Town road news: Parking ban extended to 3/31, Bridge St open, and Main St project information sharing (Updated)

by beth on March 13, 2014

Post image for Town road news: Parking ban extended to 3/31, Bridge St open, and Main St project information sharing (Updated)

Above: A new overlay of Main Street reconstruction project from town website.
Click here for full size original. [NOTE: Existing conditions are in red. The proposed project is in black; see key for other detail.]

Starting off with some good news. . .

The town tweeted Tuesday afternoon that Bridge Street bridge officially reopened.

On to the bad news. . .

One problem with relying on a groundhog to determine how long winter will last – he can’t talk. Maybe if he could, in early February Puxatawney Phil would have said, forget 6 more weeks of winter – make it 8.

Selectmen certainly think winter may last that long. They extended the winter parking ban from March 15th to March 31st. (If you need a reminder of the rules, click here.)

And now for the, hmm, contentious/confusing news . . .

Discussions of the Main Street reconstruction project got a bit passionate on Tuesday night. Former Selectman David Parry made his case for his citizen’s petition warrants to form and fund a committee to review the project.

Answering questions by Selectman John Rooney, Parry clarified the committee would work to develop two plans

  • Fine tuning to the current plan slated for state funding – to “bend the rules” closer to a town vision while keeping state funding
  • A minimal plan consistent with a town vision of what Main Street should be, that would be funded by the town

He said that voters should have a choice between the two options at the 2015 Annual Town Meeting. He also insisted that a minimalist approach would be far less expensive and could be handled gradually.

Department of Public Works Director Karen Galligan rebutted some of Parry’s and others’ arguments. 

Galligan reiterated that despite what others have been saying about the project being pushed to 2018, the construction work is scheduled for 2017.*

She also claimed that even a down-scaled plan would cost $3 Million. She cited drainage problems, safety requirements, and town requested sidewalks.

Parry countered that an independent expert could find out that some of the expenses were unnecessary. He accused the town of having its head buried in the sand. He said they didn’t want to let go of their plan because it had been worked on so hard and long.

Galligan said that Parry’s concerns about the widening and straightening of the road were misinformed. She said that the roads would only be significantly wider towards Sears Road. She believed that people may have been looking at outdated plans from the first contractor.

Rooney and Selectman Bill Boland agreed that residents need to understand the plan details. They asked for an overlay of the current and proposed plans to be shared.

Galligan shared an online document with Rooney and promised to post it to the town website. (Click here for now available document. NOTE: Existing conditions are in red. The proposed project is in black; see key for other detail.) But she said that people who want to understand the plans should attend her April 2nd meeting and Q&A with the town contractor.

Rooney asked Library Trustee Margarite Landry and Galligan to look at combining their upcoming meetings. Landry was planning a panel discussion and Q&A to include the citizen’s petition warrant articles for March 26th. Rooney worried that people would walk away with different sets of information, adding to confusion.

Landry just informed me that the Library has instead moved their meeting to April 9th at 7:00 pm. This will allow people to understand the town plan before attending a panel discussion about the citizen’s petition. 

Further into the meeting, Selectmen discussed the related, potential warrant article for funding undergrounding of utilities. Rooney questioned who was interested in moving it forward.

Parry accused Selectman Bill Boland of putting it forth as a red herring to confuse voters. Galligan said she wanted it, in case some undergrounding of utilities was incorporated into the plan. She was concerned that waiting would create a timing issue for funding of the work.

Planning Board member Paul Cimino pointed out that if it became necessary to handle undergrounding, that could be dealt with later in a Special Town Meeting. In the end, the article was unsponsored and therefore removed.

*Updated (3/13/14 5:17 pm): I asked Karen Galligan to re-clarify the project timeline for me. I didn’t hear back in time for the post earlier, but wanted to include it now that I have it:

Right now we are listed for funding through the State/Federal Transportation improvement Plan (TIP) in FY17, which begins October 2016. So realistically, the project will bid in fall 2016 but no real construction work will begin until spring 2017.

As far as the 75% deadline, there is not a hard date from the TIP. The Town was planning on holding meetings with residents during the months following the 25% MassDOT design hearing to delve into the detail and aesthetics wishes for the project, with the intention of submitting the 75% design before winter. That would give us 2015 to get approvals and permanent and temporary easements so that a 100% design could be submitted for bidding in 2016, prior to October. There has been talk about whether the 75% could be delayed. Unfortunately I do not have a definite answer to that. I believe that it could be put off to summer 2015 if we are able to get conditional easements prior to the submittal, but I do not know that for sure.

1 Al Hamilton March 13, 2014 at 8:50 PM

I recently chaired the Ad Hoc Town Manager Legislation Committee which succeeded in passing a Town Admin By Law, Special Legislation to Expand the BOS and Special Legislation to Give the Town Admin the power to sign Warrants.

One of the issues we spent a lot of time on is which bodies have the authority to do certain things. We spent a lot of time understanding what powers were inherently held by the BOS and what powers could be delegated solely by our Legislature, Town Meeting.

As an example, the responsibility to sign payment warrants (The authorization to pay our bills) was given to the BOS by State Law. This meant that only the BOS could sign Warrants. In order to relieve the BOS of this administrative burden we needed to pass and submit “Special Legislation” to the State House to change this. This was done and it passed.

In 1991 we consolidated the Highway, Cemetery, and Water departments into the DPW. This was done by similar “Special Legislation” passed by the State House. This State Law gives the Superintendent of the DPW the sole authority to operate the DPW. The same legislation gave the BOS the authority to make DPW policy. http://archives.lib.state.ma.us/actsResolves/1991/1991acts0447.pdf

The responsibility to advise the BOS on DPW matters is given to the Public Works Planning Board which consists of 5 members 3 appointed by the Moderator and 2 by the Planning Board

The point of this long winded explanation is that even if Town Meeting votes for some alternative plan for Rt 30 it’s vote carries no authority because Town Meeting has no authority to make policy for the DPW. The only body that has this authority is the BOS. The Body assigned by State Law to Advise the BOS is the Public Works Planning Board. This can be changed but it will require an act that is passed by the State House.

