November 6 Select Board Meeting
Attendance: Chair John Cronin, Vice Chair Tina Hein, Clerk Ben Sparrell Town Administrator Travis Ahern
Agenda Item being taken out of order:
Holliston Police Department – Appointment of Officers: Sam Elichalt and Rich Davis
Chief Stone joined the meeting and advised the board of two candidates (out of maximum three)
Rich Davis was the first candidate and is a transfer from the Medfield Police department. He worked as a full-time officer in Medfield, and he’ll be starting fresh tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.
John had the board members introduce themselves.
Rich moved to Holliston recently, he’s originally from Wrentham (small town and community oriented). He is a King Philip High graduate and went to the Police Academy in 2020 and worked for two years part time afterwards in Hull. He went to Medfield last year and he wanted to come to Holliston PD because of the ability to work more proactively and for interaction with the community. His dad, mom, sister, and grandfather were also in attendance at the SB meeting.
Chief Stone indicated that when he did the background check on Rich, he was repeatedly told of his involvement with community activities. Also referred to his ability to get along with coworkers. Tina quipped that Rich’s younger sister may have something to add to that and she’d talk to her later.
John welcomed Rich to Holliston, indicated he was pleased to see strong family support and told him to be safe out there.
Sam Elichalt was then introduced to the SB members by Chief Stone. Indicated that Sam went through the same tough vetting process as Rich was put through. Sam was born in Plymouth MA and is a Marine Corps veteran.
Sam will be attending the Academy at the end of the month and will be completing his training in November. We expect him to join the HPD late May. Former managers complimented his work ethic.
The board thanked him for his service and Tina mentioned she would like to talk to him more about his service in Australia.
Sam came to Holliston because of the small-town feel, his girlfriend has family in the area. Feels that this is a nice place to set up roots and he is looking forward to being here. John indicated he hopes that Sam has a long career here. Sams family was unable to attend.
Ben read the motion to hire the two gentlemen to the Department and Tina seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
Chief Stone thanked the board for their support and assistance in allowing the Department to vet new candidates.
Regular Agenda Return
Joint Appointment – Confirmation of Library Trustee Appointment for Robert McGrath (interim thru May 2024 election)
Karla Alfred, Chair of the Trustees explained that a Trustee had stepped down in October and therefore the need came to fill the open position. He has served on other boards in Holliston she indicated that the vote as 5-0 to accept him on the board. Karla then introduced the candidate, Bob McGrath.
Lived in Holliston since 1970, was on the school committee from 1973 – 1987. He was the chair of the French Immersion and Montessori. He then became involved in the Holliston Scholarship Foundation. He happened to see that there was an opening at the library and decided to step in.
Ben extended his thanks for volunteering for that opening. Tina said she’s happy that someone with his level of volunteer experience stepped into this opening. John asked if there was anything he envisioned, and Bob indicated he’d be doing a lot of listening to learn what needs to be done and hopefully be able to run for election when it becomes available. He does hope that at some point a new facility be considered for Holliston.
Ben made the motion to jointly appoint Bob as a Library trustee and the motion passed unanimously.
Traffic Engineering Reports and Updates
John read off the three items of business (below) for this portion of the meeting. The SB takes traffic safety very seriously. Turned over to Travis
Norfolk St. / Franklin St. / Central St. (Pare Corp.)
Pare was designing the municipal lot on Green Street and also engaged on recommendations for traffic engineering regarding this intersection.
John indicated there were people in the room who may have questions at the end and asked if they would be accepted after the presentation and was assured they would. John asked that questions be held until the end of the presentation.
The company was called in to look at the “triangle” at this intersection and did some traffic counts on this area. They also looked at 5 years of crash history within the area. They then looked at various ways for making the area safer for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. They also did some speed observations using radar and took 100 vehicle captures of speeds on each of the streets. 85% of the speeds on Central were 35 – 40, on Norfolk 30 and on Franklin just under 30.
Also looked at sight distances from all intersections (standing back 15 feet from roadway and looking in both directions measure the distance you can see). This was performed in September and since that time, some vegetation trimming has been done so they went back and updated the traffic study this past weekend. There were some that were “short” at Norfolk and Central but with the vegetation trimming they all sight distances meet minimum recommended values for the speed.
Crash data showed over a 5-year period that there were 33 crashes. Just before the meeting he updated the data for October of this year and 21 occurred at Central and Norfolk St. 12 in project area involved injuries or suspected injuries.
