Select Board’s August 1, 2022, Meeting

The entire Select Board and Town Administrator were all in the assigned seats when the Monday, August 1, 2022, meeting convened.  Chair Ben Sparrell called the “good” agenda (feeling he’s overused robust) to order at 7:00pm.  You can change the adjective but not the amount of work tackled during each meeting.

Lake Winthrop:

Below, Shaw Lively, Parks Commission Chair and Mark Frank (back to camera) Park & Recreation Department Head attended the meeting for two purposes: begin a conversation about how to manage the public asset and natural resource known as Lake Winthrop; and provide updates to the Board on Parks projects / plans.

Mr. Lively, a passionate advocate for the lake, laid out the issues facing the Town as it figures out how to manage this important resource.  His slides are below.

The lake fowl foul the lake with their waste raising the E. coli count that sometimes closes the swimming areas.
Mr. Frank noted that the Stoddard Park boat rentals and park usage in general has improved this year.

A drone photo of the invasive water plants that grow up to the surface of the lake – last year 70 – 80% of the lake was impacted by the lush vegetation.  Mr. Lively reported that there is about 10 feet of dead organic material on the bottom of the lake providing a substrate for the aquatic plants.

This close up shows just how near the surface the vegetation grows.  Making swimming and boating dangerous if not impossible.  The Town is purchasing eight 10 ft by 40 ft Benthic mats.  These mats will be installed after the top portion of the vegetation is removed leaving about 6 inches at the bottom.  This work will be done after a biologist completes a survey to see if endangered freshwater mussels are in the harvesting areas.  The mats provide light from getting through to keep the vegetation from growing back up.  These mats are normally installed before June and removed after the growing season.

2021 photo

Mr. Frank reported that this year, when compared to last year, is much cleaner on the beach with the goose population more under control thanks to the efforts of many residents.

Mr. Lively shared how area communities are managing similar aquatic resources – often with an advisory committee accountable to the Town.  Lively pointed out that the lake is an ecosystem and needs a systemic approach to bringing it to its full potential as an asset and a natural resource.

Photo credit: Shaw Lively.  Any question why Stoddard Park is called “Sunset Beach?”

The Board members are supportive of furthering the discussion, learning more from how those other communities tackled the maintenance of such a valuable resource.  One interesting item: the State categorizes the lake as a “great pond” and as such it falls under State regulations.  Who actually owns the pond – maybe the Town – no sure answer (this is a problem in dealing with the Lake Winthrop dam – who is responsible for its maintenance – the State is yet to respond to the Town’s dam consultant)?

Several residents who live on or near the lake shared their perspectives.

Kris Westland of Norfolk Street noted that the problem is just natural, people who use the lake during every season leave behind garbage that fouls the lake.  Also, there is the chemical runoff into the lake from surrounding properties.

Winthrop Street resident Janice Miller (below) a long-time shoreline dweller pointed to the fact that the problem has been getting worse for many years without any town-organized plan to manage the lake.  She is in favor of a lake advisory committee.

Below, Mary Greendale asked residents who know about the rich history of the lake reach out to her to get content into the book that Mary is shepherding for the Town’s 300th anniversary.  Secondly, she wondered if a broader look should be taken regarding management of all the Town’s natural assets that informs an advisory committee.

Lakeshore Drive resident Peter Chambers asked that someone or some group be accountable for managing the natural resource.  His property suffers from windblown debris and his pets suffer when they use the lake.

Thomas and Lisa Mikkelsen noted diminished use of the lake from their vantage point on Norfolk Lane.  They are concerned about the safety hazard presented by the vegetation. 

The Parks Department has filed a Notice of Intent with the Conservation Commission to do the harvesting mentioned above as well as the installation of the benthic mats.

The Board authorized Mr. Ahern to work with Town staff and area municipalities to learn more about the available data and what are possible options for Holliston.