I am as big a fan of Town Meeting as anyone. My respect for the institution means that I want it to engage in productive work and not engage in lengthy debate on toothless gestures that amount to a fool’s errand. I have suggested 5 different things that be reasonable exercises of Town Meetings powers in this matter but forming a committee to study the issue or to vote on options is not one.

2 Tim Martel March 14, 2014 at 11:02 AM

One caveat – Town Meeting does hold the purse. So while only the BOS (via the Town Admin) can direct the DPW on a day-to-day basis, Town Meeting does essentially retain veto power over large projects.

3 Tim Martel March 14, 2014 at 11:18 AM

I apologize for the double post, but I feel the need to be more explicit.

Town Meeting is anything but “toothless”. If the BOS chooses to defy Town Meeting’s will over this matter, here are three possible outcomes:

A) Town Meeting chooses to not fund the Town’s portion of the project’s financial obligations.
B) The State becomes aware of Town Meeting’s opposition, and so pulls the State’s portion of the project’s financial obligations.
C) The Town votes in new members to the BOS who will respect the will of Town Meeting.

Let’s not confuse the ability to control day-to-day operations with the ability to control large expenditures. Town Meeting may not be able to tell the BOS which option to choose, but Town Meeting can tell the BOS which option they will fund.

4 Al Hamilton March 14, 2014 at 4:41 PM

Tim

I agree with you, several of the alternatives I suggested involved using TM’s power of the purse. It is a very blunt tool.

What is not clear to me is the following. The power of the purse appropriations are really votes to raise and appropriate. This means that we are really voting to approve the taxes for a specific appropriation. In this case, if the State funds the project, there is no tax to approve. I could easily be wrong but I do not think that TM would normally vote on this spending since there is no underlying tax to approve. If someone knows differently please correct me.

There are ways that TM could effectively derail this but they are not pretty. I have suggested several.

5 Tim Martel March 15, 2014 at 10:49 AM

I could not find any cost/budget information for this project. I can’t say what the breakdown is between Federal/State/Town. I don’t know if there will be any new expenses for the Design phase, which is owned by the Town. I don’t know who will be responsible for cost overruns. This information would be useful. I hope Advisory has it. Perhaps it will be shared, or maybe I just missed it?

6 Deleted March 17, 2014 at 2:28 AM

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7 Deleted March 14, 2014 at 12:51 AM

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8 Deleted March 15, 2014 at 11:39 AM

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9 Karen Connell March 16, 2014 at 11:57 AM

The more I read, the more I listen, the more meetings I attend……the more CONFUSED I get! I ask the community, those of you writing here, please answer one question. Your answers will help me form an opinion.

This project will alter the town forever. Is this change good for the town as a whole, as a community?

10 Tim Martel March 17, 2014 at 8:49 AM

Answering this question is the very purpose of the committee that Mr. Parry wants Town Meeting to form.

11 Deleted March 17, 2014 at 1:25 PM

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12 Al Hamilton March 17, 2014 at 1:24 PM

I think you have really asked 2 questions:

Question 1: Will this alter the town forever? – Towns are always changing. 18 years ago when I moved to town there was a farmers field across from my house. Now it is all houses. The corn field around the corner is now all houses. The open field behind my house is now all houses. The town approved all these changes. My neighbors and I were not real happy about it but the town made a decision and we had to live iwth it. Things change. We are no longer a sleepy rural town, we are a suburban community like the rest of Metro West. With increasing population comes the need for an infrastructure that can accommodate that population. So the reality is that anything we do, whether we pay for it out of our local taxes or the state pays for it things will change. Not changing is not an option.

I think several facts are worth noting:

A.) The project as designed is not the 4 lane highway that some would like to have you believe. There is no significant widening of the road in the “downtown” area.(Mauro’s to the fire station.

B.) There is significant widening at the 30-85 intersection to create turning lanes. Every other intersection on Rt 30 and Rt 85 with a light has some sort of engineered turning lane except this intersection. These other intersections (30 and Firmin, 30 and Central, 30 and Marlborough, 85 and Cordaville, 85 and Richards, 85 and Transfer Station, 85 and Marlborough) did not blight the neighborhoods they are in. Urban gangs are not hiding behind trees. The sky did not fall when they were installed.

2) Is this good for the whole community?

A) First, I understand that those that will have to live and work in the area the construction will be inconvenienced. Every time construction happens neighbors are inconvenienced.

B) For the last 285 years we have elected a group of people to make the calls about this sort of thing. Under State law the group that is elected to make this judgement is the Board of Selectmen. They held a number of meetings to review this project and Mr. Parry and his neighbors were actively involved. At the end of the day the BOS made a decision about what, in their opinion, was best for our community. They decided that upgrading this section of road and having the state pay for it was the way that they wanted to go.

I have spent several hours looking over the prints and they look like the project that was approved by the BOS. I would be happy to agree with a reassessment if someone can point out a significant change in scope or objective of the current plans vs what was approved. To date I have not heard any such objection.

C). We have heard extensively from those that believe they will not benefit. What about those that do?

a. If you live south of Rt 9 or West of Rt 85 and you call the fire dept, odds are that the required apparatus will have to go through this intersection. Turning lanes create space for ambulances and fire trucks to pass.

b. If your street is scheduled to be repaved in the next few years you benefit. If this project is inserted in the queue then paving your street will be delayed. I have challenged the proponents of killing the state funding to name the paving priorities that are lower in their opinion. So far they have been unwilling to do so. Have no doubt, those decisions will be made.

c. If you commute through this 30/85 intersection. Your commute should be slightly easier.

d. If you pay a water bill you will benefit. Replacing the water mains will have to be done sometime in the foreseeable future. Doing it as part of the construction is probably the most cost effective method.

e. If you pay taxes you will benefit. We have massively underfunded our municipal capital maintenance budgets. Getting the state to fund this project means that our scarce resources can be allocated to other projects.