John asked if the statistics were closer to the “norm” and he indicated that they were, and he’d get back to that momentarily. One of the things they found unusual was angle collisions at Central and Norfolk. It is less usual at unsignaled intersections. This is often a result of pulling out with not enough room or sight distance issues. Pare seems to think the sight distance issue is causing a lot of these accidents and he says that this should be monitored closely because these types of accidents tend to lead to more injuries.
Another item of note is that on October 1 there was bicyclist struck about 200 feet east of this intersection. Bicyclist was not transported but the accident was coded suspected injury. The balance of the data was pretty normal.
Based on that data (obtained from Mass DOT), we came up with several options to make sure that we maintain speeds at more appropriate rates for the areas. These are recommendations for Norfolk and Central:
- Speed Cushions (designed to allow large vehicles to avoid them – they are wide enough for a truck to avoid them, but cars and SUVs will go over them).
- Simple lane narrowing (restriping the lines and bringing them to 10’ – tends to slow speeds and make them safer). Provides more dedicated space for other use.
- Supplemental signage which we have noted in Complete Streets projects. Speed feedback signs (which have proven to reduce speeds).
- Signalization was looked at but there is not enough traffic to warrant this expense.
- Changeover from 25 – 35 MPH would be better moved to the East (past Franklin)
The temporary barriers on Franklin Street (from Norfolk) is recommended to be made permanent to slow the traffic down. Reducing speeds is crucial to anyone crossing there.
Green St. and Washington St. / Rt. 16-126 (Pare Corp.)
For the Parking lot at 9 Green Street, did a quick signing plan for how to get people in and out of the parking lot safely. It is a bit convoluted. From Washington into Superette will be one way and the way “out” will be two ways. Currently the one-way sign is on the side of Superette. There is signage that shows a do not enter leaving the parking lot onto Washington.
There is a grass area where there will be an exit to Green Street sign and signs indicating where the electric charging stations will be placed. Signage indicating parking and EV charging. Washington Street signage will also include parking signs, and EV charging. We have also recommended a no-left turn into Superette to avoid traffic backups.
Travis pointed out that the businesses on Washington Street is probably not a good idea as people will keep going.
Currently there is a hatched area that is not very big but it’s big enough for two vehicles so the recommendation would be to make a dedicated left turn bay to allow traffic to flow more easily. There was some concern by the Fire Department. There does not seem to be an impediment to access by Fire Department equipment. We are not proposing any change to the signals or the phasing of the signals at this time.
John indicated they had some recommendations from public safety officials. Travis mentioned there is a project going on at Central Street and will make a report to the design engineer. On Green Street we’re now approaching the end of this project so these changes have been discussed for a while.
Robert Walker would not want to see the speed cushions because of plowing. The other recommendations were good.
Sean Reese has the same reservations about cushions along with the noise issue they can create.
Public Comments and Questions
Vincent Murphy – Did you discuss putting a 4 way stop at Norfolk/Central? The biggest issue he sees between Church and Central there is a dip which makes seeing more challenging. Having people start from a stopped position means slower.
Pare – it is now considered a poor practice as a traffic calming method because when there is not enough opposing traffic accidents tend to increase not decrease (rear end in particular)
If there is a benefit due to capacity issues, or because of sight distance, and there is no other way to address it then stop signs could be considered. But not a good option for speed control.
Liz Dembitzer – Our little street is getting swallowed by issues on Central. The speed issue on our road is particularly bad during rush hour. Does it mean that because we don’t have as many accidents that we don’t need additional traffic control measures? The street is narrow and are you looking at it from a pedestrian safety.
Pare: Yes, we look at vehicular, bicyclists, and pedestrian safety. We know that is a narrower street so it’s lower speeds. There is a lot of traffic on a small street. Most of the speeds were 30 or below.
We could put a speed cushion (addressing concerns of maintenance). You can’t narrow lanes because they are not painted the same way as larger streets. You can put a speed sign – the only reason there was not much mention about that was because speeds are not particularly high.
Ms. Dembitzer says that it’s primarily when children are coming back and forth to school is when the traffic seems to be busiest (morning commute and evening commute). She feels there should be a recommendation for lowering speed, signage, or some other methods.
Pare – speed limits tend to be arbitrary. There are several methods used for determining speed limits and we should base them on what we want not what we have. That would be a town decision. He does not agree that changing a sign to 20 MPH isn’t going to change behavior significantly.
