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Ford outlines traffic plan during Route 131 work


August 03, 2009
STURBRIDGE — The town will be trying something different this time, when dealing with the traffic issues generated by roadwork.

Work on the Route 131 water main began earlier this week, and is slated to run through the middle of October.

Police Chief Thomas Ford explained at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Monday night that traffic will not be diverted off of Route 131 during the work.

"This particular project will not have traffic routed to any of the side roads," Ford said.

Rather than intentionally directing traffic through narrower neighborhood streets, Ford said Route 131 traffic will be reduced to one lane of travel during working hours.

Ford said, "recognizing that they all have speed limits on them," side roads connecting Route 131 to Route 20 like Fiske Hill or Hall Road, may prove to be more efficient for some commutes, though motorists should be cautious when traveling through residential areas.

The maximum wait for stopped traffic in either direction is expected to be 12 minutes, although the goal of the officers directing traffic will be to keep traffic flowing in no more than eight-minute intervals.

Vice Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Scott Garieri, who oversaw Monday's meeting in Chairman Mary Blanchard's absence, asked Ford how the water main work would impact the HOG (Harley Owners Group) rally that will hit Sturbridge Aug. 6-8.

Ford said that because the road crews will lay new pavement over each day's work, the project will not affect the rally, "as much as we initially thought it would."

During the meeting, selectmen voted to approve the formation of a new advisory committee in town.

Selectman Ted Goodwin, who had raised the issue of an Energy Advisory Committee with the board at previous meetings, made the motion that established the new body.

Goodwin explained that the role of the Energy Advisory Committee would be to identify strategies and funding partnerships to lower citizen and municipal energy expenditures and reduce greenhouse gas.

Interim Town Administrator Michael Racicot discussed several town initiatives, and ways officials are working on getting the biggest bang for their buck.

Fire engine

As the Selectmen met at the Senior Center, Racicot said Fire Chief Leonard Senecal was simultaneously meeting with representatives from different fire engine manufacturers to price a potential purchase, as was approved at a Town Meeting last year.

After one fire engine was totaled in an early June accident and another experiencing rust issues, the Fire Department's front line truck is more than a decade old.

Racicot said he also met with the Burgess Elementary School Building Committee and Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).

"We're trying to pin down what we can get reimbursement for," Racicot said.

At the onset of the Burgess project planning, committee members speculated that up to 51 percent of the project may be reimbursed by the state. Following the severe cuts made to Governor Deval Patrick's final state budget, that 51 percent figure became completely obsolete. Going forward, the actual reimbursement rate has yet to be determined.

The board voted to approve a request made by Wal-Mart to remain open for business for 24 hours on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26.

Prior to approving the request, Selectman Thomas Creamer asked Ford if the store staying open for the entire calendar day would pose any problems.

Ford indicated Wal-Mart makes a similar request annually, to extend their hours of operation to approximately 20 hours the day after Thanksgiving.

"They usually hire detail officers up there, so we do have police presence," Ford said, indicating that if the same procedures are followed, he does not foresee a problem with the store staying open for the extended period of time. Ford did add though, that the Massachusetts Attorney General has warned retailers like Wal-Mart to be mindful of labor laws and overtime obligations when remaining open for so many back-to-back shifts.

The board also voted to approve a request from the National Multiple Sclerosis to host a Sept. 27 fundraising walk, scheduled to depart from the Old Sturbridge Village Education Center.

News staff writer Christopher Tanguay may be reached at (508) 909-4132, or by e-mail at ctanguay@stonebridgepress.com

Janines Frostee
Stonebridge press
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