13 Deleted March 17, 2014 at 2:22 PM

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14 Jim Hegarty March 17, 2014 at 3:21 PM

Am I the only one to notice that several comments in this thread use LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS, have similar grammatical errors, have the same general point of view, use a name that is not listed at town hall as a resident of Southborough, etc. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that someone is posting using multiple names. I have no issues with someone using an alias or anonymous but these repeated posts under different names detract from the discussion and it undermines the point of view the writer is trying to advance. Just my two cents.

I am on the fence on this issue. I am looking forward to the meeting hosted by DPW where we can get definitive answers. I have met with Mr. Parry and listened to his perspective and then walked the areas impacted by this proposed work.

Finally, I am a bit chagrined to see the bashing that some folks have directed towards Al Hamilton because he has written and expressed both facts as well as his opinions on the Main St. project. It is odd to bash Al when he has been so open and thoughtful in his postings. It reminds me of some of the bashing that has been directed towards John Rooney when he has explained his opinions on this blog. Frankly, we should embrace the candor these people express.

I have known AL Hamilton for about 6 years and served with him on Advisory. I didn’t agree with Al on every issue then and I disagree with him on a few current issues. But I always respected the incredible amount of research and thought he put into looking into every issue from all perspectives. And I did find Al to be someone who would listen to opposing opinions and was open to changing his mind. I would never describe Al as subtle or hesitant to speak his mind, but he sure is effective.

15 RB March 20, 2014 at 1:47 PM

I agree Jim! SO many posters with the same composition and grammatical styles, mis-(DASH)information, “quotations”, viewpoints, the same attacks on the same people and such! It makes one wonder if one or perhaps two people created multiple e-(dash)mail addresses/names to look like there are several identical-(dash)thinking viewpoints, or if the same person is penning letters for several “people”.

Either way, it is hot topic that has been discussed for several years, and preliminary plans were presented after (here goes the CAPS) MUCH debate from both sides. Not everyone can get their way in life!

Like him or not, Mister (I will get to that in a minute) Rooney is a fresh face on the Board since the plans were drawn up, and presents some excellent, reasonable points. Give the man a chance!

I have also noticed how many people posting have generally lost respect for those whom they disagree with. I was taught in the Southborough Public Schools (thank you Dr. Gobron) to always address a person with an appropriate prefix, e.g.: Mr. or Selectman Boland, Ms. Galigan, or Mr. Hamilton; not, for example by their last name only: Parry, Adamson or Gresky.

We can disagree (no dash), or agree to disagree, but should always be respectful of each other at the same time!

16 Frank Crowell March 17, 2014 at 8:36 PM

Well, I do not think Ms. Craftsman’s post could be characterized wheedling.

I also do not think many have addressed people on this board by just using their last name.

But a weedle is kind of a cute character.

Just thought I would point this out.

17 Deleted March 17, 2014 at 2:03 AM

Comment removed for apparent violation of comment policies:
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18 sl March 17, 2014 at 3:14 PM

While I have found this topic interesting, I want to let people know that I, and others I have talked to, have ignored at least half or more of the comments here and in the other recent threads. The moment I glimpse phrases, sentences or paragraphs in all capital letters, I completely ignore that entire comment and commenter as having the blog version of a temper tantrum. You might think you’re creating emphasis, but it just comes across to many people as yelling, whining and irrational, no matter what the words actually say. So, I’ve read what Al and Tim have to say and have no interest in reading any others.

19 Mark Ford March 17, 2014 at 3:49 PM

You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to have a label with people who aren’t using real names or obvious pseudonyms…for example, at least with “just curious,” “resident,” etc., I know that they’re folks who for whatever reason seek anonymity. But so many of the people posting, particularly on this issue, are slippery to me: Maryanne Adamson, Alison Craftsman, Stu Evans…they all have quite similar rhetorical styles, all slam a legitimately debatable proposal, and I really can’t find anything (in an admittedly quick search) that says they live in Southborough–why the pretense of fake names?

20 sl March 18, 2014 at 2:51 PM

I was thinking the same thing as Mark and Jim. It is a violation of the guidelines for the blog. Reading the guidelines, #3 says: “You don’t have to use your real name when you comment (although bonus points if you do), but pick an alias and stick to it. No using different aliases within the same comment thread (i.e., you can’t pretend to be different people commenting on the same thing).”

So, if someone is doing this, their posts should be removed by Beth. However, it isn’t hard, for someone who wants to, to fake this by setting up several dummy email accounts. But it sure feels like the same person to me too.

21 beth March 18, 2014 at 3:16 PM

If there was one email address posting under different names, I wouldn’t have posted the comments. (Or if I somehow missed – would have removed.)

However, these comments you refer to are being posted by different, legitimate looking email accounts. Since I don’t work for the NSA, I don’t have the capability of checking who the email accounts belong to.

22 Anger Management March 17, 2014 at 5:37 PM

Wondering if Hamilton ran over someones dog? Let the votes be counted…I am in favor of keeping Sboro quaint but there is no need to write with such wrath toward anothers opinion.

23 Art Fay March 18, 2014 at 6:48 AM

Seems like a LOT of posters ON this particular SUBJECT use the SAME style, where THEY alternate BETWEEN upper and LOWER case.

