Selectmen on Main St Utility poles: More info needed before spending on Feasibility Study

by beth on August 10, 2017

Post image for Selectmen on Main St Utility poles: More info needed before spending on Feasibility Study

Above: Town Meeting voters will likely get to decide on paying to remove utility poles from Main St. But selectmen want them to know all the cost details before that happens. And it won’t be part of next spring’s reconstruction. (2008 photos by Susan Fitzgerald)

On Tuesday night, David Parry butted heads with selectmen while presenting his plan to remove utility poles from Main Street. To Parry’s frustration, the board decided that more information is needed before they can consider ordering a feasibility study. And they continued to envision it as a potential future project, separate from Main Street reconstruction.

Selectmen did agree that ultimately a decision should be made by Town Meeting voters. But those voters would be at an Annual Town Meeting – the next of which takes place after the construction project is slated to begin.

Selectmen asked Town employees to continue pushing to meet with utilities and get the cost information, plus a schedule for such a project.

The board didn’t appear to be in full agreement on what was needed for a next step. Selectwoman Lisa Braccio indicated that the full cost of a feasibility study should be a priority. But Selectman Brian Shea believed, rather than going to Town Meeting voters “piecemeal” they should also learn the full costs of project construction.

Meanwhile Parry continued to argue that the projects could coincide. He pushed that preparation wouldn’t take the one year Public Works has been stating. He claimed the design part of the study could be done in 1-2 months, easements done quickly, and the the study paid for through a private contribution.

The contribution was $5,000 offered by developer Tony Kwan. Parry said they could not only “kick start” the study with $5,000 but that it would cover the cost of the study. He claimed that had been stated in past meetings by Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan.

Selectmen said that $5,000 was an outdated quote for a deposit to just one of the three utility companies involved.* Selectwoman Lisa Braccio said she worried they would just be wasting Kwan’s money if the study/project was too expensive to proceed. 

The cost of the study and time frame for the work were just two of the things Parry and selectmen argued over. But follow up commenters asked selectmen to look past Parry’s “abrasive” speech and focus on “the message, not the messenger”.**

Among selectmen concerns was, why remove poles from Main St and not streets of other residents they heard from. Main Street Working Group Chair Marty Healey addressed that. He pitched that Main St is the street that is being torn up. Since, he assumed that wouldn’t be done again in their lifetime, the time to do something is now.

Healey pointed out that his group had voted to get more information on how to build in a contingency for future pole removal. 

Referring to the businesses downtown, Main Street resident Karen Connell said removing the poles would benefit the people we are asking the most of. She expressed concern for business owners that will lose money during the reconstruction project without gaining the benefits (since the project doesn’t extend past Park Street). 

Christo Baltas, owner of Southborough House of Pizza, spoke as one of those businesses. He supported Parry’s project for poles to be moved during Main St construction. But, he said he wouldn’t support a separate project down the road as envisioned by some. 

Baltas is the second generation to own the restaurant. He told selectmen that the business village on “Main Street is dying”. He would oppose a project that would cause more disruption, tearing up poles in 5-10 years.

[Editor’s Note: Concerns over how to revitalize the Main Street Business Village were raised by the Economic Development Committee earlier in the meeting. I wrote about their efforts related to a survey on improving the area yesterday.]

None of the three presiding selectmen showed enthusiasm for the project. Chair Dan Kolenda introduced Parry’s presentation with a list of concerns he wanted Parry to address. The biggest hurdle for him was finding money to pay for the project that is assumed to be over $1M in cost. He referred to recent debates with Advisory over $30,000 in this year’s budget. Kolenda said it led to cutting funds in this year’s budget for a firefighter and DPW equipment. If money was somehow found for this project, why should it be spent there instead of on other Town needs?

Parry refused to respond to Kolenda’s concerns unless he would be allowed to outside of the 15 minutes allotted his presentation. 

Shea and Braccio both agreed the project would be good for downtown. But they were also concerned about costs and priorities. Braccio echoed Kolenda, again saying that she had also been approached by residents who asked why spend on Main Street instead of their streets.

Shea said he would be willing to present an article at Town Meeting when the costs are known, but he didn’t have the appetite yet to advocate for it at the Transfer Station on weekends.

*In July, Galligan told the Main Street Working Group that $5,000 would cover a deposit for Verizon. The utility would then look at details and get back to them with a better estimate for the cost.

That was prior to a change among utilities that Galligan informed selectmen and Parry about later in the month. National Grid is now in charge of coordinating pole projects. Galligan said they still haven’t learned what a deposit will cost for all the three utilities to look at the plan under the new setup, let alone full costs. 

Prior to the change in pole ownership, Verizon told Galligan these types of projects take a year to design. All three utilities need to coordinate and agree, and each have full veto power on the project.

**Dialogue between selectmen and Parry was often contentious, especially between him and Chair Dan Kolenda. 

It began with Selectman Brian Shea respectfully requesting Parry to refrain from leaving messages with obscenities on his household’s voicemail. Parry said, “I apologize, I did what I was supposed to do.” He justified he was just passing along an anonymous message to selectmen. Since Shea was on vacation, he had to leave that on his voicemail.

