Sidewalks, crosswalks among supported ARPA requests


Sidewalks, crosswalks among supported ARPA requests
Requests for how to use the remaining ARPA funds were recently discussed by the Select Board. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – With a deadline of the end of the year to commit American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds looming, the Select Board recently discussed requests for the money.

“I suspect that I would be correct in assuming that everyone in this room and those not in this room don’t want to send a dime back to the federal government,” said Select Board Chair Mitch Cohen June 3. “They’ve sent this to us to spend; we should spend it.” 

History of ARPA discussions

In March 2022, former Town Administrator John Coderre presented a list of 10 projects to be funded by ARPA. At that time, some residents and Select Board members expressed concern about the level of public engagement in the process.

A week later, residents held a forum at Trinity Church where they brainstormed potential needs and placed sticky notes next to categories they wanted to prioritize. That June, the town held a listening session on proposed uses for the funds. 

Cohen put together a memo for the June 3 meeting containing over 130 requests from public input meetings, discussions and emails to the board. He noted that most of the items in the list did not have dollar figures attached to the request, and some of the items have already been funded. 

Northborough has approximately $1,706,228.36 in unallocated ARPA funds. Finance Director/Town Accountant Jason Little said the funds must be spent or have an obligation to pay someone specific by the end of the year.


Following Cohen’s suggestion, Select Board members prepared two lists – requests each member was interested in funding totaling about $320,000 (which is the total amount divided by approximately five) and $1 million for the potential of overlapping requests.

Select Board member Laura Ziton suggested using funds for reusable Town Meeting signs, recodification, the Allen Street sidewalk and Maple Street sidewalk.

Julianne Hirsh’s requests included a treescape program; a grant program for boards and committees; immediate facility repairs; sidewalks, crosswalks and better street outlining; an archive project; an investment-grade audit; recodification and town beautification. She had initially requested funds for electric vehicle charging stations, but Cohen told her the state has a grant program for municipal EV chargers.

Lisa Maselli proposed using funds for road paint; raised crosswalks, speed humps and roadway scoring; rectangular rapid flashing beacons; sidewalks with granite curbs; underground wiring downtown and decorative lights.

Mike Tietjen’s requests included immediate facility repairs; the American Legion kitchen; funding for a gap in the budget for police station siding; air conditioning project at Melican Middle School; step one and two of a study of the emergency communications system; upgrades to the security system and cameras at the police station; crosswalk alert systems; recodification and the archive project.

Cohen’s list included benches and picnic tables in downtown; Town Meeting signs; the historical society; Friends of the Senior Center; American Legion kitchen; White Cliffs; recodification project; records archive project; hybrid meeting equipment for the Northborough Free Library; public art; seed money to bring someone on board for economic development efforts and communications; sidewalks; the Be Well Northborough carnival; crosswalk lights and downtown design and beautification.

With several requests for sidewalks, Department of Public Works Director Scott Charpentier said sidewalk design could take several months, depending on how complicated the project is. For example, he said the Maple Street sidewalk project is “very complicated” as there isn’t any closed drainage in the area, but there are utility poles, an aqueduct crossing and a potential need for easements. 

Other projects – like the one on Allen Street – are much easier. Charpentier said he has met with residents from whom they may require an easement, and easement drawings are completed in anticipation of a sidewalk.  

“The action would be needed rapidly if we want to move forward with design,” said Charpentier. 

Moving forward, board members will revise their lists, which will then be consolidated and run past staff.

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