Wareham is a gem that needs polishing

Aug 09, 2017

(The following is an open letter to the Board of Selectmen)

To the Board of Selectmen:

As a 45-year tax paying seasonal resident of Wareham I’d like to make a few observations and suggestions which may resonate with many of my neighbors. First, thank you for your service. Your job is often thankless and I appreciate your willingness to serve. Balancing the needs of all constituents with the budget realities of the town is a very difficult task. While we all need to do more with less, I would hope that you remain committed to properly maintaining the infrastructure we currently have. I’ll address my concerns as they pertain to Onset as I live on that side of town. However, I’m sure my observations could carry over throughout the entire area.

As a taxpayer, I expect all public properties to be properly maintained. Roads need to be repaired (potholes are everywhere), trash needs to be picked up (it was shortsighted to eliminate barrels, what did you think was going to happen?) and beaches need to be cleaned daily. The bluff in Onset is a good example. It is overgrown and has at least five completely dead trees. This is one of the most picturesque public vistas anywhere around. I spoke with an innkeeper with property on the bluff. They told me that they have repeatedly called municipal maintenance but to no avail.

It isn’t that hard, send out a crew and fix it. If we don’t have the manpower, ask for a prison crew. If we cannot maintain our existing property, let’s not even consider new endeavors like dog parks, etc. We seem to have a habit of taking formally tax paying properties off the tax role (Wickets Island). While they may seem like good ideas in the public interest we must ask the critical question as to whether we can afford it. (With respect to Wickets Island I do know that a nonprofit has taken ownership. Good for them and good luck. Municipal services will however still be needed – such as police and fire – and we have now taken another private property off the tax role.

We also need to hold all property owners (business and personal) to a minimum public standard. Maintain your property, be a good citizen and neighbor. As you enter town from the east you go over a new bridge welcoming you to Wareham.

To your right, you then see a beautiful harbor surrounded by a weed infested overgrown vacant lot. For those that may not remember that was formerly Byron’s Landing. A very nice restaurant on the water. I’m hard pressed to think that the town can’t do anything to solve this blight on the landscape. Properly done it could support a nice tax-paying enterprise. There are many other examples throughout town. There has to be a minimum acceptable standard of maintenance on our public ways.

I know I’ll inevitably get responses like, “this is not Marion, if you don’t like it move” and “we don’t need part-timers telling us how to run our town.” The fact is that I love Onset and want to see it flourish.

I don’t use many of the public services (schools, etc.), but pay the full tax rate. I also pay a separate personal property tax which is levied on all residents who do not declare Wareham their primary residence. It would be an interesting exercise to see the percentage of people who are not primary residents and their percentage contribution to the annual town property tax revenue. We don’t vote here as our principal residences are elsewhere. However, we are a material part of your constituent base. Please maintain public investments with our tax dollars. Wareham is a beautiful seaside gem. Let’s maintain it for future generations.



Neil Sullivan

Comments (23)
Posted by: Spherebreaker | Aug 09, 2017 11:16

About the only thing getting polished around here is the all the redundant shiny equipment in all the redundant districts and the pockets of the unions. Until both are minimized, Wareham will continue to erode. With all the summer homes not using the schools, the Town should be a well polished diamond.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Aug 09, 2017 14:57

Matt Bernat and/or Lydia Goerner - Please while the seasonal residents are here, write a feature story addressing the town's financial challenges (staffing, labor hours, equipment, etc.) regarding issues raised by Neil Sullivan in his above letter. Unfortunately much of the information that would help summer residents to better understand Wareham's budgetary challenges tends to be news covered in the dead of winter at a time when the finance committee, selectmen, town departments and school department are preparing their budget proposals for April's Annual Town Meeting (and also at a time when summer residents' attention is more likely focused upon the budgetary challenges of the town's in which they maintain their principal residence.)

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Aug 09, 2017 16:25

Ummm Andrea , as a so called " Summer Resident " I would like to enlighten you on something. My primary residence is in a Town located right outside of Boston and is one of those "Towns" that experts call untouchable. We have no industry and most of the tax base is residential. Our tax rate is twice as higher than Wareham. I would like you to know that I pay more in Taxes in Wareham than I do in my primary residence. Just like the author I don't use town services such as schools ect. So get off your high pedastal we have the right to complain. PS I Love that 100 dollar charge I get every year from the BOH so my rental gets inspected and its up to par , but mind you 3 year round residents that live same area look like Sanford and Son and are pig pens ... Face it the town is mismanaged.Also I follow what's going on down here year round , a property owner would be foolish not to know what's going on  with their investment

