hopkinton-independent-logo2x
Hopkinton, MA
loader-image
Hopkinton, US
12:38 am, Monday, June 17, 2024
temperature icon 58°F
Humidity 89 %
Wind Gust: 18 mph

SIGN UP TODAY!
BREAKING NEWS & DAILY NEWSLETTER





UCTC reelects Moran as chair, discusses Town Meeting vote to disband

by | May 18, 2023 | Featured: News, News

The Upper Charles Trail Committee at its meeting Wednesday night took another look at its organizational structure and charge after receiving a resounding nonbinding vote at the May 2 Annual Town Meeting calling for its disbandment and restructuring as a Trail Coordination and Management Committee subcommittee.

In light of the vote that called for new leadership and discussion at the last Select Board meeting on May 9, UCTC chair Jane Moran decided to hold the annual election of officers more than a month earlier than usual, evoking questions from some members who noted that three members’ committee terms are expiring and that the composition of the board may change with prospective new members joining the committee.

Said Moran: “At this time of the year, it seems like a timely conversation to have.”

Member Eli Post nominated Moran to continue as chair, saying, “Nobody else is as crazy to do that.” Member Jim Ciriello seconded the nomination.

At that point, member Ken Parker nominated treasurer Scott Knous to succeed Moran, and Knous accepted the nomination. Irfan Nasrullah, the Select Board’s UCTC liaison, seconded Knous’s nomination.

Vice chair Eric Sonnett stepped in and called for members to vote for one of the two candidates. Moran won the vote by a 5-3 margin, with Parker, Knous and Nasrullah voting for Knous.

Nasrullah, who attended the meeting for the first time in recent memory, explained his vote for Knous resulted from the town’s call for a change in direction for the UCTC.

“It’s basically the Town Meeting vote was loud and clear,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t support Jane; I absolutely do.”

Alternate members Jamie Wronka and Tim Ritterbusch were not allowed to vote, as there was a quorum of members in attendance.

Parker questioned the timing of the vote. The terms of three members — Ciriello, Post and Bob Snyder — will expire on June 30. Ciriello is the liaison for the Conservation Commission. Also of note is that longtime board member Cynthia Esthimer, the Parks & Recreation Commission designee, resigned from the UCTC because she is moving out of town. Depending on whether these members are reappointed by the Select Board, or if the board is expanded in light of the Town Meeting vote, Parker said the committee’s dynamic could shift while securing Moran and Sonnet, who was narrowly reelected as vice president, in their posts.

“It seems to me that voting now is to shut that out,” he said. “I don’t know that I think that’s appropriate.”

Moran said she moved up the vote in response to Town Meeting’s call for new leadership “as a balancing act.” While the Select Board appoints the members, those members choose their committee leaders.

Although Ciriello questioned the timing of the vote, he called it “a vote of confidence.” Wronka questioned whether there would be a new vote if new members were appointed and was told by Sonnett and Moran that the vote is annual. Although new members wouldn’t vote for the committee’s leadership, they would have the right to vote against any decisions with which they disagreed, Moran said.

Said Moran: “This is our form of democracy; sometimes it gets messy.”

Nasrullah said he “reinforced” Moran’s decision in response to the Town Meeting mandate, noting the vote was the first item on the agenda. This made the process “about as transparent as it can get.”

He also nominated Knous as vice president, but Knous declined to accept. Knous also declined to accept a treasurer nomination for reelection from Sonnett. Sonnet was narrowly reelected as vice chair by a 5-4 margin, with Ciriello, Knous, Parker and Nasrullah against. Snyder won the treasurer’s seat in a 6-0-1 vote, with Knous abstaining.

UCTC’s charge analyzed

Members made suggestions to amend the UCTC’s charge after feedback from the May 9 Select Board meeting that some wordsmithing may be needed. Moran suggested a member who is fluent in social media strategies be added to the committee to improve outreach and transparency. She also suggested regular committee reports to the Select Board to update it on activities, although the Select Board does have a liaison in Nasrullah.

Esthimer echoed the need for public outreach as a means of attracting new members. She also added that the phrase “constructive collaboration” be added to the charge.

