Northbridge Voters Reject Douglas Road DPW Project

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William Cundiff made a presentation against a DPW faclity on Douglas Road in Northbridge at a special town meeting on Tuesday.
William Cundiff made a presentation against a DPW faclity on Douglas Road in Northbridge at a special town meeting on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Deborah Gauthier
Northbridge Building, and Construction Committee Chairman Thomas Pilibosian presented the DPW article to town meeting voters on Tuesday.
Northbridge Building, and Construction Committee Chairman Thomas Pilibosian presented the DPW article to town meeting voters on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Deborah Gauthhier

NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – Northbridge voters at a special town meeting on Tuesday again rejected a proposal for a new department of public works facility.

It was the fourth DPW proposal to go before voters in the last two years.

A majority of the 227 voters who attended the meeting supported the $3.1 million Douglas Road project, but with a two-thirds vote required, the proposal failed by about 12 votes.

In a secret ballot, 139 voted in favor, 82 voted against.
Despite the rejection, a special election asking voters to exempt the $3.1 million from Proposition 2 ½ property tax cap will go on as scheduled, Moderator Harold Gould said following the meeting.

If the tax exemption is approved, the Board of Selectmen could bring the proposal to voters again at another special town meeting, he said.

Selectman Chairperson Daniel Nolen said he doesn’t think his board or other town boards have the appetite, at this point, to consider another DPW. “Maybe a fire department, maybe the roads; I don’t know,” he said.

Voters were asked to purchase the former Old Colony Stationary at 371 Douglas Road for $995,000. In addition, they were asked to approve $2 million to renovate the building for DPW use and make site improvements to the current DPW facility on Fletcher Street where winter operations would continue.

Town Manager Theodore Kozak urged passage, noting it had the full support of selectmen, finance committee and building, planning and construction committee members.

“If not acted on tonight, the opportunity to bring a new DPW facility will be lost for some time,’’ he said Tuesday.

DPW Director James Shuris made a presentation emphasizing the benefits, specifically providing shelter for town equipment currently left outside and improving working conditions for DPW workers.

William Cundiff of Windsor Ridge Drive made a presentation against the project, listing nine reasons for rejection, among them a property tax increase and the loss of a business from the tax rolls. In addition, he said he didn’t believe the $3.1 million requested would be sufficient to complete the needed renovations.

Selectmen Thomas Melia and Charles Ampagoomian spoke in favor of the project.  Building, Planning and Construction Committee member Tim Doiron pointed out that voters give committee members “grief’’ about the amount of money spent on studies.

“If you don’t think this is the proposal you want to back, remember that next time the committee comes before voters to get a study done. None of them are free,” he said.

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Comments (34)

How about a combined facility for Grafton and Northbridge on the town line?

The newest "Wild Goose Chase"
Combined: Fire Station/DPW, DPW/Fire Station, Fire Station/Police Station, Police Station/Fire Station, Or mix in a DPW while considering what to do.

"Where is the Town Plan?"

What does our Town Planner recommend?

NB: The Northbridge WWTP is a Taj Mahal as compared with "poor" Grafton's, South Grafton Water District Facility just down river from Depot Street, Grafton. Who was in charge of Northbridge WWTP construction for the town? How much of that concrete and brick construction cost is attributable to our water and sewer rates?

Why 'Waste' the Town Planners Time?

Or as you pointed out a 'Wild Goose Chase'. So why waste peoples time, a light plan on the obvious, DPW, Fire Station, Balmer School, should suffice until their is some real meat on the table or until the 'Wild Goose' is caught?


That this would be waste of time on the Town Planners time is your opinion.

You may be correct if his/her job description leaves this activity void. But where some of us have attended school there are PHD's given in the study of Town Planning. We also would suspect that past civilizations planned their villages .... and cities. We suspect that their economics would play a big part in that activity and the result of that activity.


I think we can agree that his present position is not in Academia, nor do I believe he is receiving compensation at a PHD pay level. I would guess he met the stipulated requirements' on the original entry level Town Planning position or he would not have been hired, correct? Plus does he not take direction from the Town Manager, and provide's comprehensive assistance to the Planning Board?

He may have already done a Planning Study for the Town who knows? I think you could probably take a Town Planning plan that was done ten years ago and just tweak it. Most may agree not to much has changed in ten year, except the State is working on two bridge's, Street Scape, Down Town updated, and a few roads were paved.

If you may want a PHD level extrapolated plan, that would most likely cost money that the Town does not have.

'In My Opinion'! and Happy Holidays!

I must admit that I do not know all the ins-and-outs of this issue - some of it appears to have happened before I came to town. But it does worry me that the DPW appears to be using a building which should be torn down.

