© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA - Town Administrator Thomas Younger recently predicted Oak Street and surrounding roadways will be restored as promised before the students return to school in September.

During a recent Board of Selectmen's meeting in Town Hall's banquet room, Younger explained milling and patchwork on Oak Street, where the Mass. Water Resource Authority (MWRA) spent roughly a year on a pipeline installation project, began in early July as scheduled.

He also listed off numerous side streets around the northern sections of Stoneham and the Robin Hood School, all of which sustained significant wear-and-tear from the water infrastructure work that began in April of 2017.

"Paving has been completed on North Street, Main Street to Forest Street, Northgate to Virgina Lane, as well as on sections of George Street, Curve Street, Bonad Road, Sherwood Road and Magnolia terrace," said the town administrator.

"We talked about the work being done prior to the start of school. Do we feel like we're still on track for that?" later asked Board of Selectman Chair Anthony Wilson.

"Yes," responded Younger. "[The MWRA] is in some cases going above and beyond [what we asked for them to do]. So they are being considerate and trying to do the best as possible."

The recent discussion about the restoration work follows an informational forum held in the Robin Hood School towards the end of June, when MWRA Executive Director Frederick Laskey circulated a full list of the streets being repaired.

According to town officials, given the massive inconvenience caused by the installation of the 48-inch main, which was exposed for a second-time in May after testing revealed the new pipeline was leaking, neighbors are being urged to contact Town Hall, should they not be satisfied with the cleanup efforts.

"If people do have concerns, please get in touch with us at Town Hall, and we'll get back to you as soon-as-possible," said the Town Hall CEO.

Based upon the timeline discussed at the Robin Hood School last month, the Town of Stoneham's contractor is expected to wrap-up the installation of new granite curbing along both sides of Oak Street by the end of this month.

The existing sidewalk, which is only on one side of Oak Street, will also be replaced in full with new concrete walkways, which are fully complaint with American Disability Act (ADA) regulations.

The plans for Oak Street have been a regular source of controversy and confusion ever since the MWRA broke ground on the project in April of 2017.

Specifically, sitting board members have clashed over how the MWRA pipeline route along Oak Street was chosen, with veteran board members like Caroline Colarusso insisting she never authorized the move off Route 28 or the decision to accept $429,000 from the quasi-public water agency to fix Oak Street.

In May, during a selectmen's meeting in Town Hall, board member George Seibold cited concerns about an adverse neighborhood reaction to the sidewalk improvements, as the installation of new eight-to-nine foot wide walkways will likely result in some residents losing portions of what they considered to be their front lawns.

"These residents, they're likely losing a good chunk of their land. The residents have to know whether they're losing a part of their front yards," warned the selectman. "Maybe 10 people know about [that component], but the other 60 people on that street are in for a rude awakening."

Though the sidewalks will only be 4.5 feet wide, a grass buffer strIp, much like those along most other public roadways, will also be established between the new granite curb and the beginning of the concrete.

Last month, DPW Director Robert Grover, who explained town officials will spend $145,000 in municipal funds to pay for the pedestrian improvements, confirmed some green space might be lost in front of homes.

"Oak Street itself is 50-feet wide, [but the existing pavement is only 30-to-32 feet across]. That means the town owns an additional eight to 10 feet on either side of the pavement," commented the DPW director, who assured residents no private property will be taken for the upgrades.

With speeding along Oak Street a major concern, especially with rush-hour motorists about to be granted access to a fresh new layer of pavement, Police Chief James McIntyre has vowed to step up enforcement activity in the area.

He has also made arrangements to install a new stationary speed monitoring sign, similar to the one along Washington Street by the new Central Middle School and Pomeworth Park, which should also serve to remind motorists to slow down.

Lastly, the chief and other public safety officials have outlined plans to install new crosswalks around the Robin Hood School, including one by a hill which motorists are prone to cresting at a high-rate of speed.

"Now is the time to put in crosswalks where they actually make sense. The crosswalk now is at the crest of that hill. So cars heading southbound on Oak Street can see people [crossing], but cars coming from the north can't," McIntyre said.

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