24 Karen Connell March 18, 2014 at 3:47 PM

The last several comments made me think to post a public Thank You to Beth for maintaining this blog. I rely on this blog for information. Perhaps we can agree to be more respectful and omit personal attacks that don’t help any argument.

With those sentiments in mind, in response to Mr. Hamilton’s lengthy missive I politely disagree. However, Mr. Hamilton’s comments got me thinking about “change” and I wish to open up a discussion on the subject of “change”.

I am opposed to a project that widens, straightens, and expands the traffic volume into the Town. Is it simply an issue of change? Will the Town neither be worse nor better but simply changed?

25 Al Hamilton March 18, 2014 at 8:03 PM

Ms. Connell

Change is a fact of life. There is almost no change that impacts our community that is universally good for all. Some will feel the benefit from a specific change, some will feel that they do not.

We elected a group of people, the BOS in this case, to make the decision about this project and to balance the various interests involved. They made a decision after lengthy debate and public hearings. Many decisions that the BOS makes are routine and many are contentious. We elect them to make these decisions. If we do not like them our recourse is at the ballot box.

If someone else chooses to run on the “Lets postpone other paving projects because we don’t like the state rules” ticket so be it I am happy to let the voters decide.

26 JMO March 19, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Yes, change happens. I am living in Southborough because some patch of woods was wiped out to put in homes. I am just shocked by the scope of this project for a tiny little downtown. Does traffic backup in the downtown? Yes, somewhat during rush hour. But, most of the day traffic flow is completely within the norm. I just feel like this project is similar to killing a fly with a bazooka. It’s overkill. I understand that traffic will increase over time and this is supposed to be a vision of the future. I would just say that the future is not now. I don’t even see the need on a 10 year horizon. It is not the time to turn this area in Southborough into an intersection that would be better suited for a larger town. It’s a total waste of state dollars which all of us supply as well. This is pork pure and simple.
And, the reason I don’t use my real name is because this message board can get very nasty. I just don’t want to put my real self out there for the comments. My family does live in this town and expect to keep doing so.

27 David Parry March 18, 2014 at 5:07 PM

Who cares if people use pseudonyms. The important thing is to get the facts out. Many people have important facts or opinions they want to share, but they could be in serious jeopardy if they used their real names, including losing their jobs. That is not a joke or exaggeration. This town is very small. This issue is highly political, So it should be no surprise that residents are afraid of sticking their heads out.

I personally welcome all questions and comments, from whomever, including Mr Hamilton, whom I disagree with, principally because he refuses to entertain the examination of an alternative.

However Mr Hamilton does raise some good procedural issues about who really controls what. I would respond that all of this may be resolved by this election. The 5 new Selectmen could easily agree to go along with the Review Committee, and allow them plenty of time, simply by putting off the State Hearing for a full year. Then the Selectmen could relax for a year, and in 2015 listen to the end results — a choice between (1) a State-funded plan (large, but maybe fine tuned), and (2) a locally-funded plan (minimalist and “traffic calming”) . Then the 5 Selectmen could listen to the 2015 Town Meeting discussion or vote, and then they could make their own decision.

In other words, it is all manageable, and no one need tell anyone what to do, as Mr Hamilton keeps insisting. There need be no conflict at all.

One major problem with this particular issue is the way it has been mis-understood, or not understood at all. For example, the farce of having colorful drawings pinned up for five years on the official town notice board, in Town Hall no less, showing an illustration of what this State-funded plan is NOT going to look like !.

Another problem is that some our Selectmen, because they were not elected at the time, are not aware how the “reviews” were orchestrated by a conductor– (yes I think that is the right word description) — because all residents were told they must follow the same sheet of music — the State design rules. The Composer is the State DOT. The conductor is the town’s consultant engineeer and DPW, trying to get the residents to follow the music score many do not like. The result is this “compromise” plan, and Selectmen Boland and our DPW Director can stand up and claim, (truthfully), that they went through many reviews and ended up with this compromise, which was the best they could manage. But what they never admit is that there was never any alternative examined or allowed, and that the reviews were extremely limited in scope.

I don’t blame the State for having rules and for insisting that all projects using State funding must accommodate future traffic projections. Of course the State wants their money spent in ways that open up more road capacity, to handle as many commuters as possible. That is the State DOT objective.

I do blame our DPW and early Selectmen for not making this clear at the start, and for not issuing a loud warning, and for not allowing any alternative, which has resulted in the dilemma we now face.

That is the reason for the Warrant Article, establishing an independent Review Committee, who can hire an independent peer review consultant, to see if (1) this State-funded Plan is the best plan we can come up under the State funding, and (2) prepare a locally funded alternative, which can be the polar opposite, focusing on “traffic calming” and a minimalist approach, starting with the essentials, and implemented over time, as and when we need the work done, not all at once., in one lengthy Big Dig.

Of course “Big Dig” is NOT quite the right word, is it. Because the Boston Big Dig produced more open space and less traffic on the surface — which was a big benefit but after a huge price tag and lengthy disruption. Whereas the Southborough version will produce less open space and more traffic on the surface, and nothing underneath. Has anyone got any better descriptive word ? That is why I used the phrase “Scrape it all away, and then rebuild it all new ,,,etc”

I see the Warrant Article as being common sense. Others see it as a “threat”..

Now, if this was your family business, how would you proceed ?

My name is David Parry, and I live in Southborough, and I am not afraid to stick my neck out, and say it like it is. But I am not asking others to do so. What I do ask is that they continue to write in, offer facts, suggestions and opinions. They can use
pseudonyms. I don’t even care if they live out of town, because maybe they can tell us what has happened elsewhere under similar circumstances. it can all be potentially valuable and provide a different perspective. .

