-room schoolhouse educated Bourne children for 36 years until it was closed in June 1930. The preservation group took great pains to restore the aging structure, including stripping several layers of thick, oil-based paint that covered the original blackboards, proper placement of the flagpole atop the school’s belfry and acquiring from a collector in Nebraska a new school bell for the belfry that matched the original.