“Let the water flow,” decreed Sandwich’s director of public works, Paul S. Tilton.
And it did—right into the waxed paper cup of Christopher McElroy, 9, who attends 3rd grade at the Henry T. Wing School on Water Street.
Christopher became the first person to drink the water at Sandwich’s spring-fed town hall bubbler following its official reopening Wednesday afternoon.
The bubbler—where people are welcome to fill up containers with spring water—had been closed since September to accommodate Phase 2 of the town hall renovation project.
Asked to give his assessment of the water, Christopher replied, “Really good.”
Really good seems the best way to characterize the mood of the 50 residents and town officials who gathered Wednesday afternoon for the bubbler’s official reopening.
No doubt the warm air, bright sun, and reopened bubbler felt like a reward after a relentless winter that had tested the hardiest of Sandwich souls.
“Cheers! Cheers!” called selectman Susan R. James, clicking waxed paper cups with other town officials. “All right!”
The trio who instigated the Phase 2 project addressed the amiable crowd.
Given the redesign of the area around the bubbler, Jonathan A. Shaw of Jarves Street said, means bubbler-bound people no longer have to walk in the street, “and that’s just marvelous.”
Selectman Frank Pannorfi recalled how he, Mr. Shaw, and R. Patrick Ellis got together and decided that “something had to be done with the front of the building.”
Mr. Ellis, of Spring Hill Road, praised the work that was done on the project, as well as the contribution of Mr. Tilton.
“You have to have a public works director to do more than just take care of what’s here,” he said.
Mr. Tilton, in his remarks just prior to the bubbler reopening, said that the Phase 2 project, involving the shutdown of the bubbler and the placement of cement barriers on Main Street in the heart of the village, was a high-profile project from the start.
Just in case the Department of Public Works and the contractor, A.J. Virgilio of Westfield, wanted any more scrutiny, there was town manager George H. Dunham and assistant town manager Douglas A. Lapp periodically peering out of the windows of town hall, not to mention a camera on the roof of town hall that monitored the project’s progress.
“Wave to it!” Mr. Tilton urged. The crowd waved.
But Mr. Tilton said town employees were ready to step into the breach. There was assistant town engineer Samuel J.P. Jensen, who acquired the nickname of “Demanding Dan” during the project.
Mr. Jensen was very detail-oriented, Mr. Tilton said. Mr. Jensen and Jeff Wroblewski, Virgilio’s superintendent, forged what Mr. Tilton described as “a unique relationship” during the eight-month project.
Even more assiduous was Sean P. Harringtown, the engineering technician who was named Sandwich’s 2013 municipal employee of the year. Mr. Harrington was not one to let a bit of difficult weather, including 10-degree temperatures, interfere with his involvement in the project.
The man who was really under the gun was Virgilio’s superintendent, Mr. Wroblewski.
“The biggest challenge we found was the weather,” Mr. Wroblewski said Wednesday.
With the Cape’s traditionally mild winter on vacation, the relentlessly cold temperatures and high humidity played havoc with the project, including its most involved, yet least visible, aspect, the reconstruction of 100 feet of retaining wall along the Mill Creek channel.
Mr. Wroblewski further had to work around seasonal closures in the creek mandated by the state Division of Marine Fisheries to accommodate fish migrations.
In fact, the unexpectedly severe winter pushed back completion of the project, initially slated for completion this past December, five more months.
But Mr. Wroblewski said Virgilio were glad to finish the work in time for the community festivities.
Mr. Lapp said that the project, which cost $336,000 in community preservation funds, completes the “missing link” for pedestrians by providing safe accessibility from the fountain area to town hall, including for people requiring handicapped access.
The project, Mr. Lapp said. also preserved the herring run by structurally reinforcing the existing retaining wall along Mill Creek. A bridge, upgraded walkways and overlooks further enhanced the value of the herring run.
Because the bubbler is such a focal part of Sandwich, Mr. Dunham said, “this kind of polishes the jewel.”
Furnishing a key link in the project were students at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Bourne, who designed and built a wooden bridge that spans the Mill Creek channel between the town hall steps and the bubbler.
Kevin McFadyen, an Upper Cape Tech instructor in carpentry and home building, oversaw the 12 students who designed and built the bridge.
“They all embraced it,” Mr. McFadyen said.
The instructor said the project gave the students insight into the growing world of modular construction, given that they built the bridge and later its rails at the school and saw the bridge and rails brought to the site. The bridge and rails fit perfectly.
Mr. McFadyen said the wooden bridge will give the students the opportunity to return to the wooden bridge with their grandchildren to show them what they did, and for those grandchildren to visit the bridge with their grandchildren to show them what their great-great grandfather did.
“It puts their mark on the planet,” he said.