An Evaluation of Nantucket’s Town Facilities

Sponsor: Nantucket Town Manager’s Office   WPI_TMO_Team
Sponsor Liaison: Gregg Tivnan, Assistant Town Manager
Larry Kester, Town Facilities Manager
Student Team: Stephen Arata, Abigail Brakenwagen, Brittany Colcord, George Kuegler
Abstract: The Town of Nantucket is confronted with the issue of maintaining and improving its municipal facilities in the face of growing demands, limited budgets, and a lack of centralized information. Per request of the Assistant Town Manager and Town Facilities Manager, we completed a baseline facilities assessment and compiled the information into a database. This entailed conducting site visits, stakeholder interviews, and community-wide surveys. We discovered that many facilities were not efficiently fulfilling their intended purposes, and thus we recommended structural repairs, the consolidation and relocation of several departments, and the continued use and development of the database to improve facility maintenance and management.
Links: TMO Final Report
Facilities Presentation

Executive Summary

Like many other small towns, keeping Nantucket’s town facilities up to date is an ongoing effort. As an island community, Nantucket is prone to many complications, such as exposure to harsh weather, and the high cost of utilizing off-island resources. Nantucket’s small-town atmosphere attracts many visitors over the summer months, causing an extreme increase in population. With so many people, it is crucial that the Town’s facilities well-maintained and well-equipped to handle the needs of town employees and the public they serve throughout the year. An issue faced by Nantucket is a lack of centralized information about these facilities. With 38 municipal facilities, budgeting for capital improvements and maintenance expenditures without centralized facility information is very complicated. In the past, facility problems have generally been addressed only when noticed and reported by employees; many problems were left unaddressed. Deferred maintenance is an issue; problems can become much more costly and difficult to fix when left unattended, and can escalate into more severe damages.

Project Goal and Objectives

The goal of this project is to evaluate Nantucket’s town facilities, organize information in a centralized database, and provide a basis and justification for future maintenance and space planning purposes. We identified the following four objectives to achieve this goal.  We:

  1. Collected information on town facilities through site visits and interviews with town officials and employees;
  2. Formed a comprehensive database of facility information to assist with facility maintenance and management;
  3. Determined town employee and public opinion about existing facility and space needs problems; and
  4. Made recommendations that will help the town to effectively address structural and space needs in ways that best suit the needs of the entire community.


We first determined the preferences of our project sponsors and other stakeholders regarding database design and content through a series of interviews and discussions. Considering this feedback, we built a pilot database using data collected at our 20 South Water St. site visit. We tested our pilot database by presenting it to our project liaison, refined it, and then populated the database in full. Many stakeholders requested the addition of a maintenance log, to be used by the Department of Public Works.  The log provides a central location to track all maintenance and associated facilities costs. We designed the database to generate individual reports for each building that could be shared publicly on the Town website. Only selected employees will be able to enter and edit information within the primary database. We determined town employee and public opinion about facility and space needs problems through online surveys. Finally, based on our site visit findings, interviews, and surveys, we made a series of recommendations.


During our site visits, we found that there are several general problems experienced by multiple facilities. Some of these facilities lack proper ADA compliance, while others face challenges of having town functions spread across the island which results in inefficiencies.  One of the largest issues expressed in interviews and survey responses was parking.  One survey response noted that “the lack of proper parking for employees and the public makes work inefficient…” This is major problem is augmented by summer tourist traffic. Upon completing our site visits, we categorized the facilities into four priority levels, as is illustrated in the table below. In general, facilities with the highest public usage or value to the town with the worst structural and/or space conditions were of greater priority.

  • Planning and Land Use Services
  • 20 South Water St (Old Police Station)
  • Town Building
  • Fire Station
  • Town Pier
  • Visitor Services
  • Children’s Beach & Concession
  • DPW Sheds
  • DPW Garages
  • Harbormaster Building bathrooms
  • Natural Resources Building
  • DPW Administrative Building
  • Jetties Beach Concession
  • Madaket Fire Station
  • Finance Building
  • Female Lifeguard Housing
  • Public Safety Facility
  • Community School
  • Shellfish Research Laboratory
  • Siasconset Fire Station
  • Male Lifeguard Housing

Our Town employee and public surveys yielded significant feedback on the locations of municipal departments. The majority of respondents believe that some town functions (Assessor, Finance, Human Resources, Procurement Office, Registry of Deeds, Tax Collector, Town Administration, and Town Clerk) should stay in town for easy access. Other survey respondents believe that the Registry of Motor Vehicles should be moved out of the Town Building, as it contributes significantly to foot and car traffic in the downtown area.