Ciriello suggested more designated members from other stakeholder committees, noting the TCMC or Community Preservation Committee as potential options. A School Committee liaison was suggested by Sonnett, as well as an increase in committee members.

Knous questioned whether a liaison must be a member of the nominating committee. They could be a voting liaison if they wish to serve as liaisons, although historically they are chosen by the respective body.

Wronka asked for “specific, quantifiable measures” in the charge to prove that their directives are being met, such as a specific number of community surveys.

Ritterbusch suggested changing the language about offering “three or four trail routes” because that number no longer seems feasible. Knous said that segment recommendations should be presented to the Select Board for consideration upon their completion.

Nasrullah said that knowing “the pros and cons” of each segment would be helpful for Select Board members. Post disagreed, calling approving segments without knowing the entire trail’s layout “dangerous.”

Moran said that most of the town’s opposition sprung from the controversial proposed Segment 7 at Hayden Rowe Street. But she clarified that the committee was “quite a way into the Environmental Notification Form” when the pushback arose, so it was never forwarded to the Select Board or the state after public pushback. This is a requirement of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office when reviewing trail systems that can impact wetlands, and it analyzes a trail’s conceptual design. Feedback then would be given back to the town.

Said Moran: “Somehow it got twisted that we weren’t listening.”

Multiuse definition of trails brings surfacing methods into question

Snyder said he originally joined the UCTC as a means of pushing for bikeable trails to connect to Ashland and Milford, with the potential for connecting to the East Coast Greenway. Moran pointed out that multiuse means that the trail would be for “bikers, runners and skateboarders” as well as accessible for people with disabilities.

Parker said that “multiuse” was unclear and should not include skateboarders, who would need a paved surface rather than stone dust. Moran said that this “vulnerable population” should have skateboarding access to the EMC skate park from school. She added that she would “let the Select Board hash it out.”

“I think that this is really asking for trouble, financially and geographically,” Parker said. “I’m confident that if that becomes part of our charge to make it skateboard capable, you’re going to find a lot more opposition to this committee than we’ve already got.”

Town Meeting approval of CPC funding for Segment 1 design discussed

Moran asked for a vote to approve Town Manager Norman Khumalo to move forward with a contract for engineering firm VHB to design the proposed Segment 1, which would connect Hopkinton State Park to the downtown area.

Knous said he could not vote in support of a contract he has never seen despite being “wildly in favor of Segment 1.” The scope of work previously was approved by the committee, and it was approved by the CPC for funding. Moran noted that town staff is involved in writing contracts.

Esthimer honored for service

Moran presented Esthimer with a card signed by members thanking her for her dedicated service to the UCTC. Sonnett noted that he was the one who recommended her for the committee after serving with her on the Lake Maspenock Weed Management & Control Advisory Group “because she’s a worker, she’s a doer, and she was a great asset to the committee.”
END

3 Comments

  1. Peter LaGoy

    Well written article. In short, town meeting sent a clear (158 to 61; 72% to 28%) message that the UCTC needed to be replaced but the committee decided they didn’t want any change. Somehow, they decided that a vote among themselves was “listening” They also decided that continuing to use VHB as their engineer was appropriate.

    In my town meeting presentation, I noted the UCTC needed to be replaced because 1. They were not addressing safety, 2) they were not listening to the public, and 3) they were relying on an urban commuter-focused engineering firm. While there was no discussion on safety issues, items 2 and 3 were on display, and the UCTC, once again, proved my points. The Select Board needs to act.

  2. Sally Snyder

    I was at Town Meeting when the anti UCTC articles were discussed. These were the last two articles on the warrant and it was nearly midnight. As so often happens, those who wanted to disband the UCTC stayed to cast their vote. Many, many other voters had already left the meeting.
    I don’t think the vote represented the wishes of the town. It merely represented the wishes of about 160 residents.

    • Linda Chuss

      To me, this comment represents an excuse, not the listening that a vote in a democratic government is meant for. If more people cared to support the existing UCTC, why weren’t they there to vote? It has truly puzzled me for over two years as to why the UCTC won’t listen to citizen input – not a rhetorical question, but I have heard no rational answers. And why would 158 people want to stay through two long nights to vote to disband a board without very good cause?

Key Storage 4.14.22