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Board of Selectmen Meet 06/05/2017

by Ben Kaplan
June 7, 2017

This week’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting started in a celebratory manner. Police officer Ken Belson was sworn in as a Sergeant of the Holliston P.D. by the board after going through an intensive interview process. Members of his family and fellow officers were there to congratulate him as he took an oath to continue to promote safety throughout the community.

“I look forward to serving the town and the state and just wanted to thank everyone for making this possible,” said Sgt. Belson.

Sgt. Belson takes oath

Two lifesaving awards were also issued by Police Chief Stone to Sgt. Chad Thompson and Officer Andrew MacGray for their response to a possible overdose call at the Phillips 66 Gas Station on Washington Street on the evening of May 26th, 2017. The two officers kept the individual alive using Narcan and chest compressions until EMT services arrived and transported the man to a hospital.

“I speak on behalf of the entire department when I say that we are extremely proud of your performance on this call and I am sure that the patient’s family is eternally grateful for what you were both able to do for this man’s life,” said Chief Stone.

In the Town Administrator Report, Jeff Ritter told the board that the town’s Facebook page has now been put online and that a new section to the town’s website called “Information on Town Projects” has been added to provide the community with up-to-date information on ventures such as the demolition of the Flagg School.

The board also received updates from members of the Community Farm Advisory Committee and the Trails Committee. The Farm Advisory Committee, as well as their sister group, the “Friends of the Community Farm” have been working to promote the farm through community events such as an Easter egg hunt back in April, according to committee chair Kris Westland. On Sunday June 11th, the Friends of the Farm group will be hosting a Community Farm Day from 10am-4pm. The day will feature food, live music, hayrides, and blacksmithing and woodworking demonstrations. Other future fundraiser ideas include pruning workshops in the gardens and the return of the Lions Club haunted walk in the fall.

Members of the Community Farm Advisory Committee discuss plans to further renovate the property's barn

“More and more people are becoming aware of the farm because of these events,” said Westland. “We’re just trying to get ourselves out there.”

The Farm Committee also said that they are continuing to improve the space through structural maintenance of the barn and the farm grounds themselves. A new fence is in the process of being installed around the perimeter.

After the Selectmen approved a rail trail cleanup day put on by the accounting firm, Deloitte, the Trails Committee brought two pertinent issues to the attention of the board. Committee member Ken Henderson appealed to the board for a way for the Trails Committee to own its own equipment. According to Henderson, much of the gear that is used to perform regular maintenance on the six mile trail is volunteer-owned. Henderson feels that this is an ineffective way to do things because if one or more pieces of equipment were to break then it would either be on the volunteers to buy new tools or the Committee would be left high and dry.

Henderson said, “If Robert’s [Weidknecht, chair of the Trails Committee] weedwacker fails, do we turn to him and say, ‘well are you going to get another one?’ Or do we say at this point in time the town has been very supportive, but we need to actually own some equipment.”

Gear such as weed whackers, leaf blowers, and shovels specifically dedicated for rail trail usage would take away much of the uncertainty of having to rely on volunteers. Henderson suggested either funding for the committee to purchase their own tools, or find a way to work with either the Highway department or Recreational department to share resources. The board found that the latter of these options would be a better fitting scenario and agreed to help the committee reach out to these other departments to see if they’d be willing to work with them.

For example, the Committee pitched the idea of having a small utility vehicle to make the transportation of the tools much easier on the trail. It was noted by Selectman Conley that the Police Department was also looking for a smaller vehicle to patrol the trail, and that this could be another potential opportunity for cooperation.

“The conversation has begun,” said Conley. “We will definitely look into possibilities for equipment and start contacting others.”

A separate issue brought up by Ed Daniels, chairperson of the Blair Square Development Committee and vice president of the Friends of the Rail Trail group, was the problem of encroachment on trail/town property by both private business and residential entities. Daniels described and provided visuals for various examples ranging in severity from homeowners parking their vehicles too close to trailheads to having air conditioning units and even the walls of certain businesses on land that is legally part of the trail. Daniels said that not only is this a matter of legality, but one of safety too, for users of the trail and property owners alike. One problem he cited was that the reason why CSX (the company from which the town received the land) prohibited leasing of the land for private use was because of known contaminants in the soil.

Some of the infractions are easily removable, and Henderson said that many of the properties that he has already reached out to have been compliant. Other infractions, such as the walls, would require drastic and costly deconstruction efforts that could pose a significant risk to those business owners. Henderson said that he recognizes that even though this is a complex issue, it is possible to keep everyone's best interests in mind.

“In our opinion ”, said Henderson, “rather than the town enforcing the letter of the law in all of these situations, we find a consistent solution that would not cause great financial burden to our citizens and the businesses. They have operated on an inactive section of railroad and many have just made misinformed decisions.”

The Trails Committee requested of the selectmen to establish who has the authority to handle this issue and impose any relevant restrictions. Currently it is up to the Committee and Friends Of members to prevent these infractions and contact violators. Daniels feels that it is unfair to put the burden on volunteers, many of whom are friends and neighbors of these property owners. The Committee also lacks any real means of enforcement.

The board was in considerable support of working with the Trails Committee to find a solution.

“We’re going to need some definite survey to say ‘this is rail trail property, you are encroaching upon it’,” said Selectman Conley. “Whether it be homeowner or business owner we can tailor the letter for them to say ‘your fence needs to be moved’ or ‘your shed needs to be moved.’ In which case we can definitely get legal enforcement from the town if need be.”

Selectmen deliberate with special guest Emerson Belson

 

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Comments (1)

Very nice article Ben. Thank you.

- Jackie Dellicker | 6/8/17 7:32 AM

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