PFAS in Town and Private Wells – updated 9/11/23
The Selectboard continues to work with Town Administrator Sherry Patch, Licensed Site Professional (LSP) Jeffrey Arps from Tighe & Bond, and Attorney Barry Fogel from Keegan Werlin on the execution of the Immediate Response Action (IRA) Plan filed with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP.) Residents are kept updated on the PFAS situation through updates on the PFAS page on the website (including links to reports filed with MassDEP), by updates during public Board meetings and regularly scheduled public information sessions which can be viewed on the town website. At the 4/11/23 information session Jeffrey Arps informed residents of the status to date of the IRA and explained his thinking on the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) Phases 2 & 3 which are due in November. He also spoke briefly about the possible impact of the EPA’s proposed new standards for PFAS. The next info session is scheduled for October 5th at 6:30 and will include information from Tighe & Bond’s September update to MassDEP.
We have engaged special counsel Kevin J. Madonna, who specializes in complex environmental litigation, to represent Princeton in filing a suit in Federal court as part of the multi-district litigation against companies that designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and/or sold PFAS. The complaint was filed on 7/1/22 and can be found on the PFAS page under Additional Resources. The Board wants to remind residents that the litigation against the manufacturers and distributors of PFAS is a lengthy process and we have no guarantees of any particular outcome. Our attorney is paid on a contingency basis. We received two updates recently on the multi-district litigation. Links to those updates can be found at the top of the PFAS page.
There are three new developments that residents should be aware of:
- EPA took soil samples this spring at 30 Mountain Rd and we are waiting to hear the results of their investigation
- Construction is complete on a treatment system for runoff from a pipe coming out of the ledge near 30 Mountain Rd
- Daniel and Cheryl Ervin, owners of 30 Mountain Rd, have filed a lawsuit against the town (see this town news item)
New Public Safety Building - updated 9/11/23
Voters at the 2023 Annual Town Meeting approved the transfer of funds to pay for the final design and construction documents of a new public safety building. The Selectboard updated the building committee’s charge and membership. Meeting agendas, meeting minutes, recordings, and other information can be found here.
Senator Anne Gobi met with the Selectboard on 11/30/21 and expressed some thoughts on our public safety building. We are not alone in having outdated buildings that need to be replaced. Many towns in Senator Gobi’s district are in the same situation. She expressed concern that we were on our fourth committee. She also encouraged us to demonstrate that we are willing to spend some money on the building since it would help us go after money through the Governor’s capital plan. She noted that having design and construction documents is critical to any efforts to secure outside funding. This message was reiterated in a subsequent meeting between her office, Helga Lyons and Phil Gott.
The Town has applied for a grant to cover the cost of the design and construction documents. We should learn whether or not we received any funding this fall.
The Selectboard, Fire Chief, and Police Chief are working to find knowledgeable parties to review the existing design and help identify both missing and unnecessary spaces. The Board is reviewing the charge for these individuals.
Sale of Mechanics Hall - updated 10/19/22
The Selectboard recently issued a statement stating that Red Cardinal would not be pursuing a retail cannabis dispensary at Mechanics Hall. Though everything was moving along nicely, changes in the cannabis market have made the project economically unfeasible for them. Red Cardinal has offered to share their extensive plans for the building with the Selectboard. The Board will be discussing and considering possible development options at a future meeting.
Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program - updated 1/31/22
Princeton received a $20,000 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to help Princeton meet the challenges of climate change and develop a Municipal Preparedness Plan. The grant funded a Community Resilience Building Workshop aimed at the rigorous identification of climate change impacts and best practices to enable Princeton to meet these challenges. Based on the workshop, the Town and the Central Mass Regional Planning Commission developed a plan and we were notified on September 9th that we have been designated as an MVP Community. This accepted plan positions Princeton to gain further grants to create infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Mitigation grants could enhance, for example, Princeton’s installation of larger, more robust culverts, provide additional funding for tree trimming and forest management, improved firefighting water sources, natural fire barriers and water retention areas, etc.
The town was notified in December that the MVP program had opened its Expression of Interest (EOI) phase for the upcoming round of MVP Action Grants. We were told that submitting an EOI would enable the EEA’s MVP team to provide feedback on our project ideas and help us brainstorm ways to make our projects more competitive.
CMRPC strongly recommended that we submit an EOI as soon as possible, especially since our ideas could use some refinement. This is an excellent opportunity to review our list of priority projects with the EEA’s MVP team and develop fundable project concepts.
The MVP team submitted expressions of interest for Engineering for Fire Pond Upgrade and Culvert Resizing Hobbs Road, Promoting Resiliency through Landscape Stewardship, Climate Resiliency Education Campaign, and a PMLD Sterling Road Power Line. Due to the feedback received from the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs during the expression of interest process, it was decided not to pursue these projects at this time.