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Aug 09, 2017 17:33

When I say mismanaged , I mean as in town administrator and selectmen

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Aug 09, 2017 18:39

If there are financial challenges they are self made. Having two water departments and 2 fire departments is just the start. Look at the vehicles being driven about town by the excess management. Look at the millions being spent to treat water that a business polluted and nobody has them hung in the town square yet.Look at the pensions being given to folks that on a tight run ship would never have been hired. Look at the duplication of services, probably the only department without multiple rescue boats is the assessor department.Buildings being discarded and left to rot while they clamor for bigger and better. Buying crap with preservation funds that we have no business buying. Schools that are so over staffed with management and many teachers that aren't worth half of what we are paying them. KIds that are sent to special schools so they can get MORE than a public education. Look at the school costs going up yearly with less kids in those schools. Look at the health insurance that we are paying for some at near 100%5 and some to some losers that sit on a committee  for a time. Meanwhile the taxpayers get shafted and the summer folks get it every which way but nicely. I don't want too hear about financial challenges when the cure is right there. Reorganize the way things have been done, tighten the belt till every failing employee is out the door and the ones left open their eyes to what will happen.

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Aug 09, 2017 21:35

How about all this development over there in West Wareham , why arent these developers paying for anything ? Why isn't the town getting something out of them ? Again poor management at its best

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Aug 09, 2017 21:41

Swifts - per chance my use of the term "summer resident" in my above comment was in some way upsetting to you, I edited my comment  replacing the phrase "summer resident" with "seasonal resident" which is the word choice used by Neil Sullivan in his letter. As for my use of the term "summer resident;" I was a summer resident for many years in Wareham living in an area filled with summer residents and we all referred to ourselves as "summer residents."


Regarding the rest of my comment, I meant no offense. I simply think it might be beneficial for seasonal residents who pay Wareham real estate taxes to read town budget related information (including information regarding staffing limitations and infrastructure needs) more typically presented in news articles during the pre-town meeting winter months when "seasonal residents" may not have occasion to see the information.


Regarding the question of why if seasonal residents pay the full tax rate, and yet do not use many of the public services such as schools, the town doesn't have more money available for addressing issues such as Neil Sullivan raised in his letter....full time residents often ask that same question. Perhaps if an article is written, that question could be covered within the context of the article.


Regarding your personal comparison of real estate taxes in Wareham and real estate taxes in the untouchable town right outside Boston where your primary residence is located....reading it made me think back to word problems in math class.


If Wareham's real estate tax rate = "X" and the tax rate of the town where you have your primary residence = "2X" what factors could cause your Wareham real estate tax bill  to be higher than your tax bill for your primary residence? If you haven't already talked with someone at the assessors office, doing so might be something to consider.



Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Aug 10, 2017 10:03

Andrea , maybe people have more than one piece of property in town ever think of that ? I know must be hard living with tunnel vision

Posted by: bob | Aug 10, 2017 10:11

SWIFTY SHERIFF,If you do decide to visit the Assessors Office, dont   do it on a Friday,as the town hall employees don't work  Fridays,The Town Administrator is saving the town money on the energy bill.....That what he claims.........

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Aug 10, 2017 11:04

Bob , I already found that out when trying pay my taxes . Then I went in on a working day and was treated rudely by the woman working there who can hardly speak English . Seems to me she doesn't like her job or something ,she's a very unhappy camper. I wonder who she's related to?

Posted by: PMB | Aug 10, 2017 11:40

This issue of "seasonal residents" paying full taxes comes up from time to time in these types of discussions.  Let me point out one thing.  ALL property in the Town is assessed and taxed based on the VALUE OF THE PROPERTY.  There is no consideration as to how the property is used, be it a full time residence or seasonal.  Everyone pays the same tax rate based on property value.  This extends to commercial and industrial properties as well, as we use the single tax rate method.  The town is allowed to collect a set amount under Prop 2 1/2, based on total assessed value of all property in the town, and that is what we have to spend to provide the services we get.


We are very fortunate to have many seasonal properties in town, whose tax money helps fund our services, but if the owners of these properties feel somehow slighted, because they don't get year round services, they must remember that they made a choice to buy a second property in a town they do not use as a primary residence and must accept the fact that their property is being taxed based on value, not use.


I understand this issue completely, as I am fortunate enough to own a second property in another town.  I have no control over the tax rate or how my property tax money is spent there.  That is a factor I must accept as part of reality of owning a second home.


Posted by: Spherebreaker | Aug 10, 2017 14:10

Its not a matter of how they use their home. Its a matter that we have summer homes that use no services that other towns don't have. We don't have just a few we have a ton of them. How is it that a Town with all homes being year round with kids in school can have a level of town services that we don't. We should have a surplus of funds just due to the amount of summer homes. We don't have surplus because this town is the poster child for inefficiency. The hacks sucking up the towns money is criminal.

