Letter to the Editor:
Lately I have been thinking about where the Massachusetts Department of Transportation finds its project engineers. When they started to work on the I395 Exit 2 interchange at Route 16, I just shake my head. It is apparent that none of them either live in Webster nor have they ever driven in this area when Mapfre/Commerce Insurance is letting out. Traffic is a total disaster and it doesn’t seem that the state cares about it. A traffic light has been needed at this location for a very long time. Some really talented state engineer decided that any traffic traveling east on East Main Street should continue onto Gore Road (Route 16) and then turn left onto Sutton Road, crossing Route 16 to get onto I395 North. Now wouldn’t it make more sense to have anyone on East Main Street or Thompson Road take Worcester Road (Route 12) into Oxford and access I395? There is now a traffic light on Route 12 and it seems to work very well. I have even spoken to a couple of the Webster Police officers who have been working this detail and they cannot understand why they detour them down Sutton Road. It just doesn’t make any sense. But when does anything that the State of Massachusetts does make sense? There have been so many accidents at the Exit 2 interchange, and when I contacted someone at the state after my wife had an accident there, I was told that they were planning a rotary there. I cannot see how they can engineer a rotary in the space that is available. Just doesn’t make any sense. I think it is time that the State installs traffic lights in the interest of public safety.
A concerned Webster Citizen.
Will Webster Stand Alone?
When the polls close Monday, June 25th will Webster join its neighbors in accepting millions of dollars from the state for its New Elementary School project? Or will we find ourselves standing alone, left to fix our aging school on our own dime without any state funding and continuing to make do with our improper grade configurations? To be sure, Webster shouldn't follow the crowd and build a new school just because our neighbors are doing it. We should build a school because the need is clearly documented and because it is an opportune time financially. Both of these criteria hold true for Webster as Monday's ballot approaches.
The need is clear. Park Ave is overcrowded, undersized by 23% for the current enrollment and using makeshift rooms that were intended for storage as learning spaces. The school is not only too small, but after 50 years of excellent service, it has deficiencies in technology, energy, electrical, ventilation, and other areas common to buildings a half-century old. Single pane glass windows/walls, virtually no insulation and a 50 year heating system that is past its useful life make the building very expensive to heat. The roof is in need of repairs and the handicapped accessibility is limited at best. Just to bring the building up to code is estimated at nearly $20 Million. These are not small maintenance issues that could have been taken care of within the regular maintenance budget. Webster's share of the new building project is only $17 million making it less expensive to build new with the State aid than to update on our own. And yes, Webster's share of the total project is estimated to raise the average homeowner's tax bill somewhere between $171 and $189 per year but if this doesn't happen now, the cost will only go up in the future and the need will only be greater.
The time is opportune. Despite the difficult economic times, historically low interest rates and $30 million in state funding mean that Webster will never get a deal this good again. The state grant comes from one penny of our sales tax – the sales tax Webster residents pay each time they make a purchase. The MSBA has approved $30 million of these funds to come back to Webster, but voters have to say yes.
Our neighbors’ new school projects are approved and breaking ground:
Southbridge, $50 million from MSBA
Sutton, $30 million from MSBA
Douglas, $27 million from MSBA
The MSBA focuses on the right-sized, most fiscally responsible, and educationally appropriate solutions to create safe and sound learning environments. There are no luxuries. In its six-year history, the MSBA has made more than $8 billion in reimbursements to cities, towns, and regional school districts for school construction projects.
Whose students and whose property values will Webster care for next? Will we send our share of state funding to another town, or on Monday, June 25, will we elect to keep moving Webster in the right direction? It’s time to follow the crowd, Webster, because in this case other towns have gotten it right.
Friends of Webster Public Schools
whydoitnow.com for more info