The possibility exists that the new splash pad at the renovated Buzzards Bay Park will have its hours of operation curtailed, or even be shut down. Those options were floated during a contentious meeting of the Buzzards Bay Water District Board of Commissioners Tuesday, June 12.
Water district officials took exception to not being consulted on how the splash pad would impact water usage in the district. Officials said the use could severely impact service to the district’s customers.
Water district superintendent Steven Souza said that in the first week the splash pad was open, the park used approximately 49,000 gallons of water per day and a total of 343,000 gallons that week. He said the usage was for both the splash pad and irrigation of the new lawn at the park, although he was unable to say how many gallons were used for each.
This is significant, he said, considering the state Department of Environmental Protection has set a limit of 530,000 gallons per day that the district can pump from the ground.
Adding to the problem is the district’s trouble keeping its water tanks full, in part because a lead pump had to be shut down last December, Mr. Souza said. The pump was shut down as part of construction on a new well off Scenic Highway by Bournedale Road. The district lost the ability to pump 500 gallons a minute with that pump being shut down. The pump and the new well are expected to be online in early July, he said.
Former water district superintendent Barry Woods, who now serves as a consultant, noted that if use of the splash pad continues to make it difficult to keep the tanks full, mandatory water restrictions could be necessary. Mandatory restrictions means that non-essential use of water would be curtailed, and that would result in the commission directing the town to close the splash pad, Mr. Woods said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioner Wendy J. Chapman was the most critical voice.
Ms. Chapman challenged Peter J. Meier, chairman of the board of selectmen, several times over the district not being invited to meetings during which design of the park was discussed. Mr. Meier served on the Main Street Steering Committee, the group which shepherded the park project, and was a strong advocate of the renovation.
The issue came up when Mr. Meier said that over the three to four years during which the park was designed, no one from the water district came to any meeting during which there was discussion of the park. Those meetings often included discussion about the splash pad.
Ms. Chapman questioned whether an invitation was made to have someone from the commission attend.
“Who was involved that didn’t think the water district needed to be notified of water usage?” Ms. Chapman said.
Ms. Chapman’s fellow commissioner Joseph J. Carrara Sr. concurred. Mr. Carrera said no one from the commission was ever invited to attend a meeting of the board of selectmen or the steering committee to provide input.
“We were never invited, Peter,” he said.
Mr. Meier countered that the commissioners had ample opportunity to attend without being specifically invited. He pointed out that the splash pad had been written about extensively in the newspaper and discussed during Annual and Special Town Meetings. There were plenty of public forums at which commissioners could have offered advice, he said.
“Any of you could have come forward to any of the meetings and spoken up,” he said.
Mr. Meier added that the selectmen received reports on the park’s progress twice a year, and he discussed it as an agenda item once a month. During that time, the commission did not communicate any concerns with him.
He said it was not until very late in the construction process that he became aware of the commissioner’s water concern.
Ms. Chapman again pressed him on the commission not being invited to meetings about the park.
“Did you at that point decide to invite the district to the meetings, when you became aware there was a problem?” she said.
Mr. Meier reiterated that the commissioners had their own opportunities to go to meetings and voice concerns.
He noted that the park project cost $2.3 million, and repeated his dedication to the renovations, including the splash pad, given the investment the town has made in terms of time and money.
“We invested the money in that area to bring people back to that side of Main Street and it comes at a cost. And you can’t put a cost on something that impacts positively children and families alike,” he said.
Ms. Chapman countered that the water usage at the splash pad could prevent people from getting water in their homes.
“What if we go over capacity of how much we can pump, and people can’t get water in their houses to drink... but we’ll have a splash pad,” she said.
Ms. Chapman’s husband, James H. Chapman Jr., who attended the meeting as a district customer, noted that the water district bases its customer rates on water usage, and the increase in water usage by the splash pad could cause rates to increase. Mr. Chapman said he is not against the splash pad but also questioned the benefit it is providing the town.
“It’s not bringing business, and even if it did, it’s bringing some taxes that are going to the state,” he said.
Mr. Meier concluded by saying measures will be taken in the future to recapture water for reuse. There is nothing that can be done this summer, other than adjust the timing of the splash pad’s use by cutting back on the hours. He also reiterated the town’s determination to work with the water district and cautioned that it did no one any good to point fingers of blame.
“It doesn’t do you or us any good to have this back-and-forth fighting,” he said.