Parks Commission Updates:

Mr. Frank shared with the Board that Chemini Associates architects have provided the Parks Commission.  The renderings were shared at last Wednesday’s Parks Commission meeting – > Goodwill Park Preliminary Design

Several images were captured from the presentation.  They are below.  There will be a public forum to gather citizen input on September 8th through a hybrid (in-person and remote) meeting.

An encouraging update on the ongoing use of the Weston Park fields as an off-leash dog park to reduce goose droppings.  Mr. Frank reported that no soccer games had to be cancelled this year to due to unplayable fields due to goose poop.

Mr. Cronin encouraged Mr. Lively and the Parks Commission to “own” the 6.7-mile horizontal park known as the Upper Charles Rail Trail through Holliston.

Mrs. Hein asked the Parks Department if they would partner with the Select Board to hold a bike and listening tour that is on the drawing board for later this year.  Of course, the parks are ready to help.

Houghton Pond Dam – Follow Up Discussion to PARE Presentation (April 2022)

The Board authorized Mr. Ahern to get quotes on environmental studies related to the potential removal or remediation of the Houghton Pond Dam.

MAPC Technical Assistance Engagement for Economic Development Committee (EDC)

The Board authorized Mr. Ahern to engage the MAPC (Metropolitan Area Planning Commission) at a cost not to exceed $45,000 (funds previously approved from the Town’s ARPA grant).  The project to begin August 1, 2022 and complete by March 1, 2023.

Blair Square Improvements – Bid Review

Kevin Conley, Chair of the Blair Square committee and Facilities Manager James Keast review the itemized bid received from MJ Cataldo of Littleton.  The lowest bid came in about $120,00 above the Town Meeting approved amount of $568,785 from CPC funds.  Mr. Conley showed the Board that several items in the contractors bid will be handled by donations or our DPW department.  Even counting those offsets, the total still exceeds the approved amount.  The proposed pavilion comes in at $160,000.  Mr. Conley proposed a two-phase approach to come in under budget.  Do all the utility and foundation work now with the rest of the work – and erect the pavilion structure after funds are raised through donations.  He suggested that businesses donate $5,000 toward the cost and that those institutions would have their names on a brass plaque attached to the finished product.  Mr. Cronin suggested that the balance needed to complete the project be appropriated from the Town’s ARPA grant.  The ARPA Steering Group will review the request at a future meeting.  Mr. Sparrell is in favor of a combination of fund raising and ARPA funds to complete the pavilion.

Mr. Ahern reported that the Town applied for three MassTrails grants to help fund the project – all were denied.

The Board approved the awarding of the bid with the discussed adjustments to MJ Cataldo, Inc. construction.

COVID-19 Community update / ARPA Programmatic update

Chief Cassidy made the first of two appearances at his customary seat – this one to report the results of the ARPA Steering Group meeting held earlier Monday. 

  • $187,000 to augment the $1 million State earmark to remediate the Factory Pond dam.
  • $15,000 for construction and police enforcement of the new traffic pattern at Highland, Prentice, and Hollis Streets
  • $15,000 to purchase two storage containers for placement behind the HFD headquarters and the rental of a dumpster for disposal of unusable materials.

The Board approved the three items which had been unanimously recommended by the ARPA Steering Group.

Warrants: The Board approved two warrants: $1,935,663.08 and $660,742.57

Public Comment:

Comments from Town Administrator

  • Voting Guide on Website – Town Clerk page 2022 State Election Information
  • Mr. Ahern and Mrs. Hein thanked all the Town staff involved in preparing and conducting a very effective meeting on Wednesday July 27th regarding the watering of the greens at Pinecrest Golf Course (to date, four truckloads of water have been delivered to the course’s storage pond)
  • There will be site visit by Board members and Town staff to the NEAG facility in Franklin this Wednesday with a report back at next week’s meeting.
  • The backlog of ADA compliant sidewalk ramps are being tackled by the highway department with the goal to have the ones nearest schools done before school opens.
  • The Rt 16/126 sidewalk / paving project timeline is due from MassDOT this week.  Sidewalk work will be first and be done during the day.  Paving will follow and be completed at night – ideally before schools open.
  • The new traffic pattern at Highland, Prentice, and Hollis goes into effect at 12:01am on Tuesday August 2nd.
  • The Fall Town Meeting warrant will be opened next Monday (August 8, 2022) and close September 23, 2022.
  • Another episode of “Ask the TA” has been recorded.  This segment features Mrs. Hein in her role on the Traffic Advisory Committee with a look at the TAC past, present and future.  Look for it on the HCAT listing.

