RESIDENTS ARE AFRAID TO DRIVE OVER TRACKS: Wilmington Hopes Baker, Markey, Warren & Moulton Will Help Get Answers & Action From MBTA

WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Board of Selectmen unanimously instructed the Town Manager to write a letter to the MBTA and Keolis — and send copies to Governor Charlie Baker, Senator Ed Markey, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Congressman Seth Moulton, along with the town’s state legislative delegation — to spur the MBTA to improve safety at rail crossings in town.

The Selectmen took the vote after MBTA General Manager Steven Poftak did not accept the Board’s invitation to its February 28 Board Meeting.

“I get the sense, and I could be wrong, but it doesn’t seem that the MBTA is providing the level of attention that this situation merits,” Town Manager Jeff Hull told Selectmen on Monday night. “The first incident was a stark example of a catastrophic error. It seems we’re seeing some frequency of other instances that, fortunately, hasn’t led to any injury. But it’s disconcerting that there’s some questions if you can cross rail crossings safely.”

At first, Selectman Gary DePalma was hesitant to send a letter to the MBTA.

“By sending letters out, you sometimes can aggravate a situation,” DePalma told his colleagues. “Our state delegation is working on it. If we want to send a letter, before we do, we should discuss it with our State House delegation to get their feel on it.”

“I don’t care about anyone’s feelings at the MBTA at this moment,” responded Selectman Greg Bendel. “A little of a month ago, we lost a life in town…. Some people are angry. Some are nervous. Some are flat out scared.”

Bendel noted that there was another incident at the North Wilmington crossing — possibly due to a weather-related mechanical issue — less than two weeks. There’s also been train crashes involving in vehicles in both Littleton and Waltham recently.

“We’re the leaders of this town. We need to be out front on this,” agreed Selectman Kevin Caira. “We need to get a letter out and get some response. We shouldn’t be sitting back.”

Chairwoman Lilia Maselli and Town Manager Hull explained to DePalma that they had already been in touch with State Representative Dave Robertson, State Representative Ken Gordon, and State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr about sending a letter, and none raised objections. Maselli and Hull noted the state delegation is doing all that it can to get action from MBTA, and sending a letter is not meant to be a poor reflection on their efforts.

“The Town is working well with its state legislative delegation, and we will continue to do so,” said Hull.  

DePalma would ultimately vote with his colleagues in support of the letter, 4-0. (Selectwoman Judy O’Connell was absent from the meeting.)

DePalma mentioned he was looking forward to dragging MBTA GM Steven Poftak over the coals and was disappointed he had a conflict and couldn’t attend the board meeting.

“Shame on them. There were invited [to this meeting] and they decided not to appear,” he concluded.

Selectman Greg Bendel encouraged residents to email if they’ve encountered any issues with crossing arms in town since November 2021. The Town is collecting data on any recent rail crossing issues.

Other Selectmen Actions At Monday’s Meeting

  • The Town will send a comment letter to MassHousing on the proposed 132-unit 40B apartment complex for 100 West Street by March 17, 2022. The town received a 15-day extension from the original deadline of March 2, 2022. The letter is being drafted by Planning & Conservation Director Valerie Gingrich. Selectmen will have an opportunity to provide their input prior to the letter’s submission.
  • Selectman Kevin Caira provided a brief synopsis of the latest Town Hall/School Administration Building Committee meeting. Caira noted that the Committee’s consensus is to position the building against the hill. A portion of the hill will still be available for sledding. The parking lot will have lights and landscaping near the entrance, but a large portion of the parking lot will not to accommodate community events, including the Fourth of July’s carnival.
  • Town Manager Jeff Hull noted that the town recently updated its masking policy for town-owned non-school buildings. Individuals who are unvaccinated are now recommended — not required — to wear face coverings in town buildings. The town currently has only two active COVID-19 cases.
  • Selectmen approved the request of the Performing Arts Department to use the Town Common & Gazebo for the High School Honors Jazz Band Concert on Thursday, May 19, 2022 from 5pm to 8pm and the Elementary Strings Orchestra Concert on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, from 5pm to 8pm.
  • Selectmen approved the request of the Friends of Wilmington Baseball to conduct a Fundraising Car Wash in the Municipal Parking Lot on Sunday, May 22, 2022, from 9am to noon.
  • Selectmen approved the request of the Friends of Wilmington Field Hockey to conduct a Fundraising Car Wash in the Municipal Parking Lot on Sunday, October 2, 2022, from 9am to 1pm.
  • Selectmen approved the request of the Wilmington Sons of Italy to conduct its Annual Antique & Collectors Car Show in the the Municipal Parking Lot and Fourth of July Building on Sunday, October 16, 2022, from 9am to 2pm.
  • Selectmen approved the request of the Wilmington High School Choral & Theatre Support (WHS CATS) Group to place lawn signs on the Town Common to promote Marchapella on Saturday, April 9, 2022.
  • Selectmen approved an earth removal permit for property on Darby Lane.
  • Town Manager Jeff Hull provided an overview of the petitioned and non-petitioned articles likely to placed on the April 30 Annual Town Meeting warrant. There are only two citizen petitioned articles this year. Of note, one of those articles looks to ban polystyrene at food establishments and town facilities. Polystyrene is a type of plastic, not commonly recycled, that likely contains cancer-causing toxins.
  • Selectmen decided to table establishing guidelines for development proposals to come before the board.
  • Selectmen will discussed the Town Manager’s upcoming evaluation. The Manager will provide the Board with his FY23 goals in June. The Board will provide written evaluations of the manager in July, which will be compiled by the Chair. The Town Manager will have an opportunity to review and respond to the composited evaluation prior to any discussion at a meeting in July or August.
  • Under Public Comments, Minuteman Frank West invited the Board to the Minutemen’s annual installation of officers on Sunday, March 26, 2022 at 1pm at Minutemen Headquarters behind the Harnden Tavern.
  • Selectman Greg Bendel congratulated the Wilmington Bantam 1 Hockey Team for winning the State Championships this weekend.
  • Selectmen recognized and thanked Wilmington Police Officer Scott Dunnett during its “Salute To Service” segment. Dunnett, a WPD officer  since 2015, achieved the rank of Sergeant Cargo Specialist in the U.S. Army and received numerous medals.

NOTE: Discussion of the oil tank breach at the Wildwood Early Childhood Center will be covered in a forthcoming article. 

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