Amid plans for a new Woods Hole terminal and a new ferry, and a rekindled discussion about shipping freight to the Vineyard from New Bedford, the Steamship Authority governors are also welcoming a new member.
Catherine Norton was appointed by the Falmouth selectmen in mid-January as the town’s representative to the board. Former governor Robert Marshall resigned in November after 11 years.
“There are a lot of challenges coming up, and there are a whole lot of interest groups that need to be listened to,” Ms. Norton said during a phone conversation Monday. “Especially the business groups in Woods Hole, you don’t want the way the new terminal area is designed to negatively impact the businesses, you don’t want to negatively impact the residents in Woods Hole.”
Ms. Norton worked at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole for 33 years, where she ran the science libraries and information technology division of the institution. She retired in March 2013.
“I handled big budgets, million-dollar budgets,” Ms. Norton said. She also held leadership positions with the Boston Library Consortium and the Biodiversity Heritage Library and served on the Falmouth school committee and as a town meeting member.
“The skills I think are transferable,” she said. “It’s about what is for the common good.”
Ms. Norton is from New Bedford and has lived in Falmouth for about 50 years, she said. “I grew up in New Bedford and one of the biggest deals in the whole world was in the eighth grade, we’d get to get on the ferry and go to Woods Hole and then Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket . . . it was great,” she said. “The trip was part of the experience . . . romance of the sea.”
She is also a justice of the peace and said she often travels to the Vineyard and Nantucket to officiate weddings.
When Mr. Marshall resigned from the board, Ms. Norton thought it was a good opportunity for her to join the board. “I said, well I think I could do something on that committee.”
She attended her first meeting last week in Woods Hole. “I’m looking forward to working with all community groups, whether Falmouth or Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, Hyannis, plus members of the administrative team down in Woods Hole,” she said. She said she appreciated the camaraderie between the board, the port council and SSA administration. “I can see that in one meeting,” she said.
She’s already taken on one concern, reducing truck noise on roads leading into Woods Hole. “Little things we can do that can alleviate some of the noise problems,” she said.
Woods Hole residents have voiced concerns about aesthetics and increased traffic from a reconfigured Woods Hole terminal. These concerns were raised at a community meeting in November.
“No one liked what was presented at the last meeting,” Ms. Norton said. “[That’s] one of the reasons that I thought maybe I should try to see if I can help in bringing people to the table and talking reasonably about what needs to be done, what can be done. What are the aspirations and what is feasible?”
Woods Hole terminal renovations have reignited discussion about shipping freight from New Bedford to the Vineyard as a way to alleviating ferry and truck traffic in Woods Hole. Ms. Norton said she was open to looking at this issue. “It’s always coming up. I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “New Bedford needs more jobs. I think it would be nice to have some of the trips go through New Bedford.”
“I think we need to get the technology and time issues taken care of,” Ms. Norton said, acknowledging that the trip is two hours longer and would be much more expensive.
“What would that do to the economy of scale?” she said. “Those are the challenges . . . it’s not a dead issue. I think everybody actually wants things to go out of New Bedford; it is the cost and the time at the moment. So that’s something that everyone should continue to work on and look at and not put it to sleep and keep it on the back burner.”
She concluded: “I know the mission of the Steamship Authority. The mission is to make sure that foodstuffs and utilities and oil get to the Islands. That has to be adhered to no matter what.
“What I think we really do need is a long-range professional plan. Not a five-year capital budget, I don’t think that is the same thing as a long range plan . . . and I think we need some outside help helping us do to that. We don’t want to put good ideas aside, but we want to make sure we can do them economically.”