© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA - State officials reportedly see no need to post police details by a materials staging area off of North Border Road as part of the Mass. Water Resource Authority's (MWRA) pipeline installation project.

During a Planning Board meeting last Wednesday night, when the local officials okayed two modifications to a special permit issued in January for the North Border Road storage area, a representative from Dracut-based contractor Albanese D&S suggested the police presence has thus far been deemed unnecessary.

The Albanese official, who did not identify himself for the record, claimed Stoneham Police Chief James McIntyre had referred the placement of police details to the state, since the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) technically retains ownership of North Border Road.

Since that time, DCR staff has apparently lodged no objections to the moving of heavy trucks in and out of the approximate four-acre site by Buttonwood Road, which is being leased to the construction company by the local American Legion.

"He essentially doesn't see any need for it. He's going to leave it up to the state," said the Albanese official, when asked by Planning Board member Daniel Moynihan about the local police chief's determination about the public safety details.

"Have the state police indicated any need for a detail?" responded Moynihan.

"No. DCR is allowing us to have trucks on that road," the petitioner answered.

The recent revelations, if true, are likely to cause a public furor, as abutters in January expressed a multitude of concerns around the safety of having heavy trucks pulling in and out of the North Border Road site.

Citing potential conflicts with rush-hour, abutters were especially concerned about 18-wheeler trucks causing gridlock by pulling across one-lane of traffic in order to turn left out of the parcel to head towards the Spot Pond area.

The planners last January granted initial approval for the special permit request as the MWRA contractor gears up for the second stage of a massive public works project in which a 48-inch water main will be installed on the southern side of Stoneham between Spot Pond and Montvale Avenue.

Albanese officials, which is leasing the land for one-year from the American Legion's Stoneham Post 115, were back before the town officials last week after DCR indicated it will only allow one curb-cut to be made on the site.

Previously, the construction firm had asked for two entrance points, which would allow trucks to circulate better around the wooded parcel, where materials will be stored on a deforested and ground-leveled area that comprises about 1-acre of total space.

Expected to last until 2020, the second phase of the project entails the installation of 14,000 linear feet of 48-inch pipeline under some of Stoneham's heavily-trafficked roadways, including Pond Street, North Border Road, Main Street, and Marble Street.

Albanese intends to utilize the staging area, situated much closer than a second storage site on the opposite side of Stoneham near I-95, on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. At least three separate crews will be working simultaneously on the second project phase.

Though McIntyre may have likely deferred the issue of police details to DCR and MassHighway, the agencies that control North Border Road, Pond Street, and Route 28, it's unclear that he agrees with the assessment that the public safety assignments are unnecessary.

In fact, during the first phase of the MWRA project, in which work was concentrated on far less-trafficked residential side streets around Oak and Cottage Streets, McIntyre routinely ordered the placement of officers in and around the neighborhood.

Given the second phase of the pipeline project follows a track along some of Stoneham's busiest commuter corridors, the police chief, based upon previous remarks regarding this spring's construction plans, would likely request a similar monitoring of traffic detour compliance.

Last Wednesday night, Planning Board Chairman August Niewenhous reminded his colleges that McIntyre retains full discretion to order traffic details around the staging grounds, regardless of whether state authorities deem the police presence necessary.

That power was granted to the police chief last January during the Planning Board's initial deliberations over the special permit.

"If you can recall, when we granted the permit, we left that up to the chief. It's a jurisdictional issue as to who actually staffs [those details]," said Niewenhous.

Had the planners rejected the special permit application earlier this year, the Dracut contractor would be forced to utilize a second staging area by Route 128 and the Reading line. Though the other materials storage site will not be shuttered during phase two, having access to just that location will require work crews to travel down the entire length of Main Street to get to the construction zone.

The American Legion, which operates a social club off of Common Street behind Town Hall, is presently not using the 3.8-acre parcel at the southern edge of town, where development is limited by the site's topography and the presence of wetlands.

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