The Town’s ARPA Steering Group Continues Reviewing Requests

The Town’s ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) Steering Group continued reviewing requests it has received from Town departments, committees, and entities for funding from Holliston’s $4.4 million appropriation.  Mr. Ahern convened the meeting at noon on Wednesday, August 25, 2021.  Ahern noted that member John Cronin would be absent from this meeting.

Town Administrator Travis Ahern (L) and Fire Chief Michael Cassidy (R)

Following a precedent set at its first meeting, a time-sensitive request rose to the top of the agenda.  James Keast (below right) and Mr. Ahern presented a request to cover the final cost of the Town Hall septic replacement.  Keast and Ahern found that only one bidder was qualified to do the work at a cost of $26,350 above what was appropriated at Town Meeting.

Steering Group member Dr. Ken Szajda asked if this was indeed time-sensitive and was assured that it is.  The Group then discussed if there was a way to allocate ARPA funds now to get the project going and then have a Town Meeting article that would allow the Town to approve the extra cost and ‘reimburse’ the ARPA fund.  With Mr. Cronin absent, the Group voted unanimously to recommend this expense to the Select Board at its next meeting.

Senior Center Director Lisa Borchetta(below) returned to discuss funding for the proposed survey of Holliston Seniors.  Following the guidance from last meeting, Borchetta contacted the MetroWest Health Foundation (MWHF) to learn more about a possible grant from that organization to subsidize $25,000 of the survey cost.  The Group voted unanimously to hold $20,000 to cover any survey costs that exceeded funding from MWHF.

Ms. Borchetta and the Council on Aging will continue working on the proposed home repair assistance for needy Seniors program.  In concept, this program could work similar to the very successful rent and mortgage assistance program funded by the CARES Act and administered by the Holliston Community Action Fund.  This request will come back to the Group when it has been fleshed out.

Next up was Robert Weidknecht, Chair of the Holliston Trails Committee.  This is step two in the process (with the Trails Committee approval) now the ARPA Steering Group can review the requests.

Weidknecht (below) led off with the request for $34,730 for safety improvements along the Upper Charles Rail Trail in Holliston.  Currently, there are five street crossings that have rapid-flashing beacons that require a button to be pushed. Weidknecht noted that with the pandemic, trail usage has soared (over 100,000 / year) and people are reluctant to touch things.  This request would cover the cost to upgrade the beacons at: Washington St, Lowland St, Central St, Summer St, and South St. to motion sensing so that the beacons will flash when a user is sensed approaching the crossing.  The Group asked about accidents / near misses that have occurred at these crossing.  Most recently, a cyclist was injured at the Summer St. crossing.  Chief Cassidy supported the request from a Public Safety perspective.  The Group voted unanimously to recommend this request at the next Select Board meeting.

Mr. Weidknecht, who has 35 years’ experience as a drainage engineer, then presented the two drainage requests approved by the Trails Committee, dealing with flooding near Phipps Tunnel.  The Trails Committee has requested grants from MassTrails to do this drainage work.  Twice the requests have been turned down – most recently last month.  The Trails Committee feels that the infrastructure of this important Town asset deserves attention.  The members of the Group support the need for shoring up this section of the trail.  The Group suggested that Mr. Weidknecht take the approximately $78,000 request to the Community Preservation Committee with the goal of having it be presented at Town Meeting in October.  The Group voted to defer these requests until the CPC support is known.  Mr. Ahern suggested that as a valuable Town asset, these projects might be added to the Capital Projects list.

A brief review of the remaining requests and the prioritized Capital Projects list set up the discussion for the Group’s next meeting – tentatively set for Wednesday, September 8, 2021 at 12:30pm.

Chris Cain

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