Posted by: PMB | Aug 10, 2017 14:56

I'm sorry Spherebreaker, but you obviously have no idea how property tax bills are arrived at.  As stated above, the property tax bill for EVERY property in town is derived by Property Value, period.  Having many seasonal properties helps keep the TAX RATE DOWN, but does not produce a surplus of funds as you imply.  We don't produce a surplus because a home is used seasonally.  Towns with better services have for the most part, passed operational overrides and pay much higher taxes based on property value.  It isn't magic, it's a willingness of the majority of citizens in these towns you say are so efficient to spend more on the services that the people want.  Heck, you don't even want the town to plow the roads..have a free public library, or spend any money on our senior citizens......all you do is complain!

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Aug 10, 2017 17:39

PMB , I have no issue with paying my taxes , exactly like you say I chose to have properties here and enjoy it very much. Heck if it weren't for certain elements in town I would consider staying here year round , but that subject is for another day . I have issues with Andrea's term "summer residents" and acting like outsiders .. I keep my properties up to par and even have to pay 100 bucks a year to the BOH for a bogus inspection of my rental property and 3 houses within a stones throw look like crack houses and something out of Sanford And Son . But nothing is said to them because they are "year rounders" . I am glad my taxes are used for education,

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Aug 10, 2017 18:18

PMB, you and your thinking are why we see letters like this and have a crumbling Town.

Posted by: PMB | Aug 10, 2017 20:24

Actually Sphereboy, I think Wareham is an awesome town with much to offer.  That's why I have chosen to live here and raise my family here.  If you think the town is "crumbling" why don't you come out from behind your foolish screen name and make it better!

Posted by: reason | Aug 11, 2017 07:10

It would be helpful if we didn't have obstructionists like the planning board who have blocked a well planned, attractive development like Bay Pointe for several years. This is a development that will bring in significant dollars in tax revenue as well as construction jobs and the likely buyers will spend money at local businesses.  The town has done everything possible to stand in the way. I agree that Wareham could be a shining gem, but not with the current administration of the town. A change in how business is done is sorely needed.


Posted by: fritzfricia | Aug 11, 2017 10:43

I agree with reason.


There are ways to increase tax revenue with non affordable housing developments. The boosting of local business and bringing in new talent into the town.

People are constantly buying houses at increased pricing down in south port. Under a decent hoa and amenities. Why can't that happen for wareham?


We already see no movement to make more room for new business on main street, or to keep already successful businesses there as well.

To be the site of new burgeoning industries is not on the list either for wareham, as the closest 3d printing location. Is a town or so away. This being part of the new school curriculum might be a great idea for that little commercial lot next to CVS, running 3 to 5 additive manufacturing printers with 2 dedicated via scholastic ventures and the rest commercial.


I know many don't enjoy the idea of the cannabis industry, however it will ad hundreds of jobs per location.

Hi tech industrial is iffy as automation is slowing working behind it.

There are many aspects of wareham that need an overhaul, with a diamond tip blade, with people who have helped other towns in similar rocky segments of their existance to come out on top.

Everything everyone has said has it's merit. We all see things in our pov.


Posted by: sadie | Aug 12, 2017 07:30

In one of the recent Selectmen's meetings the TA explained the hoops he has to jump through to get some things done because of the conservation rules. He specifically mentioned the dead trees on the bluff and the dead trees at Swifts beach. The town is not ALLOWED to take those trees down. He thinks he might be able to take one of the trees on the  bluff down because it is a safety issue.

If you have a chance watch the meetings it was one of the last 3 meetings in the TA's report. It is just nuts what the town has to do if we want to add sand to a beach we have to match the grain size and that is just one of the things he has to do to add sand.

Call MM or the TA's office before you complain about what they are not doing and maybe they will explain why  they can't do certain things in town.


Posted by: brazz | Aug 12, 2017 09:41

SPHEREBREAKER It's you that seems to like to see the town crumble. Always complaining about people trying to do something, yet you offer no alternative to anything you complain about. Your ideal town would be like the wild west, just a sheriff running and town, cut this, slash that and fire them.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Aug 12, 2017 13:03

Brazzobviously you have not read my post thoroughly. I gave you an alternative but you like PMB cling to the past and its failed ways Times have changed and its time to discard the ways of the past. Just because thats how thing have been done does not make them right or the best way. If i were the Sheriff there would be efficency and common sense returned to the way Waeham is operated. Not one department or sacred cow would be immune.

Posted by: Society for Suppression of Noise | Aug 13, 2017 06:15

"Your ideal town would be like the wild west, just a sheriff running [a] town, cut this, slash that and fire them."

Dang it.  You just exposed the secret process of turning around failing businesses.  It's, heh, bulletproof.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Aug 14, 2017 14:22

They just don't get it Noise.

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