28 Just Curious March 18, 2014 at 11:16 PM

I almost didn’t recognize this post due the sudden absence of CAPITAL LETTERS compared to David Parry’s previous posts:)

29 Just Curious March 19, 2014 at 8:51 PM

David Parry wrote “Who cares if people use pseudonyms.” That’s such rubbish! It is a fair guess that EVERYONE objects to someone posting under their true name and then multiple times under pseudonyms. I believe most readers would consider that to be bunkum and balderdash. But what the dickens do I know.

30 Deleted March 20, 2014 at 6:12 PM

Comment removed for apparent violation of comment policies:
– Be transparent. You don’t have to use your real name when you comment (although bonus points if you do), but pick an alias and stick to it. No using different aliases within the same comment thread (i.e., you can’t pretend to be different people commenting on the same thing). If you’re an elected official or town volunteer, disclose that when you comment on something related to your work.

– Be real. When you submit a comment, you must enter a working email address. Your email address will not be published on the site, but for administrative purposes, it must be valid.

31 Al Hamilton March 18, 2014 at 8:52 PM

I want to leave the question of the merits of this project aside for a moment and ask the following question: “Is Review Committee a proper subject for Town Meeting?” No one is a bigger fan of Town Meeting than I am but I am skeptical about whether this is an appropriate or productive use of the forum.

1. The first part of the article appropriates $15,000. There is no question in my mind that appropriating the money and raising the taxes required is a power reserved to Town Meeting.

2. The second part is more nuanced

Does TM have the authority to instruct the Moderator to appoint a committee for review almost any subject – Yes.

Does such a committee have the right to public records – Yes, this power is available under the Public Records Law to any citizen.

Does TM have the authority to instruct town departments to provide assistance in particular instruct the DPW to assist the committee? – No. The power to set policies and priorities for the DPW is reserved by state law to the BOS. TM has no authority to direct the DPW to do anything unless it wants to use its power of the purse. It could for example instruct that no funds be spent on a specific matter.

Could the DPW hold hearings and let a contract for the project during the period that the committee is holding its review? – Yes State law says that the Superintendent runs the day to day operations subject to the policies of the BOS.

Could Town Meeting pass a by law instructing the DPW to adopt a specific plan? – No, that authority is reserved to the BOS by state law and TM cannot trump state law. (I wish this were not the case but it is)

So, now place yourself in the position of the Moderator. He/she must find 9 presumably neutral (that leaves Mr. Parry and me out) town folks to review a highly technical issue without the assurance of support from the DPW and in a year report to a body without the power to enact any finding they might have. I can imagine that there might not be a lot of takers.

My understanding of the relevant authorities based on the 1991 Special Legislation (which I posted elsewhere) is that all roads (and streets) lead back to the BOS.

32 David Parry March 19, 2014 at 3:16 PM

I never intended to be on the Review Committee, and I would have refused even if someone has nominated me.

The Committee has to be fully independent, and appointed by the Moderator alone, to ensure that it is non-political. The Moderator can consult with the 5 new selectman as to their suggestions, but it has to be the Moderator’s choice . If Mr Hamilton is elected then he should stay out of it.

Only an independent committee can be credible. They must be able to hire their own engineering consultant for a “peer review”. That consultant cannot be directed by DPW, (like the past and present consultants have been). The Committee and its consultant need access to the town information. I am confident the 5 new selectmen will agree to do that. It is in the town’s interest.

We need a Second Opinion in the genuine sense.

I cannot understand how something so simple and common sense is being stonewalled. Unless the reason is political — to prevent this town from coming up with an alternative, which might be better, and which would give our Town Meeting a legitimate choice in 2015.

The process to come up with best solution for the town, in the long term, is critical. It must be above politics That is the whole point of the Articles.

33 Al Hamilton March 20, 2014 at 8:38 AM

” If Mr Hamilton is elected then he should stay out of it.”

If the voters decide that I should be a Selectman I can assure them of the following:

1. I have no interest in serving on the proposed review committee. I believe that I have made my opinion on the appropriateness of this committee clear.

2. I have also made my opinion on this project clear.

To repeat: This was a decision that was made by the proper authority after lengthy review and public hearings. I believe that the 3 Selectmen who made the decision are all competent, thoughtful people who have the towns best interest, as they see it, at heart. Unless there is a material change in scope, funding, specification I do not believe we should reopen this project to further delay. I have supported the formation of a BOS appointed review committee to look at the project within the context of the State funded project unless there is such a material change. To date I am not aware of such a material change.

I have told the public what I think about this issue and if elected will discharge all of the duties of a Selectman including making road policy and will endeavor to act in a fashion that is consistent with my previously stated position.

Do you really want a Selectmen that says one thing and then does another?

34 Tim Martel March 20, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Of course not, Al. I, for one, appreciate your honesty and the dedication you bring.

I do think its a delicate balance between saying:
1. the Town elects a Selectman to do as he/she personally thinks is right.
2. the Town elects a Selectman to execute the Town’s will.

I would hope any candidate for the BOS would bring a balance in these perspectives. Just because MGL gives the BOS the right to override the Town, it doesn’t mean they should.

35 Al Hamilton March 20, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Tim

Good question.

With all due respect to Town Meeting, it is not the Town anymore than the Selectmen are. Town Meeting is the town’s legislature. For practical purposes it is composed of about 150 people who believe it is their civic duty to participate. I have tremendous respect for the body and those that take the time to participate but it is not the sole arbiter of what is good for the town nor is it necessarily reflective of general opinion.

Neither is Town Meeting a court of appeals, where those that do not like the decisions properly taken by other officials can appeal to have them overturned. The proper recourse if you do not like the decision of an elected official is to work to replace that person.

If you wish to appeal to Town Meeting then the appeal should be in the form of a by-law, special legislation or budget. Those are the inherent powers of Town Meeting.