Recommendations and Conclusions

Taking into consideration the results of our surveys, interviews, and personal observations, we developed a set of recommendations as to how we believe the town should proceed with its municipal facilities. We recommend that the suggestions for facilities in the Level I category be addressed within the next 3 years. The PLUS building is inadequate for hosting its current operations because of the extent and severity of its problems, many of which center around its aged shell structure. We strongly recommend considering a new building entirely. The facility at 20 South Water St under-used at present and the interior is in a deplorable condition for both employee and public use. This facility needs major interior renovation and redesign to better meet the needs of employees and the public whatever town function it ultimately serves. The Fire Station currently fails to meet the needs of emergency services. We recommend it be integrated into the Public Safety Facility at 4 Fairgrounds as it is already equipped to accommodate such an addition. Moving the department to a new, larger facility would solve the current office, living quarters, and storage space issues. The Town Building requires many relatively minor repairs and upgrades, although costs may be increased because lead paint and asbestos may need to be abated. We believe that the town would benefit from addressing the aforementioned facilities before the Town Building’s, however. The Town Pier, including the main pier and floating docks, should be completely replaced with a new pier, as it would be very costly to repair the existing structure.  We recommend that the Town considers a concrete-based structure, as it would largely avoid the major fire hazard and susceptibility to weather-related damages associated with a wooden construction. The Level II facilities had less severe issues which we recommend be addressed in the next 3-5 years. Visitor Services needs more energy efficient, handicap accessible doors, as well as interior doors to increase privacy and control noise, better communal space, and a more efficient heating system to prevent pipe freezing. The DPW needs more garage storage space for equipment and entirely new sheds. Unheated portable schoolhouses are currently being used as sheds and employee communal areas. The Children’s Beach and Concession should install a new metal playground to avoid splinter hazards, as well as more adequate lighting and security cameras to discourage loitering. We recommend that the Harbormaster Building bathrooms be upgraded and/or rebuilt. These bathrooms are used by hundreds of people per day in the summer months, but are currently not aesthetically pleasing. The facilities in the Level III section are in adequate condition for at least the next five years, but have minor issues that could be addressed relatively easily. The Natural Resources and Finance Buildings should be given more storage space. We also recommend that these buildings, as well as the Harbormaster Building, be updated with larger communal areas. We recommend minor changes to the other facilities in this category. Several of the Level IV buildings are brand new and need only regular maintenance and repairs.   Some facilities are undergoing major renovations to only specific parts of the facility; other facilities may require attention in the near future.

Relocation and Consolidation

The town functions listed above should be in one location for convenience as the functions of these departments overlap. Using the current Town Building for these departments will maintain the Town’s presence in the heart of downtown. We recommend that the top floor of the facility at 20 South Water St. be used as meeting space. Visitor Services should be relocated as there is inadequate space for the public traffic received by the department; there is ample room on the ground floor of 20 South Water St. to house private offices for employees, as well as meeting and storage space that their current facility lacks. By relocating the RMV and courts to the 2-4 Fairgrounds complex, there would be more available waiting space for other departments, less hall traffic, and a quieter workspace in the Town Building, as well as less traffic and parking congestion in the downtown area. The holding areas at 20 South Water St could then be removed and the space repurposed. The Sheriff’s office can be relocated to the Public Safety Facility to be near the court, holding area, and the police station. While the current Planning and Land Use Services Facility needs to be completely redone, the departments in that facility should remain at that location. It is conveniently located away from the busy downtown area, and is close enough to the Public Safety facility to utilize its parking lot, and to allow for easy travel between the two facilities. The Fire Department should be relocated to 4 Fairgrounds as its current facility is not adequately sized to support its needed staff. The Public Safety Facility is already equipped to handle the addition and it would be convenient for the police and fire/rescue departments to be together. The facility located at 37 Washington St (currently Finance Building) could be moved to the 2-4 Fairgrounds area and utilized as the RMV and/or courthouse. It could also be moved to the Natural Resources Department location to provide employees with more office and storage space. To resolve the parking issue in the downtown area, we suggest the construction of a parking garage, with designated employee parking, in the current lot behind the Finance Building. This location is in a low-population, easily accessible area. Should this suggestion be vetoed, we suggest a shuttle service for town employees from a lot outside of town. The locations of the DPW facilities, Natural Resources Department (including the Shellfish Research Lab), Harbormaster Building, Community School, concessions, and housing are functional in their current locations. The DPW should be located near the landfill, the Harbormaster needs to be at the Town Pier, and the Natural Resources Department, specifically the Shellfish Research Lab, needs to located on the coast. We also recommend that the town constantly update the database to accommodate for and describe recent upgrades and necessary repairs. We believe that this information should be made visible to the public by use of PDF’s uploaded onto the town website, which should also be updated regularly. Consistently updating the database will better enable the town to perform preventative maintenance. Since many of the facilities are not very energy efficient, we also recommend that the town looks into potential opportunities for alternative energy, as well as installing weatherproof doors and windows to block weather movement throughout buildings. Additionally, we believe that the only way for the approval of our recommended renovations is to involve the public as much as possible. Public forums and surveys can provide invaluable information, and from our survey, we found that Nantucket residents are passionate about the future of their town and its facilities. In conclusion, we recommend that the town takes our findings further and conducts a more thorough space needs and planning assessment.