WESTFORD — Welcome to the July 2 edition of Weekend Wrap-Up. Here, we highlight the most important news you may have missed this week in Westford.
A new school zone speed limit will soon become reality near Westford Academy.
The Select Board voted unanimously to establish a school zone near the high school.
The Department of Public Works and Pedestrian Safety Committee recently received a grant for a school zone speed limit sign assemblies. The grant is for the assemblies and does not provide the town with funding.
“There is no monetary award, just the sign assemblies themselves,” Director of Public Works Stephen Cronin told WestfordCAT in an email. “The town is responsible for providing the resources to install the assemblies.”
The school zone speed limit of 20 miles-per-hour will be established on sections of Patten Road, Cold Spring Road and Hartford Road.
The new limit comes just months after Patten Road saw its speed limit reduced from 30 miles-per-hour to 25 miles-per-hour.
Enforceable school zone limits already exist near Day Elementary School, Nabnasset Elementary School, Robinson Elementary School, Crisafulli Elementary School and Abbot Elementary School.
Stony Brook Middle School and Blanchard Middle School also have enforceable school zones during the morning and afternoon commutes.
Miller Elementary School does not currently have a school zone in place.
After a divided vote and an official recount, the Select Board has voted to accept recommendations from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to implement Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Timeline of events
The Indigenous People’s Day question was first proposed as a Citizen’s Petition during a 2020 Special Town Meeting. The proposal failed to garner a majority, but the issue was later referred to the DEI committee for further review.
The Committee presented their findings to the Select Board to discuss proposed ballot language. Members of the Select Board unanimously approved the proposed ballot language to appear on the May 2 ballot.
“The discussion right now is limited to how we move forward with this majority vote we’ve received with very specific wording and what exactly that will look like,” Select Board Chair Thomas Clay said during a June 27 meeting.
The DEI Committee recommended that Indigenous People’s Day be included on the second Monday of October in all Westford calendars, including the Westford Public School’s and the town website.
The holiday would replace all local references to Columbus Day.
The committee also recommended that the town work with Westford Public Schools and the J.V. Fletcher Library to “enhance educational content” around the holiday.
DEI would work with officials to plan events that celebrate the new holiday.
“This is certainly not an exhaustive list. We just want to make this recommendation and very much appreciate this opportunity,” DEI Co-Chair Joe Diamond said.
The original ballot question was a non-binding resolution, which allows the Select Board to modify recommendations regardless of the original results.
Select Board member John Cunningham proposed an amendment to remove “superseding local references to Columbus Day” from the recommendation, which would keep both holidays on the calendar. The motion failed to garner additional support.
The board later voted 4-1 to accept the recommendations as presented, with Cunningham voting against the proposal, aiming to have both holidays on the calendar.
“Had [the vote] it been the other way, we would have found a day for Indigenous People’s Day,” Cunningham said.
Board member Andrea Peraner-Sweet responded, “but we wouldn’t have ignored the vote.”
Cunningham responded, “We could have. This is an advisory, that’s the reason we passed it and we put it on the ballot because it was an advisory., I’m taking that advice and saying ‘OK I see that, but I don’t agree with 100% of the advice that we got.”
A cricket pitch will be constructed at Stony Brook school this summer.
After raising nearly $5,000 through private donations, the Knights XI Cricket team and National Cricket Academy America are donating funds for the construction of a cricket pitch at Stony Brook School.
“We all just pitched in together,” Praveen Sathyesh, a player on the Knights told WestfordCAT. “This was our best and fastest process [to have it built].”
Organizers collaborated with the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Department of Public Works to plan construction for the pitch. A recent estimate has an initial price tag of $4,462 for the project.
The Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously voted to support the project during a May 1 meeting. The Select Board unanimously accepted the donation and authorized the Department of Public Works to construct the pitch during their June 27 meeting.
The pitch will take approximately three to four days to construct, according to DPW Director Stephen Cronin. Players hope the pitch will be open for use in August.
