Select Board Appoints New Highway Superintendent

Holliston Select Board Chair Tina Hein called the October 25, 2021 meeting to order at 7:02pm.  The first order of business was to meet Robert Walker, the finalist candidate for the interim position of Highway Superintendent.

The Select Board gets ready for action.

Mr. Walker (bottom right with white shirt), a fifteen-year employee of the Holliston Highway Department, was selected from a pool of 3 internal and 3 external candidates.  DPW Director Sean Reese (bottom right edge), is “very excited” by the prospect of working with Mr. Walker.  Mr. Walker shared ideas for upgrading the DPW’s functionality, including a grounds crew specialty.  As VoAg school grad, Mr. Walker sees great opportunities for the Town’s public grounds.

The Board approved the 6-month interim appointment of Mr. Walker, effective November 1, 2021 (just in time for snow and ice removal season).

Next on the Board’s agenda was a discussion of a letter sent from EDC Chair Matt Coletti, and EDC member Glenn Brown containing recommendations for improvement of Holliston’s appearance.  Mr. Colletti was not able to attend the Board meeting and the Board honored its agenda by engaging in a discussion of the letter’s main points: review zoning by-laws; encourage the Town to seize blighted property; and seek input from Town building and health officials about possible remedies.  The Board thanked Mr. Colletti for the thoughtful letter.

Each Select Board member shared his/her perspective on the three points.  Consensus among the members was to support the first and third points of the letter and disagree with the second point about seizing private property that are current on property taxes.  The Board further pointed to the recent Local Rapid Recovery Plan Report that made very specific recommendations with supporting data to upgrade Holliston’s downtown. See the entire report here -> Holliston’s Local Rapid Recovery Plan Report

Below, citizen Dan Alfred spoke in support of the Board’s point of view on all three aspects of Mr. Coletti’s letter.

Town Administrator Travis Ahern also mentioned that there is State support (no funding yet) for property improvements. 

The Board directed Mr. Ahern to provide feedback to Mr. Colletti from the Board and ask that the EDC as a group review and vote on this letter or a revision thereof.

CARES Act / ARPA Programmatic update / COVID-19 Community update:

Emergency Management Director/Fire Chief Michael Cassidy was not at Monday’s Select Board meeting.  Mr. Ahern provided the Board with updates on CARES Act and ARPA funds / requests.

  • CARES Act:
    • The Board approved continuing cleaning and sanitizing of high-touch areas – going to once/day on January 1, 2022.
    • The Board authorized the Town Administrator and staff to allocate CARES Act funds pursuant to votes previously taken by the Board.
    • The Town will return no CARES Act funds to the State as the final accounting wraps up in the next few weeks.
  • ARPA Steering Group recommendations:

The ARPA Steering Group met on Wednesday October 20, 2021.  They recommended the following expenses be covered by the Town’s ARPA allotment:

  • Youth and Family Services – $2,600 for temporary staff through the end of FY 22. Approved by the Board.
    • Cleaning and sanitizing – up to $55,000 (once/day) The Board approved up to $75,000 to cover these requests.
    • Contact Tracing – up to $20,000

Mr. Ahern shared the updated full list (below) of requests and the disposition of those already reviewed by the ARPA Steering Group.

Mr. Ahern shared the illustration (below) as a way to view the proportion of the Town’s overall $4.36 Million ARPA allocation.

The Select Board weighed in in support of this allocation format which would ‘hold’ $1,745,297 for Capital projects that would benefit the entire Town.  A lengthy discussion ensued about how such funds could be used to partially advance the installation of sewers to support Holliston as a place with a growing infrastructure plan.

Warrants: The Board approved the weekly warrant of $2,946,522.28.

Public Comment:

  • Mr. Cronin:
    • The indefinite postponement of the marijuana related articles at the Fall Town Meeting gives the Town time to revisit the facts of each article.
    • Curbside leaf pickup takes place the week of November 29, 2021. Compostable bagged leaves will be picked up on your regular trash day.
    • Effective November 1, 2021 – March 31, 2022 no on-street parking from 1 – 5 am.
  • Mr. Sparrell:
    • Thank you to all citizens who attended the Fall Town Meeting
    • Thank you to the Town Staff who made the meeting possible
    • The Community Farm is hosting a Haunted Walk fundraiser this Saturday (10/30) at the Farm from 5 – 9 pm.  $10 adults, $5 children
  • Mrs. Hein: None
  • Public: None

Comments from Town Administrator:

  • A policy governing traffic camera data usage (as approved at Fall Town Meeting) will be presented to the Board next week.
  • The Dam working group (Mr. Ahern, Ryan Clapp, Matt Zettek, Mrs. Hein, and Chris Bajdek) has a recommended vendor for the planned cost/benefit study of the Town’s dams.
  • A “Beaver Deceiver” device has been installed near the Lake Winthrop spillway to outsmart those very industrious rodents.
  • The DPW, Parks, and now schools working group is meeting October 28, 2021 to continue discussions of the optimal approach to the maintenance of Town owned grounds.

