Support for reassessing the Main Street project was discussed and debated at Monday night’s Planning Board meeting.
The original purpose of the discussion was to decide whether or not the Planning Board should support warrant articles related to underground wiring of utilities. Board members were unsure if it made sense to support articles that hinge on citizen articles to be voted on at Town Meeting.
Member Paul Cimino suggested addressing underground utilities regulations might need to wait until after the town votes on whether or not to assign and fund a committee to reassess the project.
Reassessing the main street project and utility “pole removal”, is an effort passionately led by former Selectman David Parry. Parry argued that if the town was going to make any changes to the project, all related measures need to be approved ASAP.
Parry said that DPW Director Karen Galligan advised him that steps they want to take should have been done already in order to be on task for the 2017 start date. There was some debate among board members, Parry and attending Selectman Bill Boland as to whether it is already too late.
Member Kathleen Bartolini advised all issues be adressed as soon as possible.
Bartolini said any seeming “iffiness” on the town’s part will give the state an excuse to move other projects ahead in the queue. Her experience as a former member of the state committee was that once a project is deemed in trouble it is dumped back in the pool with every other project vying for funding.
This was a fear echoed by Boland. Boland emphasized that it took years of work and lobbying to get the project where it is now. He asserted that the road doesn’t have many years left in it.
Boland told Parry that another committee would be pointless unless the town votes up front to pay for undergrounding utilities.
According to Boland, residents told him they weren’t willing to pay extra money on their monthly utility bills in order to fund removing utility poles from Main Street. He worried that the committee would jeopardize the project and in the end come back to town meeting with a proposal that fails to pass.
Parry argued that until a committee assesses the possible solutions, it’s too soon to propose a vote on paying for the project.
Boland and Parry argued the history of the project and past failures.
Planning Board Chair Don Morris supported Parry’s effort to raise citizen awareness of the projects’ impact. He said that he thought he was in the small minority of people opposed to the project. (He lamented the future loss of stately trees like the one at the library on the corner of routes 85 and 30.)
Town Planner, Jennifer Burney, promised to check with Town Counsel on which board was appropriate to hold public hearings for Parry’s citizen’s petition articles.
The board has yet to vote on or decide a course of action for related Planning Board articles.