APPLE HILL LANE resident Steven Grasso (standing at podium) criticized town officials about the poor condition of many streets and sidewalks during the Select Board’s June 3 meeting.


LYNNFIELD — A group of residents blasted local officials for not doing more to address the poor condition of the town’s streets during the Select Board’s June 3 meeting.

Capital Program Director John Scenna said the town began supplementing the Chapter 90 funds awarded by the state by appropriating funds into the capital budget in 2014. He said the town has $550,000 in local funds and $412,326 in Chapter 90 funds to spend on road construction this year in addition to state grants for designated projects such as the Summer and Salem streets intersection.

In addition to Walnut Street being “substantially complete,” Scenna said the DPW is looking to repave Bluejay Road, Gerry Road, Heath Circle and Liberty Lane this year.

“This year will have the highest spending on record in the community when it comes to roadwork,” said Scenna.

Scenna said the Beta Group evaluates the town’s streets every three years, and said the engineering firm will be evaluating the town’s streets this summer.

While Town Administrator Rob Dolan said the town’s investment in road construction is the highest in Lynnfield history this year, he acknowledged that the funds are “not enough” to fix every street.  He said the funds appropriated for road construction is the largest component of the capital budget.

“That number ranges between $300,000 and $500,000,” said Dolan. “The more we take out of Free Cash, the less we have for the other things that we need.”

Dolan said the town could look into borrowing money in order to get more streets repaved, but said “borrowing increases the burden on the operating budget because you have to pay for that debt.” He also voters could approve a debt exclusion for road construction.

“It would be a targeted tax increase for roads,” said Dolan. “That would be the most aggressive approach.”

Moving forward, Dolan said local officials and residents need to “have a deeper discussion about which path we are going to take” in order to fix the town’s streets.   

“We want to begin a community dialogue about how we can do better, but there are no easy solutions to this challenge,” said Dolan.

Residents rip officials

Tophet Road resident Fred Boling said he has lived at his home for 47 out of the 54 years he has lived in town.

“One of the things that is frustrating for me and my neighbors is one of fairness,” said Boling. “I have lived at this location for 47 years, and I can’t remember the road in front of my house ever being repaved. If there is a road worse than Cortland Lane, I would like to see it. I drive down it every day, and it is awful. It’s embarrassing. There are other areas in town that are getting attention.”

Boling also said the DPW’s administrative assistants have been unresponsive to his and his neighbors’ concerns.

“I have gone down to Town Hall over the past 10 to 12 years to ask where Tophet and Cortland stand, and I keep getting told they are on the schedule,” said Boling. “Well, when? This area needs attention.”

Tophet Road resident Rob Sharrio said he grew up in town and moved to his current home in 2019. He has also called the DPW to ask when the Apple Hill Lane area will be repaved, and said the DPW’s administrative assistants “are not friendly when addressing folks.”

“You might want to take note of that,” Sharrio said to DPW Director John Tomasz.

Tomasz said he understands Apple Hill Lane, Cortland Lane and Tophet Road need be repaved, but said they were not ranked as high on Beta Group’s previous report from three years ago. He said Walnut Street was previously not ranked high three years ago, but said that street’s condition got significantly worse since Beta’s last report was completed.

“I can guarantee you that when Beta does the new evaluation, Cortland, Tophet and Apple Hill are going to be way up there,” said Tomasz.

Edward Avenue resident Stephanie Couey criticized the DPW for how it handled repaving the street last year. She said contractors began working on the street in May 2003, but said the Lynnfield Center Water District identified a pipe issue that delayed the road from getting finished.

“Our road was torn up all summer,” said Couey. “And one day last fall, pavers came over and slapped over only one coat. We are still waiting for the final paving. There is very little to no communication. It has been frustrating to the whole neighborhood.”

Scenna said the final paving for Edward Avenue will take place in 2025 because the LCWD needs to finish addressing the pipe issue.

In response to a question from Tophet Road resident Tony Bartolo, Tomasz said the DPW is looking to fix certain sections of Tophet Road before the entire street gets repaved next year.

Apple Hill Lane resident Steven Grasso blasted Dolan and the Select Board for allowing a number of streets to fall into “deplorable condition.”

“This is not just a DPW issue,” said Grasso. “The three of you are part of the problem as well. You have to come up with a better plan because there hasn’t been a real solid plan. The frustration level in this town with all of the services is abysmal. You guys are terrible with communication and transparency. Our taxes keep going up, we keep making cuts and everyone is still getting their salaries. Municipal government is all about reaction. You are not proactive.”

Grasso said he created a 12-page document about addressing the town’s streets and sidewalks that he gave to local officials. He said the only way to solve the problem is by approving a debt exclusion for road construction.

“The streets are in such deplorable condition that you are not going to get caught up with this piecemeal approach,” said Grasso. “You have to get caught up and after you get caught up, don’t just sit there and say, ‘we are all done.’ You need a program for maintenance, repair and replacement. Our streets and sidewalks are the most basic infrastructure in the community, and they are failing.”

Grasso also said local officials need to provide “customer service training” for town employees.

“The empathy shown at the Department of Public Works is abysmal,” said Grasso.

Grasso also said the town has to do a better job updating its website with accurate information. He also said the Select Board “needs to come to the community with ideas and a vision.”

“You don’t have one right now,” said Grasso.

Select Board reaction

After the residents finished ripping local officials, the Select Board thanked them for airing their concerns.

Select Board member Phil Crawford said, “The number one issue in this town is streets and sidewalks.” He said MarketStreet Lynnfield’s opening in 2013 gave the community a tax base that was used to “fix up the town.”

“We did the fields, and we added $75,000 a year for street repair for the first three years,” said Crawford. “We then doubled that and then increased it to $500,000. When I came into office in 2013, we had a 40-year road repair program that was 100 years behind. We have had multiple boards look at it, and we have added money to it every year. You can’t add enough money to catch up.”

Crawford said Tomasz informed him that the DPW and paving contractors have the “capacity” to manage $1 million in roadwork annually.

“That has always been the problem,” said Crawford. “We are going to pick away at these streets. The new Beta report is going to come out with the worst streets in town that we are all going to tackle. If we want to look into an override, we have to see if we can manage it and how much we can do in a year.”

Select Board member Alexis Leahy said she has seen the poor condition of the Tophet Road area while walking her dog.

“I think you all heard during the campaign about communication and transparency,” said Leahy. “As a resident and not someone sitting at this table, I think we can be more transparent. Having something as simple as a list of roads that are coming up or falling off the list is something we should be doing. I am not sure we have the resources to hire a communications director for the entire town, but there has to be something we can do to be more transparent. There should be a way to have information readily available.”

Leahy said addressing the town’s streets and sidewalks should be incorporated into the town’s five-year capital plan that will be developed.

“This is not the only thing that needs consistent planning and preparation,” said Leahy.

Select Board Chair Dick Dalton agreed with the residents that the town needs a new program for road construction moving forward.

“That is going to be a real focus for us going forward in the short-term,” said Dalton. “If you really want to solve the problem and do a catch up, you are going to have to resort to a debt exclusion. That is something the town is going to have to look at it. When our consultant comes back with the report, we are going to have a public session like this and lay out a plan. We are just spinning our wheels right now, and we are never going to catch up.”

Dalton agreed with many of the speakers who said the town has to do a better job communicating with the public.

“We are not doing our job in town government if we are not communicating with all of you,” said Dalton. “That is something we will be focusing on as well.”