Our Beaches - An Enterprise In Need of Attention [Troy Clarkson]

The title sounded official and important enough – Director of Business Services for the Department of Integrated Solid Waste Management.  In reality, though, I was simply the money man at the dump.  It was a great experience, though.  I worked for the Town of Bourne for many years and learned much about solid waste, landfills, and a great accounting tool called an enterprise fund. 

Trash and cash are not terribly exciting or inspiring topics, but in this case, the operation of the solid waste department in our neighbor to the north is a critical lynchpin in the financial health of the community.  While I was working there, we managed through the enterprise fund, to contribute nearly $2 million yearly to the general fund.  For a community with a total budget of $40 million, that’s no chump change.  An enterprise fund, in its simplest terms, acts like a business within a town.  The costs of the enterprise, in this case a landfill, are all paid out of the receipts, or revenue.  So, when you clean out your garage and head up MacArthur Boulevard with a pickup truck full of stuff and deposit it there because you don’t want to deal with the $2.50 per bag hassle on Thomas Landers Road (an all too familiar refrain these days), the cash you spend stays within the landfill operation to pay its bills.  That includes the aforementioned cash payment to the town for their share of services to keep the enterprise running, like accounting, payroll, and executive oversight.  Even capital expenses and improvements are paid for out of the enterprise.  This accounting and management tool ensures that a municipal operation supports its own operations, keeps its infrastructure current and updated, and provides a good service to its users – who in turn bear the sole burden for the financial viability of the enterprise.  It’s a circle of efficient financial management that works well in many communities throughout the Commonwealth.

As the Town Manager in Bridgewater, I was responsible for four enterprise funds, for water, sewer, solid waste, and even a municipal golf course.  These funds supported themselves (save for the golf course after a terribly rainy June last year), and contributed significant sums to keeping Town Hall chugging along, helping to pay the town’s bills with their contributions.  Simply put, it works. 

It’s time to bring this tested and effective tool to Falmouth.  The candidate that stands out the most is our beach operation.  Clearly our most important public asset, our beaches have long been an unfortunate after thought in the capital planning queue (how long did the septic system at Old Silver languish in line?) and continue to beg for greater attention and TLC.  Beach guru Don Hoffer and his dedicated sidekick Bruce Mogardo have worked tirelessly to try to protect and improve this most precious asset but have been regularly thwarted in their efforts, as the more than $800,000 generated by the beaches has often been syphoned off for other purposes.

Establishing an enterprise fund for the beaches will dedicate that sizeable sum solely for the beaches, and will allow for much needed capital improvements, more regular beach nourishment, and demonstrate to our residents and visitors alike that these gems – these prized and treasurable assets that are the very reason why many come and spend large percentages of their disposable income here – are a priority in Falmouth.   Without a dedicated funding source and a clear path for sustainable improvements, our beaches will become the next Odd Fellows Hall – a tired, old asset that reminds us of its former grandeur and beauty.  We can’t afford that.  We can’t afford not to make the necessary commitment. 

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