I wish there were a proposal that would allow for a proper building to be build/used/renovated/otherwise acquired. I too have seen my property value plummet and my property taxes increase - but I feel that this is just common sense.

I feel we shouldn't expect people to work *on our behalf* to keep the town functional - when they don't have a safe place to be.

Just my $0.02

A few comments:

The BPCC had a professional study done many years ago and the current location for the fire department was deemed the best for response times and those times impacted eveyone's insurance rates in town.

It was advised to leave it in the general area it is now. The study is at least 10 years old but I doubt much has changed to suggest the town would be better served in another location.

The BPCC even looked at possibly putting the Fire Department in the Town Plaze but that was discounted pretty quickly.

The study should be somewhere in the Managers office and/or with the BPCC files and it wouldn't hurt for it to be reviewed.

The land across from the WWTP was also studied for a DPW by the towns on call architects and it was deemed too expensive because of the ledge involved for site development. The study should also be in the possession of the Manager and/or the BPCC.

The Town politicians and Town Manager must now look for another solution to the DPW problem. It will not go away and it will not get better and throwing up hands in frustration solves nothing.

The Manager, Board of Selectmen and Finance Commitee are hired, elected and appointed to lead.

Either they should or let others do it.


Jack, thanks for the info, this is exactly what I was curious about.

Excellent Points!

I agree the Town should revisit some of these past locations and Building Technology has advanced so much in ten years.

I recently read in Building Journals that their are new modern ways to build on ledge, plus to use Ground Penetrating Radar to find the high and low points of the ledge on a large parcel of land. Finding the high and low points could now make once unusable land now maybe useable.

Some say their is Private land not to far away from Wal-Marts, plus State Land that abuts Rt-146 if the State deemed surplus?

Plus we still have the WWTPlant Site, and the Fletcher Street Site also, if I am correct?

I agree it's up to our Town Officials to lead, as Mr. Davis suggests.

So, a 60% majority wants this to happen. But the Tea Partiers say NO! and they get their obstructionist way? Northbridge is being held hostage by the "Tea Party" just like Washington. Tea Party = American Taliban.

I am impressed that it is the tea party's fault, good stretch. Another alternative conspiracy theory could be related to the fact that there is so much uncertainty in Washington, which is controlled by 2/3rds Democrats (WH and Senate) that people are choosing to be more selective in what they voted for.

Truth be told, not matter the party, this country has a SPENDING problem, not a REVENUE problem.

You mad bro?

Please take no offence but Northbridge has a high unemployment figure and a high number of senior's that are on a fixed income, and I do understand why they keep voting this down. Just my opion

Good Point Union Man!

That is why our Town leaders should take what Congressman James McGovern said at the last Board Of Selectmen's Meeting under consideration about helping the Town with Federal Grants. Like his Office did for the Town of Ware with a $5 Million Dollar Federal Grant for a brand new Fire Station?

The town needs a new DPW - losing by 12 votes is disappointing. But, we also need to consider a much needed Public Safety area in town. Someplace where both the Fire and Police Depts. would be located. Having the two buildings neighboring each other in a central location would be more efficient and would create a solid public safety presence in town. It would be nice to secure a prominent area that says, "Welcome to Northbridge. We fund public safety and our town is a great place to live". We need to consider making the town more attractive to (gasp, dare I say it) new homeowners - bringing up the property values would benefit everyone.

I agree on a Combined facility, but what we need right now is a Combined DPW/Fire Station.

Our depressed buildings are our DPW and Fire Station in the opinion of most Taxpayers.

If the Police Station needs more room you can move the Town's Emergency Management Office to the new Fire Station, and the Police Department can have that additional space.

I believe that's when 2 guys stand around watching 1 guy do the work, then all 3 get a lifetime pension for their 15 years of service.

Maybe the Town can only afford one piece of equipment not three pieces, like our Christmas lights on the very small one tree in the Whitinsville Common?

Give it up, stop spending money for something that is never going to get builted. Not only that but you get the employees hopes up and then CRASH. How many times has this been rejected?

I was not able to make last nights meeting. Did it fail because people were anti tax or did it fail because it wasn't the right proposal?

My suspiscion is that it wasn't the right proposal, I like Bruin, would have voted for the $8 mill proposal in a heartbeat. It is the proposal that makes the most sense and completely takes care of all of the issues the Dept. and the Town face. They spent all of the time, money and effort on having HKT design that facility and then never let it be put to the vote of the people.

I think the idea of a combination FD/DPW facility is a pipe dream. The FD needs to be located centrally within Town and the DPW needs a lot of acreage. Good luck finding one site that combines both of those requirements.

