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 She believed that people may have been looking at outdated plans from the first contractor.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.