By Justin Saglio
The Board of Selectmen held a public hearing Aug. 15 on a construction project aimed at improving traffic flow at the intersection of routes 20 and 135.
Scheduled to begin as early as March 2012, the project will widen traffic lanes and reconstruct railroad crossings, according to Thomas Emerick, a representative from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
According to Emerick, roads will stay open for much of the 18-month project, but certain phases will close lanes and force detours.
“When we replace the rail crossing, [Route 20] will be closed for the weekend and traffic will be detoured,” Emerick said.
Selectman Leslie Rutan wanted to know whether drivers would be warned of a potential gridlock before entering the intersection.
“Mobile message boards will inform people further down the road on how to avoid traffic downtown,” Emerick said.
Northborough resident Kevin Carroll raised questions about the project and likened it to a Boston construction project he experienced while a resident there.
“Will there be a lot of trench work with metal plates over the area?” Carroll asked. “I assume they will be better labeled than the Big Dig.”
The meeting room was filled with Northborough residents concerned about the last item on the agenda, which was put on the schedule at the request of John O”Mara, who spoke in favor of putting the town in the controversial Secure Communities program.
The program requires police departments to send fingerprint data to the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency when an arrest is made. Northborough Chief of Police Mark Leahy said this policy could hinder him from protecting town residents.
“The program creates fear within the immigrant community – not among just illegal immigrants, but among all immigrants,” Leahy said. “This hampers our criminal investigation process. We need an open dialogue with immigrants.”
Leahy noted that Boston is the only state municipality to adopt the program, and now the city is trying to get out of it.
“If Boston said it doesn's work, I don's see Northborough being the guinea pig on this,” Leahy said.
The public hearing resulted in a heated discussion about immigration.
“It is just not about law enforcement… The notion that we must sacrifice the people to have an open dialogue with the illegal immigrants is a flip-flop of priorities,” O”Mara said.
Northborough residents gave comments both in favor and in opposition to the program.
“We are more concerned about the immigrant community than we are about our own community,” Maynard Street resident Jim Millar said. “It's unfortunate that some people are deported, but they are here illegally.”
“This has been 35 years of my life and I's very passionate about it,” Leahy said. “We have a very low violent crime rate in Northborough and that is not by accident.”