Board Business: Re-districting of Holliston’s voting precincts.  Town Clerk Elizabeth Greendale reported that the Federal 2020 census data shows Holliston’s population has grown about 10% to 14,996.  Ms. Greendale that the numbers required very little movement of precinct lines.  Mostly with part of Precinct 4 becoming Precinct 3.  The map (below) shows the new areas.  A cleared version of the map will be posted on the Town Clerk’s webpage soon.

  • Traffic Advisory Committee recommendations for the intersections of Highland and Hollis and Highland and Prentice:
    • The Board directed Administrator Ahern to request recommendation of specific actions from the Town’s Public Safety officials for improving traffic safety in this neighborhood.
    • The Board authorized Administrator Ahern to prepare an RFP for a Traffic Engineering study of the area with funds coming from a previously approved Town Meeting Article.
  • Accepted a $250 donation to the Fire Department from a thankful citizen.
  • Accepted a $10,000 donation to Community Farm from Downtown Marigold Project a greenhouse heater and new door
  • Approved the Lions Club holiday display which will include some added trees in Blair Square
  • Approved the Contract for the Cost Benefit Analysis for Three (3) Dams – PARE Corp. for $29,250
  • Approved the Contract for the Demolition of 9 Green Street – Costello Dismantling Corp for $124,390. (This lowest qualified bid is higher than the Town Meeting approved budget of $118,000.  The difference may be realized through construction savings or funded by ARPA.)
  • Accepted the $100,000 State Budget FY22 Earmark – for Goodwill Park. Thank you Rep Dykema and Sen Spilka!
  • Accepted $27,500 State Grant for a Housing Production Plan
  • Approved minutes from the September 27, 2021 and October 4, 2021 meetings
  • Appointed Claire Toohey, full member of the Agricultural Commission, term expires June 2024
  • Vicky Keller and Andy Reseska, Associate member of the AgCom. Terms expires June 2022

Other Business:

Mr. Cronin – The Select Board members have been invited to attend the Veterans Day Luncheon at the Senior Center on November 11th.  He reminded everyone that there will not be a Vets Day parade this year.

The meeting adjourned at 8:56pm

Chris Cain

1 Comment

  1. Daniel Alfred on October 26, 2021 at 8:07 am

    As I stated at the meeting last night, I greatly appreciate the Select Board strong and unanimous rejection of “taking” through eminent domain a property (or any property for that matter) that is current on its taxes and has no known health or safety code issues. I think that it is very important for existing businesses and prospective businesses to know that Holliston is a business friendly community and is working on supporting businesses and the residents through both improved infrastructure (potential downtown sewer district – which was discussed in more detail later in meeting, parking – 9 Green Street, etc) and that it is not looking to unduly interfere in what a private business owner does with their property. We should be working with our business owners not against them.

    At the same time, I appreciate the sentiment and work that Mr. Coletti Mr. Brown are doing along with the other members of the EDC and, as mentioned there were some good recommendations in their letter about looking at zoning by-laws and ensuring businesses are in compliance with all health and safety regulations (though I do caution here that we also do not want to go looking for minor violations that could result in disproportionate burdens on our business – we should just be looking to ensure everyone is up to code and kept safe). I think it is important that local business owners and prospective businesses to town recognize that this letter was not an official position of any board in town but rather a letter with suggestions from two members of a board. That is important.

    As the select board (and other boards in town) look to improve the everyday lives of the residents, it should be remembered that these improvements to the town’s infrastructure cost money. Historically, that money has mainly come from the residents themselves (~87% of Holliston’s tax base is residential). However, by ensuring that we are attractive place for businesses, we can help grow business in town which will offload some of that burden onto commercial and industrial properties overtime which will help minimize residents’ tax increases as well as increase our overall tax levy (ie money that can be spent annually). This will help pay for things for which many in town have been asking.

    Again, much appreciation to the members of the Select Board on their strong opposition to taking private property.

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