NORTHBOROUGH – The Board of Selectmen has established a temporary traffic and safety committee.
Approved Sept. 26, the committee was charged to return to the selectmen in no more than six months with a recommendation whether to form a permanent committee, including ideas for its membership and charge.
The temporary committee will be made up of five residents, one selectman and one Planning Board member.
It was approved with a 3-2 vote with Selectmen Jason Perreault and Scott Rogers voting against.
During the meeting, residents advocated for the formation of the committee.
Suzanne Cieslica said with Northborough’s master plan coming into play that it was important to consider forming the committee.
Cieslica said it was an issue that was “near and dear” to her after her cousin was killed by a driver when he was 14.
“I’m not just calling to spend money or make work or any of that,” she said. “It’s really something that’s near and dear, especially as my kids want to go to the park or they want to go to Indian Meadow. It’s just tough.”
Chair Mitch Cohen said there have been “a lot of issues” regarding traffic and safety mentioned by residents.
“The idea behind this is let’s move forward with something and let a group of citizens figure that out and come back to us with recommendations,” Cohen said.
Selectman Kristen Wixted said she conducted a poll on her Facebook page. It resulted in 31 traffic concerns around Northborough and included concerns about pedestrians, bicyclists and automobiles.
“That’s a lot of locations that people are just concerned about their safety or their loved one’s safety or the safety of the school bus that goes by,” she said.
‘Kicks the can down the road’
However, some voiced their concerns. Both Perreault and Rogers said the selectmen didn’t have a clear description of the composition and charge of the committee to vote that evening.
Town Administrator John Coderre voiced concerns about the town resources this committee would require as the town is undertaking initiatives and projects involving the White Cliffs Committee, Fire Station Building Committee and Master Plan Implementation Committee.
“I’m going to advocate a bit for the people who have called in about traffic concerns,” said Rogers. “Pushing them off to have a committee to determine if we need a committee makes no progress on resolving their reported issues.”
He argued that this temporary committee wasn’t a good use of resources.
“If we’re going to work on traffic issues, we should use resources to work on the traffic issues,” Rogers said. “A committee to determine whether we’re going to form a committee just kicks the can down the road.”
Unless a charge with clear responsibilities for a committee was proposed, Rogers said he didn’t have anything to vote on during the meeting.
According to Rogers, there’s a process in place for how people can report traffic and safety violations in Northborough. It allows for public safety and public works staff to review the request or violation and make an appropriate response, he said.
He said the town should do education to residents on how they can best report those issues to existing town personnel.
“We had attempted to set that [process] up. People are refusing to use it,” Rogers said. “Maybe there’s some problems with usability. But if we use the established processes and we use the established authorities that have the jurisdiction over those topics, I think we can get something done.”
However, some residents said the current method to provide information isn’t a dialogue. Selectman Julianne Hirsh noted that residents don’t know if other people have voiced similar concerns.
Wixted said the selectmen have been discussing traffic and safety since she began paying attention to their meetings.
“People are still super, super frustrated,” she said. “So, whatever we have in place obviously isn’t working.”
Wixted said the committee was a “one step in the right direction” where residents could have a place to voice their complaints.