By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Senator James Eldridge, Senator Harriette Chandler, and State Representatives Danielle Gregoire and Meg Kilcoyne attended Northborough’s March 8 Board of Selectmen meeting as Town Administrator John Coderre presented the town’s state legislative priorities.
Town eyes roadway improvements
The top priority, Coderre said, is securing increased state funding of the Chapter 90 program, which reimburses towns for eligible roadway improvement projects. Road paving, sidewalks and infrastructure, in general, fall under these projects.
Coderre said Northborough needs to spend at least $1.1 million a year in order to maintain its current roadway rating. Anything less than that and the roads will deteriorate, he said.
“If you fail to take care of your roads, it costs 3-4 times as much to fix them after the fact,” he warned. “Infrastructure investment is absolutely critical.”
Sen. Chandler is a member of the Transportation Committee and supports a long term funding solution for the infrastructure needs.
Education aid is a concern
Northborough’s Chapter 70 Education funding will increase only 1 percent under the state’s Fiscal Year 2022 proposed budget.
“It’s been on a steady decline, and it is mostly because education aid has not kept pace with the rate of inflation or with the rate of budget increases,” said Coderre.
He wishes he could see more money from the state for local schools.
Also of high priority, alongside broader education allocations, is special education circuit breaker funding and regional transportation reimbursements.
State legislators agreed with such concerns.
“We are going to face extreme challenges coming out of this pandemic with educational losses that our students have faced and we want to work and do everything that we can to ensure that we get students caught back up,” said Gregoire. “I think we are going to need the opportunity to leverage federal dollars and I think we are looking for every single opportunity to do that.”
Chandler followed up, saying she was specifically in agreement that the special education circuit breaker should be funded at 100 percent. She said she will continue to advocate for that priority.
Legislators discuss vaccination clinics
Legislators and town officials further discussed the desire to create a local vaccination site in Northborough, March 8.
A site through UMass Marlborough Hospital at the Courtyard Marriott, nearby, was pending approval as of March 8. It stalled in the state regulatory process after an initial opening date of March 1 came and went with no vaccines in sight, though.
With the fate of that location still up in the air, officials said, March 8, that a Marlborough site might disqualify applications for a regional collaborative vaccination site.
“The good news is that the folks in Northborough will only have to come to Marlborough to get their vaccine,” said Gregoire. “It is not ideal…but it’s still better than having folks going to Gillette’s Stadium or Fenway Park.”
Coderre heard this and specifically asked for advocacy for the state to allow Northborough to have one more local clinic to vaccinate teachers before further stripping doses for mass vaccination sites.
“They need to be vaccinated, but the only way that is going to happen is if we are able to do it efficiently and effectively,” he said. “We will run a clinic and take care of our teachers.”
Those currently eligible for a vaccine and looking for an appointment can find one via the state’s VaxFinder website at https://vaxfinder.mass.gov.