STATE REP RACE Q&A: Mike McCoy Discusses District’s Infrastructure Needs & Affordable Housing Needs

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Apple is asking weekly questions to the seven candidates running in contested primaries for the Wilmington/Tewksbury State Representative seat (19th Middlesex).

Below, in his own words, are the responses to this week’s questions from candidate Mike McCoy (D-Wilmington).

#17a) What are some of the major infrastructure needs in the district?

In both communities, there is a laundry list of major infrastructure needs, but I’ll just address a few. There are infrastructure needs for today, next year and beyond. As Tewksbury and Wilmington expand their population, you are also straining the infrastructures. That strain comes with a price tag. I know that specifically, in Tewksbury, with its expanded growth, traffic is a major concern. How do we attempt to fix it? The Tewksbury Board of Selectmen and its Planning Board have to understand that continued growth needs to be addressed now at a local level. Better local planning is needed and if that means electing new board members who will have the community’s interest at heart, then so be it. That being said, we need to make sure Route 38 in Tewksbury gets finished in a way to accommodate the heavy traffic that occupies that major roadway. I know certain funds weren’t appropriated for the Route 38 corridor in Tewksbury. If I am fortunate enough to be elected State Representative, I will advocate and persevere to get the dollars needed to finish the project.

In Wilmington at the intersection of Lowell Street and Woburn Street, there is a five-year plan to put new traffic lights with left hand turns at all four corners, 1,000 feet of sidewalks on both sides of Lowell Street to be connected to the existing sidewalk, and new side to side hot top. At the present time after the private sewer work is completed on Lowell Street, and National Grid finishes the bigger gas line after their strike, (by the way, I support the union workers of National Grid who are on strike) then the road itself that was disturbed from last year will be smooth and fully restored by the end of this construction season.

In both Tewksbury and Wilmington, I am well-aware that there are too many unpaved, unaccepted ways. While the major roadways will have to be fixed first, be rest assured that if I am elected State Representative, unaccepted ways will be addressed because people living on them are paying the same amount of taxes as people on paved roadways. It’s high time that the state address and correct this issue that’s been around forever.

#17b) Can you point to specific streets/areas within both towns that “need work?”

In Tewskbury: There are several projects currently underway, however, there is one area which brings me great concern: the intersection of South Street and Salem Street. It is one of the most dangerous intersections in Tewksbury and needs attention a.s.a.p. The Town of Tewksbury will be putting in a water line first, then the town is anticipating that the state will build the triangle and modifications at the intersections and will be putting in a traffic light at the intersection of South Street and Salem Street. I want Tewksbury residents to know: let’s not “hope” the state will do the work; if I am your next state representative, I will make it happen.

I’d like to give special thanks to the Superintendent of Public Works, Brian Gilbert. I met with him in person to ask some questions. He was quite knowledgeable and gave great insights as to projects happening in town.

In Wilmington: There are several roadway projects underway. In FY19, appropriation was made to put sidewalks on Lawrence Street and anticipating in FY20, sidewalks on Shady Lane. Upon completion, you could walk all the way from Glen Road through Lawrence Street, through Shady Lane and end up on Route 62 by the Shell Gas Station. The town will be receiving $1 million for the purpose of fixing up the area of the North Wilmington Train Station. We are also anticipating work from the Representative James Miceli Bridge all the way to the Woburn Line with sidewalks, trees, and new roadway. Additionally, we are anticipating a new bridge at Butter’s Row with full traffic signalization.

Special thanks goes to Wilmington’s Superintendent Mike Woods for talking with me and identifying pressing infrastructure issues.

#17c) What will you do as State Rep to ensure certain roadway projects, sidewalk projects, etc. finally get addressed?

The major piece of any project is determining how much money you have to work with, figuring out where the greatest need and urgency is and go from there. I will put a bill into the budget to help both towns and earmark certain funds for special road construction projects under Chapter 90 transportation funds for the use of municipalities. Naturally, I will consult with the town managers of both communities and their respective superintendents of public works and see where the priorities are for sidewalks, bridges, drainage, landscaping, traffic control, and roads. I will see to it that we get our fair share of Chapter 90 funds from the state. Should I be fortunate enough to be elected your State Representative, I will do everything I can to support both communities through both our capital and operating budgets.

#18a) As State rep, what will you do to increase affordable housing opportunities for seniors, veterans, and young adults right out of school?