The Selectmen do not draw their authority from Town Meeting. They draw it from the voters at large. In 2012 we had a contested election where nearly 1500 voters went to the polls (about 10 times the number that attend town meeting). Mr. Boland won with about 65% of the vote. While I supported his opponent, I think he can legitimately claim that he has a mandate from the voters to exercise his judgement and vision about what he believes is best for the town and I believe he has.

36 John Rooney March 18, 2014 at 11:16 PM

The passion on this issue is real as the continuation of our identity is involved. At the same time, I, like others above, believe the discussion has lost all bounds of objectivity, and by doing so has promoted, perhaps intentionally, tremendous confusion.

Acknowledging the boldness of such a suggestion, I think it is time we take a step back, inhale and exhale deeply, and just think. Think and do not write, either in lower case or capital letters. Think about what is important and think about the community we live in. Such brief contemplation leads to the inescapable conclusion that attacking opposing views with threats of electoral demise are unfair, unreasonable, and lend no substance to the discourse.

Every person who has offered an opinion on the reconstruction of Main Street, whether pseudonymly, or courageously identified, begins with an identical objective: To ensure Southborough’s uniqueness does not get swallowed by conformance to alleged inflexible and rigid state rules and regulations. Not a single person has posited that a gruesome connective tissue of roadways obliterating our identity is the preferred outcome.

Since we all agree on the underlying objective, this is where the discussion should begin. Rather than launching grenades and threats at our fellow residents, residents who have earned our respect, residents willing to be counted, I believe our time is better spent on what follows.

I begin with the vanilla premise that it would be preferable to secure state funding if the end result is a reconstruction consistent with our town vision.

If you disagree with this premise, read no more, as you will surely object to what follows. To those willing to agree with this premise, I believe the questions we should be discussing, in sequential order, are:

(1) How does the proposed design change the existing roadway?

(2) Why are such changes being proposed?

(3) Are those changes important to us as a community?

(4) Can those roadway changes be harmonized with our town vision?

(5) How can we work with, as opposed to against, the state so that our vision is accepted into the final design and we secure state funding?

The majority of people, yours truly counted, have not advanced beyond numbers 1 and 2, yet we are cautioned by Chicken Little-esque wails of impending demise of our town character (it would be well to remember that the sky never did fall), by those jumping immediately to numbers 3 and 4. But the discussion should not begin with numbers 3 and 4. The personal attacks and associated increased gastric activity have caused us to wallow in a lack of understanding of numbers 1 and 2. We cannot intelligently discuss numbers 3 and 4 without a full understanding of numbers 1 and 2, and then, and only then, should the discussion focus on the more subjective concepts of vision.

If it is important to the discussion to identify fault for the lack of full understanding of this project, I agree the fault should be laid at the feet of my board and I accept that responsibility. This is our Main Street, our town, and it is our responsibility as elected leaders to do everything we can to make sure the information is available via an understandable medium. While this has recently been done, I believe it should have been done before, so with this acknowledgement of fault, I do not see the need to spend any more time on this failure, thus allowing us to move to the substance.

Unlike posters above, whether scribed by multiple persons or by an individual wizard hiding secretly behind the curtain, I would suggest that you come to the April 2 meeting, not aggressively wielding multi-colored markers, but instead with an expectation of receiving answers to numbers 1 and 2. The information will then afford you the ability to engage in intelligent, reasonable and important discussion of numbers 3 and 4.

This issue, like so many that come across everyone’s plate daily, requires a clear and comprehensive understanding of the real facts and not broad brushed allegations that may or may not prove accurate. Thereafter consensus building most assuredly will be necessary. Building consensus, however, does not mean everyone is in agreement that the condition is optimal; rather, it means we reach a decision that everyone can live with. That is a real difference and requires the elevation and acceptance of flexibility.

That will be the challenge when it comes time to address number 4, but it is a challenge well within our capacity to meet. If we ultimately answer “no” to number 4, I cannot envision further state involvement. If, however, we can build consensus on number 4, then I would suggest that consistent dialogue and meetings could easily make achievement of number 5 the simplest of the lot.

I think it should be apparent at this point that I am of the opinion that we need to slow down. There is no bigger roadwork project the town will face in the next few decades than what is presently on our doorstep. If we proceed as a community and work with and not against each other, work with and not against the DPW, work with and not against the BOS, work with and not against the state, the more likely we will be successful in protecting what we hold dear.

37 Tim Martel March 19, 2014 at 12:49 PM

Thank you, John. I look forward to hearing about it at Town Meeting.

38 Steve Phillips March 19, 2014 at 6:44 PM

I hope that everyone who is interested in this subject will also attend the Main Street reconstruction meeting to be held at the Library on April 9th at 7 PM. This meeting will be the only forum in advance of Town Meeting which is not controlled by people whose agenda is to advance the current Main Street reconstruction project at all costs while minimizing any opposition.

To those who are concerned that the opposing voices to this project may seem too strident, I would like to point out that neither the 25% plan or the more recent markup plan would even be available on the DPW website if David Parry had not proposed the Town Meeting warrant and raised public attention to this issue. Instead we would still be looking at the misleading artist’s renderings which have been on the web site for years, which don’t even show the full extent of the turning lanes south of route 85, for example. I had no idea that the turn lanes south of 85 would extend all the way down to Woodward School and require removal of a whole corridor of mature trees, and I’ve sat through many meetings on this plan. No wonder there is misinformation — getting any real information on this plan from the DPW is like pulling teeth.

The misinformation on this subject is not just coming from one side either. For example, DPW head stated at the BOS meeting that any locally-funded alternative to the state plan would cost a minimum of $3 million. I wouldn’t blame anyone who took this statement at face value. However, when you consider that the entire state plan, including the huge new intersection, granite curbs, signal lights, etc. is budgeted at under $6 million, does a $3 million estimate just for resurfacing really pass the smell test? These kinds of irresponsible statements have contributed to the current lack of trust in the DPW’s ability to get a plan approved which is actually in the best interest of our town.

