Select Board roundup: Updated rules include requirement for speakers to be identified; downtown project has contractor

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At its meeting Tuesday night the Select Board voted to approve an updated Select Board Rules of Procedure, which includes a directive that members of the public must state their name and address prior to commenting.

This issue rose to the forefront after some members of the public were allowed to anonymously criticize a town Planning Board member. Although their names were available via documents at Town Hall, they were not made public at the Select Board meeting in August when they spoke or had their letters read. Traditionally speakers have been asked to give their name and address, although town counsel determined that it was not required based on the existing Select Board Rules of Procedure, which was last updated in 2009.

Town manager Norman Khumalo and assistant town manager Elaine Lazarus led the project to revise the entire 27-page document.

“I think whoever did this did a wonderful job,” Select Board member Mary Jo LaFreniere said. “It’s so much more succinct. I think the public is going to be able to read it. It’s much clearer. There’s just not a whole lot of added extra [verbiage].”

All five Select Board members voted to approve the document.

Contractor selected for downtown project

During the town manager’s report, Khumalo reported that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation selected A.F. Amorello & Sons, based in Worcester, to serve as the contractor for the Main Street Corridor Project.

“We’re looking forward to the project process wrapping up and going forward,” Khumalo said.

Select Board members who were familiar with the company voiced their support for the selection.

The work is expected to start in the spring.

“We’re talking with our consultant as well as MassDOT to actually formally launch the project and we will let you know as soon as possible,” Khumalo said.

Board supports residents concerned about MassDOT project

The board heard from two members of the Hopkinton North Woods Coalition, a group formed to protect the interests of residents who are most affected by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s I-495/I-90 Interchange Improvement Project, which includes replacement of the Fruit Street bridge over I-495.

Wilson St. Pierre, who said the coalition includes more than 100 homeowners, indicated the group has three priorities: safeguarding water quality, reducing road and construction noise impact, and improving road safety along Fruit Street.

St. Pierre said road salt runoff already is a problem, contaminating wells in the area, and he expects that will only get worse, as will noise issues.

“The highway has been steadily creeping closer to the Roosevelt Farms neighborhood in particular over the last 20 years,” he said. “This latest project will bring it yet another 60-80 feet closer to residents’ homes there. Obviously noise levels go up.”

Resident Kathy Hervol expressed concern about noise during construction. She said when the tollbooths were removed — work that primarily was done at night in order to minimize traffic impact — “We heard jackhammers and such for probably six months, and we don’t want to go through that for six years.”

St. Pierre also brought up concerns about landscape changes and sidewalk improvements farther down Fruit Street that he hopes could be added to the project (MassDOT has resisted this).

He said the group is not looking to stop the project, just to look out for the residents’ best interests, and he hoped for the town’s support.

The Select Board enthusiastically agreed that the residents should get their backing.

Select Board member Brian Herr suggested that the town manager reach out to representatives on the state and national level and bring in town counsel to interact with MassDOT as needed.

Treasurer: Town’s finances in ‘strong position’

Chris Heymanns, the town treasurer/collector, provided a positive report on the town’s finances.

“As of the most recent fiscal quarter end, which was September 30th, I am happy to report that despite the continued COVID-19 crisis the town remains in a strong position financially,” he said. “As of the date of this report the town held $58.8 million in deposits and investments. Our tax collections and state aid, which are the two largest sources of revenue, have continued to track as expected.”

Added Heymanns: “In the coming months the town is strategically positioned in terms of reserves, revenues and investments, and I feel confident in our ability to react to any uncertainty or any unforeseen events that might lie ahead financially.”

The board reacted positively to the news.

“It’s an awesome reflection of what a wonderful town that we are,” Select Board chair Brendan Tedstone said. “The fact there we’re in such a strong financial position at this point, almost a year into the pandemic, is a direct reflection of you, [chief financial officer] Tim [O’Leary], Mr. Khumalo and everybody else involved in these departments.”

Misc: Seaboard Solar declines meeting about sale

Khumalo, tasked by Town Meeting to contact Seaboard Solar to discuss the possibility of the town purchasing the forested land off Frankland Road — the former Liberty Mutual property — said Seaboard Solar declined to meet with him, indicating the property is not for sale. Seaboard Solar already was granted a special permit by the Planning Board to construct a solar array there. Two abutters are suing the Planning Board in an attempt to stop the project. …

The board approved a host community agreement with PerkinElmer, a company on Parkwood Avenue, regarding its plans to add a marijuana research facility. …

The Select Board accepted two gifts from the Hopkinton Trails Club: two picnic tables (valued at $350) that will be placed near the pond on the Pratt fields, and $100 to the library for the purchase of trail use-related literature. The board also approved a $250 gift to the Ambulance Fund from William Scott Ober and Gayle Ober of Fawn Ridge Road.

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