Northborough selectmen press lawmakers on town's priorities
By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Northborough–Members of the state's legislative delegation told the Board of Selectmen March 24 they continue to battle on the town's behalf for transportation funds and reforms of retirement benefits and education funding, but acknowledged that uncertainty remains about the fate of some initiatives.
Northborough officials have listed boosting so-called Chapter 90 transportation funds for communities from $200 million to $300 million statewide as a top priority, calling it essential to a local plan to begin investing in long-term road maintenance.
Northborough wants to begin setting aside around $1 million annually to carry out a pavement maintenance plan, but needs the additional Chapter 90 monies to make that happen, said Town Manager John Coderre.
“Without it, we'se not going to reach our goals,” he said.
State Rep. Harold Naughton, D-Clinton, said lawmakers have approved the $300 million level for next year, but are awaiting action from Gov. Deval Patrick.
“We know this is important to our constituents,” he said.
The town also asked lawmakers to continue to push for reform of OPEB, or Other Post Employment Benefits, which is the cost of long-term health care for retired town workers. Although Northborough hopes to begin funding a $32 million OPEB liability at the April 28 Town Meeting, reforms are also necessary.
“Everybody has seen Detroit. Everybody sees the other municipalities this has busted,” Naughton said, adding that a comprehensive reform bill remains in committee and that finding a compromise that satisfies lawmakers may take multiple legislative sessions.
Selectman Jeff Amberson expressed the board's frustration at inaction on the reforms.
“If something is broke and you don's fix it, it's still broke,” he said.
There is also support in the Statehouse for increasing education funding reimbursement rates to help towns cope with fast-growing and often unexpected special education costs, said State Sen. Harriet Chandler, D-Worcester.
State Rep. Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough, meanwhile, said there is movement on efforts to fund a study of possible improvements to the I-290 and I-495 intersection.
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