BREAKING: Selectmen put brakes on Washington St. facilities site
Walpole Selectmen, in a joint meeting with the Sewer and Water Commission, and with many Council on Aging members and other officials present, voted tonight to suspend all efforts and resources in pushing to put a police station and senior center near the DPW site on Washington Street.
Selectmen instead want to pursue putting facilities on the east side of the South Street superfund site (on the side of the street closest to the high school) – a long-term goal that can not occur until that site is cleaned up. Selectmen appeared optimistic that cleanup of that property will be complete in a reasonable period of time.
Selectmen believe that either a police station or senior center, or both, would fit on the site.
Town officials said they are under the impression that the eastern side of the site is easier to clean up than the western side, and that it has less contamination. That said, it is still not known for certain what the time-frame would be for cleanup, or whether it is even feasible. But the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the so-called “responsible parties” funding the cleanup, W.R. Grace and Covidien, all appear to be receptive.
Selectman Mark Gallivan emphasized that the town does not want to put taxpayers on the hook for the cleanup of the site, and the town would only take it over for facilities use if they were assured they would not have to pay for any cleanup. The town does not presently own the site, but could take it over because of unpaid taxes. The town has declined to exercise that option for years, because of concerns about potential liability.
The decision to pursue South Street as a potential site instead of Washington Street was roundly praised by Selectmen, Sewer and Water Commissioners, and seniors and police officials present at the meeting. Nobody present at the meeting expressed any concerns or opposition.
Sewer and Water Commissioners, along with at least one Selectman, had previously presented grave concerns about putting new facilities in the aquifer area on Washington Street. The Maguire Group, which conducted an extensive study of Walpole’s facilities needs earlier this year, had recommended Washington Street as a first choice for a police station and senior center, but noted that the South Street site might also be viable if it could be cleaned up.
Commissioners Pat Fasanello and James P. Taylor, both of whom had been critics of using the Washington Street site for facilities, were not present at the meeting.
The three Commissioners that were there – Ken Fettig, Roger Turner, and John Spillane – praised the South Street concept. Fettig had previously told Selectmen he wanted the South Street site considered for facilities. Turner had also been opposed to using Washington Street.
Turner said he thought putting the facilities on South Street would be a nice complement to the Walpole Town Forest which is nearby. Town officials also emphasized that putting the facilities there would help revitalize the neighborhood.
Selectmen Chris Timson and Mike Berry also were not present.