Weymouth: Town and Starwood: solving remaining issues in a timely manner

Weymouth Town Council and Starwood are trying to finalize ongoing discussions to finally come to agreed solutions on Starwood’s proposed legislation.

One of the concerns the Council and the DPW Department share is the current and future infrastructure needs at Southfield.

Joseph Cardinal, National Grid Manager of Community and Customer Relations, came before the Council Monday night to give them insight into the existing gas and electrical infrastructure on the base.

Cardinal said there are currently two separate electrical systems on the base, the old system, and the new system that National Grid is responsible for. “National Grid is serving all the new infrastructure,” he said.

Cardinal added that the South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation (SSTTDC) Town Hall and the Southfield Welcome Center both run on the old system.

Matthew Barry, Starwood Vice President, said that Starwood is responsible for maintaining the existing system. “In a lot of respects, we perform the function of the utility companies until such time as we can build and create the new Southfield,” he said.

DPW Director Kenan Connell expressed concerns, one specifically with the existing “stacked utilities,” in a brief discussion with the Council following Cardinal’s presentation. He said the “stacked utilities” are not part of Weymouth’s standards.

Some of the Councilors expressed concern about the quality of these utilities already in existence. Brian Brewer, an engineer from Kimley-Horn and Associates, the Civil Engineer for the project, told the Council that stacking is a common occurrence, but engineers generally try to avoid doing it.

Brewer assured the Council that all of the materials used for the existing stacked utilities at Southfield were up to industry standards.

Going forward, Barry said that any future infrastructure to be built in Weymouth would be built by Weymouth’s standards.

He also said they are prepared to pay for any additional gas and electrical infrastructure necessary to provide these utilities to Southfield.

Cardinal said the original estimation for the full build-out of Southfield was 30 mega watts of electricity, and National Grid has plans to provide that, given that Starwood pays to have additional infrastructure put in place.

Town Council President Patrick O’Connor and other councilors agreed that any infrastructure related concerns the DPW has should be worked out with Starwood directly.

“The people with the knowledge need to get together and get the answers,” Councilor Jane Hackett said.

Starwood wants to meet with all of the department heads to go over the most recent draft of their financial analysis. Barry said they have already met with the School Department, the Chief Financial Officer, and they have a scheduled meeting with the Planning Department.

Barry acknowledged that no other department has scheduled a meeting with them as of Monday night.

Peter Foreman, President and CEO of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, also came before the Council Monday night to give the Council the Chamber’s view on this project and the issues at hand.

Foreman, Barry and some members of the Council have stressed the importance of solving all of their issues quickly before the current legislative session ends in July.

Foreman said the Chamber agrees with several of Starwood’s main points: changing the “phasing” in the existing legislation, the urgency of completing the parkway, water & wastewater infrastructure priority, and a change in governance.

Foreman also expressed several concerns, including: the quality and types of housing, Starwood’s commitment to commercial development, and the legislative calendar.

Foreman stressed to the Council the importance of them taking action on this legislation. He added that the legislator and state officials aren’t likely to get engaged in “ideas about how to change something.”

“They want to see an actual bill,” Foreman said, “Until something actually gets before them, they’re not as likely to be too engaged with hypotheticals about what might happen.”

Foreman advised the Council to identify the town issues and address them so they can get something “in play.”

Barry said  if Starwood’s legislation were not submitted by July, there would no longer be a “place for them to invest.”

“If we lose a governor’s office and an administration that advocates for this project, a new governor has to do a lot of learning and establish a new administration,” Barry said, “We have to do a lot of explanation as to the history and the benefit, and that will take a lot of time.”

Foreman acknowledged that studying something forever doesn’t lead to any action, and this project needs action to move forward.

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About Samantha Tracey

Samantha Tracey graduated from Salem State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. She has been reporting on local issues in a variety of towns: Bridgewater, Abington, Carver, Weymouth, East Bridgewater, Hanson, Halifax, etc. She says growing up on the South Shore has made it interesting now to be covering news in such familiar places.