John from 31 Franklin St – he addressed Chair Cronin and asked if they were bound by the recommendations on a report. John indicated the SB was not bound by recommendations. He would like to echo Ms. Dembitzer regarding access to data because the prime time for problems on Franklin is 6am to 8am not in the middle of the day. Between 6am and 8am the “average” speed is more like 40 in his opinion.
He agrees that traffic cushions work and indicates his sister lives in Watertown and people know they are there and tend to slow down because of them. He understands the reluctance to use speed cushions on Central but not on Franklin (smaller street). He knows it won’t solve the problem, but it will be a step in the right direction because people go too fast. Asked about whether Pare looked at making Franklin a one-way street from Central to Norfolk?
Pare – this is not something we looked at because making streets one way is a proven way to increase speeds not lower them.
John indicates that he would like to look at the reports. John Cronin indicated the reports will become public.
Mark Bunker – his concern is with the Green Street entrance and when they try to get into Green Street, they have problems. Having a lane there would really help because it would allow them to make a turn sooner. However, when sitting in the hatch, there is no opportunity for a traffic break for someone to stop and then go between light changes. Changing the light phasing would be helpful because of the lack of ability. Exiting Green Street only allows 2 cars to proceed. Usually there are only one or two cars that can get out with lights. If there are more cars exiting Green Street there will be even more of a backup.
People often come down Green Street thinking they can go through. The no exit sign could be updated and there should be a sign coming out of the parking area indicating the same.
Kristine Westland – Wondering about the times because as a resident of the area between 3 – 4:30 in the afternoon. She’s an engineer and if you are doing this after foliage trim back why use optimal data?
Pare – we saw sight distance before and after. There was overgrown vegetation, which was blocking sight line and that has been removed, it’s not a function of “dropping foliage”.
Kristine – curbs on Norfolk are a problem, they gun it by her house. If speed cushions are an inconvenience, and a stop sign at Norfolk and Central could cause more accidents, would a stop sign at Norfolk and Franklin also lead to more accidents? The speed up and down the road is out of control. Her wall has been hit numerous times, telephone poles taken out, car landing in neighbor’s lawn (these are going uphill).
The bottom curve at the bottom of Central has poor visibility and it’s dangerous for those using the Rail Trail. On Franklin Street there is a lot of complaints about the bump outs. She’s not sure what the solution is but she’s not sure that any of the recommendations are going to make a difference.
Lindsay Kerry – She concurs with Mark regarding the Green Street issue regarding the getting n and out of the street. Does the town own the exit area from Superette? There is an easement and there are multiple parties which have an interest. Is everything owned by the town?
When you redid the parking lot that there was going to be green space and now there is no green space in there. She said she hopes the SB will take suggestions about looking at the lights timing at Green.
Christine Beling – requested Travis refresh her memory about the study/evaluation of sidewalks on Franklin. Travis stated that Norfolk Street was getting new water mains and that as part of that there would be an upgrade on sidewalks. Christine then stated that the sidewalks on Franklin are non-existent, and the cutout has made the pedestrian walking even more difficult. She asked Pare if that was something that was evaluated in the study and feels that they should have been included. She is also a fan of speed cushions.
Chris Leoncini – disappointed about lack of communication from SB particularly about something which has such an impact on his business. He’s grateful for all the work on Green Street, a great job has been done and it looks great. When the changes were made (no left turn into parking lot) it impacted all of the businesses, and no one reached out to any of the business owners.
Tina indicated she had discussions with Chris at the store. Chris indicated that all of the affected business owners should have been called into a SB meeting for a full briefing on the changes being proposed and why they were being proposed. They learned about the “one way” from customers and from reading it in the paper. The problem he is so upset about is that after the one-way was voted was the first time anyone reached out to the store owners.
John Cronin apologized on behalf of the board, noting how much Chris does for the town. John indicated there was no intent to bamboozle anyone, and their regular contact with Chris perhaps made them laxer than they should have been in communicating this change.
How can a traffic study be done without taking the neighborhood into account? Chris agrees that one on one communication is fine, but when it’s a policy change of this magnitude it needs to be done in a group setting.
Tina reminded Chris that when the Green Street development was being considered a committee was put together and there was a neighborhood representation. Chris attended some of those meetings. Chris reminded her that this was four years ago and that there was some suggestion that the one-way may be implemented but it was never part of the final plan at that time.
