In anticipation of an upcoming public hearing regarding the town’s application for a regional community development block grant, the selectboard Monday identified and prioritized a list of eight items to be included in an updated community development strategy.
Topping the list was broadband access, which has long been an issue for the community, and is currently being addressed by the Last Mile/Wired West project. Numbers two and three relate to upgrades to town buildings, with a new highway department town barn number two, and a new police station at number three. Fourth is housing rehabilitation, which is a centerpiece of the grant application. Fifth is a large scale tree trimming and brush removal project to be undertaken by the highway department; sixth is replacing the windows in the old library building and seventh is upgrades to the town library. Eighth, also a focus of the grant application, is a “gap” fuel assistance program, which would provide help to low to middle income residents who do not qualify for standard fuel assistance. In Thomastown, 43.6 percent of residents are classified low to moderate income.
The public hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 17, and will be led by the Franklin County Regional Housing and Development Authority.
In a continuation of a hearing that began back in September, the board rejected a National Grid proposal to add utility poles in the area of North Prescott Road, but that does not necessarily mean that the project won’t ultimately happen. At issue is the placement of the poles, which in the rejected proposal had new poles designed to shorten the span of wires between existing poles being placed on lots owned by resident Sherman Sadler.
Sadler is concerned that the placement of new poles as had been proposed would affect frontage on his lots, making them less attractive to potential buyers. He said that he feels that he is being discriminated against because his lots are wooded and undeveloped, and argued that a better solution would be to place the poles across the street on land owned by Ken Bright, who has no objections to such a placement.
Richard Nalewski, representing National Grid, said that Sadler’s suggestion would not work for several reasons. He cited tree trimming issues, the need for more easements and that Verizon would not be amenable to re-routing its phone wires, which follow the same path as the power lines, as the major stumbling blocks. He suggested that the project either be tabled or rejected, which would allow time for National Grid to “revisit the entire design” while keeping to the same side of the road, or if agreement can’t be reached, “cancel the entire improvement project.”