Westborough BOS hears Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness proposal

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By Jennifer L. Grybowski, Contributing Writer

Westborough – At their Aug. 18 meeting, the Board of Selectmen heard a presentation from Central Mass Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) Associate Planner Peter Peloquin about Westborough’s efforts to become designated a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MPF) Community.

Assistant Town Manager Kimberly Foster led the efforts on the town’s behalf with the CMRPC. She told the board the vulnerability assessment for climate change resiliency that was being presented was the result of a one-day workshop held in Westborough in February with town officials and other various town stakeholders. 

The assessment focused on identifying current and future vulnerabilities and strengths, developing and prioritizing actions and identifying opportunities to advance action to reduce risks and build resilience. The main focus areas within those parameters were infrastructure, societal impacts and the environment. Four hazards were identified including extreme temperatures, flooding, winter storms and high wind events. Workshoppers studied heat, heavy rainfall and flooding and winter storm projections over the next 60 years, and the impacts of that on the environment, such as less diversity of plants, insects and animals and likely increase of invasive species.

Water was a theme throughout the presentation. Selectman Sayed Hashmi said as someone who grew up without enough water, that was a concern. 

“As a town, as residents, while it’s easy to discuss how to recycle and reuse and recompost, we as a town are going to have to decide are we willing to make sacrifices that fundamentally alter how we look at things,” he said. 

For example, he said he’d like to know how much water is being used in a drought to water the golf course at Westborough Country Club. 

He was also concerned about the Sandra Pond reservoir located off of I-495 in case of a fuel spill on the interstate, and protecting Lake Chauncy as a resource.

Infrastructure concerns identified included culverts, water systems and municipal resources, such as upgrades to the sheltering system and backup power options. Infrastructure strengths include municipal buildings/staff, transit, utilities, and public safety. Infrastructure actions include culvert/catch basin upgrades, stormwater management, water provisions such as investigating rechargeoff options and potable water security and expanding redundancy by considering a feasibility study for a community center to serve also as a shelter and a substation for fire, police, and DPW staging areas.

Societal concerns identified included communications, both physical infrastructures and lack of non-English communications, vulnerable populations, community preparedness and Rogers Field. Societal strengths include the senior population, outreach groups and town by-laws. Societal actions include expanding communications, improving access and community outreach.

Environmental concerns identified include insect-borne illness such as EEE and Lyme, Cedar Swamp, forest maintenance, nuisance species such as gypsy moths and beavers and water resources considering algae blooms have been more frequent. Environmental strengths include Cedar Swamp as a unique natural resource, recreation opportunities and open space. Environmental actions include dealing with invasive and nuisance species, acquiring and protecting land and improving open space and recreation.

The next steps in the process are to finalize the report and submit it in September. Once approved, Westborough will be able to apply for MVP Action Grants; the next round of grants is expected in the spring. The grants give up to $2 million for individual communities and $5 million for regional projects. The town is required to give a 25 percent match, either in cash or in-kind services. 

Town Planner Jim Robbins’s report will become input to the master plan, particularly the sustainability and climate change section, and vetted through the public hearing process. “People can think about these issues and I encourage anyone who is interested to continue to follow up with this through the master plan,” he said. 

DPW Director Chris Payant also pointed out that the process itself is continuous and needs to happen again and again, evolving and changing according to the town’s needs. 

The report will be available on the town’s website for review. Questions or comments may be sent to Foster at kfoster@town.westborough.ma.us.