One of his concerns is while the town has agreed to handle plowing/salting, etc. he can’t depend on that when his business is open seven days a week. The DPW does a great job but they certainly do not have the flexibility that a private contractor does. If conditions in the driveway get dangerous now, he merely calls the plow company, and someone comes out and takes care of it. What happens if someone slips and falls, are they suing Chris, his neighbor, or the town? There’s too much gray area right now for him to feel comfortable. The no left turn has been problematic in the past (Santander, the Gulf Station). Reminds the board that if there is no left turn into the side driveway, once people go past Green Street and are reminded Superette is there, if there is no left turn, they will just keep going. The lack of communication has left Chris feeling like the bus has left and he’s running to catch up.
Tina asked if Chris had a copy of the traffic study. Travis mentioned that the plans he provided Chris were regarding maintenance, plowing, etc.
Chris indicated he spoke with Chief Stone regarding accidents in downtown. There were 12 – and there was no way to single out how many occurred as a result of the driveway. There could have been numerous reasons for these accidents.
Pare clearly is looking at the entire picture however, not even being aware about the one-way enter and no exit is troubling. He reiterated the issue is that he was not included in formal discussions with the SB regarding this change.
John Nichols – he also feels that the cross hatching on Washington should be used for left turns onto Green. He echoes many of Chris’s sentiments.
Celia Gagnon – there is a sidewalk on Franklin Street, but the cars are parked there so they are blocked. She walks there with her dog, so her options are the road or a lawn. If people park on the street would slow traffic down.
She also agrees that the cars on Norfolk Street are going too fast. Speed cushions or bumps (which are found worldwide) would help slow the traffic down. While it’s more difficult for plowing people’s lives should take precedence over plowing concerns. Hoping something can be done.
From Travis: Karen Circle resident: Although I agree with slowing down traffic on Central Street it is a busy main street, but he does not agree with speed cushions or bumps.
Ben: Green Street we should be talking abotu the lights. Will a left turn arrow be considered or would resetting the green go for a bit longer correct some of the problem.
Pare: Not really. If you are going to do that you need to add the arrow to indicate to the driver that there is no green coming at them. It depends on whether there is
Ben: Did any of hte analysis take into the gas station into account?
Pare: No we used existing conditions.
Ben: Norfolk/Franklin/Central – one of the issues was Church Street. Looking at how people are using the intersection – were we taking into account when we looked at number how people are using the extension for Norfolk St (from Church)?
Pare: it’s captured but not something that was necessarily discussed in the final evaluation. In the morning there is about 145 cars an hour doing through.
Ben: Is there anything we can do to lighten the pressure in that area?
Pare: It is something we can look into. Church and Norfolk was not part of the study, but we can look into it.
Ben: Angle accidents – can that be caused by people trying to cross Central Street?
Pare: It’s not clear in the database whether they are taking a left or whether they are continuing across.
Ben: Since the overhead lights (flashing) which is no longer there should it be replaced or leave it gone?
Pare: in the pedestrian master plan project list there is one in there for an RRFB (crosswalk) this is in the Complete Streets) plan.
Tina: we have had a ton of comments, and they are all worthy of consideration. On the Norfolk/Franklin/Central study please include in the appendix on the traffic studies. One of our important roles is traffic safety.
Tina: can you estimate the cost of these injuries to public safety response/cost to municipality.
Pare: There are other numbers such as total impact on the economy regarding crashes resulting in property damage, minor injuries, significant injuries, and fatalities. Those costs are easily researched. Specific to EMS responses is not readily available.
John Cronin Thanks Derek for participating in the questions and answers regarding this study. John feels the study should be released to the public and hopefully can reach a better consensus on what works for the residents.
To Chris Leoncini: Again I want to apologize it was never our intention to put you, your business, or any of your dealings with the town in a bad space. Over the next several days I will take the time to get your feedback and input — we are always available for you to reach out to us – anyone can reach out to us.
There is not a meeting that goes by where we don’t hear feedback about traffic in Holliston. I’ve spoken with my peers in other communities as has Chief Stone. Traffic is an issue, people drive too fast everywhere, it’s a fact of life. While it may not be something we can solve, we can take steps to mitigate the impact.
Ben made a motion to release Pare studies for public comment with consideration for additional feedback and recommendations. Tina seconded the motion. Passed.
Highland Street Safety Zone Implementation (McMahon)
Travis: This was commissioned, and McMahon is not with us tonight. This is the next step in the Highland Street – the primary contact has left. This impacts the schools and there will be a safety zone during school hours. There was a restriction that these zones could not be included in a High School area.
Recommendation is being done for a 24/7 safety zone because of the number of accidents. Since stop signs have been put in there are fewer accidents but there is still a speeding issue.
