Newsletter of Barnstable County

Edition 5 | January 3, 2023

A Message from Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As we close out another year, we are proud to reflect on our progress and achievements Barnstable County has made in over the past year.  Here are some of the highlights. 

Improving Water Quality and Clean Water Infrastructure: This past year Barnstable County used its federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant funds to support wastewater management projects across various towns, including Eastham, Harwich, Truro, Chatham, and Wellfleet. We also used ARPA funds to upgrade our equipment at the County Lab to boost our water quality monitoring program and help our communities address problems associated with pollutants such as PFAS and other emerging contaminants.  

We created a revitalized septic system loan fund called the “AquiFund” that will provide more funding to help Cape homeowners upgrade their septic systems and pay for costly sewer connections. The fund now offers a 0% and 2% interest loans to income qualified residents.

The Commissioners and the Assembly of Delegates continue to make a strong case against the construction of a machine gun range within the borders of the Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve. We worked closely with our Health and Environmental Department to submit comments to the EPA on their Sole Source Aquifer Review and continue to work closely with our legislators to prevent additional funding for the project. 

This past year, the county has continued to take the lead in the PFAS contamination clean up at the former regional Municipal Fire and Rescue Training facility (FTA). For years, firefighters from Cape Cod towns brought their personnel, equipment and foam to the FTA for regular training. In recent years, we have come to learn more about the toxicity of these firefighting foams and their impact on groundwater. During the clean-up process we hold regular meetings to get public comments on our plans and progress.

We have also been exploring ways to expand our Septic System Test Center at Joint Base Cape Cod to evaluate a variety of alternative septic system technologies. Many new systems are being deployed in several of our Cape towns. In the coming months we hope to take added measures to assist the Upper Cape towns to boost their recycling and composting initiatives. We are also studying ways the Center can help homeowners reduce the cost of monitoring the performance of their own innovative septic systems. 

In 2023, the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension's Household Hazardous Waste Program hosted 24 collection events across Cape Cod, collecting 607,272 pounds of toxic chemicals from 5,834 residents. They also collected 86.31 pounds of mercury, 24,055 pounds of used needles/sharps, and 5,112 marine and road flares. These events have become a critical part of our overall program to prevent groundwater contamination and protecting the Cape’s sole source aquifer.

Dredging Operations: The health and safety of our waterways are not only critical to the environment, but to the regional economy as well - especially our commercial fishing and recreational boating industries. The County has a very active dredging department that works in 14 of the 15 Cape towns and helps sustain safe access to mooring and shoreside facilities. It operates as an Enterprise fund, which means that rates and revenues must cover the programs expenses. We are in the process of revising our rates for service and working closely with our Congressional delegation to reduce the delays our towns are experiencing in securing regulatory permits.  

Strengthening Our Community with Affordable Housing: The lack of affordable housing has reached a crisis and we've allocated $11.4M from ARPA funds towards several affordable housing programs. This initiative supports homeless shelters, workforce housing, and innovative housing projects, addressing the housing challenges in our region and moving us closer to a community where everyone has a place to call home. 

Securing Funds for the Arts:  The Arts Foundation of Cape Cod has been designated as the County's official arts agency. This designation helps secure grants for local artists and is a testament to our commitment to ensuring that arts and culture continue to thrive in our region, enriching the lives of our residents and visitors alike. 

Enhancing Health Care Insurance (SHINE) Counseling Services: Our commitment to enhancing SHINE counseling services remains a top priority. Expanding this program ensures comprehensive Medicare counseling and assistance, improving healthcare access for our senior population and ensuring they receive the support and guidance they need to navigate the complexities of healthcare coverage. 

Expanding Broadband and Digital Equity: The lack of sufficient and affordable broadband access is a constant complaint on Cape Cod and expanding broadband access on Cape Cod remains an economic development priority.   Recognizing the importance of technology in everyday life, we are committed to digital equity — ensuring all individuals have access to and can effectively use necessary digital tools and internet services.

We strongly support the work of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and its partnership with the Cape Cod Commission to undertake a regional assessment that, when completed, will enable us to compete and secure more federal funding to expand service on Cape Cod. This effort is aimed at bridging the digital divide and creating a more connected society where every citizen and business can access high speed online information and services. 

Securing Funding for the New Sagamore and Bourne Bridges: The Commissioners receive regular updates from our Congressional delegation on the progress they are making – working closely with Governor Maura Healy - in securing federal funds for the replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges. This past year was a turning point in moving these projects forward. Funds were set aside by the Governor and the President. Mass DOT developed a realistic plan and put forward numerous and highly competitive grant proposals. We expect that 2024 will be a good year for this initiative.  

Championing Human Rights and Community Engagement: In 2023, we continued to advocate for human rights and the work of the Human Rights Academy. These initiatives underscore our commitment to a community that values each individual and works collectively towards the betterment of all.

Children's Cove Expands Reach and Partnerships in 2023: In 2023, Children's Cove, a department of Barnstable County, announced a significant partnership to expand and improve services to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Through a collaboration with Martha's Vineyard Community Services CONNECT to End Violence Program, they are ensuring vital services for child victims of crime on Martha's Vineyard, relieving families of travel burdens and enhancing law enforcement efficiency. This step represents a significant stride towards fostering a safer and more empowered environment for children across Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard. Moreover, Children's Cove expanded its staff in 2023 to further support their mission.

AmeriCorps Cape Cod Celebrates its 25th Anniversary: In 2023, AmeriCorps Cape Cod, operating under the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, celebrated its 25th Anniversary and reached one million hours of service, marking a significant milestone. AmeriCorps members had contributed $26 million in value to Cape Cod's environment and communities, with 585 alumni collectively serving nearly one million hours since the program's start under the auspices of Barnstable County in 1998. 

Forward-Looking Financial Management: This past year we have once again been focused on strengthening the county’s long-term finances.  We continue to make significant improvements in our operational and capital budgeting process. We have worked hard to reduce our OPEB liabilities and have managed our reserves in a manner that should help boost our bond rating. We are committed to creating even further steps in 2024 to secure an even stronger financial foundation for the coming years.

As your County Commissioners, we are grateful for the opportunity to serve you. The progress we've made is a testament to our collective commitment and the hard work of many individuals and organizations throughout the county. Looking forward to 2024, we are committed to building upon this past year's achievements and look forward to meeting the coming challenges that await us in the years ahead.

With warm regards and best wishes for the New Year, 

Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners

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