Two years ago, I stood before voters at the April 2017 Town Meeting and asked them to authorize the Board of Selectmen to enter into a 99-year no-cost lease with the MBTA for the Lynnfield rail corridor for the purpose of Lynnfield’s Rail Trail project. Voters approved the Town Meeting article on the rail trail.
On Thursday, Sept. 26, I will stand before voters at the Special Town Meeting and ask them to appropriate $348,000 of existing town funds to complete the final design and engineering costs for the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail.
By attending this Special Town Meeting, you can make the Rail Trail a reality in Lynnfield. If you do not attend, you risk delaying the Rail Trail for another generation or more.
Why do we need a special town meeting?
The 2017 Town Meeting started at 7 p.m., but the rail trail article was placed at the end of a long list of warrant articles. As a result, debate did not start until after 9 p.m. and the vote took place around 11 p.m.
The likelihood of another 11 p.m. vote is simply unfair to families with young children, seniors, and those with early morning obligations. Accommodating these voters to ensure maximum attendance and participation required that we put this vote on for a single-issue Special Town Meeting. Voters will be able to debate, vote, and return home at a very reasonable hour, hopefully before 8:30 p.m.
Why won’t the state pay for Lynnfield’s final design costs?
The odds are stacked heavily against Lynnfield getting its design funds from the state. Yet our selectmen would have voters take a wait and see approach. Not only does that delay the Rail Trail construction for years, it imposes a huge financial cost on Lynnfield.
Do we lose by waiting?
In just nine months, on July 1, 2020, Lynnfield will lose a $100,000 grant that the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) awarded to the Friends of Lynnfield Rail Trail (FLRT) to defray Lynnfield’s Rail Trail costs. Our selectmen would have voters sacrifice a guaranteed $100,000 for the slim “chance” the state will cover Lynnfield’s design costs.
In 2018, Lynnfield’s share of the estimated final design cost was just $300,000. Now it is $348,000. In another two years, it could be $400,000 or more. Delay means Lynnfield will have to pay a lot more later for the final design.
Can the Town afford the $348,000?
Lynnfield’s Finance Committee (FinCom) is comprised of conservative financial stewards who have helped lead our town to be among the most financially secure towns in the Commonwealth. They voted 8-2 in favor of the article. An investment of just 3 percent ($348,000) releases the MassDOT to fund more than $10.3 million to pay 100 percent of the Rail Trail construction costs.
This warrant article will not result in new taxes or borrowing.
The only sensible decision is to proceed now with town funding to complete the final design and engineering for the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail project.
We urge a “yes” vote on Sept. 26.
Patrick G. Curley/Friends of Lynnfield Rail Trail (FLRT) leadership team