On August 1, at their regularly scheduled meeting, the Hopkinton Select Board voted unanimously to reinstate the Upper Charles Trails Committee (UCTC). The committee had been suspended and unable to convene since May.
On May 2 at Annual Town Meeting, Hopkinton voters overwhelmingly approved Article 47, which sought to disband the UCTC. Although the measure was approved by 72% of voters it was symbolic only, as the town’s by laws do not allow a committee formed by the Select Board to be disbanded by a popular vote; only the Select Board is vested with that power.
Despite a clear mandate from voters, the Select Board was reluctant to dissolve the UCTC. Instead, on June 6 they opted to create a survey to ask residents for additional feedback on the UCTC. The survey was available online and in printed form, though disparities existed between the versions. Some respondents noted that the questions presumed that the UCTC would continue to exist, which frustrated some.
“Stop stalling!!! Voters sent clear messages that you are avoiding again,” wrote one.
The survey was completed by 135 residents, representing 1% of registered voters. On July 6, the results of the survey were published. It’s not clear what steps the Select Board took to communicate the survey to residents.
At the outset of last night’s meeting, Hayden Rowe resident Amanda Maffei addressed the Board at Public Forum.
“I just want to remind the Select Board that the town voted 72 to 28 percent to disband the committee,” she said. “And this board is a servant of the town.”
Later, Select Board members took turns stating their position on the matter. Irfan Nasrullah led off by expressing his support for reinstating the UCTC for the “express purpose of meeting with the Trails Coordination and Management Committee (TCMC)”. Nasrullah also proposed training sessions to help the UCTC run their meetings more effectively.
Board Chair Muriel Kramer echoed Nasrullah’s sentiment. She added that the Select Board should issue an explicit statement that the Hayden Rowe route will not be considered unless voters at Town Meeting indicate otherwise. “The town has the responsibility to study the Western and Eastern routes,” said Kramer.
Mary Jo Lafreniere was more pointed in her comments. “We’re not talking about a woody trail here. The TCMC is a town thing. The UCTC is supposed to connect communities. They are two different committees in my mind and we need both.”
Amy Ritterbusch also wanted to keep two separate committees, but recommended a revision to their charges, suggesting the UCTC reduce the number of members, and that one member should also be a member of the TCMC.
Shahidul Mannan was the lone dissenter in the group. “We are one Hopkinton and we need one committee,” he said. “We cannot settle for the status quo,” he continued. “The purpose of all this discussion is to find a new frontier. If we do nothing we will be doing the same thing and expecting a different result”.
Nonetheless, a motion was introduced to reinstate the UCTC to enable them to participate in discussions about how their charge may be redefined. It was seconded and approved unanimously.
After the meeting, Peter LaGoy, the chair of the TCMC said “I am deeply disappointed with this decision. The town meeting vote clearly asked for a change, and the Select Board does not seem to be honoring that vote.”