Athol Selectboard briefed on proposal for downtown street upgrades

  • Michael Hornig, left, senior project manager for Wright-Pierce Engineering, introduces the company's proposal for continuing improvements to Athol's South Street neighborhood during a recent meeting of the town's Selectboard. He is joined by company landscape architect Kalle Maggio, seated. Bridget Sullivan, administrative assistant to Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, is at far right. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 9/23/2022 11:37:56 AM
Modified: 9/23/2022 11:37:18 AM

ATHOL — Representatives from the Bedford, New Hampshire-based engineering firm Wright-Pierce met with Athol’s Selectboard Sept. 20 to discuss proposals for improvement to Canal, Lumber, South and Freedom streets. Details of the plans will be included in a $1.35 million Community Development Block Grant application that is to be submitted for approval early next year. The work would be a continuation of ongoing improvements being made as part of the South Street Neighborhood Improvement Plan, which already resulted in upgrades to Walnut, Church and Maple streets.

Wright-Pierce was hired by Athol’s Department of Public Works to undertake the surveying and engineering assessment work for the South Street Neighborhood.

Michael Hornig, senior project manager for Wright-Pierce, was joined by company landscape architect Kalle Maggio in making the conceptual presentation to the board.

“As many of you know,” Maggio told the board, “the CDBG program supports qualifying communities in need of housing, infrastructure improvements, revitalization initiatives, economic development and other public service projects. The program has had some minor revisions in the past year where they’ve increased the capped amount to $1.35 million and being able to allocate those funds for a two-year span.

“These funds are meant to help guide communities in the effort to determine the design services for neighborhood improvements. And to qualify for these funds we need to submit the application and supporting documents no later than March of 2023. Once the funds are allocated to Athol, construction could potentially start as early as fall of 2023.”

Maggio said that, despite a potential allocation of $1.35 million, the overall project has been divided into two phases.

Phase 1, covering concept and design, would include, she said, “… establishing the right of ways, and putting together a survey for Lumber and Canal streets. The full design drawings would include replacing the water main and the sewer, roadway and sidewalk improvement design, streetscaping and ADA (Americans with Disability Act) compliancy, along with the construction cost estimate.”

When it comes to Phase 2, said Maggio, “We will be able to fit in a survey and establish the right of ways for South and Freedom streets. However, we’ll only be able to work on the conceptual design during Phase 1, and as part of Phase 2 for South and Freedom, we’ll have to identify segments to include with the CDBG funding, depending on the cost of construction.”

As part of the planning process, Wright-Pierce and town officials will work to increase public awareness in the project. This will include the scheduling of public meetings and finding other means of soliciting public feedback regarding the project.

Infrastructure improvements undertaken during the Walnut, Church and Maple streets project included utility replacement, sidewalk improvements, roadway repaving and the creation of a pocket park.

Maggio explained that Phase 1 would cover work along the entire length of Canal Street south of Main Street and north of South Street, as well as the full length of Lumber Street from Canal to Freedom.

In describing the need for improvement to Canal and Lumber streets, Maggio noted the “lack of accessible routes, the sidewalk is in disrepair, there’s no defined roadway delineation in some cases, it’s not ADA compliant, so there is a bit of a safety concern, and the overall surface pavement material could use a facelift.”

Addressing the list of issues, she continued, “Some of the opportunities we see are to improve the park and river access, create accessible routes throughout the neighborhood along these corridors. You would do that by adding in sidewalk and curbing, providing roadway delineation, replacing the asphalt pavement, adding in the ADA compliancy — so we add that sort of safety measure. Overall, we do believe that, doing these project corridors, we would be able to do full design and there would be enough (money) left to do full construction.”

Maggio explained that the concept plan and preliminary cost estimate should be ready sometime next month. In November, a community meeting, which will include a walk-through of the neighborhood, will take place. The timeline calls for the concept plan and the cost estimate to be nailed down in December. In January, a final public hearing will take place, to be held virtually. Necessary documentation will be compiled in February, and the grant application submitted the following month

According to Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith, if the $1.35 grant is ultimately approved, some of the funding would pay for the services of Wright-Pierce. A large portion of the money will be committed to actual construction costs, and a small percentage will go to grant administrator Linda Overing of Breezeway Farm Consulting of New Salem.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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