Municipal Spotlight: Bellingham Selectmen Focusing on Six Projects
Sep 29, 2016 06:00AM ● Published by Kenneth Hamwey
Selectman Chair Mike Soter and Vice Chair Don Martinis
The Bellingham Selectmen are like a lot of us— they have a to-do list; and, with the Special Town Meeting fast approaching (Oct. 19), Selectmen Chairman Mike Soter (pictured left) and Vice Chairman Don Martinis (pictured below) touched on a half-dozen issues and projects they want taxpayers to be aware of and also to know how these projects will affect their wallets.
Three of the six projects will be on the Town Meeting warrant, including road repair (Article 18), Wethersfield sewerage extension (Article 9), and living quarters at the South Fire Station (Article 5). The other three involve how the Selectmen will be dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency’s stormwater mandate, the potential demolition of the Primavera School and a dog park at the High Street fields.
Five million dollars to be spent over a five-year period is the cost to repair some major roads. If taxpayers approve the measure, the money will be raised by borrowing and be paid for through taxation. “Realistically, we need more than $5 million to fix our roads,” said Soter, who’s in his sixth year as a Selectman, “but this would be a good start.”
Roads under consideration are Maple Street; the intersection of Hartford Avenue, Depot Street and Grove Street to the Mendon line; and Route 126 (from Elm Street to the Route 495 overpass), which is under review as opposed to programmed for construction. “These projects will take several years to complete designs and receive environmental approvals,” said Town Administrator Denis Fraine. “Some will be ready next year (Maple Street) and others will be ready in two or three years (phases of Route 126). Various other roads also will be under consideration.”
Martinis was emphatic about this issue and wants it to be a major focus. “All roads in town are a big priority,” he said. “The time has come for road repair to be a major undertaking.”
“If approved at Town Meeting, $90,000 would be spent on a preliminary review to see if it is affordable, feasible and acceptable to residents,” Soter said. “It would provide sewerage for those sections of the Wethersfield area that are not already sewered. This review would give us specifics on the cost.”
According to Soter, the issue arose during meetings on the Macy School demolition. He said that residents in the school area wanted the service and that prompted sending out a survey to affected homeowners. About 400-plus households would be included.
SOUTH FIRE STATION
Barracks (living quarters) are needed for the facility in south Bellingham that is now open 24-7. The building does have plumbing and a kitchen with an oven and a refrigerator. The cost of the barracks has yet to be determined.
Boy scouts and girl scouts, who used the fire station’s community room for their meetings, will now be using the gymnasium at the renovated Keough building for their gatherings.
EPA STORMWATER MANDATE
The town, according to the Selectmen, is part of an appeal process that includes 50-60 municipalities fighting a federal edict on how to treat stormwater runoff. Bellingham’s cost to join the fight is $2,500; that money will come out of the Selectmen’s legal expense budget.
“There is a statewide MS4 permit that requires businesses and municipalities to treat stormwater runoff to a far greater standard than it is today,” Fraine said. “These improvements are projected to cost Bellingham tens of millions of dollars to be implemented over a 10-year period.”
Bellingham taxpayers would eventually face a major tax burden to cover the cost locally if the cities and towns fail in their appeal.
PRIMAVERA SCHOOL’S FUTURE
The school department has turned over the Primavera School building to the Selectmen. The building served as a therapeutic day school for students dealing with social and emotional concerns or other special education needs. Now that students attend classes at the Keough building, the Selectmen will determine what’s in store for the Primavera property.
“We’ll be trying to determine what the cost will be to tear it down and create more parking for the South Elementary School and the Keough Academy,” Soter noted. “Parking in that area is extremely limited. The building can’t be used for anything because the furnace has been shut down and there is asbestos present.”
Interest has mounted for a dog park to be available, and the back side of the High Street field area has been designated as a potential site. No appropriation will be needed because all that’s required is fencing and those funds will come from the existing budget. The park will enable owners to walk their dogs and have them interact with other canines. “Grants can be applied for and are available for fencing and other needs that may arise,” Fraine said.
Martinis, who has visited several dog parks in the area, believes it’s a good way for dogs to mingle and neighbors to socialize with other neighbors. “Franklin’s dog park is very efficient,” he said. “There are picnic tables and areas where bowls are located, filled with water for the dogs. As for waste, it’s a self-policing situation where owners take care of cleaning up their dogs’ waste. Franklin has waste baskets for disposal.”