Last week, the Board of Selectmen heard about David Parry’s proposal to move utility poles on Main Street. The discussion included news that just a contingency to allow a future project could cost $1M.
The agenda item was just an update on the July 11th meeting of the Main Street Design Working Group. So the Chair attempted to keep discussion brief. But the overall tone was much less enthusiastic than the MSDWG meeting the week prior.
Selectman Brian Shea, who also sits on the MSDWG, updated fellow selectmen. He recapped that the group had determined there isn’t time to combine utility relocation with Main St reconstruction.
Shea explained that the group had asked for more information on what is entailed in the one area of potential overlap. That would be adding infrastructure and conduits for future light poles in case utility poles were taken down in the future.
Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan updated that she got an estimate of about $1M for the engineering and construction of light pole infrastructure.
Galligan didn’t have details yet. But her assumption was that about 10% would be for electrical with TIP* funds covering the rest. The $100K could be paid by the Chapter 90* funds allotted to the Town. She confirmed that bucket is the one used to fund other Town road projects – like improvements at Flagg Road and Deerfoot discussed earlier that night.
Chair Dan Kolenda and member Lisa Braccio shared that residents had approached them with concerns. They wondered how utility poles in “people’s backyards” would be handled in the case of outages caused by snowstorms. Shea said that was just one part of details they didn’t have answers to yet.
During public comment, Parry rebutted that utility companies would only allow poles to be placed in accessible areas, like next to driveways.
Parry continued to push the Town to fast-track the utility project by leveraging supposed savings of $500K-$1M for utility companies if projects were combined:
We’d go to the top of the pile if we called them next week, not the bottom.
In contrast, Town Administrator Mark Purple cautioned the board against rushing any decisions. He agreed with what he interpreted as the board’s decision to wait on hard numbers before making any decisions.
Purple opined they should be very careful about going back to voters with a potentially “seven figure” ask, so soon after the “extremely generous” approval of over $27M for the public safety building and golf course:
The impact of that decision has not yet been felt in the tax rate; probably won’t be felt for a couple years.
Kolenda chimed in by voicing reservations on a potentially expensive beautification project for “on one strip of land” vs other priorities, such as “schools, seniors, public safety, etc.”
Purple also told the board and public that he wanted on the record that neither St. Mark’s School or Fay School “have given any support” to Parry’s proposal. This followed Parry’s repeated claim at prior meetings that he had an offer from Fay School to use either one of two houses they own on Middle Road for utility poles to cross through.
The TA didn’t claim the schools oppose the project. Instead, he clarified that they are remaining neutral at this stage. He based that on conversations he and Galligan had with the administrations of the schools.
And Purple responded to Parry’s repeated boast that he has made it easy for the Town by getting the easements needed for the project. Purple pointed out that it would be up to the utility companies to decide what easements they need, and for their job to pursue those.
During the discussion, Parry and Galligan also updated that Verizon no longer has responsibility for utility poles. That was recently “switched” to National Grid.
*Editor’s Note: If you’ve closely followed the Main St project discussions over the years, you are probably familiar with TIP and Chapter 90 by now. But many readers may not be familiar with the jargon commonly used by Town officials.
TIP = the partially state funded projects under the Mass DOT (Department of Transportation) Transportation Improvement Plan
Chapter 90 funds are apportioned to the Town by the state to reimburse expenses for approved projects such as “Capital Improvement Projects for Highway Construction, Preservation and Improvement Projects that create or extend the life of Capital Facilities”.