© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA - With several major initiatives declared as needed to safeguard neighborhoods from the impacts of Eversource's proposed 345,000 volt transmission line project, the Board of Selectmen last week called a Special Town Meeting for early June.

During a regular meeting in Town Hall last Tuesday night, the elected officials voted unanimously to convene the special assembly on Tuesday, June 5, when citizens will be asked to enact several comprehensive bylaw packages, including:

• New grant-of-location regulations, which will charge public utility companies a pre-calculated $44.02 per square foot fee, to place new infrastructure over or underneath Stoneham's public ways;

• A street-opening bylaw, which establish road restoration charges, again based on a predetermined pro-rated estimate of replacement costs, for contractors and public utilities to dig trenches in order to access existing infrastructure;

• A new noise bylaw, which will require both contractors and private citizens alike to adhere to new standards that require the installation of barriers of similar screens, when sound levels will exceed a 45-to-55 decibel threshold;

• And a new stormwater management regulatory structure, which will require landowners to adhere to tougher runoff treatment and containment standards in light of more stringent state regulations that are expected to be forthcoming.

The Eversource transmission line proposal has garnered initial state approvals, but the utility company has not yet filed an application with Stoneham officials to begin work in town.

Though officials in Woburn are considering such a petition, the electricity distributor might have to wait before submitting similar paperwork in Stoneham, as town officials are considered likely to challenge the recent state decision.

Needed protections?

As the Board of Selectmen acknowledged last week, the four legislative proposals were being circulated somewhat late in the season, as the townspeople normally consider such comprehensive bylaw changes during Stoneham's Annual Town Meeting.

However, given a recent state decision that green-lights Eversource's plans to bury a 345Kv electrical cable down some of Stoneham's busiest thoroughfares, including the entire stretch of Montvale Avenue and Elm Street, the town officials insisted the proposals are time sensitive.

According to Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Wilson, town officials like DPW Operations Engineer David Lizotte began considering the more expansive bylaw protections after citizens around Oak Street were overwhelmed by issues related to the MWRA's 48-inch pipeline installation project last year.

With Eversource's proposal expected to generate similar issues, and the MWRA moving into the second phase of its construction project, town officials hope to enact the new procedures as soon as possible.

"A lot of these bylaws are of interest, because they are derived out of our MWRA experience. In that sense, they are time sensitive," said Wilson.

"I do like the idea of having these, especially now with Eversource coming through. They're [aimed at] looking out for the residents," agreed Selectman George Seibold.

In late February, the Mass. Energy Facilties Siting Board voted to adopt a 173-page decision that approves Eversource and National Grid's plans to construct a high-voltage transmission line underneath an 8.5-mile long stretch of roadways between Horn Pond in Woburn and the vicinity of Salem Street in Wakefield by the Lynnfield line.

In total, the project will impact four communities, including neighboring Winchester, Woburn, and Wakefield.

While the Board of Selectmen is considering whether to join the Town of Winchester in appealing the state ruling, which finalizes the project scope and the final route for the 345Kv installation, Eversource has already initiated grant-of-location permit proceedings in Woburn.

As part of the major infrastructure upgrade, which carries an estimated $137.7 million price tag, the high-capacity voltage line would be installed along some of Stoneham's busiest thoroughfare's, including Montvale Avenue, Main Street, and Elm Street all the way to the Wakefield line.

During recent grant-of-location hearings in Woburn on the undertaking, city officials have been stunned by the sheer-size of the project, in which crews will excavate four-foot wide trenches at a depth of at-least five feet to insert the conduit.

The utility company also intends to construct 11 so-called 'splicing vaults', or concrete-enclosures with dimensions of eight-by-30 feet, that will the spaced across the entire 8.5-mile route.

In Woburn alone, the work is expected to last eight months.

Eversource officials, who say the entire Woburn-to-Wakefield project will take 22-months, have thus far been somewhat inexact in producing requested details about road closures, traffic detours and police detail plans, day-to-day work timelines, and information about how city-owned utilities will be impacted.

Various citizens have also challenged challenged Eversource's contention that the project will pose no risk to citizens through constant exposure to electromagnetic field being emitted from the 345KV lines.

According to Selectman Caroline Colarusso, an outspoken critic of the way the MWRA pipeline project has been handled to date, the townspeople need adequate protections from other massive public construction projects, like the one planned by Eversource.

"I think the spirit of the articles is good. It safeguards neighborhoods. I would have liked to have had this in place before the MWRA project, but better late than never," she said.

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