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Access road in spotlight

Public comments on bonding process sought

August 02, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The industrial park access road will be under more scrutiny Thursday, as the town holds a public meeting for comments on the bonds that pay for the nearly-complete project.

According to Town Manager Christopher Clark, the meeting — which a posting in Town Hall dubs a "public hearing," but he said is not — is largely a formality requested by the town's tax counsel because of the way the road is being paid for. Specifically, the funding — up to $7.2 million — is coming from Casella under the landfill contract, with payments being made to the town, which then pays for the bond.

"No action will be necessary from the council," because it has already voted to approve bonding the project, Clark said. The town's bond counsel did, too.

DPW Director Ken Kalinowski said the construction is on schedule to be done by early October, with work currently being done to install a water pump station off Massachusetts Avenue and the connecting sewer lines that run down Brookside Road. The only problem that came up, he said, was the discovery of an unacceptably high concentration of glass in the roadbed.

"Other than that, it's been pretty smooth sailing," he said. "It's nice to see a project go pretty much the way it's supposed to."

That outlook is definitely a recent phenomenon. The road has been under construction since this spring by Marois Brothers, but it had been in limbo for nearly a decade and saw several plan revisions. It got delayed so long its original approval from the Conservation Commission expired, forcing the panel to hold a new hearing (on a revised plan) in August 2008.

Although Conservation re-approved it, citizens from Residents for Alternatives to Trashing Southbridge (RATS) appealed the project to the Department of Environmental Protection. That tied it up several more months but changed nothing, since DEP reaffirmed the commission's decision on the grounds that the plaintiffs had not provided any evidence to support their case.

Toward the end of that hearing process, Clark opened the construction bids and identified Marois as the lowest qualified bidder at $5.4 million. But the council voted 5-4 against awarding the contract in early March 2009, in part because of concerns about the outcome of the DEP appeal and a concurrent Superior Court challenge of the Board of Health's original landfill site assignment decision.

See Tuesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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