Kolenda and Parry had an angry back and forth over the messages, including ones left for the Chair. Kolenda argued that the messages were uncceptable. Referring to purported threats:

I served in a combat zone Mr. Parry. Your verbal threats mean nothing to me. But they should never, ever occur.

Parry claimed Kolenda was exaggerating, that they weren’t threats and were someone else’s words.

Later, Braccio said she appreciated Parry’s enthusiasm and persistence. But she objected to his “almost disingenuous” accusations made by email about Town employees. Braccio said that Parry’s messages accused employees of refusing to work with him. She stated that staff had spent over 100 hours working with him on his proposal, and the Town’s consultants tasked with supporting work. Town Administrator Mark Purple supported the statement, calculating that over $2,600 had been spent by the Town. 

1 SB Resident August 10, 2017 at 10:10 AM

It’s hard to argue that removing/moving the poles wouldn’t be nice on any street, it’s also hard to argue that Main St. shouldn’t be the number one street in town to do it, but what there is to argue is the cost vs the value gained. Assuming the million dollar number and 3000 households in town, that’s 333 bucks for the average household. For my money, I’m on the fence, in the long run moving the poles combined with some other downtown improvements could make Southborough that much more of an attractive place to people looking to relocate to town making all our values go up by much more than the cost…. but……

The big problem is timing. We just approved one of the most expensive public safety complexes ever built in the state. Our taxes are all going to go up noticeably as a result and I’d like the numbers to all shake out before I’d be willing to approve another million for pretty much anything.

2 Southviller August 10, 2017 at 10:13 AM

I anxiously await Mr. Parry’s condescending and dismissive comment rebuttal below!

3 Rebecca Deans-Rowe August 10, 2017 at 11:02 AM

I fully support Mr. Parry’s suggestion. The look and feel of Southborough’s town
center have long been neglected, but we have the opportunity now to realize its potential as a charming, thriving heart of the town. I look forward to thoughtful economic development and contuining appreciation of our historic assets.

4 I'm Just Sayin' August 11, 2017 at 9:19 AM

There is nothing charming about the new look of Mauro’s Market…just another 7/11, White Hen, Cumberland Farms type convenience store, with, unfortunately, plans for an oversized mural of the owner and his wife with a bottle of wine in the window. Charming? I think not. Do we not have zoning laws on the books for how our downtown is supposed to look, to keep the charm and character of New England architecture? The fire station was turned into a pizza place and it has kept its charm. The Spa has kept its charm, even though being updated inside and out. It is unfortunate that we now have a boiler plate convenience store on Main Street. Town Center was built with New England vibe …well, New England-looking except for that darn, ugly Post Office :-( We are spending millions to help others keep their land and property and pay them to update it to keep its New England look, isn’t it time we put some parameters in place for how Main Street should look? I am not about big government, but I am about keeping Main Street as lovely as possible. Unfortunately, we also have the eyesore of the strip mall where the bank and dentist are located. Too bad that hadn’t been built with a bit more thought put into how it would look smack in the middle of Main Street. Let’s try to prevent any other eyesores being built in our downtown…for instance, on the corner of Newton and Main. It would be nice if something could go in there, but please, not another convenience store or ugly building…Downtown has enough of those now.

5 David Parry August 11, 2017 at 3:23 PM

Why do you have to be anonymous? You are sticking daggers in, and hiding.

But on the other hand, you do have some very good points, I will acknowledge. There is not much that I, as architect , could do about Mauro’s Market. The building is what it is. A big shed, sitting right on the sidewalk. .

It was difficult enough persuading the owner, Vinny, to actually put in any windows at all, and he insisted on the size and framing. But I am thankful that he did eventually agree to put windows back in, even though they are not the original style windows….. Imagine the conversations we had — well David, I don’t need windows, because can stick a plastic sign on the store front saying ” STOLYCHNIYA VODKA” . But, Vinny, if you had windows, then we could actually look through them, to the inside of the store, and we could actually see the bottles of vodika, and gin, and vermouth, and beer, and ….Oh yeah, I see. I understand . You win.

So at least we got to have windows again, and we can look inside, and it is radically cleaned up, …..and when the new signs go up , IN TRADITIONAL STYLE 3d CARVED LETTERING, calling it VINNY’S DOWNTOWN LIQUOR AND MARKET , then , I think it will look quite attractive. At least a hell of alote better than before.

And I hope Vinny makes a huge profit if he starts to sell far better quality groceries and fresh bread and cheese, etc. . That is the …. What he actually sells. It now caters to Fay students candies and scratch tickets, and canned food. …. and that just HAS to change. So the plan is for a table or two, and the fresh bread, and chairs at the back of the store, as a place you can go in, and sit down, and drink a coffee, and chat. But no meals at all — just a muffin or two and coffee. So it is NOT in direct competition with Maruro ‘s restaurant at all. They will be complementary.