Residents were recently invited to share their thoughts on potential ideas for the redevelopment of the Graniteville neighborhood.
Westford’s Land Use Management Department in collaboration with the Northern Middlesex Council of Government held a forum to explore options for the future of the neighborhood and educate residents on 12 North Main St, a now contaminated “Brownfield” site.
Previous work on 12 North Main St.
In 2020, Westford was awarded a $64,500 grant through MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, for the cleanup of the mill.
Several town employees testified to the Select Board in 2012 on the condition of the building. Employees believed that if the property continued to deteriorate, it would eventually collapse.
A Task Force was later formed in 2015 to “evaluate potential reuse scenarios for the property” and “evaluate the potential options and make a recommendation to the town for plans that would benefit the community.”
An online survey was conducted by the task force in June 2015 regarding “re-use concepts” for the mill. Options included renovating the building for residential or commercial use, renovating it into a light industrial building, or converting the land into a town park.
However, the Select Board disbanded the task force in September 2021.
Currently, the Town of Westford owns the property and has since received two additional grants for partial cleanup and remediation of the property.
A $240,000 grant was awarded by MassDevelopment in 2021 and a $500,000 federal grant was awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year.
Residents support green space, affordable housing
Two Q&As and a mapping activity were held during the event to gain an understanding of the Graniteville community’s needs.
Some expressed frustration at the lack of walking space and the dust gathered from the mill, with Westford resident Bob Waskiewicz stating that “they [Graniteville] shouldn’t have to put up with that.”
Waskiewicz added, “Everybody who lives in that area knows what I’m talking about…Everybody’s breathing in that dust. Kids, asthmatics, people with health conditions, you name it…That’s a problem that needs to be cleaned up.”
Some expressed a desire for the mill to become a space for small businesses or affordable housing. Others suggested that greenspace near its brook be preserved and turned into a park.
“It looks like it could be a really delightful spot for people to linger if we’re cleaning up for a coffee shop or a restaurant or some sort of walking space there,” Westford Sustainability Coordinator Sue Thomas said.
“We saw an opportunity to take the property from being an eyesore and make it a kind of icon for the town,” Michael Asciola, Senior Planner for Housing and Lang Use at NMCOG added.
For Graniteville Materials, residents supported the possibility of a solar panel or wind turbine system and a Recreation Center. The northern space would remain open for a potential trail system.
NMCOG plans to incorporate Graniteville residents’ ideas in their redevelopment plans.
A new monument will be placed on Connell Drive in honor of a late marine and former police chief.
The Select Board voted unanimously to support the proposal during a June 13 meeting.
Joseph Connell served in the Marines until his discharge in 1951, earning a Combat Action Ribbon, a United Nations Korean War Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation and a Korean Presidential Unit Citation.
He later served as Superintendent of Streets for Westford in 1952. He later joined the Police Department as a patrolman in 1958 and was promoted to Chief of Police in 1963 until his retirement in 1993.
The monument will consist of a granite post topped with a bronze eagle head and informational sign honoring Connell. It will be placed in the median of Connell Drive, approximately 15 feet from Main Street.
Officials raise concerns over monument criteria
Members of the board raised concerns over the criteria in which monuments are recommended from the Monuments and Memorials Committee, as the committee’s charter does not forth criteria about how to decide where a monument should be placed or who a monument should honor.
“We want to encourage anybody to do it. Yes we don’t want to have a monument farm, but we did what we though we’d do is pass the decision on to the Select Board,” Committee Chair Terry Stader told the Select Board.
“The process is that anybody apply, we open it up, please let us know who [we should select],” Stader added.
The process currently allows anyone apply for a monument for review by the committee, which later reports its recommendation to the Select Board with no specific criteria for the nature or purpose of the monument.
“The charge says to recommend, it doesn’t say to be the gatekeeper. But we give them no criteria on which to make a recommendation. So effectively it becomes, yes, it [the monument] meets regulatory guidelines,” Select Board Vice Chair Scott Hazelton said.
Reporter Melanie Duronio contributed to this piece.