SUTTON: PROJECT TOWN USA
BY JOSH FARNSWORTH
After a week of politician visits and presentations, Sutton residents are bracing for drills, hammers, and orange cones. The town is bucking the recent trend of delayed projects as upgrades to Route 146, start of construction on a new school, and the installation of solar panel are set to move Sutton towards the future.
Recent announcements on these projects join other on-going ventures such as those planned for Marion's Camp, Mumford River Trail, and Tricentennial Park, as well as the cell tower project at Whittier Farm, and the downtown Manchaug beautification initiative will have activity in town for the next few summers at an all-time high.
"It is almost overwhelming to talk about it all," said Town Administrator Jim Smith. "It represents a tremendous amount of work, but we have a great team here in place."
No wait for Route 146 project
Governor Deval Patrick stood at the corner of Worcester Providence Turnpike and Boston Road last Wednesday with his back to Route 146 addressing his newest infrastructure project. Patrick said he hopes the work will help alleviate traffic headaches.
The announcement of a $6 million construction project to follow the current $7.7 million resurfacing effort was not a surprise to many officials. The timetable of design and estimated 2011 start to breaking ground was, however, quicker than some expected.
"We are working with local communities to make smart transportation investments that reduce congestion and promote economic development," said Patrick. "MassDOT is designing road improvements that will benefit drivers on Route 146 and residents of Sutton and Millbury."
According to the governor's office, approximately 385 road and bridge projects in the Commonwealth will support around 10,000 jobs. For some town officials, however, the 146 project represents a commitment to all towns in the Valley - something Smith said the current administration has shown on multiple occasions.
Route 146 serves as the economic development corridor for the Blackstone Valley as well as the Town of Sutton and these improvements will stimulate the development of two previously approved project sites adjacent to the intersection as well as greatly improve traffic flow and safety, said Smith. "This project, on top of the $1.1 million dollar state M.O.R.E. [grant] funds committed to assist the $16 million Atlas Box project and the $7.7 million in roadway resurfacing on Route 146 represents a tremendous commitment to the economic future of the Blackstone Valley."
Large check, larger checkpoint
State Treasurer Tim Cahill and Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Executive Director Katherine Craven took turns posing behind a large posterboard-like object last Friday inside Sutton classrooms.
The over-sized visual aid represented a $29,843,511 commitment to building a new school, recently approved by town residents. The ceremonial handing over of a giant check to build a new school was a process almost eight years in the making.
"We found the most educationally appropriate and fiscally responsible solution to the problems at Sutton Middle/High School," said Cahill. "This renovation and addition project will not only save taxpayers money and provide a modern, safe and sustainable learning environment for the children of Sutton, but it will also create jobs in a sector of the economy that has suffered in these tough economic times."
Although the first shovel will not enter the dirt until next summer, the impact is already being felt as preparation for the project continues through 2010.
"This project at Sutton Middle/High School will result in a better learning and teaching environment for the children and teachers of Sutton," said Craven. "It is another example of the commitment, collaboration and the partnership the MSBA has with districts like Sutton."
Greening the roof
Sutton residents approved an article at the 2009 town meeting to fix a leak roof that turned classrooms in the elementary school and Early Learning Center into unplanned rain gardens. Passage of the article was given with the knowledge the new roof would have room for panels and an entire solar apparatus to help with energy costs.
Smith said the town could realize over $30,000 in the first year and as much as $20 million over the 30-year lifespan of the solar system. Voters approved a 2010 article to appropriate $590,000 for the apparatus - which has been helped along by additional grants.
"We have a signed contract with Ostrow Electric and are awaiting the arrival of panels," said Smith. "We are expecting all pieces to arrive around August 1 and hope to have all the material on the roof prior to school starting."
Smith said all disruptive aspects of the project - such as cranes and use of loud equipment are set to conclude prior to the opening bell for the 2010- 2011 academic year.
Managing the madness
Not all projects are moving forward at a rapid pace. Smith advised the selectmen two weeks ago to reject bids for work on the parking lot at Marion's Camp, which came in higher than expected. The town continues to mull over what to do with the Shaw Farm property and plaza expansion along Route 146 has been slowed in recent years by the economy.
All projects can be long and arduous after slugging through the processes of procurement, advertising, and request for proposal (RFP) submission to go along with mounds and mounds of paperwork to manage all projects.
This past week, however, a slew of attention from the state provided additional hope for town officials that aim to make Sutton a very busy, yet updated place to be in the coming years.
"It is a real positive to have all these project going on in town," said Smith. "It is a credit to the town for establishing a capital stabilization fund four years ago as a recurring funding source. We will certainly be busy for years to come."