Plan to create commission for naming roads, bridges stuck in limbo

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North Attleborough Town Hall
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The creation of a process to memorialize a street, bridge or other public area is in doubt after the Bylaw Subcommittee rescinded a draft proposal to the Town Council.

The committee unanimously voted at its May 8 meeting to reverse a previous decision favorably recommending a draft bylaw to the council. The decision was based on a review from KP Law & Associates that found it violated the town charter by infringing on the town manager’s authority to make nominations to boards and committees.

Chairman Andy Shanahan said the draft bylaw would have created a committee consisting of the chairs of the Department of Public Works, Conservation Commission, and the Parks and Recreations Department.  The language that recommends these appointments to Town Manager Michael Borg however, would take away his role to select nominees, as it would be the council making the recommendations rather than him.

“We can’t pass a bylaw that restricts future town managers,” Shanahan said. “We positively referred this pending a review from KP Law and when it came back to us, the primary concern was the naming committee.”

John Donahue, a member of the Bylaw Committee, said the decision to establish a committee was because bridges, streets, and open areas are within the jurisdiction of the three departments. He said the recommendation was to have the three chairmen.

“The hang up is that the town manager is the appointing authority according to our town charter,” Donahue said. “We cannot dictate who is on the board.”

The debate on how the town dedicates these sites began in November 2022, when resident James Grey asked the council to name the Fisher Street Bridge after his nephew, Jeff Plante.  Plante, a North Attleborough resident and Air Force veteran, was killed in a motorcycle accident while stationed in Iraq.

Despite the committee’s decision, the plan to create the process won’t stop.  Donohue said members will meet with Borg to find a solution.

“One thing we could do is have the board go through the council president,” he said. “But the bylaw itself would go away.  We’ll figure this out.”

Council President Justin Pare said he thinks a solution can be found and encouraged the committee to continue their work.

“We want to do this the proper way,” he said.