In order for affordable housing to really happen for both seniors and veterans, there has to be a sincere collaborative effort both at state and federal levels. Like anything else, it all comes down to funding. We need to take a realistic, hard look at available federal and state properties currently available that will meet the needs of seniors and veterans, therefore reducing the actual cost of construction. As a state representative, I will file a special bill in the budget to earmark money for state public housing for veterans called Chapter 200 for Veterans’ Family Housing. Presently, Chapter 200 does not exist in the Town of Wilmington. The true question is “What is the definition of affordable housing when it comes to seniors?” We need to make sure that any affordable housing for seniors is solely based upon their social security income. Today at Deming Way, there are only so many units to go around. The waiting list is two plus years long in many cases. I had a great talk with the executive director of the Wilmington Housing Authority, Maureen E. Hickey. She is truly doing the best she can and does a great job in assisting our seniors get housing. Once again, everything depends on funding. It’s tough when you have lean budgets and you’re trying to accommodate the masses. Sadly, the masses are getting bigger but the funding is getting smaller. I’d very much like the opportunity to explore ways to turn that formula around. It’s a tough task and there’s no easy solution, but ignoring it will not get us anywhere. I will keep trying.

In Tewksbury, Saunders Circle is comparable to Wilmington’s Deming Way. I was unable to connect with Melissa Maniscalco, Executive Director of the Housing Authority, through no fault of her own as I called after business hours on Friday. I will make it a point to get a hold of her in the near future so I can understand Tewksbury’s senior and veterans housing needs as well.

As far as helping young adults out of school, there is no quick answer. If you look at the dollar amount of what’s considered affordable in both of our communities, it’s far from affordable for most. I’ve looked at Tewksbury and Wilmington’s available 1 and 2 bedrooms, the prices are $1,600 to $2,300 per month. That’s not affordable. The price of real estate in Wilmington and Tewksbury has consistently gone up and in the last couple of years it’s gone up dramatically. While that may be good for some, it hurts others. The only solution I can think of is low interest government subsidized loans and that’s a stretch in and of itself.

#18b) Also, what are your thoughts on the Governor’s proposal to promote more dense housing developments by changing the 2/3 majority vote to a simple majority vote for rezonings at town meetings?

I will probably be one of the few state representatives to oppose what the governor is looking to do. I am not against development; I’m for orderly development. If we change our present town meeting vote from a 2/3 majority to a simple majority as proposed by the governor, that particular formula will not work well here in Wilmington and Tewksbury. With a 2/3 majority, it gives a residents a fighting chance to control growth in their communities. In my experience, it is too easy for special interest groups to stack the meeting with people of financial interest and while there are times they will succeed with even a simple majority, it gives the residents at least some hope of controlling the town’s destiny. You would hope to think your local officials would best represent you, but in many cases when it comes to rezoning properties for certain elites in the community, they win far too often. Let’s not make it any easier for them.

#18c) Finally, do you feel the state’s 40B laws need to be updated?

Yes, most definitely.

#18d) Why?

Let me put it this way: As a sitting selectman for the past 28 years, we would from time-to-time have our State Reps and State Senator before the Board of Selectman to ask for legislative updates and allow us to give input. Given my tenure as selectman, I stated many times to our State Representatives and Senator that we need to change the 40B law. What do I mean by that? In simple terms, city life is a lot different than suburban life. Many folks came from the city to get away from the congestion to enjoy more of a suburban atmosphere. Many folks like myself who have lived in Wilmington and Tewksbury all their lives are trying to maintain what’s left of our two suburban communities. I stated to our representatives and senator that they must change the formula. Let the percentages be higher where there are more populated cities because cluster development is already there and they would jump at the chance of having even more. Some people actually want to live in a busy city, but that’s simply not the case for people in our two towns. In communities like Tewksbury and Wilmington, you should DROP the percentage rate of 40B and it should be based on population. There are fewer people living in the suburbs than there are in the city, and we’d like to keep it that way. State laws can be created and state laws can be changed. If I am fortunate enough to be elected state representative, I will propose a new law when it comes to 40B. I will do what I’ve been asking to be done for years; I will introduce legislation to make a formula palatable for towns like Tewksbury and Wilmington. Believe me, I know they say there’s a housing component in the governor’s new bill, but it will only create even more cluster development than what’s already here. Folks, what do you think will happen? Populations will increase, need for services will increase, need for more schools will increase, need for more infrastructure, need for more public safety and last but definitely not least there will be need to increase property tax bills. Who wins here? Not Tewksbury and Wilmington residents.

(NOTE: Do you have a question for the candidates? Email wilmingtonapple@gmail.com and it may be asked in a future Q&A or in a debate.)

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