Select Board Votes to Improve Traffic Safety

The Holliston Select Board convened for its weekly meeting on Monday, June 27, 2022. Chair Ben Sparrell called the meeting to order at 7:00pm to attend to what he called a “robust” agenda.  Findings and recommendations related to two engineering studies were on the docket.

Below, David Steeves, Project Architect (left) and Jeff Alberti, Chief Operating Officer (right) from the engineering firm of Weston and Sampson presented the final report of their feasibility study related to the current and possible future states of the Town’s Department of Public Works (DPW) facilities.

The presentation summarized the 217-page report that is posted on the Town website – > DPW Draft Final Report

Messrs. Alberti and Steeves reviewed some of the background presented when they met with the Board on April 5, 2022.  Below are some of the “review” slides – note the reduction in needed space on the third slide.

As in the earlier presentation, the most viable town-owned property was land behind the Pinecrest golf course (shown below).

The recommended access to the site would be by constructing a road from Prentice Street along the western edge of what is now the driving range. The road would require about 30 feet of the range.  (See below).  Mr. Cronin pointed out that the entrance at that point on Prentice is preferable for sight line safety.  The Board asked Weston & Sampson to include average daily vehicle trips to / from the proposed DPW facility.

Following the April meeting, Weston & Sampson examined two other properties in town: 20 Cross Street (aka Axton-Cross) and 56 Lowland (aka Flexhead).  Weston & Sampson expects any new combined facility to need at least 6.5 acres for adequate building, storage, and traffic flow.  Both properties meet that criterion.  For a variety of reasons neither property would be acceptable at this time.

Then the dialogue focused on cost.  Weston & Sampson is currently working with several municipalities on similar projects.  Based on their experience, Holliston can expect costs similar to the illustration below.

Translating the cost / square foot shown above the total cost could be what’s illustrated below.

Mrs. Hein asked for more detail on the costs of decommissioning the current properties – for possible sale in the future to recoup some of the building costs.  She also asked that OSHA requirements be highlighted in the report.

Below is a list of benefits that could be derived from the investment in a modern consolidated DPW facility.

Joan Levinsohn (above)

  • Noted that in the first presentation, Weston & Sampson did not include any disadvantages to the Prentice St. site while disadvantages were cited for the other two Town properies.
  • Asked about the projected number of trees that would be lost if the Prentice St. site was chosen.  Mr. Steeves shared information compiled by Weston & Sampson environmental specialists that suggest that “in the long run, savings from solar panels on the facility would provide a net positive for the environment.
  • She asked that ground source heat pumps be considered in the construction of a new facility.

The Board thanked Messrs. Steeves and Alberti for the excellent, honest, thorough report.

The Board voted to accept the final report (including the OSHA, trip count, and decommissioning costs). There will be a Public Forum to review the DPW proposals – sometime in August.

Traffic Advisory Committee Update:

Holliston Police Chief Matthew Stone (below), current Chair of the Traffic Advisory Committee (TAC) met with the Board to discuss two topics: the TAC organization and effectiveness; and TAC recommendations to improve traffic / pedestrian safety at the Highland / Hollis intersection and the Highland / Prentice intersection.

The TAC was created to provide a mechanism for citizens to present traffic / pedestrian safety concerns to the Town leaders.  Recently, the TAC conducted a look back at its work and effectiveness since its inception.

Chief Stone presented the findings from that review:

  • Doing Well:
    • Resolve issues
    • Acquiring traffic equipment
    • Petition format is helpful
  • Could Improve:
    • In person meetings (most of the time the TAC has existed has been during the pandemic)
    • Greater transparency / communication regarding the Committee’s work / progress
    • Fewer members to make meeting a quorum more possible (currently 9 members)
    • Better way to hear from petitioners
  • Recommendation:
    • Current TAC members voted to recommend a 5-member committee
    • The five members would be: Public Safety representative, Public Works representative, Schools representative, and 2 citizens: one ‘at-large’ and one with engineering knowledge

The Board thanked Chiefs Stone and Cassidy and DPW Director Reese (who were in the room) for their work to date to get the TAC up and running and progress towards safer roadways / sidewalks in Holliston.  Mr. Cronin sees this as an “evolution” of the TAC.

