By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Despite the restrictions of COVID-19, 2020 was a year that had many public works improvements, according to Jeffrey Howland, the town’s department of public works director.
Howland, as well as his leadership, met with the Board of Selectmen Feb. 16 to provide an overview of the work done and in process. Joining him were Daniel Rowley, water and sewer superintendent; Keith Baldinger, public buildings manager; Nick Repekta, highway division manager; David Snowdon, business manager; and Andy Truman, town engineer.
Water and sewer
Progress was made over the past year with uni-directional flushing just before the pandemic Howland said.
“So far it has been highly successful,” he noted. It will resume later this year.
Water main improvements on Main and Walnut Streets have been completed from Main Circle to Hillando Drive.
Pilot testing for hexavalent chromium has been completed. They are waiting for the report from the tester and consultants and are now preparing to begin pilot testing for PFAS which will take six months.
Improvements have been made to the sewer along Route 20 toward Worcester as well as the BT pump station. The project was completed ahead of schedule because traffic along the route was light due to the pandemic.
Additional accomplishments include refining a comprehensive five-year Capital Improvement Plan and the removal of two underground storage tanks.
Baldinger remarked that COVID-19 was the focus of work in 2020. Notably, establishing protocols in public buildings (including public schools in accordance with the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education) and assisting in setting protocols for town meetings.
“We applied for and received $184,302 from a Green Community Grant Fund for five energy efficiency projects [school related],” he added.
Parks, Cemetery & Recreation
Baldinger informed the Board that state COVID-19 guidelines were reviewed and implemented in town controlled outdoor spaces and that even though organized sports in the parks had decreased, use of the parks actually increased.
Pickleball was installed at the Coolidge Elementary School tennis courts which proved to be popular.
Baldinger credited Shrewsbury Media Connection who produced virtual and special events, as well as the scouts and other groups who volunteered in town-cleanups and park maintenance projects.
Highway and Forestry
Howland said that 2020 paving projects were put out to bid early He was pleased with the favorable bids and 10 roads were resurfaced.
“We are looking at what the list will be for this coming year’s pavement projects,” he said.
The town has a new forestry contractor that started in July – Billerica, Mass. based Marquis Tree Service.
“They have been outstanding and to date they have removed over 50 trees…,” he remarked.
Notable achievements include online utility permitting for contractors, improved MLC operations for remote property closings, updated DPW webpages and improved payment (water/sewer) collections.
Howland commented that the recycled textile collection program has been successful. Tonnage of solid waste was reduced in 2020 but yard waste had increased.
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