Town Administrator Sherry Patch is working with CMRPC and neighboring towns to identify larger, regional opportunities. The MVP process is very cumbersome and lends itself to larger projects.
Complete Streets Program - updated 9/21/23
The Complete Streets Committee reviewed and provided recommendations regarding safe and convenient access to the streets of the Town of Princeton for users of all abilities, ages, income levels, and transportation types. These would include, but not be limited to, automotive vehicles, bicyclists, commercial trucks, emergency vehicles, equestrians, farm equipment, freight traffic, road maintenance vehicles, motorcycles, pedestrians, pedestrians with walkers, ultra-heavy commercial vehicles, wheelchairs, or any other forms of transportation.
The Committee held a Complete Streets Prioritization Plan virtual public meeting on 2/16 where residents were updated on the work done to date on our Complete Streets Prioritization Plan. Residents were encouraged to use WikiMap to provide input on problems and opportunities in Town.
The final Complete Streets plan was approved by the State. However, the State changed the funding guidelines. It used to be that towns could apply for up to $400k annually. It has been changed to up to $400k every four years.
VHB was awarded the contract for engineering services for design and preparation of construction documents for full depth reclamation and milling of Worcester Road from the center of town to the Holden Town Line (approximately 3 miles). The project will also include installation of 3200’ of new sidewalk from Sharon Drive to the second entrance of Hickory Drive. The Town applied for a MassWorks grant for a portion of the project but was denied, in part because the Town hadn’t invested enough of its own money. We have received a $498,000 Complete Streets grant that can be used for part of this project. The Selectboard held a meeting on February 13 to begin soliciting input from residents on the sidewalk portion of the Worcester Rd project and held a follow up meeting on September 20. For more information, see:
The Town must finish the Worcester Rd sidewalks, drainage, and crossings MVP project before applying for additional projects.
Green Communities - updated 7/26/23
The application to become a Green Community has been approved. The Town has submitted our application for the projects we’d like to complete with our $130,869 designation grant. A team met several times to discuss the projects that were proposed for the designation grant. Central Massachusetts Regional Planning has advised us that the State really likes to see weatherization projects done before projects like new HVAC systems. We worked with a firm called Guardian to select the weatherization projects we should do (those with a good payback) so that we could apply for HVAC-related projects during the next round of funding. The team agreed to move forward with some lighting projects and a request for funds for plan implementation by CMRPC.
The State approved our plan for the designation grant spending and the project kickoff meeting was recently held. The Town Administrator, Special Projects Coordinator and Building Maintenance Superintendent are currently working with CMRPC to put a Scope of Services together for lighting improvement projects at the Library, Highway Department, and Station 2. We are also working on getting proposals for weatherization studies of these buildings so that we can apply for HVAC Improvements under a future Green Communities Competitive grant round. The Energy Audit for the Thomas Prince School is complete and is available on the Town website. Funding for this project was received under a Municipal Technical Assistance (META) grant. The audit was conducted by Peregrine Energy Group.
Our first Green Communities project, lighting improvements at the Library, Bagg Hall, Highway and Station 2, is now complete. We have received a Request for Quotes from CMRPC for weatherization updates at Bagg Hall, the Library, Station 2, and the Highway Barn. Once we have done the weatherization improvements, we will be able to apply for grants for heating and cooling improvements.
Development of a Housing Production Plan – updated 7/26/23
We applied for and received a Community Compact Grant under the Best Practices Program to have CMRPC help develop a Housing Production Plan for Princeton. The Selectboard formed a Housing Production Plan Committee to work with CMRPC. Such a plan is a critical step in managing housing growth and warding off unfriendly 40B developments; whereby a developer can ignore many local zoning bylaws The Committee has been working to understand and factor in the recent legislation requiring zoning changes to allow more multi-family housing in MBTA and MBTA-adjacent communities. The Selectboard voted to accept the Plan on 12/28/22 and the State has given its approval. The final plan can be found here. The Plan lays out proposed next steps that should be taken by the Selectboard and the Planning Board. The Selectboard has formed a Housing Production Plan Implementation Committee and is still seeking one more volunteer.
Updating of Town Master Plan – updated 4/15/23
The Selectboard voted on 1/25 to form a Master Plan Steering Committee to work with CMRPC and Town employees and officials on the first phase of the Master Plan update. We received a $50,000 grant from the State that we will use to fund CMRPC’s contribution. The Committee has been working with CMRPC on an outline for the updated Master Plan. It is going to meet and review the outline and then work with CMRPC on the final chapters of Phase 1 of the Master Plan. The chapters include Land Use, Economic Development and Open Space and Recreation.
