HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, May 26 asked the Recreation Commission to develop a plan for this year — and potentially for next year, as well — before a decision is made for the opening of Camp Kiwanne, and especially Cranberry Cove.
An early opening before June 15 was ruled out because of the logistical challenges presented by the coronavirus.
Recreation Commission member Diane Cohen reported that caretakers, who are permitted to work only one at a time, have begun returning to work at Camp Kiwanee. Town Administrator John Stanbrook said he was not aware of a need to limit caretakers to one at a time.
Cohen explained that Recreation Director William Boyle was working according to hours previously given according to normal operating times, based on budget and anticipated shortfalls in the budget. Selectmen chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett asked Stanbrook to discuss the matter with Boyle for clarification.
“We’re not sure still about swimming lessons and what that looks like,” she said. “We still not sure what phase we’re in — we did want to open when school ends, but I wasn’t sure how the board felt about possibly opening early, maybe during afterschool hours.”
Because of the recent hot weather and people’s frustration at being stuck at home, Cohen asked that if lifeguards could be hired in time, an earlier opening could be considered, although her intent has been to wait until the actual end of the school year, which is typically in mid-June.
“I had a couple of requests and I wanted to be honest and say I would ask,” Cohen said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett asked Board of Health Chairman Arlene Dias for her opinion on the questions Cohen raised.
“I haven’t heard anything from the governor regarding this particular opening,” Cohen said.
Dias said the Board of Health had discussed it at a previous meeting and felt that, if Selectmen voted to open the camp the wanted to be ready for it.
“For us, it would be a matter of testing the water, we would be willing to set up guidelines,” Dias said. “I don’t think the state has issued them yet.”
Dias said a plan for social distancing must be developed, followed by a discussion about how people would be admitted — and how many at one time.
FitzGerald-Kemmett asked if the two committees could connect on the issue.
“I don’t think we want to be unilaterally be making a decision to open up the Cove without hearing that there is a plan in place already,” she said of the small area with limited access. “We don’t want to be making this up as we go.”
Finance Committee Chairman Kevin Sullivan, meanwhile, said the Cove was only budgeted to open June 15, so opening earlier would mean running out of money. It would also require a larger supplemental expenditure from the town, as recreation retained earnings are way down.
He recommended keeping the camp and Cove closed for as long as possible.
Selectman Matt Dyer said the governor’s recommended 12-foot social distancing at beaches would raise the question of how to control admission — would it be through reserved hours, which the Recreation Department would have to work out. Masks would also be required at the beach.
Selectman Kenny Mitchell said a plan is needed and recommended season passes be off the table this year. Selectman Jim Hickey agreed with Dyer and Mitchell, but added he would like to see a plan by June 9.
“What a logistical nightmare this is,” said Selectman Wes Blauss, asking if a credit-card payment system was available. Cohen said the town does but Internet access and lack of a card reader at the camp is a hit-or-miss proposition. Debit card fees would be prohibitive, as well, she said.
“It’s looking to me that by opening the Cove actually at all — and I’m not saying we’re not opening the Cove at some point,” Blauss said. “But, should we open the Cove I can just see that this is going to become difficult to control, and especially for kids — the staff down at Cranberry Cove are kids.”
He foresees the potential for serious confrontations at the beach, and said any plan to reopen the beach must be self-sustaining in view of the town’s deficit, especially if a Proposition 2 ½ override fails and cuts must be made.
Dyer said it is a good idea to provide information to the public of other cooling centers or beach resources on the South Shore.
Director of Elder Affairs Mary Collins and Library Director Karen Stolfer provided reports to the board on their facilities’ service to the community during the coronavirus crisis.
Collins said that, while the Senior Center’s doors are closed, services have continued throughout the pandemic — specifically Meals on Wheels, which serves some of the most fragile people within the community.
“We have seen an uptick on the amount of people that have requested Meals on Wheels after the pandemic began,” Collins said. Referrals for fuel assistance, home care and assistance with insurance sign-ups (the SHINE program) have also continued.
“Obviously, we are concerned about the population that we serve, they are the most vulnerable, but also have a tendency sometimes to socially isolate, which can lead to other issues down the road,” she said. Serving those clients, along with monitoring Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening phases, are her main concerns right now — with senior centers solidly toward the end of phase three.
“In terms of opening for programming, I think that we will have to hold on, and we have decided to try some alternative types of programming,” Collins said. The Friends of the Senior Center are buying a Zoom program to help with keeping in touch with isolated elders.
Besides seniors who look to the center for recreational and informational programming, the center also operates a supportive day program for elders with cognitive conditions, who Collins described as “in desperate need of returning,” but it is not possible at this time.
FitzGerald-Kemmett asked what Selectmen could do to support her in the way of town resources.
“The folks have been wonderful,” Collins said, noting how Firefighter Tim Royer and Deputy Chief Robert O’Brien Jr., had approached her before the pandemic really took off about how the Fire Department could help some seniors with picking up groceries or prescriptions. She said the Police Department and Stanbrook have also been wonderful in providing resources to seniors for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Stolfer said the library has begun no-contact curbside pickup as part of a four-phase reopening plan, posted on the library website. While the book drop will soon be open for returns, she stressed there is no rush if people are still not comfortable going out. Current due dates are extended to July 9 with late fees waived until further notice.
Returned items will be quarantined for 72 hours. Borrowers are limited to in-house materials as the SAILS Network to which the library belongs is still closed.
Phase 2 will permit people back into the building in limited numbers with plastic shields placed at service desks. In Phase 3, the library opens a bit more with some expansion of services and Phase 4 will represent the “new normal.”
“The timing of these later phases is going to depend on the governor’s timeline,” Stolfer said. Virtual programs such as weekly book chats and crafts are being held in the interim.
For more information, visit the hansonlibrary.org.