It’s a new year for the Town Council, and President Justin Pare is ready for the work to begin.
Entering his third term as councilor and second as council president, Pare said he and his colleagues would pursue projects to provide more accessibility for residents, keep town departments running efficiently, and entice more economic growth by attracting businesses both in and out of town.
According to Pare, the projects that will receive priority this year include the senior center and food distribution operation at the Fisher College building on Elm Street, funding for the McKeon Treatment Plant and PFAS mitigation site, and the downtown revitalization plan.
He said the session is expected to be a productive one and is ready to get to work at the first meeting scheduled for Aug. 14.
“As part of our duties, we want to be proactive,” Pare said of the upcoming session. “We’ve got a lot to do, and the council wants to realize our vision for the town fully.”
Improving water quality, new senior center among priorities
At the beginning of the last session, Pare and the rest of the council organized a list of long-term goals as a means of prioritizing for the year.
The revised goals of the council include investing in economic development to create businesses and new housing, improving infrastructure and education, creating a community that promotes public safety, emergency preparedness, and human rights, and running a local government efficiently, transparently, and in constant contact with residents.
Pare said that any short or long-term projects pursued by the council must be connected to these goals.
“Everything that we do should fall into one of these buckets,” Pare said. “When we met, I made a spreadsheet to keep track of the projects. I need to update it when we have our next meeting this session.”
A priority for Pare in the upcoming session is to seek $5 million in funding for a water filtration site at the McKeon Water Treatment Facility.
The site would have a granular activated carbon (GAC) absorption treatment system to filter Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) from the town’s water supply.
The chemicals in PFAS are man-made and used in the manufacturing of certain fire-fighting foams, moisture, and stain-resistant products, along with other industrial processes.
Those who drink water containing large amounts of PFAS may experience adverse effects on their livers, cholesterol, thyroid, and immune system and may increase the risk of some cancers.
Pare said the facility would improve infrastructure and give constituents better access to drinking water.
“We are glad that the Adamsdale Well is back and operational, but we are still seeking funding for the McKeon Facility,” Pare said. “The Town Council set that vision to improve the quality of the drinking water.”
Another project scheduled for completion this year is the Fisher College becoming a new senior center and food distribution facility.
The building, which went up for sale last November, became an ideal site for the regional food pantry and senior center due to its location and price. The Boston-based school put its North Attleborough location up for sale on Dec. 12, 2022, after students transitioned to online learning over the last several years.
Town Manager Michael Borg and lawyers for the town and school agreed to the $2.3 million sale in April.
Pare said the council will also move forward with long-term projects, including the downtown revitalization initiative, the North Attleborough High School building project, and a rebuilding of the Elm Street Fire Station.
“We want to lay the groundwork and have money we can draw upon when it comes to these projects,” Pare said. “These are long-term projects so we wouldn’t have much to do right now, but we will keep an eye on them.”
Building upon old and new working relationships
Pare said working with state and local politicians will be critical for any of these projects to move forward.
The council president said he is impressed with Town Manager Michael Borg’s efforts to ask leadership in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate to increase state funding for education and testified in favor of legislation to reduce the costs of construction of vocational schools and increase funding for related programs in Massachusetts.
Pare added that working with state Rep. Adam Scanlon (D-North Attleborough) and state Sen. Paul Feeney (D-Foxboro) gives the council more insight on legislative priorities from leadership on Beacon Hill.
“By getting that information, we can work alongside them to see what sorts of items we have lined up with what they want,” Pare said. “PFAS, for example, is a big one for leadership. Scanlon and Feeney will tell us what Beacon Hill is looking for and we try to see what we can do with that information.”
Pare said he is also working on building a working relationship with newly elected councilors John Costello and Patricia St. Pierre. Costello and St. Pierre were both elected in April to seats previously held by Patrick Reynolds and Kathleen Prescott, who both declined to seek another term.
In a gesture to welcome the two new councilors, Pare assigned Costello and St. Pierre to serve on the Finance Committee. Pare was part of that committee during his first term as councilor. He said learning about town finances gave him the experience needed to understand local government and wants Costello and St. Pierre to have the ability to learn from the committee.
“It’s unorthodox, but it’s a great responsibility,” Pare said. “It really helps you learn. I know I did when I was on it.”
Pare said his constituents will also play a role in how the council conducts its business. He cited the town bringing in new trash bins to replace a previous system of bags lying in the street—a concern voters made clear through meetings and phone calls—as making an attempt to hear voter concerns.
Pare said not everyone will be happy, but that the council is trying to do its best to create a better North Attleborough by listening to voter concerns and following up on them through measures, projects and communication.
“I realized two years is a short period of time as councilor,” Pare said. “We all want the perfect service, and the council has a role to play for any major investments.”