The Board accepted the recommended change in the number of TAC members and the membership profile.

Chief Stone moved on to present three recommendations from the TAC related to the recently released traffic study by McMahon and Associates.  McMahon studied traffic flow at the Highland / Hollis intersection and the Highland / Prentice intersection.

The TAC recommended actions are as follows:

  • Create all-way stops at the Highland / Prentice and Highland / Hollis intersections as shown below from the McMahon report. The stop signs would have the flashing LED lights currently in place at the Church / Railroad Sts. Intersection.  These signs need to be ordered and would take some time to arrive.
  • Upgraded signage on the approaches to the intersections to alert drivers to the upcoming stop.  HPD’s portable traffic message boards will be used to alert drivers to the new traffic pattern when it is fully operational.
  • The new sidewalks and crosswalks included in the McMahon report be added to the Town’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan.

Below, Kelly and Stuart Primus who live at 811 Highland, had concerns that the current branch of Hollis that connects to northbound Highland has a stop sign.  They wondered if the additional signs would confuse drivers trying to yield right of way to the other drivers at the all-way stop.

There is a need for a crosswalk to safely get from the west side of Highland to the east side.  Mr. Primus shared that some neighbors actually drive their students across the road.

The Primuses neighbor, Carrie Russo reinforced the urgent need for a crosswalk to reduce the stress endured by adults and students trying to get to school.

Ms. Russo also asked if the landscaping in the current traffic island can be trimmed down to improve the sightline as you look left from Hollis.  Local business, Tree Specialist, voluntarily maintains those areas and will be asked to trim the vegetation.

The Board wondered how / where a crosswalk could be created on Highland as there are currently no sidewalks on either side.

Norfolk St. resident Vin Murphy (on the shores of Lake Winthrop? below) cited that in fact there is a crosswalk across Norfolk St. to access Stoddard Park – currently no sidewalks on either side of Norfolk.

The Board voted to approve the three recommendations for improving traffic safety in the Highland, Hollis, Prentice area with a planned review by TAC one-year after the signs are installed to measure progress.  Chief Stone pointed out that improved traffic / pedestrian safety is a trade off with traffic flow – the TAC and Select Board have voted for safety.

Below is a drawing from the McMahon that Mr. Ahern presented as a “side letter” for the Board’s approval.  It involves McMahon’s plan for rebuilding the Highland / Hollis intersection to facilitate large trucks turning.  The Board approved the “side letter.”

Public Comment:

  • Mrs. Hein:
    • Trash pick-up next week will be delayed one day due to Independence Day holiday.
    • Holliston’s Household Hazardous Waste Day is July 9, 2022, at R.A.M.S. from 8 – noon (or when full)
  • Mr. Cronin:
    • Noted that Hank Tamango, a long-time resident, Lions Club member, and advocate for eye health, sold his home and wishes him well wherever he goes.
  • Mr. Sparrell:
    • Thanked Senate President Spilka for finalizing the $1 Million grant from the State for dam rehabilitation (see Other Business below)
    • Reported that as of Monday morning, 644 people had responded to the Envisioning Future Holliston survey.  The goal to have at least 1,000 responses by August 1, 2022.  He encouraged high school and college students on summer break to provide their input -> Envision Future Holliston Survey
  • Public:
    • Mr. and Mrs. Primus (seen above) had four questions for the Board:
      • If the DPW facility is located on Prentice St., will a study be done regarding increased traffic?  Yes, the Board asked Weston & Sampson to include a vehicle trip count in their final report
      • Can Hollis Street have a Heavy Commercial Vehicle Exclusion (HCVE)?  No, the current truck traffic does not meet the MassDOT threshold for Heavy Commercial Vehicle traffic.
      • McMahon and Assoc were not at the last Traffic Advisory Committee meeting (as requested) – to whom should the Primuses direct their questions for McMahon?  Mr. Ahern should receive the questions (copy to Mrs. Hein) to forward on to McMahon.
      • Will any future road construction in front of their house be made aware of the geological features beneath their property and road? Yes.

