(Neil Feinberg’s 11/7/13 Lincoln Journal column):
Are you coming to this Saturday’s State of the Town (SotT) Meeting? What? You didn’t even know about it? It begins at 9:30 am and should end around 12:30 pm. That trash day excuse won’t work because there’s plenty of time to get to the dump either before or after the meeting. Neither will the “I had to rake leaves” or “The dog ate my Town Meeting report” excuses work. And, if you’re reading this you can’t even plead ignorance. Nope, you’re stuck.
Around town these days, there is a troika of big issues that dominate the news: Route 2 construction, the school building project and the First Parish Church expansion. Other issues, like Sudbury grousing about sharing expenses for Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, or the school superintendent’s questionable hiring practices also create the occasional headline.
Unfortunately, not one of those topics are likely to be broached at this weekend’s confab. Rather, plans call for covering three other topics. According to the program, the first half of the meeting will look at Lincoln’s need or desire for a Community Center. The second half of the meeting will look at the Lincoln Station area (what, again?). The third half will consider whether Lincoln should dump NStar and create its own municipally-owned electric utility. Concord and Belmont did it, so why shouldn’t we?
Let’s take a quick look at these three agenda items and then wrap this up with a quick look at the issues Lincolnites really care about. OK?
Community Center – As a card-carrying AARP member who is eligible to sit on the Council on Aging board, I agree that Bemis Hall is an inadequate facility. It’s too small, it’s difficult to heat, the downstairs rooms are too small and the upstairs room can seem cavernous.
At one time, the Smith School building seemed to be ideal for a community center. It has a gym, plenty of classrooms and is already standing. But now, with the L-Shaped scheme becoming the new preferred option for a new school building, it looks like the Smith building will remain in school use.
So, where would a community center go? Where the school pods are? In the Hartwell building? Should more work be done on Bemis Hall to accommodate more community activities? First, let’s see if anyone’s interested. Then let’s see how many millions it’ll cost. Historically, a community center has not received much public support.
Lincoln Station – Certain segments of the Planning Board, especially former member Ken Hurd, continue to push for the redevelopment of Lewis Street and the DPW facility, with more housing (especially the affordable kind) and mixed commercial uses. That plan also calls for the communalization of Lincoln Woods’ treatment plant to support the whole area. These planning proponents would like the Lincoln Station area to be more like Concord Center, which would be fine if it weren’t going to cost many millions of dollars to achieve. Question one: Who’s paying for all these highfalutin ideas? Lincoln taxpayers?
Municipal electricity – Maybe rather than emulate Concord’s Center, we should join their electric coop. Can that be done, with electricity costs being cheaper for Lincoln residents? If so, I’m for it.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Route 2 neighbors were out in force for last week’s Rt. 2 Oversight Committee meeting to discuss three topics. Neighbors and the committee have reached consensus with MassDOT on plantings. Regarding significant grading issues, some residents entered into deed agreements with MassDOT and now feel those agreements have been violated. The committee advised those impacted residents to seek legal counsel.
The need for landscape fencing and sound barriers remain major sticking points, with many residents now facing the lights of Rt. 2 oncoming traffic shining into their living rooms and bedrooms. One resident is so frustrated by the lack of town support that he is threatening to file a lawsuit to stop construction if neighbors aren’t satisfied.
The School Building project remains in a holding pattern. Our erstwhile benefactors at the MSBA have their next board meeting scheduled for November 20. That’s the earliest we’ll know if the L-Shaped scheme shall live again.
Over at the First Parish Church, the expansion plans remain on hold after the negative feedback received from the Planning Board. However, in some very big news, Reverend Roger Paine announced his retirement to the congregation just a few days after that meeting. It seems he’s heading back to Colorado next June after having served 17 years as minister of the iconic center of town church.
All involved agree that Reverend Paine’s announcement was coincidental with the Planning Board’s feedback, though it’s not clear how his departure will affect the project.
As you can see, there’s always something going on around town. That’s why I’ll be manning the ‘Hot Tips’ Booth in the exhibitor’s hall outside the State of the Town Meeting. See you there?