Vice Chair suggests changing board’s name
By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
SOUTHBOROUGH – American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, a possible community center, a history walking park and projects to bring Southborough into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are just a few of the items cited by the Board of Selectmen as goals for fiscal year (FY) 2022.
During its July 22 meeting, Selectman Martin Healey was asked to fine-tune and correlate each member’s list of goals to bring a finished product back to a meeting next month.
Andrew Dennington said it is important to get a “firm grasp” of any deadlines and criteria necessary to qualify for ARPA federal money. He said the town should then identify a project, such as sewer or sidewalk work and “act on it.”
Similarly, he suggested the board keep an eye on the Master Plan when it is done this fall. From it, they should select a long-term capital goal that emerges and carry it out.
Healey discussed forming a committee and process to identify community center/senior center locations and funding sources. Although keeping the idea “on the radar” is possible, Chair Lisa Braccio said she is concerned that other groups and schools are looking at space needs too.
“As long as it remains in the ether, there’s no chance it becomes real,” Healey said.
Braccio noted there is a lot of interest in developing a walking history park in conjunction with historical groups. She noted that a discussion will take place in early September to consider the idea.
Selectman Sam Stivers also pitched enhancing recreation/open space infrastructure by closing sidewalk/bike path gaps, pursuing open space parcel acquisition and creating neighborhood parks in the Liberty and Pinecone/Maplecrest areas, among other locations.
He said that the town should reach out to citizens who are willing and able to contribute funds for community projects.
Stivers also suggested adding more affordable/diverse housing and improving the downtown area as goals.
Vice Chair Chelsea Marie Malinowski was among several board members who stressed the importance of following up on implementing solutions to issues cited in an ADA report discussed at a previous meeting.
She also wants continued focus on financial transparency and asked that an article be put on the Town Meeting warrant to change the name of the Board of Selectmen to “Select Board.”
If voters were to pass such an article, Southborough would join area communities including Westborough, Hudson and Grafton that have already done away with the “Board of Selectmen” name in favor of the gender-neutral “Select Board.”
In her list of goals, Braccio said she wanted to see training and tools provided to volunteers so that they are better able to “facilitate” their charges.
“We need to invest in our volunteers to allow them to excel,” she said.
She also suggested a yearly survey of all employees regarding process, room for improvement, morale and general thoughts.
“It’s anonymous but would give us a feel of what is going on,” she said.
Braccio further brought up the fact that old records are overcrowding the basement area of the Southborough Town Hall. Some have historical value, while other things like school committee minutes from the 1970s, need to be removed and digitized.
Town Administrator Mark Purple said there was a plan to address the problem completed in the past. But there was no funding. He said that a climate-controlled permanent records depository is needed.
“Let’s quit talking about it and give Mark tools…” Braccio said. “It’s claustrophobic. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen. Let’s just act.”