Fiscal Year 2022 Financial Close

The Board approved ten Line Item transfers totaling $615,426.  The Town Accountant provided the list.  Further transfers may be up until July 15, 2022.

Warrants The Board approved the weekly expenses totaling – $367,475.53

Comments from Town Administrator:  Mr. Ahern shared the following with the Board:

The updated 5-year CIP has been posted to the Town website -> 5-year Capital Improvement Plan FY 23- 27.  The goal of posting this plan is to provide background for citizens so they can understand the needs across the community.  The Board thanked Mr. Ahern for his hard work in putting this 50-page document together.

  • The complete list of 1 – 3-year committee appointments can be found here -> FY_23_annual_appointments_13_year.pdf (townofholliston.us)
  • Looking ahead – the Warrant for the October 2022 Town Meeting will be open for all of August and most of September.
  • There is still no decision from the State regarding remote participation at public meetings via Zoom – the current legislation expires on July 15, 2022.

Board Business:  The Board took the following actions:

  • Approved minutes from the May 23, 2022, meeting.
  • Approved an event permit for the Lions’ Club Carnival July 13 – 16, 2022, at the High School
  • Appointed Lynne Bajdek a full member of the Council on Aging
  • Approved the MWRTA Contract for 2022-2023
  • Appointed the committee members as listed / posted (see above). The Town Administrator cited several members of appointed committees who have volunteered to serve the Town for many years and in many ways.  Thank you all for your dedication to our community.
  • Facilities Contract Awards:
    • Senior Center Side Entrance; $30,000
    • Town Hall Exterior Painting; $34,950
  • DPW Contract Awards:
    • Design of Water Mains & Appurtenances for Central Street, Bullard Street, Fiske Street Culvert Crossing and Northway Street – AP Associates; $98,500
    • Overlays (repaving) (annual) – Holcim-NER; $788,385
    • Sidewalks (annual) – RM Pacella; $78,500
    • Curbing (annual) – Aqua Line Utility; $368,100
    • 5 culverts – AP Associates; $94,300
    • Traffic Markings – K5 Corporation; $29,857.03
    • Accepted Chapter 90 reimbursement of $291,174.87
    • Renewed the Lease – MetroWest Veterans’ District

Other Business:

  • The Board authorized the Town Administrator to execute a contract with the Commonwealth in order to receive $1 Million from the previously approved special acts of 2018 for the purpose of rehabilitation of the Factory Pond dam.  Mr. Cronin suggested that all costs above the State funds be requested from the Town’s remaining ARPA grant.
  • Mrs. Hein asked for a timeline for the pending MSBA (MA School Building Authority) decision on Holliston’s Statement of Interest on our High School facility.
  • Mr. Cronin is looking forward to a joint SB / FinCom meeting to discuss capital priorities.  Mr. Sparrell has been communicating with Dr. Szajda to get the meeting scheduled.

There will be NO Select Board meeting next week.

The meeting adjourned at 9:14pm.

 709 total views,  3 views today

Chris Cain

11 Comments

  1. David Dysert on June 28, 2022 at 8:47 am

    Haven’t actual stoplights been considered for the Prentice/Highland/Hollis intersections? All-way stop sounds pretty confusing to me. Maximum safety for students would involve stoplights and crossing signals.



  2. Shaw Lively on June 28, 2022 at 4:38 pm

    I missed the DPW discussion due to a work commitment so may have missed some key information that was shared. I find this proposal very disturbing. I think it adheres to the old way of development which is find some open space send in the bulldozers to clear it away and it’s forever gone as a natural ecosystem. I hope there will be continued consideration of Alternatives including the two that were discarded by the study group. It seems absurd that we’ll be tearing into a bunch of forest that is used by the public to appreciate nature while we have an abandoned industrial site and other Disturbed areas around town that seem like they could be adapted.



    • Travis Ahern (Town Administrator) on June 29, 2022 at 2:29 pm

      Shaw, please see the final paragraph of my response to Nancy below regarding next steps for site selection. Thanks!



