By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Grafton – The battle between the Town of Grafton and the Grafton and Upton Railroad (G&U RR) received continued attention at the May 19 Board of Selectmen’s meeting. At issue is the recent decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board to allow, after a two-year court battle, the G&U RR to install four, 120-foot liquid propane gas (LPG) storage tanks at the railroad’s switching yard on Westborough Road in North Grafton, adjacent to the site previously selected for the town’s Super Park and in a residential neighborhood.
According to the Health and Safety Authority, unlike liquid natural gas (LNG), which is lighter than air and disperses quickly, LPG is heavier than air, tends to collect along the ground when leaked, and is explosively flammable.
The case is currently before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as Grafton keeps fighting the gas farm. In a memo from Town Administrator Timothy P. McInerney, residents were informed that briefs from the federal Surface Transportation Board and the railroad were due March 20. The town then filed a reply brief in April. The court will hear oral arguments at an undetermined future date.
At the May 19 meeting, McInerney said that the town is presently working on a fire safety analysis and related safety issues. Two professional engineers have been engaged to work on a plan in case the Court of Appeals finds for the railroad.
Selectman Dennis Flynn had a number of questions regarding the creation of an advisory board on this issue. He said that the storage tanks could arrive in as little as another month, and questioned the ability of the tracks and bridges to bear such a load. He asked about the cost of establishing an advisory board and wondered about the devaluation of neighborhood properties and how much private insurance rates might rise. He asked what the number of board members might be and who they would be, whether town employees or private citizens with needed skills.
The board did not make any decision on creating an advisory board beyond continuing to discuss the issue at a future meeting.
In other business, the board considered a petition from Verizon/UC Synergetic to add a pole along Meadowbrook Road. According to resident Thomas Blicharz, the pole would help support the growing wire load along Meadowbrook as cable services and the number of homes increase. Abutters have been notified and there was no opposition, so the board voted unanimously to allow the new pole. The board also voted to remove approximately three acres at 43 Estabrook St. from Chapter 61A of the Massachusetts General Laws, which governs use and taxation of agricultural land. Finally, the board appointed Stacy Willar to the Grafton Cultural Council and accepted the resignation of Mary Ann Nolan from the Grafton Town House Oversight Committee.