The schools asked we not take baby steps and if the high school changes its footprint we have to be able to adapt to that change. The safety zone will not need to be approved by DOT. The report is available online. Estimate $3k in expenses.
Lindsay Kerry – Tell me why we just put in stop signs so why are we making more changes? My concern is the changes are getting unnerving and when we add more layers it’s more confusing.
I feel like we are adding too many layers at a cost and unless we are trying to address something why add a larger burden.
John Cronin – we do not have the statistics in front of us but the people who live in that area have had plenty of comments. This was a planned event as we needed to get this area slowed down in this area.
Lindsay Kerry – I just don’t agree with it being a 24/7 slow zone.
Ben Sparrel – Yes, we want to make sure that things are slowed down and we’re attempting to slow things down all of the time. There is a lot happening in that area and he feels it is important to address these issues. He realizes this is slightly out of the safety zone but the 40MPH (Highland Street) in that area coming from Ashland but there is not one on the other side and that. could be helpful in slowing traffic down if we reduce it there.
Tina Hein – traffic management is an ongoing process. There is no one and done. We are tasked with traffic management in town. This was one of those items (3 ways stops) knowing we would have to come back and address the safety zone, so this is the completion of what we intended for this area. There is an ongoing need to address traffic management. 40 to 20 seems like a dramatic reduction and we may have to reconsider that.
Motion to authorize the Dept. Public Works to implement the safety zone – motion carried.
Moving the Agenda again:
Request to waive the rental fee for March 17, 2024, for the Town of Holliston St. Patrick’s Day breakfast Roast for the 300th birthday of the Town.
Bob Blair – put in two requests and had not heard so he wanted to follow up. He’s looking for $2500 for breakfast and $5k for the light show — waive fee for town hall for the breakfast and also bunting on the town hall. – Lions Club lined up for serving.
Question: we can’t vote on the money tonight but is it your intention to have the town pay for that or Celebrate Holliston? Theresa Lampkin – it is a point we want to talk about because the orchestra and the light show should be considered for the 300th. We know we have money with the town for this type of event and we’d love the town to pitch in for this. We should work out a process for the $30,000 which is budgeted so we want to find a way to handle this funding requests. (Orchestra and laser show will be added to agenda per John Cronin).
Ben will need to know the specifics and they will send him the information they need to get the approvals.
If we have groups that want to do events can they reach out? Yes!
Motion to waive rental fee for March 17th made by Ben second by Tina and passed.
Request to hang Irish buntings on Town Hall from March 15th to March 18th, 2024, and to hang the Irish Flag on the flagpole in front of Town Hall.
John Cronin will have to review the flag protocol.
Motion made to approve request for buntings on Town hall – Tina seconded – approved.
No additional public comments
From Ben Sparrel:
- Veteran’s Day is on Saturday and John will be on hand. Humanitarian Awards at Upper Town Hall will be November 13, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.
- No change in trash this week. Winter Parking ban No street parking runs from 11/1 – 3/31 from 1am to 5am
- Leaf curbside pickup week of November 27th – Leaves in paper bags or loose in paper bags. They will not accept in plastic bags. All bags must be on sidewalk by 6am on your designated trash day.
- Marshall Street Recycle Center will be open all Saturdays and Sundays through January (except 11/11)
Motion to Approve warrants made by Ben 2nd by Tina and approved unanimously.
Comments from the Town Administrator
Assistant Admin from Medfield and Travis went to Sharon and gave a Budgeting 101 seminar to the committees in town. Thank you to BMMA for asking us to do that and thanks to Frank as well.
Envisioning Future Holliston is still accepting comments and we are still getting feedback. Next meeting is on 11/14.
Pinecrest Restaurant Contract for Execution – Anthony’s on the Green (January 1, 2024 to Dec. 31, 2026)
James Keast has been dealing with this – there were some addendums that came up. James is the facility manager. Issued an RFP and only received one from incumbent. We negotiated a favorable financial term with the current operator and includes language regarding social media policy, updated insurance, and facility cleaning. Also contained language about parking and storage.
Did Golf Course Advisory approve? Yes, and sub-committee helped James was present at the negotiations and were handled with sub-committee.
Ben made a motion to approve the contract with Anthony’s – Michael Ficco – Tina seconded – passed.
Event permit, Veterans Day Parade November 11, 2023 at 10:30 a.m.
Ben made a motion – Tina Seconded – motion passed
Chabad Center request for Menorah at Town Hall from December 3rd to December 24th with the lighting on December 7, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.
Ben made the motion – Tina seconded – passed.
Board adjourned to executive session.