(P.S. I had a standing bet with Christo Baltas about the windows. He was utterly convinced that I would fail to convince the new owner Vinny to install windows, and he bet that I could never deliver on them being installed within a year. Well he lost but only by a hair. Because it took 11 months waiting !)

6 David Parry August 11, 2017 at 4:46 PM

Why do you have to be anonymous? You are sticking daggers in, and hiding.

But on the other hand, you do have some very good points, I will acknowledge. There is not much that I, as architect , could do about Mauro’s Market. The building is what it is. A big shed, sitting right on the sidewalk. .

It was difficult enough persuading the owner, Vinny, to actually put in any windows at all, and he insisted on the size and framing. But I am thankful that he did eventually agree to put windows back in, even though they are not the original style windows…..

Imagine the conversations we actually had —
V: David, I don’t need windows, because I can stick a plastic sign on the store front saying ” STOLYCHNIYA VODKA” .
D: But, Vinny, if you actually had real windows, then we could look through them, to the inside of the store, and we could actually see the bottles of vodka, and gin, and vermouth, and beer, and …
V: \Oh yeah, I see. I understand . You win. Put in the windows.
D: Hold off on the right hand side, because you have put a giant cooler 6 inches inside the front wall.
D: (weks later) OK I’ve got it Vinny. How about a giant photo mural, of you and your wife standing in front of the cooler and choosing a bottle of white wine together .You are going to look lke a real person, alive, in the mural.

None of this is surprising, because Vinny has operated 4 such stories in marginal areas of Framingham. He is getting attuned to the fact that the Southborough market and population is entirely different.

I hope Vinny makes a huge profit if he starts to sell far better quality groceries and
fresh bread and cheese, etc. . That is the key.

7 I'm Just Sayin' August 14, 2017 at 5:43 PM

Yes, Mr. Parry, I am hiding behind a moniker on this blog….why? Because I have lived in small towns most of my life and have been on the receiving end of some pretty malicious reactions to seemingly innocent opinions. I was not sticking daggers in nor was I criticizing you, or Vinny, just was hoping that we could have a downtown presence that is more New England-like and not just like every other convenience store up and down Rt. 9 and in other towns with not as much character as we have…or would like to have. If you take exception to the fact that in my opinion a huge mural of Vinny and his wife holding a bottle of wine does not lend itself to that image, that is your right and privilege in these United States. However, I am not sure that I can believe that they want to market to Fay School students…or St. Mark’s either, for that matter. And if they do, then why push the fact that they sell alcohol, especially with a mural touting that fact?? These are under age students we are talking about. That should most certainly NOT be focal point of what they are selling. Adults can figure that out on their own without a huge mural and certainly with the new name of the store, it is quite obvious.

I agree with Kelly’s assessment of the prettiest buildings downtown, but I kind of liked Mauro’s Market with its old facade, warped floors and meat case, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables being available, albeit with a very scaled down presence. Just enough so that if you realized you needed a certain ingredient, you could stop there to see it they had it before trekking to Framingham or Westborough. Sometimes progress makes me sad….but, again….that is just my opinion.

8 I'm Just Sayin' August 14, 2017 at 5:48 PM

Oh, and I sure do miss being able to get my special cuts of meat for holidays, etc. The tenderloin purchased there NEVER let me down…sure can’t find any anywhere else that has measured up :-(

9 Downtown Resident August 15, 2017 at 7:54 AM

Dear Neighbor, you can now purchase your special cuts of meats at the Cafe! And a bonous! Willy Mauro is doing the cutting!
The cafe is also carrying Boars Head cold cuts.
But I do hear what you are saying about the market. Once upon a time and not so long ago you could find anything there, from baking and cooking to office supplies. It was a treasure. Now it’s a liquor store.

10 Southboro92 August 15, 2017 at 5:12 PM

I’ve gotten several steaks and steak tips at the SPA. They are great quality and I love supporting the SPA in their efforts to get into the meat business. I encourage you to give it a try. I thought Mauro’s store front looked awful for the past 5 years (at least). It was really falling apart. It might be a little sterile now but I am glad they have put money into the shop instead of having it become a total failure. In regards to Newton/Main street corner…..I noticed on Zillow the lot is for sale with a potential 4000sf house built on it…..$1.3M!! I don’t think that would really fit the downtown look AND who would pay that much money for a house IN that space!! I think a business would be a much better fit. (with an attractive old fashioned looking facade)

11 Kelly Roney August 16, 2017 at 9:28 AM

Sayin’, it’s Capasso I really miss. Not downtown, of course, but the produce…

“1” Main St. can’t really be the corner of Newton. I’ve noticed that the town’s online property cards list unbuilt lots with an address number of 0, no matter where they are. Did this get a promotion from 0 to 1? Or is there a buildable, subdivided lot across from the new part of Fay School? Or something further west?

As long as we’re on the lot at Newton St., is there really a gasoline-contaminated plume under it? There seem to be monitoring wells, but I haven’t seen them monitored in many years, and I’m no expert.