I believe it was voted down because folks could see it wasn't a viable proposal. A DPW facility needs to protect & secure our whole fleet of equipment (30+ vehicles). The Douglas Road office building site could at best fit less than half of the fleet inside. I think the town looked at the big picture and thought that spending $3.1M on office space (with a small poorly-configured high-bay area attached) that cannot secure more than half of our DPW fleet just didn't make sense. Why spend the money just to have more than half the fleet continue to rust, only now in a new location?

The town has a lot of forthcoming capital project needs, including a Fire Station, Balmer School improvements, as well as a DPW facility. Hopefully the town can look into more economical options that protect the whole DPW fleet (potentially something like the $1.8M modular building option presented earlier this year - which would probably be like the new Osterman's building on Church Street) so we can save some money and have the capacity to fund future fire station or school improvements.

You realize of course that the current FD is nowhere near "centrally located", right?

It is centrally located to the Village that it serves. Do you have any idea of how much space you need to operate a DPW facility out of one location? Where would you propose constructing a multi-use facility?

I don't understand, which is it, central to the town or the village? The people of Shining Rock be damned? Yes, I know a DPW takes a LOT of space, but there is a lot of space in town, I've never truly heard reasons why we can't build on said space. There is considerable land off 122 across from the WWTP. Is it not fit to build on, wetlands, etc? I've never heard those answers, which is all I'm questioning.

The people of Shining Rock are served by the station in the Village of Rockdale. If you move the Main St. Fire Station to Providence Rd. then it's "damned" with the people of the Prescott and Prentice road areas as well as the people in the area of The Village(as in Border St.).

Other than the land that the Shop owns in the area of the old West End school there aren't any other viable sites in the area of the current Fire HQ. that would be able to host a dual Dept. facility.The land that the Shop owns was pulled off the table a few years ago after a dispute between Mr. Jolles and the Town.

IMHDAO combining the two facilities does nothing to aid in the resolution of the problem.

You do realize of course that the Main St. FD serves the entire town. The Rockdale station is not manned. If a citizen on School St. needs an ambulance it is coming from Whitinsville, and thats if the other ambulance isnt on a call already. There are only 3 personnel on duty at a given time handling nearly 3 thousand calls a year... And one of them is dispatching.

Exactly. Thank you.

I would love to see a combined public works/safety structure come up for debate. I understand that land isn't cheap, but we have a lot of it in town, you're telling me we can't build this somewhere else? Maybe I've been oblivious for the past few years, but I don't recall this being explained, is there no undeveloped land to build on?!?!?

I strongly believe that a combined facility would stand a much better chance of passing than the standalone DPW structure, which too many people must still view as not pressing enough of an issue to raise taxes. I despise taxes as much as the next guy, and the sticker shock of a bigger project may be an issue, but I'm hopeful that if we can kill multiple birds with one stone, like including new digs for the fire department along with the DPW, that would stand a chance.

I thought someone said at one time the Town has 21-22 acres on Providence Road across from the Waste Water Treatment Plant?

Who knows maybe other locations?

That's essentially my question. Why are we attempting to shoehorn a facility onto the WWTP property or buying old undersized buildings to retrofit? Are there no woods we could hide this on? ha

I realize we could never dream to spend the type of money this place cost, but if you ever have the opportunity to stop by the new facility in Lexington, just take a moment to drink it all in. Then swing by Fletcher Street and throw up all over yourself.

As I was leaving the Town Meeting last night I think a lot of people heard the same thing as I, when leaving the Middle School. Such as what does the Town do now, we need a new DPW, and as the other poster mentioned the equipment left outside?

Hopefully the Town may move forward keeping the Power Point presentation in mind.

This proposal was going to fail from the start. How can a DPW operate efficiently out of two locations? Why would the town leaders want to take a property off of the tax roll?

If the 8 million original DPW project was actually put in front of the voters, I would have voted in favor of that as it made the most sense. Now, we are stuck with a decrepit DPW building, most of the equipment is left out in the rain/sleet/snow/heat/cold and will be ruined way before the end of its useful life and I would not blame anyone who works at the DPW if they decided it was time to move on to a new job.

Thank you to the DPW for doing great work in such an unfavorable work environment.

You are complaining about "town leaders want to take a property off of the tax roll?" yet you would have wanted to spend an additional $5 MILLION dollars (not including interest) to retrofit the Fletcher Street site???

Even if you take the Castle Hill Coaltion figure of $11,000 per year in taxes (which is a very high estimate) that is 454 years of tax collections to pay that difference.