Select Board roundup: Herr cautions that downtown project should not get derailed by complaints from residents

372

Tuesday’s Select Board meeting mostly focused on housekeeping issues, but the Main Street Corridor Project was on everyone’s minds.

As part of his town manager’s report, Norman Khumalo offered a very brief update on the construction, saying it is “progressing well” and noting that Verizon had moved several poles.

Select Board member Amy Ritterbusch commented that the board has received a number of emails from frustrated residents, and she said, “It is disappointing so many people have had issues so far.”

Board member Brian Herr said the board should be careful regarding its interaction with residents who have complaints.

“Our role is to enforce, follow and encourage the general will of the community to move forward,” he said. “The general will of the community was established on December 9th, 2019 [when Town Meeting approved the project].

“We have to follow that directive from Town Meeting and build the project. There’s 18,000 people that we represent. The 18,000 is the general will of the community. Twenty people is not the will of the community, and we can’t let them derail this project, as some have clearly tried in recent weeks. That’s not fair to the rest of the town.”

Herr added that he believes the board has been “going beyond the board’s role in some of these matters, and it’s causing issues for the town as a whole because of that.”

“When you give people false hope in these processes of the democratic deliberation, false hope is not helping move the project or the process or the town forward,” he said. “And I think sometimes recently we’ve been giving out some false hope about certain situations that are going to get corrected, when that’s not the case, and the general will is not supportive of that, either. I’m just really concerned about the false hope that we’re putting out there, and when we involve ourselves in the day-to-day operations of the town, we’re creating false hope for residents and it’s not fair to them. They may not like that answer, but we’re not being fair to them when we give them false hope, either.”

Added Herr: “The citizens have to hear that difficult message, that you can write as many emails as you want, we’re not going to change certain things operationally about what the town has decided to do. And when we give them false hope that we are going to do something, that’s where the problem lies, and that’s what I’m very concerned about going forward.”

Chair Brendan Tedstone said the board earlier in the day received a large number of emails regarding the use of the town-owned parking lot on Marshall Avenue, just off Main Street, for storage of construction materials and equipment. That has been an ongoing issue since construction started last month.

Said Tedstone: “If they moved [the storage lot] to the snow dump, it will alleviate the three direct neighbors next to it, their concerns, but what about the people now as the front-end loader has to go down to the snow dump from 85 Main St. to get a pallet of pipe at 8:30 in the morning and when they come up Cedar Street hill with that pallet of pipe they’re doing 2 miles an hour, there’s going to be 150 cars behind there. And that’s going to delay 150 people by 45 minutes 15 times a day.

“So, yes, I’m aware that the Marshall Ave. people are upset with how things are there, but this isn’t about Marshall Ave., this is about the good of the town. And what’s right for the town. By using that Marshall Ave. lot it’s going to lessen the amount of time that the disruption is going to be in this Main Street Corridor.”

Herr, whose term on the board expires next month, took it one step further, saying board members should not get sucked into trying to defend their actions in online discourse.

“It’s also this notion that we’re supposed to participating in Facebook debate about town governance,” he said. “Absolutely not, in my opinion as one member of this board, should we be participating in Facebook debate about the Town of Hopkinton governance. This is where we govern Hopkinton, and at Town Meeting.”

Misc.: Board OK’s hiring of executive assistant

The board approved the hiring of Vasudha Dutta as executive assistant to the Town Manager’s Office. Dutta has worked on a temporary basis for the Town Manager’s Office as well as other town offices.

“As you know, this position requires the highest and utmost level of poise, tact [and] discretion in supporting the chief executive offices for the town,” Khumalo said. “Vasudha comes to us through a wealth of life experiences stretching to different continents in Asia as well as here in North America. … [Those involved in the hiring process] all learned very, very clearly about Vasudha’s ability to be calm, efficient and poised in any situation and every situation that we presented during the interview. When we spoke to her references they confirmed that she is dependable, reliable and professional at all times, as we have experienced during her tenure here working with us on a temporary basis.” …

The board accepted the resignation of Beth Kelly from the Historic District Commission.

Ritterbusch, who served on the commission with Kelly, lauded Kelly’s contributions to the town.

“She really cares deeply for the [Town] Common and the historic district, and we’re really going to miss her perspective on that board,” Ritterbusch said. …

The board OK’d Christian Franklin’s appointment to the Capital Improvements Committee, to a term expiring June 30, 2023. …

The board accepted an award of $3,000 from the Hometown Heroes program to the Hopkinton Police Department for Officer Brian Sanchioni and K9 Titan.

“In a time right now where society seems to be pretty much against everything that the police are doing, I certainly appreciate all the accolades that they’re given and the recognition for the hard work and the wonderful work those guys do,” Tedstone said. …

The Special Town Meeting warrant will close on April 23, as the board approved the corrected date. The Special Town Meeting is being held within the Annual Town Meeting on May 8. As of now it consists of one article, which deals with extending the means tested senior citizen property tax exemption.