12 Kelly Roney August 12, 2017 at 8:08 AM

The best non-residential buildings downtown are the Baltas’ firehouse, Lamy Insurance, and the KoC. Mauro’s/Vinny’s is not a good building, but the remodel makes it *tremendously* better than it used to be, and the windows are critical to making the business attractive to passersby.

But Just Sayin’ is right on in saying that the big lot at Newton and Main needs a business. I don’t want a park there, though unlike Sayin’, before the changes at Vinny’s, I would have suggested a convenience store. Now, how about Tomasso North?

The Spa has signs out front trying to address its longtime weakness, bad coffee. Maybe they’ve finally brewed a good cup to go with their terrific breakfasts. (But I have to have decaf – caffeine is my Jekyll and Hyde drug.) I’d love it if the Spa could make a go of evening food – and they’ve tried it in the past – but I’d think a wine and beer license would be a necessity to bring in enough traffic.

And, yes, that Dutch Colonial strip mall on the corner of School St. is – how can I put this delicately? – so much less than it could have been. But it seems well-tended, and it is what it is.

David, does Vinny need to market more to St. Marks students? If he’s getting Fay students, but not St. Marks students, he’s missing a big part of his market, since Fay students have to earn the privilege of going off campus.

13 Soul of Downtown August 16, 2017 at 11:57 AM

Hat’s off to Southborough House of Pizza for restoring and maintaining a beautiful historic building. How many towns can boast that their [insert town name] House of Pizza is the loveliest spot downtown? I don’t mean to be funny, for Chris has done a beautiful job with his restaurant and his property. It truly is a landmark to be admired.

A downtown façade can advertise a town’s soul. Vinyl banners furnished by vendors. broken sidewalks and a moldy storefront is what we see across the street from our old fire station. M’thinks Southborough is worthy of a higher standard.

14 Kelly Roney August 10, 2017 at 11:50 AM

Note to David P: Economically moving the light poles where they’re less of a visual blight would be positive.

Can you please rein in your behavior to give your ideas a chance?

15 David parry August 10, 2017 at 8:35 PM

I will respond to this in detail later, since you obviously know little about the “games” going on in an attempt to delay and derail this proposal. I am busy now, but it will come, in detail.

For now, I will have to limit myself to the issue of misleading information being fed to the utility companies, who of course are being asked, now, to give us the cost of a feasibility study (previously given as $5,000 but now being inflated). and then the cost and time for designing and then constructing this proposal.

The main point is that we have NO need of many months dealing with negotiating contentious easements, because they are being provided for FREE by property owners,, and therefore, likewise, we do NOT NEED ANY months dealing with unnecessary appraisals, because there is nothing to appraise. !

See the smoke and mirrors game. ? The answers you get from the utility companies depends entirely on what information you give them, And this town has given them very misleading information.

I will provide more information later., I have no time now

16 Paul Bourdon August 11, 2017 at 9:47 AM

I just watched the video of the meeting.

What is baffling is that the most important news item of all is not included in the cover story.

Mr Parry read , out loud, a paragraph from the letter written by Mr Tony Kwan. This letter accompanied the $5,000 check intended to cover the cost of the feasibility study.

Here is the direct quote of Mr Kwan’s paragraph:
“On the matter of paying for the cost of implementation, I will consider the following. Provided both Fay School and St Marks School agree likewise, I will consider dedicating a substantial portion of my Payment in Lieu of Taxes, (PILOT), which I now provide the Town purely as a voluntary measure, to pay off the long term construction bond which may be used by the Town to fund the project. This could possibly relieve the tax payers of the Town a substantial amount, and possible all, of the cost of implementation. Maybe a Town Meeting might be avoided entirely.”


This project will enhance our town and maybe provide a catalyst to improve the town’s center.

17 beth August 11, 2017 at 11:08 AM

Your summary analysis of the promise doesn’t seem to reflect the actual text of the letter. That letter seemed to only be promising that a portion of the payment he already contributes could be dedicated to the project.

That would mean, it’s not additional money to offset the cost. And even then, he would “consider” dedicating that portion only if St. Marks and Fay to agree to pony up funds.

Still, I agree that it was interesting. As was the debate about allowing reading or ultimately not reading of the full letter into record. But there was so much said, I had to choose which details to include. Since the letter didn’t appear to offer anything that really would offset project costs – it seemed moot at this point in process. So it’s one of the details that didn’t make the cut.

18 Louise Barron August 11, 2017 at 10:03 AM

Oh really. $5000 for a complete study. I don’t think so. I read earlier an astronomical figure for the study. Perhaps $60,000. Is this a blue light Kmart study. NO NO NO to spending one penny in this fancy town. Spend the money on repairing sidewalk plows, street maintenance equipment, sidewalks that are buckling and asphalt that is broken. Enough with these frivolous ideas. How about a pool and cabanas. We could hire pool boys to serve cocktails. Who cares about the taxes. $333.00 per household. Do you actually believe the bull you are being fed. I refuse to agree to this ridiculous expense, and going forward any of the other lame ideas going forward in this town.

