A Year in Review: Millis 2017

By David Pasquantonio
Issue Date: 
January, 2018
Article Body: 

The biggest issue in 2017 in Millis, and certainly the one most discussed by residents, was the new school, but there were many other newsworthy items and accomplishments. Town Administrator Michael Guzinski and Selectman James McCaffrey reviewed Millis’s 2017 key happenings in a recent interview.
On December 8, a groundbreaking ceremony marked the official start of construction for an elementary school to replace the aging Clyde F. Brown Elementary School. Voters approved an override at the spring town meeting, and reaffirmed that decision at the fall town meeting. The project was delayed due to citizen concerns and a few lawsuits, but was given the go-ahead after the November meeting. Clearing of the site, including the former 6.4-acre Town Park, began almost immediately. The Massachusetts School Board Association will reimburse the town for about $20 million of the estimated $51 million project. Construction will be completed in 2019.
Guzinski and McCaffrey said that although there was divisiveness among residents concerning the project, in the end, they hoped that the high level of civic engagement will carry over into other areas, like volunteering for boards and committees or regularly attending more meetings.
Residents approved a plan to create a stormwater utility to pay for compliance and maintenance costs of meeting more stringent EPA regulations on stormwater runoff, containment, and management. The owners of each of the approximate 4,000 land parcels in town will pay into the utility.
“All communities in the Commonwealth will have to find a way to either absorb the costs of developing a program, or find a new way to pay for it,” Guzinski said. McCaffrey added that while sometimes Millis waits for new programs to be “tried and true” before the town adopts them, in the case of the stormwater utility, Millis is proactively at the forefront.
The separation of the town’s public safety departments into two buildings was completed after the fire department fully took over the building previously shared with the police department, which moved into its own facility in 2016. McCaffrey said that the meeting room in the facility has seen extensive use, as have the meeting spaces at the library and town hall.
The active adult community at Glen Ellen has received a number of approvals, with the next phase of the project being a proposal to hook into the town’s existing sewer system rather than having an on-site treatment facility. McCaffrey and Guzinski noted that some potential road work on Orchard Street, among other areas, has been delayed pending that outcome, as there would be little sense in repaving roads only to have them torn up again for the planned Toll Brothers community.
Other developments in town have seen action, including the continued building of residences at South End Farm and the clearing of land in preparation for an assisted living facility on Dover Road. The new Tractor Supply Company store on Main Street was the biggest new retailer in town.
The Department of Public Works had a busy year, including some key road work on Village Street, the completion of the Veterans Memorial outside of Town Hall, and improved access for the Life Experience School. The latter two projects were delivered with minimal outside aid, an example, McCaffrey said, of the department continuing to deliver cost-effective local solutions.
The police department added three experienced officers to the force, an outcome possible after a previous town decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth’s civil service system, thus allowing departments to hire officers based on their own criteria rather than a state ranking system. The fire department finished up training as part of a move to providing Advanced Life Support services for ambulatory care.
No recreational or medical marijuana facilities started up in 2017, although the issue saw much debate and planning. Millis issued a moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments as the town waits to see how regulations surrounding the Commonwealth’s vote to approve marijuana play out. McCaffrey and Guzinski said that the town’s most prudent approach was to issue a moratorium. One medical marijuana facility has obtained a license to open a facility along Main Street towards the Medway line.
The Millis girls’ varsity soccer team won the state Division 4 championship, and the varsity football team won the state Division 8 championship.
In May, local landmark Bob’s Family Restaurant was destroyed by a fire. And a trail camera caught the image of a bear wandering through town in August.
Guzinski started in late March as the new town administrator, replacing Charles Aspinwall, who had taken a similar role in Canton in 2016. Guzinski was the town administrator in Douglas for 13 years before taking the position in Millis, and had also worked in Rowley and Blackstone.