Anyone who has driven on the newly redesigned section of Main Street just east of the Wood Street intersection can see that the area for vehicular traffic is more narrow than it was before this summer’s redesign, with sidewalks on both sides limiting driver’s options. If an emergency vehicle should need to pass, it appears unlikely that space could be cleared.
“[Town Engineer Dave Daltorio] is working with MassDOT [Massachusetts Department of Transportation] representatives and our public safety departments to answer the question that has come up from the public: Can our public safety vehicles traverse the corridor with ease?” Town Manager Norman Khumalo said at Tuesday night’s Select Board meeting. “That’s an issue that we are now looking into, discussing extensively, and we will be reporting to the public about the outcome of the research that has been done.”
Select Board member Mary Jo LaFreniere also noted that the tighter roadway has eliminated the ability for someone — perhaps a delivery driver — to pull over in front of any houses on that section of Main Street. She also expressed concern about how the new design will affect snow clearing.
Khumalo said that while Phase 1 and 2 of the project — which focused on the roadway from West Main Street to the Fire Station and the Route 135/Route 85 intersection — has been completed, work on the sidewalks will continue as weather permits. Additionally, the traffic signals at the 135/85 intersection are in progress and are expected to be completed in the next two weeks.
Work on Phase 3, from the 135/85 intersection to Ash Street, will start after the April 2023 Boston Marathon and remains on target to be completed next fall, according to MassDOT.
On a related note, Khumalo credited Verizon and Eversource for moving quickly to help facilitate the move of local charity Project Just Because to a new location on South Street.
Marathon charity number policy set
After a lengthy discussion, the board voted to make minor updates to the town’s Boston Marathon charity bib distribution policy.
The Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the Boston Marathon, is providing the town with 50 numbers that are to be distributed to town departments, boards and committees along with nonprofit organizations “undertaking public service activities within the Town of Hopkinton” to be used as a fundraiser.
The Select Board is required to define a policy for the distribution of entries each year.
Khumalo said the goal is to establish a policy that ensures “transparency, efficiency, accountability and inclusivity — bringing people in to participate as broadly as is allowed by the law.”
There was a debate about how best to define the charitable organizations that can apply for a number, and the vote to change the language to require organizations to be 501(c)3 charities was not unanimous [Editor’s note: This has been corrected from the original version that indicated no changes to the definitions of charities]. Likewise, the language defining the distribution of numbers “through a random selection” remained after a 3-1 vote, even though the process has not been random — the board has determined where the numbers will go.
Qualified organizations that would like to be included in the selection process, which is scheduled for Nov. 1, must fill out an application (available at the town website starting Oct. 12) and submit it to the Select Board/Town Manager’s Office by Oct. 26.
New town positions proposed
Khumalo announced a plan to create two full-time town positions. One is for a direct services social worker in Youth and Family Services.
“As we have seen in the past years, especially owing to the impact of COVID-19, the demands on that department are increasing daily and routinely,” Khumalo explained, noting the department currently has a full-time director, a part-time social worker (30 hours), a full-time program coordinator (recently approved at Town Meeting) a full-time drug-free communities coordinator (grant funded) and a part-time prevention coordinator (10 hours; grant funded).
Khumalo sad the plan is to “create a full-time position that will focus largely on case management. And case management focusing on issues this town has prioritized, beginning with what do we do to prepare our kids for pre-[kindergarten], what do we do for our kids who are already in school, especially those who may be in high school, looking for, for example, some support systems to help them through school, as well as, as we all know, that’s the time when young people start looking for jobs. And then the other piece that has come out as a priority in the last two or three years has to do with housing. We now have a large market of people who are renting in town. … We learned very quickly that there’s a need for us to think long and hard about how best to support our rentals, especially those on a fixed income. And so clearly we are discussing creating this position that would focus on providing direct services in the areas that I’ve identified.”
While the position is not currently funded, Khumalo said, “We’re looking at moving funds from some other line item to support this if we move forward.”
Select Board member Muriel Kramer spoke in support of the idea.
“This really makes me proud to see this particular department … growing in such purpose,” she said. “I think that people who need these supports and services sometimes may feel a little bit invisible as a priority, and it is really wonderful to see that that is not the case, that there’s a lot of priority being given to supports and services to needy individuals and families.”
The second new position would focus on economic development.
“We all have heard the pleas for the town to do some work around economic development,” Khumalo said. He added that he wanted to take an existing position (already funded) but have it be “reimagined to focus on economic development, sustainability and equity.”
“We know very well that the economic growth that this town is looking for has to be sustainable, and it also has to be equitable,” he said. “From my review of the town’s strategic plan, it’s pretty clear that this community desires to pursue economic development strategies that are grounded on fit, sustainability and equity.”