On the surface, town boards appear to be resuming their normal administrative rhythms, with multiple meetings scheduled this week and next to handle licensing, permitting, and planning.
Just below the surface, however, lies the looming threat that the COVID-19 pandemic could come roaring back, once again disrupting day-to-day activities, taking more lives from their loved ones, and causing additional economic stress for local businesses.
Almost half of the states are seeing upwards movement in new cases. The numbers in Massachusetts are growing, but at a slower rate than many states in the Midwest.
The numbers in Abington have held steady over the weeks — usually averaging around a handful — but school officials on Saturday confirmed the first case of COVID-19 among a school community member since classes resumed Sept. 16. There’s no evidence as of now that the highly contagious virus spread to any other staff or students. And with nearly 3,000 students, teachers, aides, and administrators making up the Abington school department, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there was a positive test. But winter is coming, as the saying goes, and avoiding a second wave is going to take continued social distancing efforts and some good luck.
As if that wasn’t enough, a major pipe break at the Abington Rockland Joint Water Works treatment plant in Rockland on Sunday has the department asking people to conserve water. No further information was available as of 9 p.m. Sunday night. This is the second time in four months the water department has levied emergency restrictions. The June issue surfaced when the levels in underground excess capacity tanks kept dropping, prompting the department to wonder if there was a major leak. In the end, it appears usage was just so great it was straining the systems capacity. Compounding problems, the region is now in a significant drought, which has reservoir levels everywhere dropping.
Meanwhile, the Board of Selectmen will meet Monday night in person at Town Hall. One of the agenda items is next month’s Special Town Meeting, where voters will be asked to review and approve a number of budgetary changes — some pandemic-related, others reflective of higher-than-expected state aid numbers (Abington News will have a more detailed town budget article on Monday).
Selectmen will also consider approving the town’s new Housing Production Plan, appoint a new member to the Community Preservation Committee, and discuss performance review criteria for Acting Town Manager Scott Lambiase.
The Planning Board will meet to again discuss and possibly vote on a proposed housing development on Summer Street adjacent to the MBTA commuter rail station. Town Meeting more than a decade ago zoned the parcels for Transit Oriented Development, which allows for denser housing developments. Developers are looking to build 156 apartment units spread across four buildings on either side of the Summer Street station entrance road.
Summer Street residents are particularly concerned about the impact on traffic, as their roadway has become a popular cut through for drivers connecting between Route 58 and Route 18. The developers have already pledged to fix traffic signals at Routes 58 and Summer Street, and 58 and 123, with the goal of alleviating backups on Summer Street. They also will review traffic safety improvements at the intersection of Summer and Walnut Streets.
The meeting will take place Wednesday, Sept. 30, starting at 6 p.m. at the Senior Center, which is located on Summer Street.
The Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Assessors are scheduled to gather next week.
Department of Public Works Superintendent John Stone said Highland Road and High Street between Rt. 123 and Groveland Street are scheduled to be repaved soon. The work could happen as early as this week, depending on the contractor’s schedule. His department is also coordinating with Old Colony Planning Council to conduct a traffic count on Summit Road — the first step required to possibly institute a ban on big trucks. Abington News reported earlier this month that Amazon tractor-trailers, which are being kept at a Route 18 trucking terminal, have been using Summit Road as a cut-through between Route 18 and 139 to avoid ongoing Route 18 construction.