DPW head also mentioned that the road width was not changing east of route 85 (actually, east of the fire station exit — it’s a lot wider in front of the Community House where they plan to take open land away from St. Mark’s). However, is everyone aware that maintaining a 30-foot roadbed will be accomplished only by completely doing away with on-street parking east of 85? We are told that the BOS spent years making these decisions, and who are we to question these decisions. Well, what actually happened is that the Board of Selectmen, led at the time by Bonnie Phaneuf, voted to approve a compromise solution which would have preserved on-street parking. This plan was submitted to the state who promptly rejected it. So the real “compromise” was that we were allowed to shut up and accept the state’s decision.

I am posting under my real name as owner of an antique residential property on Main Street, and I have been involved in this project since the first public hearings back in 2004. I believe that every resident of Southborough should be concerned and skeptical about everything we’re being told about this project. I don’t have all of the answers, but what I do know is that we should all be asking as many hard questions about this project as possible.

Steve Phillips

39 southsider March 19, 2014 at 10:33 AM

Mr. Rooney tries to present himself as the rational, public-minded gentleman who can rise above the name-calling but then goes on to characterize those with opposing views as Chicken Little.
He talks of slowing down, of doing the right thing for the town and of being open to consensus-building but this makes it clear where his feelings lie.

40 Just Curious March 19, 2014 at 8:55 PM

I wish Mrs. Phaneuf would express her opinion on this matter. I know she reads this blog regularly, as does Mr. Bolland, yet neither chose to post. She was on the Board of Selectmen when the decision was approved and she is now a candidate for election to the Board of Selection. I do not know her position on this issue but perhaps her perspective form her previous time on the BOS would be helpful to this discussion.

That seems fair to ask.

41 Deleted March 20, 2014 at 6:20 PM

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42 Deleted March 19, 2014 at 5:29 PM

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44 Deleted March 21, 2014 at 12:16 AM

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45 Resident March 21, 2014 at 9:13 AM

You speak about “all the present opposition”. But how much is there really? There are a handful of posters on this site who are arguing against the project, some with remarkably similar writing styles. In my opinion, we should just get on with it. Main St. is a mess both from a paving and a traffic flow standpoint.

We are not a sleepy little town anymore. They are planning to build an apartment complex with traffic exiting on Flagg. Don’t you think that some of that traffic is going to end up going down Main St.? Southborough is changing and the streets need to be able to accommodate this growth.

46 Bonnie Phaneuf March 21, 2014 at 11:43 AM

Just Curious,
My opinion on this matter;
(1) The Board of Selectmen at their next scheduled meeting, March 25th should VOTE: that the massDOT Public Hearing Date be changed till after the May election.
http://www.mhd.state.ma.us/default.asp?…/hearings/Southborough…hearing
(2) Between now and any scheduled meeting all trees being removed should be taped.
(3) Did the Town post the following? Part V Public Outreach July 2013 on Town website?
http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/Portals/17/docs/…/STIP_PART_FIVE.pdf
I will attend the next BOS meeting to ask that they take a vote on #1

47 David Parry March 22, 2014 at 1:22 AM

I certainly agree with Mrs Phaneuf that the Sate Public Hearing should be held after the May election, but I would go much further and suggest that it be held in May 2015. That would give the Review Committee time to complete a thorough re-assessment. Then have Town Meeting take a vote between the alternatives. Then have the State hearing.

48 Bonnie Phaneuf March 21, 2014 at 4:08 PM

(3) should read:
http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/Portals/…/STIP2013/STIP_PART_FIVE.pdf

July 2,2013 [pdf] Part V Public Outreach-MassDot

49 David Parry March 22, 2014 at 1:36 AM

Main St Reconstruction Project 3.21. 2014

Warrant Articles for Town Meeting

Legality & Membership on the Review Committee

As the lead sponsor for the two Citizen Petition Warrant Articles, which had 160 other signatures, I have received questions about the legality of the Articles and nominations to the proposed Review Committee. It may be helpful to clarify these two matters.

1. LEGALITY.

Town Counsel has ruled that the Articles are legal. Town Meeting has every right to establish and fund this Committee. If the Articles are approved, then the Articles call for town departments to cooperate with the Committee’s work. Town Counsel’s opinion is that this “cooperation” lies technically in the power of the Selectmen. We have decided therefore, after discussion amongst co-sponsors, to read (or amend) the Article on Town Meeting floor, to substitute the word “shall” with the words “are requested to”, in the sentence that now reads: “Town departments shall cooperate….”. (See the end of this letter for the actual wording of the Articles as they now stand in the Warrant). We feel that it is better to take this technicality off the table, so that we can focus on the substance. Beyond that, we will have 5 Selectmen in May, and we feel confident the Board will pay close attention to Town Meeting Committee’s report, since it is in their own interest to cooperate fully with the Committee.

You will recall that the task of the Committee is to determine if the state-funded project is in the best interest of the town. In our presentations, we have outlined how this task might best be performed. This is by undertaking two tasks, at the same time, in parallel, over the course of a full year, and to report back to next Annual Town Meeting, in 2015, with two options — presenting Town Meeting in 2015 with a clear choice between two contrasting alternatives, as follows:

(1) State-funded project.