19 Southboro92 August 15, 2017 at 5:19 PM

I agree – The bones of this town (schools, open spaces, etc) is the catalyst of attracting people to the town not whether there are telephone poles on the street. The way the street and sidewalks look right now are hideous. Get the project done and stop all this nonsense.

20 David Parry August 11, 2017 at 2:17 PM

You seem to be against everything, including any attempt to beautify our small historical downtown. It appears that you would rather just carry on as before, and just let our historical downtown continue to decline, slowly, just as Mr Christo Baltas, owner of the Souithborough House of Pizzas has testified is actually happening. Of course, the 2 year long construction schedule for the new street will be a huge burden on the local businesses.

I wonder if you voted for the $1,000,000 to save the historical beauty of the Burnett House on Deerfoot Rod, and place a Conservation restriction on it. I also wonder if you voted to purchase the many acres of open space on Chestnut Hill Road ? Maybe because that is closer to you home on Sears Road.? .

Or did you vote with the 91% majority to save the golf course and build a new public safety building. ? That vote of Town Meeting in March was primarily because of the conservation restriction on the golf course, not for a new police/fire station. That was secondary to many voters.Their primariy concern was to ensure that the golf course was saved, even if it meant sacrificing 10% of the land for the new public safety building. It was a great compromise, because we saved and preserved beauty forever, yes, FOREVER, WITH CONSERVATION RESTRICTIONS, and we also got a PERFECT site for the public safety building. BUT IT WAS BEAUTY THAT SAVED THE VOTE.

So, this town DOES care about beauty, in fact it is our priority number one. To have it and enhance it. It is the one thing that this town has going for it, compared to the towns around us. We are greatly enhanced by the wonderful reservoirs, the protected watershed forest land, and the grand lawns and buildings of our two superb private schools, St Marks and Fay.

But beautifying downtown can do more. It can act as a generator of new activity, and liven the place up, and bring in visitors, and attract new stores and businesses. We literally have a “jewel in the rough” here, just waiting to be polished so that it shines with the magnificent potential beauty we have.

I was hoping that the Barron family, Louise and Jack, who can be guaranteed to speak loudly at every Town Meeting, and have every right to do so, would see the wisdom of this proposal, because it not only bewautifiews, but it also helps to generate new private enterprise. businesses in our town center. I am still holding out hope, because I know that both Jack and Louise have the best interest of the town at heart, as we do.

We simply want to seize the day, and get this done within the street project schedule, as cheaply as possible, and this is IS the cheapest way possible, so the street is not interminably torn up and businesses go out of business. Lets get it all done at cone time. .

21 Louise Barron August 11, 2017 at 6:15 PM

FYI David Jack is very active in Open Space, and is committed to purchasing open space for the benefit of the town. Jack, by the way is also very involved with the Pioneer Institute, which fights corruption and kick backs to public officials. I have the best interest also in Southborough, but I don’t like when you and others are committed to wasting my money for pie in the sky projects,that benefit few, and have their hands in my pocket. The Taj Southborough (police and fire) cost, will undoubtedly come in at a rate that will make the big dig a joke.

22 roger August 12, 2017 at 2:18 AM

The utility poles are historic! Don’t touch them!

23 Southboro92 August 15, 2017 at 5:20 PM

hahaha!! :)

24 Alan August 12, 2017 at 2:38 PM

It would be a nice start to beautifying downtown Southborough if we could get certain homeowners to clean up their yards.

25 Karen EV Connell August 14, 2017 at 12:02 PM

Dear Neighbors:

I want to see the poles and wires removed, everywhere!
I want to see safe passable sidewalks and roads, everywhere!

The reason we are talking about Main Street is because it is slated to be rebuilt from Deerfoot Road to Park Street in the Spring.

When I last inquired on April 9, 2014, the fees taxpayers of Southborough paid towards this project was $480,414.31. That figure did not include variables that are hard to pinpoint like overtime and meeting preparations. The figure represents fees paid to Engineering Consultants. Three years have passed so I wonder how much more Southborough taxpayers have contributed since 2014?

There is an elephant is the room. I rather like elephants so I will address it.

Why didn’t our hired vendors (VHB Engineering) discuss under-wiring or pole replacement as an option?

What will future generations think about removing poles only to replace them 3 feet away in the center of a new sidewalk?

What about the trees? We are planting new trees but will have to groom them to grow around wires.

Is there another option?

Karen Connell

26 Dick Tibert August 16, 2017 at 2:14 PM

It would seem to me that our focus should not be on the “ugly” telephone poles, but on the beauty of the American flags that are flown from them. That in itself should be enough to show pride in our Main St. and little downtown. Take them down and how many front porches would we expect to display them? And how many residents actually know how to display our flag??

27 David Parry August 16, 2017 at 3:55 PM

Dick, this is a good thought, and you need have no fear about losing the ability to fly our US flags.

