Lodgings proposed for Beach Pavilion

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 9:45am
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Finding lifeguards to keep watch over the Town Beach has traditionally been a search hampered by the question of whether prospective employees had housing for the summer.

The town is attempting to answer that question by incorporating two new dwelling units into the Beach Pavilion upgrades that are currently taking place. Town Facilities Manager Sam Bird said that a change order had been sent to the contractors, and that the newly added dwellings could be built for “short money.” (The current budget for the Pavilion upgrade is about $940,000, with another $140,000 in a contingency fund.) Since the idea is just in its beginning stages, Bird did not want to commit as to whether the two new units — with one accommodating two people, and the other a single-dwelling unit — would actually be built. “If we can’t make it work, it’ll be used for storage space,” he said.

The Beach Pavilion is now completely gutted, the old bathrooms have been removed, and work is expected to be completed in the spring.

At the most recent Recreation Board meeting, which took place before Thanksgiving, member Annie Hall asked, now that the renovations had begun, if there would be a way for visitors to access the new bathrooms even when the Pavilion is not open. That’s when Recreation Director Dave Sniffen first mentioned to the Board that the new dwellings were being designed.

“Will there be cooking facilities,” asked member Gail Heinz.

“There’ll be something there,” said Sniffen. “Some sort of stove-top cooking.” Sniffen said those living in the units would pay rent.

“Having someone in there is great,” said Sniffen. “They can monitor the entire building during the night.” But he cautioned that they would need to hire the right employees, given that “hiring the wrong person cold cause a lot of problems.” Sniffen said the head lifeguard would be in charge of the employees living there.

Triathlon date change

Citing some concerns from the Police Department and some downtown businesses about too much congestion during the annual Triathlon event during the summer, the Recreation Board considered moving the race up earlier in the summer. The event took place this year on Aug. 6. 

“There’s a huge group of people that would like to see it on a different date,” said Sniffen. The issue is that Block Island experiences one of its busiest times of the summer in early August, thereby mitigating any positive financial benefit the race might bring with it. “Lodgings are already full up,” said Mary Stover, an island resident and realtor who was advocating for the date change.

“My biggest concern is losing revenue,” said Sniffen. “But we might lose some here and gain some there.”

“If you’re going to move it, move it into July,” said Heinz. Stover suggested the weekend after the Fourth of July, when business is generally quieter. “It’s one of the least booked weekends during the summer,” said Stover. (July 4 will fall on a Wednesday next year.) Sniffen said he would look into it, but cautioned that the date hinged on whether official race timers for the new date would be be available.

Little League field update

In other news, the Board was still attempting to find a new home for Little League games, which will no longer take place at Closter Field. Heinz Field has been proposed as an alternative, but Sniffen said that Athletic Director Rob Closter is against such a move, citing safety concerns of having young players practice near the older teams. Sniffen mentioned that Coach John Tarbox is for the idea. “He feels we can schedule (the practices) so there won’t be a conflict,” said Sniffen and he also felt that the younger players watching the older teams play may have its benefits. No decision has been made, said Sniffen. The Recreation Board itself was not unified as to where they felt the Little League games should be played.

“If there was an easy answer, we’d already have it by now,” said Sniffen. “But we do have to make a decision where we’re going to do it before the next season.” 

He said the final decision may be up to the new Town Manager.