The Committee may get a “second opinion”, or peer professional review, of the state-funded project, possibly using a professional consultant who is hired and managed by the Committee, and not by the Selectmen or DPW. The simple reason for that is to ensure objectivity and credibility. The Selectmen have voted in favor of this plan, and DPW has guided the town’s consultants on it, to reach this present state. Therefore any review has to be totally independent of the Selectmen and DPW if it is to be credible. The Committee and its peer review consultant can attempt to fine-tune (or tweak) the State-funded project, to see if there are any State rules that can be bent any more, so as to make it more acceptable to the town — because it is the State rules for road design that have been the major cause of opposition. These rules come with the funding. They require the town to build a bigger, wider, faster road, all the way from Sears Rd to the downtown shops, plus a very large intersection at Rte 85 which must accommodate future increases in traffic volumes, projected to occur decades into the future, and which will inevitably turn this street into a very major Commuter corridor, deliberately. This is, in fact, the State objective; it is the chief reason why the State is funding this project; it is in writing and in the plans.

Our contention is that these State rules were never made clear to the Town, when the Town first considered applying for State funding, and this future objective is not in the interest of this Town. Nevertheless, the Selectmen decided to apply and the Main St plans have followed the State rules for 8 years, those plans are almost finalized, and the State is ready for a Public Hearing on April 30, 2014. That will be followed by land takings, and a construction start as early as 2018. We have suggested the Selectman delay the State hearing for a full year, which will avoid a confrontation with the State. Such a confrontation will certainly jeopardize State funding. A delay to the State hearing date will also allow the Committee to do its work unhindered by State pressure. We feel that the State itself would likely agree with this process, and would itself prefer that the Town undergo its own internal review process before having an unnecessarily confrontational meeting with the State, which will accomplish little positive. The State wants to see “progress”. Our progress can be the intensive internal review through the Review Committee. When that review is over, the State can rest assured that Southborough has done its homework, and made a firm decision, one way or the other.

The conclusion to this task # 1, is that the Committee will report back to Town Meeting in 2015, with one alternative being the state-funded plan, but possibly adjusted and fine-tuned, and presented to Town Meeting with the words: “This is best we can get, if we go with State-funding “.

(2) Locally –Funded Plan.

The Review Committee will also prepare an alternative plan for Main St, which will have to be locally funded. This locally-funded plan can strive to be the “Polar Opposite” of the State-funded plan, which will give the Town a real choice between two plans, with major differences, as follows:

Locally funded characteristic —- Instead of State-funded characteristic

* Minimalist — Instead of maximalist.

(As few road changes as possible — Instead of as many road changes as the State is willing to pay for, fitting tightly into a small space.

* One rule — Instead of many rules

(The only design rule under a locally-funded plan is simple – we have to maintain the same level of “safety”, or improve it. We cannot make it worse. — Instead of having to follow a whole set of State road design rules, including accommodating future traffic based on projections decades ahead).

* Essential improvements only — Instead of all possible improvements, if they can be funded by the State.

* Focused on traffic calming — Instead of focused on traffic accommodation: feeding many more cars along a wider, straighter, faster road, and through a much bigger intersection.

* Discouraging thru commuter traffic — Instead of encouraging more commuter traffic, (especially through a huge intersection).

* Enhancing a small town with a “new vision” — Instead of degrading a small town with no vision.

(That is, a local vision which promotes the unique attraction of two prestigious schools, centered around a Historic District, with a pedestrian-oriented and revitalized shopping block — Instead of having a state vision of a major car commuter corridor along a brand new and bigger road, running thru town).

* Designed to protect our small town, rural character — Instead of wiping it clean away.

(That is, protecting our local character, with its warts and all, including the narrowing historic walls and stone markers, and the bends and bumps in the Knox Trail road — Instead of wiping them all away, or moving them, because they are “in the way” of a new road which has to be designed to state rules).

* Scheduling the locally-funded improvements to be built only as and when we need them built — not all at once (as is the case with the State funded “Big Dig”)

* Finally, attempting to keep the costs of the locally-funded plan extremely low, or as low as possible — Instead of piling items into the State-funded plan, to the degree possible , so long as the State will pay for them, even though those items might not be urgently needed, and even though they would never have been thought of at all, if we had decided (years ago) to fund it ourselves.

2. APPOINTMENT TO REVIEW COMMITTEE.

The Moderator is the person who will make the 9 appointments. The reason for that is simple. It is the only way to ensure an independent voice for the Committee. An independent voice is needed at this point to have a chance of bringing the community together around a consensus. The meetings will be posted, open and anyone can attend and offer advice.

I will not serve on that Committee, even if nominated, because I have been outspoken in favor of a locally-funded alternative. However, in the same vein, opponents of the locally-funded alternative, like Mr Hamilton, should also not serve. (I am not criticizing Mr Hamilton and he has every right to his opinions, and in this particular instance – Committee membership — I believe we are in full agreement). The membership must ensure balance and independence, as well as creativity and expertise. Then the Committee has a fair chance of rising above local politics, and it will gain credibility. I am confident the selectmen will agree to this process, because it is simple and common sense. It will produce two plans which the town can choose between in 2015 — Two contrasting visions of what this town could become in decades to come.

That is the whole point of the Articles, which follow:

THE ARTICLES

1. To see if the Town of Southborough will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $15,000 to fund the work of the Main Street Reconstruction Review Committee, or do anything in relation thereto.

2. To see if the Town of Southborough will vote to create a Special Committee, the “Main Street Reconstruction Review Committee”, for the purpose of assessing whether the current Main Street reconstruction proposal is in the best interests of the Town, and to report on its findings and recommendations. The Committee shall consist of nine members to be appointed by the Moderator. Town departments shall cooperate with the Committee by providing copies of, and access to, all records of the currently proposed plan, and such other assistance as is appropriate. The Committee shall report its findings and recommendations to the next Annual Town Meeting, and may also provide such report to other boards, committees and agencies.

—————-

I hope this has clarified the issues of the legality of the Articles, the appointment of members to the Review Committee, the preferred delay to the State Public hearing, all resulting in two contrasting alternatives, for a future choice by Town Meeting in 2015.
Submitted by David Parry March 21,2014

50 Deleted March 29, 2014 at 4:23 PM

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