Thisi s simp;ly because removing the utility poles has NOTHING WHATEVER TO DO WITH FLYING FLAGS., BECAUSE — IF THE POLES GO — THEN THEY WILL BE REPLACED BY NEW STREET LIGHTS on posts. There will be fixtures on the new light posts for flags and banners to be flown. So we will have as many or more flags in future, with no gigantic utility poles. What is more, the new street lights will be far more attractive, with no massive wires in the sky. Some of these wires and cables are over 4 inches diameter— literally thousands of wires bound together inside a black waterproof liner..

What is more, the State will actually pay for the conduit (pipe) under the sidewalks, and the conduit takes the future wires leading to each new light post, and , even better, the State will also provide, for free, the actual bases of the future light posts. (We buy the light posts, that is all). .

It seems likely, according to the unanimous recommendation of the Main Street Working Group, and in particular of Selectman Brian Shea, a member, that the town’s engineering consultants, VHB engineering, will add the conduit and bases to the engineering drawings, so that these will be in the bid package, and will therefore be built as part of the overall street, at the State’s cost, (free for the town). So that is GOOD news for a change.

I think we all agree that we should keep the USA flags flying, both from homes and from street light posts. Thanks Dick.

28 Kelly Roney August 17, 2017 at 1:03 AM

I assume that any plan will have to have streetlights and thus a place to hang the flags. I imagine them as decorative and shorter than the current wooden poles.

But that raises an important set of questions since the streetlights will be a second set of poles:
– How much do they cost?
– Undergrounding their electrical supply is presumably cheaper than undergrounding everything (power at the top, phone and cable lower) on the current ugly poles. How much cheaper? This is marginal (i.e. extra) cost, and the utilities are not likely to bear any of that.
– What voltage do the streetlights need? I would think they should run on a lot lower voltage than the 3kV (or similar) that need transformers to step down to household (240/120V). That will affect the cost, too.

In short, I think the flags will still have a home here, but I want to know the costs.

29 Anita Reeder August 17, 2017 at 9:26 AM

Excellent point! What will happen to flying our flags on Main Street?

30 Anita Reeder August 17, 2017 at 9:30 AM

Sorry, just saw Mr. Parry’s and Mr. Roney’s responses. I do hope the new streetlights, if this plan goes through, are not the ugly things we have now, but are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye and of a more historical flavor, such as the lovely reproduction lights I have seen elsewhere.

31 JohnB September 6, 2017 at 8:55 AM

The poles are everywhere!
Get over it.


32 beth September 18, 2017 at 8:50 AM

David Parry asked me to paste a copy of the comment he left under a more recent story (on 84 Main St) here. All of the text below are his words, not mine:

When I drive by the Burnett house at 84 Main St, and see the incredible amount of work involved, I wonder if most residents appreciate just how lucky we are. This project has been made possible because of public pressure to save the building, and the pure luck that the owner happens to possess several critical characteristics: generosity, great wealth, the willingness to spend a good chunk of it on a high risk venture, business acumen, development experience, and strong interest in historic objects (especially antiques) and old buildings. The current owner has such a strong interest that he was willing to have burdensome preservation restrictions imposed which will ensure the next owner is obliged to continue onward with what he has started. There can be little doubt that this project will have a significant, and lasting, impact on the reputation of our town for preservation and creation of beauty.
“Thank you’s” go to the many students who initiated this political effort, to pressure our elected officials into taking action; and to the residents, committees and “Friends of Burnett House”who have overseen the project; and above all to the owner, Mr John Delli Priscoli, who happened, by sheer luck, to be the right person, at the right time, to actually make it happen.
The important questions this project raises are:
1. WHY does it take political pressure to force our elected officials of adopt a positive vision of our future?
2. How is it possible that of our elected officials and our Town administrator are so out of sync with this Town’s well known goals — for preserving historic and open space assets? After all, they actually proposed that St Marks Golf course land be used as a future annex to our DPW complex, and similar construction uses. This is the opposite of what most residents see as a vision of our future – protecting its natural beauty.
3. How is it possible that we still have not considered and approved a vision of what our Town Center could become? Instead, we have a standard ,state-controlled, street reconstruction plan.