    • Carol McElwee on July 2, 2022 at 2:33 pm

      Very well stated! I live in the Brentwood area behind Outpost Farm and many of our residents and families use the long-standing old roads and paths to enjoy time in the woods. Just because an area is wooded does NOT mean it is not used. Also, where are the cons to using the Prentice/Burnap road site? This site runs behind residential areas on Burnap road and could create safety and noise issues to those residents. This site seems to have been pre-selected as the only good choice and the report designed to support that conclusion. Pros and cons should be developed and listed for ALL potential sites; and have the consultants look at the abandoned industrial site and other disturbed areas before making a final decision. Also I do not see any enviromental impact study being done for any of the site. Let’s avoid the fiasco that happened with 555 Hopping Brook and do true and thorough due diligence and study of ALL potential sites before investing 29-35 million dollars of our tax money. Thank you.



  3. Nancy Daggett on June 28, 2022 at 6:48 pm

    On the DPW 2024 Estimated Costs the high-end range lists 25% of $21,100,000 with $6,500,000 as the end result. Are these the actual figures that were presented to the Select Board? The numbers just don’t multiply out.



    • Travis Ahern (Town Administrator) on June 29, 2022 at 2:21 pm

      Nancy,

      Please see page 38 of the PDF of the presentation for the full calculation of the range of costs that Weston & Sampson presented based on the market data the found for similar projects:
      https://www.townofholliston.us/sites/g/files/vyhlif706/f/uploads/holliston_dpw_update_presentation_06-27-22_print_220627_182028.pdf

      In summary, W&S put together a needs assessment that calls for a 51,150 sq ft facility, that they reduced for cost savings to 45,150 sq ft, which can be physically laid out in different ways, depending on the site selection.

      The market data they’ve collected of other similarly procured DPW Facility projects in our region is between $531 and $581 per sq ft. with assumptions for inflation factored in. That equates to an estimated cost range (for construction only) of $23.9m t0 $26.2m.

      They are using a conservative estimate for “soft costs” of 25% of construction costs (which, to your point, they round up to the nearest $100,000), and so they estimate, for full transparency, that the Town should factor in an additional $6m to $6.5m for soft costs.

      These are the estimates related specifically to the “Feasibility” part of developing a public building, for which Weston & Sampson was selected following the approval of May 2021 Annual Town Meeting.

      Should the Town move ahead to the next stage of planning (and the conditions of the existing facilities on Arch Street and Central Street will require that we come up with a solution here), a specific site will need to be selected, at which point a future Town Meeting will be asked to consider approval of costs of Design & Engineering. The Design & Engineering stage then considers site-specific costs (for example, a site may or may not require environmental cleanup, which would change the actual soft costs vs. the 25% conservative estimate).

      Assuming the State extends the “remote participation” option for Towns (set to expire 7/15), the Select Board is looking to hold a hybrid Public Forum in August to review site options and get feedback on Weston & Sampson’s Feasibility Study as we approach the Fall. Remote or hybrid options have greatly increased participation in public meetings in Holliston, so we’re hoping that this option gets extended so we can hear from the most possible residents and stakeholders. A follow up Forum after Labor Day is also likely.

      Any questions, please email me at ahernt@holliston.k12.ma.us



    • Travis Ahern (Town Administrator) on June 30, 2022 at 11:57 am

      Nancy, I see the error you’re referring to!

      They have “higher range” listed twice, one as $21.1 million and the other as $26.2 million.

      We’ll have the consultant correct that and repost their presentation online . Thanks!



  4. Bill Blinstrub on June 29, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    The DPW proposal feels very much like it was written to support a predetermined desired outcome. Its missing a pros and cons list of ALL potential sites. I have very little faith in its conclusions or recommendations.



    • Carol McElwee on July 2, 2022 at 2:34 pm

      Agree wholeheartedly!



  5. Jeannie Des Marais on July 3, 2022 at 5:03 pm

    Why not use the available properties in the Cross Street Industrial Park instead
    of tearing out our town forests, There is so little natural land in Holliston that
    has not been sacrificed for new housing developments!



    • Rick Shansky on July 4, 2022 at 8:27 am

      I agree. The reason to discard the Axton-Cross site is not discussed in this article. I know there’s a long history of that site, but for DPW use, it seems like the perfect use of what is otherwise a wasted eyesore.



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