Board Business:

  • Authorized the Town Clerk request Police at voting polls (pursuant to new Votes Act, Sec. 72)
  • Authorized Central Mass. Mosquito Control Project to do drainage work at Phipps Tunnel
  • Accepted the $400 donation from Superette patrons to Senior Center Nutrition Program
  • Accepted the $10,000 donation from Griffin Electric for a rapid flashing beacon at Hopping Brook Road to go to the Rail Trail Gift Account
  • Approved minutes from June 13, 2022, meeting.
  • Approved a Parade Permit on August 6, 2022, Upper Charles River Trail – International Basava Center; 10 – 2
  • Approved a Parade Permit for the Celebrate Holliston Parade September 24, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
  • Approved Dalton Road Block Party September 18, 2022, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Other Business:

Some of next week’s agenda items:

  • Governance Committee update
  • 9 Green Street Final Design presentation
  • Marshall Street Solar Project update (if counsel is available)
  • Open the Fall Town Meeting Warrant

You’ll have to wait to see the remainder of the agenda.  This meeting adjourned at 9:06pm.

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Chris Cain

5 Comments

  1. Shaw Lively on August 2, 2022 at 7:07 am

    Chris, Thanks for an excellent recap of a wide ranging discussion on the Lake. The benthic mats will go in around the Stoddard and Pleasure Point swimming areas to suppress weed growth that is creating a safety hazard, and clogging the boat rental launch area.

  2. Kriss Westland on August 2, 2022 at 9:10 am

    It’s great how you captured Shaw’s slides and photos. Lake Winthrop is a precious, natural resource that we need to take better care of as a community in whole through increased awareness and management of our interactions with this ecosystem.

  3. Stephen Nault on August 3, 2022 at 9:37 am

    Is it possible to drain down Lake Winthrop before winter sets in? In the “old days” it was an effective and cheap means of weed control as the winter frosts would kill the exposed weeds. It is my belief that it is used in Hopkinton.

    • Shaw Lively on August 3, 2022 at 10:32 pm

      DrawDown Can Be an Effective tool for managing aquatic nuisance vegetation in shallow areas. Lake Winthrop prevents several significant challenges in employing that strategy which would have to get permitted by the state. My understanding is it was tried 30 plus years ago and the physical characteristics of the lake present challenges alone in getting the level down to a one that will have a significant impact.
      Thank you for the creative thinking and suggestion.

  4. Ryan Clapp - Conservation Agent on August 3, 2022 at 3:41 pm

    The Holliston Conservation Commission is in support of a management group for Lake Winthrop. As a Great Pond, Lake Winthrop is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, owning as much land and as many lakes and ponds as the State does, oversight and management of Great Ponds is often more than they are equipped to handle. Therefore, these responsibilities fall to the local community.

    During the recent public hearing regarding the management of invasive species in the swimming areas on Lake Winthrop, many residents expressed that they were interested in incorporating these management strategies on parts of the lake that abut their properties. However, that was beyond the scope of the proposal from the Parks Department, who could not be accountable for the many lakeside residents. That is one area where a Lake Winthrop management group could step in, acting on behalf of these interested parties.

    The Conservation Commission would be willing to work with such a group to navigate the various environmental regulations that often serve as roadblocks for lake management, including the Wetlands Protection Act, the Holliston Wetlands Protection Bylaw, and the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.

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