That leads me to wonder if most residents appreciate just how beautiful our entire town center area could become, if only we removed the ugly telephone poles from Main Street at the same time as we reconstruct the entire street from Deerfoot to the railroad —- a massive project requiring the entire street right of way to be dug up, 3 feet deep, so that a new sub-base and deep drains can be installed — an obviously a unique opportunity to remove the existing utility poles.
We need to take several actions to take advantage of this opportunity. One action is to create a “historic district”, exrtending from near Fay School to the railroad, which recognizes the amazing historic resources we now have in our downtown, where almost all buildings are historic. Thanks to our Historic Commission, this effort is now underway. Another action is to plan to remove the ugly utility poles at the same time as Main Street is being reconstructed. This has never been actively pursued by our Selectmen, Town Administrator or DPW. All their focus has been on increasing traffic volumes, regardless of the amount of new asphalt, and there has been a distinct lack of enthusiasm, and indeed negative support, for removing the poles. More recently there has been a deliberate attempt to kill the proposal through sheer delay.
• The Main Street Working Group has made a valiant effort to improve the appearance of the street reconstruction, but they have been hampered by two constraints: (1) The State will not pay for any improvement which is not strictly for traffic movement, (any “beautification” must be paid by the Town, and (2) the Selectmen have limited the Working Group’s scope of work to a review of ONLY the State funded portions. Therefore, pole removal was never a topic under review, because the State will not pay for it. How ironic and short sighted. However, in June the Selectmen did ask the Working Group their opinion of the proposal to move the poles off of Main street, and the Group’s answer was — that the Town should do everything possible to prepare for that event, NOW, because they considered the removal of the poles to be unequivocally positive, and almost inevitable in the long run. The sooner the better was their opinion. But the Board of Selectmen did not follow up, and the Group’s recommendations were discussed but not acted upon. Likewise, the Economic Development Committee agreed with the concept of pole removal, but their opinion has been ignored as well.
The problem is not just lack of vision, at the Selectmen and DPW level, but it is inertia and bureaucracy , and time. Time is fast running out, and this delay may succeed in killing the proposal and preventing the poles from being removed ….. for reasons of sheer stubbornness and unwillingness to modify the “official” State endorsed plan, which is being paid for by the State (costing around $8 million). The pole removal must be paid for by the Town, as a separate project. (Cost unknown, but far less).

There are two methods of removing utility poles. One is to place the wires underground. This is very expensive. One estimate put this at around $11 million. The other method of removing poles is to build a new route of utility poles behind the Main Street, along major roads or driveways so that the poles can be easily maintained, and so that the wires can feed the buildings fronting on Main Street from the back or side. This would BE FAR LESS EXPENSIVE THAN UNDERGROUNDING, AND WOULD COST A SMALL FRACTION of $11 million. There has been a lot of misinformation that all the poles would be in residential back yards. This is NOT the case. Some of the poles would be along the north section of the Woodward School driveway, (hidden partially by tall trees), most others would be along other streets. (See the tentative route plan in the attachment).
This alternative to undergrounding — the far less expensive scheme of a new route of off-street poles — was proposed for Southborough over three years ago, and renewed more recently 6 months ago by the downtown businesses and Main Street Association, but the proposal was basically ignored by the Board of Selectmen, Town Administrator and DPW. Not until August was Mass Electric asked by the Selectmen to study the feasibility, and, even then, the Town Administrator wrote an official letter (dated 8.1.17 to Mass Electric, informing them that “The Town does not support this project”. This may seem incredible, but it is true, despite that fact that the Board of Selectmen have not taken a vote against the proposal, and Town Meeting has not even discussed it. Furthermore, this official letter is equivalent to an invitation to Mass Electric, which has veto power over whether any new pole route will be allowed, to make an official determination that Mass Electric does not want it, and considers it infeasible or desirable for any reason whatsoever — because some Southborough officials don’t care why, and it would be convenient if it was killed by Mass Electric, so it wasn’t the fault of the Selectmen. What an unscrupulous way to do business! Mass Electric is the agency responsible for the feasibility study, for coordinating with other wire utilities that use the poles, and for implementing the scheme if it goes ahead. The town must pay Mass Electric to do the feasibility study (with a $5,000 deposit), and that study will result in a final design and an implementation cost, which has to be funded by a vote of Town Meeting, probably in March 2018.
Note, that, had the Selectmen taken action earlier, this Mass Electric study could have been undertaken years earlier, and a town Meeting vote could have been taken by now, in plenty of time to be incorporated into the official plans for the street construction. Now it is all so late that it is considered “inconvenient” and has become a “problem”, instead of what it really is — an OPPORTUNITY.
The Town Administrator has told me that he wants kill the proposal to remove the poles, as does Selectmen Kolenda. Their reasoning is that, in their personal opinion, Southborough cannot afford to pay for it. However that is a decision to be made by Town Meeting with the advice of the Town Advisory (Finance) Committee, not of the Town Administrator or Selectman Kolenda. Sit should be noted that selectmen Shea and Braccio have stated that the issue is important enough to deserve a vote at Town Meeting. The problem is that the delays orchestrated by other town officials, intentionally, and their lack of support, make a Town Meeting vote almost academic at this late stage.
All along we have been warning that time is of the essence, and that any delay can kill the proposal. Now it is probably too late, because of the slow review by Mass Electric and the sheer momentum of the Main Street Reconstruction Project, which starts in March 2018 and lasts for two years. One of the things that the contractor may want to do, early on, is to move the existing poles to their new locations a few feet away. Of course, that alone (because of the cost of moving the poles a second time, to an entirely new location off the street, as described below), would kill the proposal.
The current plan calls for the utility poles along Main Street to be moved just a few feet and inches in order to conform to the new alignment of the street, which is slightly different, therefore requiring the poles to be slightly moved. The cost of this minor movement of poles is over one million dollars, to be paid for 50:50 by the State Highway Dept and by Mass Electric. What a colossal waste of State funds. We could have saved the agencies this money. Instead of moving the poles a few feet within the street, we could have installed new poles several hundred feet away, out of the historic street, and once that was completed we could have REmoved the old poles within the street, forever. .
So what are we going to see, when our Main Street has been reconstructed? We are going to see a brand new street, with a very big intersection at Rt 85, but, ironically, with all the old poles moved a few feet! What an UNdesirable vision! I can guarantee that residents will be shocked and upset at missing this opportunity.

