The Natick Planning Board last week wrapped up its meeting with an informal discussion about what to do with the little old sum of $630,000 discovered to have been sitting around since MathWorks expanded into its Apple Hill campus on Rte. 9 east more than 10 years ago.
Natick Open Space Planner Marianne Iarossi said that over the past 6 months she, former head of Community & Economic Development James Freas and current Town Administrator Jamie Errickson discovered the money, which had been contributed by MathWorks as part of the Apple Hill site plan review largely to address traffic issues that might arise. Now the goal is to figure out how to reappropriate the money, possibly for open space and other projects, and get Planning and later Town Meeting’s blessing for those plans, Iarossi said.
Most of the items on the extensive traffic mitigation list crafted back when MathWorks was expanding have been checked off. “The reason why… there’s about $600,000 left from the mitigation money from 2008 is that [the Massachusetts Department of Transportation] ended up carrying forward some of the projects, so the town ended up saving that money if you will. So there’s extra that’s been sitting there for a number of years,” Iarossi said.
The big one yet to be completed is the Walnut and Bacon Street intersection, which the Department of Public Works is already moving ahead on. That project will gobble up as much as half of the MathWorks mitigation money, especially when a you-know-what (consultant) gets brought in to address engineering complexities. That intersection project was thought to be about a $60K one back in the day, but in today’s climate many years later the cost has ballooned.
Even after that project, plenty of money would be in play for other projects, including open space ones such as a trailhead improvement for the Town Forest at Rte. 9 (maybe a $5K project() and possible boardwalk connections between north and south Pickerel Pond trails. Trail improvements could make it easier for MathWorks employees to access the Cochituate Rail Trail and Natick Center. The key is to ensure the projects have some relation to MathWorks, which is being kept in the loop on all this.
Improvements that could help MathWorks employees who cycle or walk through the Rte. 27 and Bacon Street intersection could also be a possibility, and the DPW has improvements planned for this summer. More upgrades could come as part of the big Rte. 9 and 27 intersection overhaul that’s in the works, too.
Iarossi was looking to take the Planning Board’s pulse on all this, and the feedback was positive.
Among those in support, as long as the projects truly tie in to MathWorks, was Planning Board member Andy Meyer.
“The fact that essentially we have leftover money, I think those are great proposals, totally justifiable,” he said. “Gosh I’d like to get started on all this as soon as we possibly can.”