By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
Southborough – Southborough will receive $7.28 million for its Southborough Main Street Reconstruction Project from the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), as a result of a vote for easements that was necessary to gain funding.
At a Special Town Meeting (STM) held at the P. Brent Trottier Middle School Oct. 18, more than two-thirds voted in favor of the easements.
Town Moderator Steve Morreale, who was presiding over his first Town Meeting, said, “This [turnout] is one for the record books.”
More than 500 residents filled the school’s performance hall, with approximately 200 overflowing into the cafeteria.
During the meeting, the Board of Selectmen, advisory board, and the Main Street Design Working Group (MSDWG) all expressed support for the easement article. Without the town vote in favor, the TIP funds, which are state and federal, would have gone to another town.
The approved article, “… authorize(s) the Board of Selectmen to acquire by gift, donation, purchase or take by eminent domain… certain permanent, temporary and aerial and drainage easements on, over and within certain parcels of land for the purpose of obtaining a secure and improved public right of way and access by widening and reconstructing Main Street, Route 30, from Sears Road to Park Street.”
It had been voted down at Town Meeting this past April. The second vote was scheduled for the Oct. 18 meeting after several town residents complained to selectmen that it was unclear that the first vote could kill the project.
If the easement article had been voted down this second time, STM attendees would have voted on another article summarized as a, “… Citizen’s Petition to promptly repair Main Street in the same way the Town would repair any similar street, and not enlarge the road to meet Federal Highway Standards.” This article was indefinitely postponed.
According to documents on the town’s website, the Southborough Main Street Reconstruction project will address pavement, infrastructure and safety issues. The intent is to make a more walkable and safer roadway for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles. Among other items, a left-turn with an exclusive left-turn light will be added at each approach to the Route 30/Route 85 intersection.
At the Oct. 18 meeting, Karen Galligan, Southborough’s superintendent of public works, explained the pavement’s failed infrastructure, drainage and safety issues would be corrected. “The Tower of Pisa” is how she described the current foundation of Southborough’s Main Street.
Martin Healy, chair of the MSDWG, explained why the committee supported the TIP-funded project over another that would have cost the town $4.7 million dollars.
After presentations by Galligan and Healy, town resident Pamela Esty moved that the article be dismissed. The motion was seconded. A few residents were able to speak about their concerns before there was a vote on Esty’s motion, which failed. Next, Selectman Dan Kolenda put forth a motion to end the discussion and vote. That was seconded, and a standing vote began at 9:12 p.m. It was completed 30 minutes later, in favor of the easement article. Morreale stated that 76.3 percent of those present voted in favor of the article.
At that point, another resident complained that there had not been enough time for counter presentations. Kolenda made a motion to reconsider the easement article, however it was voted down by two-thirds majority.
The project is due to go to bid in the fall of 2017 with construction anticipated to start in 2018.