I have been asked repeatedly by Mr Kolenda for a specific example of a town where they have NOT done the expensive undergrounding, but have instead done what we are proposing — the far less expensive solution — providing a new route of new poles and wires, and connecting the buildings from behind. He has stated that he doubts such an example exists. Well, I now have that example, and you will be surprised because you are all aware of it, except that you are probably unaware of the method used.
It is the town of Hudson. Hudson did NOT chose to pursue undergrounding, because of the extremely high cost. Instead, they built a new row of poles along parallel streets, and fed the Main St buildings from their back side. Please go take a look. This is EXACTLY what we have proposed for Southborough.
Hudson did install new wires under their sidwalks along, but they are the small wires in conduit (small pipes), feeding the new street lamps, which are on low poles, allowing for banners and flags. That conduit can be paid for 100 % by the State. But not even this has been officially voted by our Selectmen, due to lack of focus. It should have been included in our bid documents.
You might ask: What has happened to Hudson as a result of their carefully planned removal of utility poles? The answer hits you in the face, because it is so obvious. Once the ugly poles were removed, the beautiful old buildings were more visible. The town center has undergone a rapid economic transformation, with many new businesses located along the Main street section which has no poles and wires. The reputation of the entire town has benefitted, and as a result property values have risen in a very wide area. The same goes for other towns which have removed poles, such as Franklin, Holden and Shrewsbury (although all 3 of those towns used the more expensive undergrounding solution).
We are about to miss our own golden opportunity, which will not be revisited in our lifetimes. Once the Main Street Reconstruction Project has been completed, then the town will not be allowed, by law, to alter the roadway at all, for five years — 2025.
The needs of our downtown businesses and this unique opportunity to restore beauty to our entire downtown area, from Fay School to the railroad, is being squandered. Only political action which is highly focused can change our course.
What an irony. ONE beautiful mansion restored and beautified, for one million dollars of town money and far more in private funds. I wonder what Mr Jon Delli Priscoli thinks of the tall, ugly poles along Main St, right in front of his beautiful mansion , because they are so much more visible now that the trees have been cut down. Note that the proposal could be modified to get rid of these poles as well, all the way to Deerfoot rd.
But the far larger area of the entire town center is about to be carved up for a new street, and its character diminished. That is the legacy we will be leaving. Decades hence, historians will wonder why “we” could have been so stupid. Who is responsible ? There is no doubt at all. It is some of our Selectmen, our Town Administrator and DPW Superintendent.
But who exactly is the “we” ? It is just some of our elected and appointed officials, who have an iron grip on this project – the DPW, the Town Administrator, and the Chair of the Board of selectmen.
Please join us in demanding positive action by our other officials, and a retraction of the Town Administrator’s letter to Mass Electric stating that Southborough does not favor this proposal for pole removal. Maybe we need another student led group to take up this cause, like they took up the cause of saving the Burnett Mansion.
Please look at the ATTACHMENT for the proposed draft layout of the new poles located off of Main St.

33 beth August 14, 2017 at 6:42 PM

It seems you are unaware that you don’t need to “miss” that. Remember, the former owners of Mauro’s Market are right next door at Mauro’s Cafe. They now offer meats over there (though I don’t know if it’s all of the same selection.) And I noticed that included promotion of special cuts for the past holiday season. You may want to check in with them in the fall to find out if they’ll be doing it again this year.

34 I'm Just Sayin' August 15, 2017 at 8:46 AM

Thanks, Beth, I was aware. They just started that this past year. Unfortunately, I found our after the fact. And actually, Boar’s Head meats are better than what they used to carry. So, that part, at least for the time being, has been addressed.

35 beth August 16, 2017 at 7:11 AM

You were the first to comment on the listing for the house at the corner. Although It is listed at that address, I have become convinced that it has to be a mistake in how they posted the listing. The parcel is named as a lot 1 Main St. Online maps showed that as 1 Main St. I’m guessing that there is a parcel somewhere split into lots, this being number one of some number, and the realtor didn’t enter the street number.

36 Kelly Roney August 16, 2017 at 9:47 AM

I think you’re right, Beth. has this listed as “Main St. Lot 1.”

37 Downtown Resident August 16, 2017 at 3:14 PM

That listing is completely messed up. The house that is pictured is a newly built home on rt30 in Westborough, very close to Uhlman’s. I’m thinking it’s a complete mistake.

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