Contracting with a Preferred Waste Hauler – updated 1/11/23
The Waste & Recycling Committee put out its Request for Proposals (RFP) for a preferred waste/recycling hauler program on July 6, 2021. The deadline for proposals was July 29, 2021. Only one proposal was submitted and the Committee did not find that proposal acceptable. At the committee’s request, the SB voted to not accept that proposal at this time and to reissue the RFP at a later date. Their belief is that the labor shortages waste haulers are facing at this time led to uncertainty and the lack of acceptable proposals.
The Waste & Recycling Committee is currently working to develop a transfer station where residents could bring recycling and pay by the bag to dispose of their trash. The Board authorized the Town Administrator to apply for a DEP Technical Assistance grant to work with the Committee and the Board of Health on exploring the feasibility of developing a small transfer station at the DPW location.
Sherry Patch is discussing possible options with surrounding towns but nothing has come of this yet.
Please note that either program would be voluntary. Residents will not be required to change haulers or use the transfer station.
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds – updated 9/11/23
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319), also known as ARPA, into law. The $1.9 trillion package was intended to combat the COVID19 pandemic, including the public health and economic impacts.
Princeton has received its full allocation of $1,042,587.02 as of 9/29/2022. Funds must be allocated to projects by 12/31/2024 and must be completely spent by 12/31/2026. Ineligible uses include payments into a pension fund (OPEB), debt payments, transfers into stabilization accounts, and replenishing of reserve accounts. Other limitations on the funds were removed for municipalities that received less than $10 million.
The Selectboard provided several opportunities for residents to weigh in on how they preferred to have the money used. It has been cautious about using ARPA funds for on-going expenses, even in "experimental" mode. It is not helpful to use one-time revenues for ongoing expenses and burden future operating budgets. The Selectboard, working with the Financial Team, prioritized ARPA goals to support the values shared by the community and its elected officials. To date, ARPA funds have been allocated as follows:
Bagg Hall Water System
4 Bldg HVAC Assessment
Fire Department Assessment
Deposit Engine 5 Replacement
Police Department Assessment
Police Reform Offset
Multi Purpose Trailer
Library Ethernet Cabling
Police Repeater Replacement
POET Install Project
Ecotourism Grant Match
Wellhouse Demolition Project
Fire Dept Turnout Gear
Highway Truck Lift
Highway Mini Excavator
Security Improvements TPS
Hwy-Snow Plow Blades/Temp Sensor
Highway Generator – Fuel Pump Sys
PFAS Engineering & Well Monitoring
Slate Roof Repairs
Total to date
Police & Fire – updated 9/11/23
The Selectboard engaged Municipal Resources (MRI) to perform assessments of both the police and fire/EMS departments. MRI reviewed documents and spoke with employees and Selectboard members. They toured our facilities. The final report on the police department has been presented to residents and can be found here. MRI’s report on fire/EMS was presented to residents on 4/27/23 and can be found here.
In addition, MRI was chosen by the Board to assist with the search for a new police chief. Chief Paul Patriarca’s first day was January 2. His resume is posted here. Chief Powers retired on 12/31/22.
The Selectboard continues to work with the police department to monitor requirements stemming from police reform legislation. We could also be impacted by new certification requirements for police departments.
Board member Phil Gott is working with the Chiefs on developing and reporting on metrics that can be used to drive future budgeting and planning decisions.
The Police Union contract has yet to be finalized and it has been referred by the Union to the Joint Labor-Management Committee for potential mediation and arbitration.
Speeding – added 4/15/23
The Selectboard continues to work with the Police and Highway departments on what can be done to control speeding on our streets. The Board hears regularly from residents in all parts of town about this continued problem. The deployment of electronic speed control signs helps in many instances. The Police continue to enforce speed limits to the best of their ability but can’t be everywhere. Voters said no at a Special Town Meeting on 3/7 to two warrant articles that would have allowed the Board to set speed limits as low as 25 mph in some heavily settled areas or 20 mph in a declared safety zone. Without these articles, speed limit changes must be approved by the state after a speed study. Voters expressed their desire for more enforcement of existing speed limits. There is continued interest in and discussion of other speed control measures such as speed bumps, humps, or tables.
Budget and Related – updated 9/11/23
The FY25 budget process is kicking off. The Selectboard will be discussing projects and needs with department heads when they meet in October. The Board has been discussing the type of guidance they would like to give department heads for their upcoming budgets.
The Board hears often from residents who would like to reduce residential taxes by bringing in more commercial and industrial taxpayers. One effort to do this is work on an EcoTourism plan. The Board will be discussing the charge for a new committee to work on this and report back to the Board.