Plainville demanding action on dangerous intersection after fatality

By Heather McCarron; September 28, 2017; Plainville.WickedLocal.com

Less than two weeks after a Sharon man died following an accident at the highly dangerous George Street and Rte. 1 intersection, town officials have already gained Lt. Gov. Karen Polito’s ear on their long-time concerns about the location, and two residents have issued a sought-after citizens’ petition requesting the state to get something done about it once and for all.

Selectmen said residents and town officials alike have been concerned about the intersection’s safety for years, and there is frustration that nothing has been done to correct the problem despite repeated communications to the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Ideas range from adding a traffic light with “Signal Ahead” alerts to putting in jersey barriers or traffic islands, decreasing the posted speed limit and even closing off the end of George Streeet.

The board on Monday put the issue front and center at their meeting, attended by a number of residents, public safety officials, state Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, and state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk.

Town Administrator Jennifer Thompson said Mass DOT officials were invited to the meeting, but elected not to attend, ostensibly because the investigation into the latest accident is ongoing. She and other officials mwr with MassDOT officials behind closed doors on Tuesday.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Robert Rose said the town has communicated their concerns to MassDOT on more than one occasion.

“The Board of Selectmen were basically on top of this about a year or so ago. We had a close call with a resident and we decided to address the issue with MassHighway back at that time,” said Rose, citing a Jan. 27, 2017 letter to the department highlighting – not for the first time – the town’s concerns and request for corrective action.

Nothing was done beyond “identifying” missing and damaged signs and, in July, trimming back some vegetation, Rose said.

“On. Sept. 17, we had a fatality,” Rose said.

FATAL ACCIDENT

Around 7:30 p.m. on Sept 17, police said, Aaron Hahn, 35, of Sharon, was traveling northbound on his 2014 Suzuki motorcycle on Rte. 1 toward Wrentham when he collided with a vehicle at the George Street intersection in Plainville. The driver of the vehicle, a 2001 Volkswagon GTX, was attempting to cross over Rte. 1 when the collision occurred. The driver and his passenger suffered no injuries.

According to records kept by the police department, that intersection has seen a sharp increase in the number of accidents in recent years, and authorities say it is only going to get worse with plans for a 248-unit apartment complex in the area.

In August 2015, Baystate Engineering conducted a safety audit of the intersection, which indicated that from 2010 to 2015 there were 23 accidents at the intersection. There have been an additional 10 accidents since the report came out, Rose said.

In light of those statistics, and the recent fatality, “The Plainville Board of Selectmen feel it is imperative MassDOT take action,” Rose said.

By happenstance, Polito was visiting the area just days after Hahn’s death, and at that time town officials took the opportunity to discuss the concerns with her, and express their frustration with the lack of action on the state-maintained roadway.

“Her commitment to us was that the state would make it one of the highest priorities and they would address it,” Town Administrator Jennifer Thompson said.

CITIZENS’ PETITION CIRCULATING

Residents Dawn Denizkurt and Missy Imbaro have also gotten attention with their petition that is currently circulating. They began researching possible solutions and formulating the petition a couple of months ago. They are suggesting a traffic light with “Signal Ahead” warning signs ahead of the intersection, as well as lowering the speed limit, a jersey barrier between Rte. 106 and George Street, and a safe crossing zone for the residents of the upcoming apartment complex.

“We have a new apartment complex opening soon with 248 units. The potential for more accidents will increase, the fear of people coming out of the complex into traffic traveling at 55 MPH and trying to merge into the left lane in order to enter Dunkin Donuts is frightening. The worry that residents may try to cross the highway for the same reason is again a horrible thought,” Denizkurt said.

“We do not want another death,” she continued, adding that the Sept. 17 tragedy may have been prevented had there been a traffic light.

There are two petitions circulating – one for residents of Plainville and one for non-residents.

“This roadway is traveled by so many people and if they’re not from the area they don’t realize how dangerous it really is,” Denizkurt said. “Many people from Plainville are afraid to drive through it, which is unfortunate, because it eliminates one of the only two roads that crosses Rte. 1 in the middle of Plainville. The only other options are to go to North Attleborough or up near Target.”

On a personal level, she said, “I’ve told my teenage son that he is never to cross George Street or take a left in or out of it. It’s too dangerous.”

SEEKING ACTION

Selectmen are drawing a line in the sand they hope will result some action on the intersection on the part of the state.

“The fact of the matter is the last death is the last death. It’s got to stop,” said Selectman George Sutherland, noting the town now needs “to maintain the pressure and get it out in the open.”

Selectman Matt Kavanah said he is ready to see more than just analysis and discussion. What the town doesn’t need any more of, he said, are more studies and “putting it down on paper again and again and again and again. We’ve got it.”

Rep. Dooley said he and Sen. Ross share the town’s frustration and both have made numerous calls.

“We definitely have the ear of the lieutenant governor now,” said Dooley, noting he has also received calls from Polito over the past week to follow up.

George Street resident Chris Wlaz said he is very happy to hear the board discussing both short- and long-term solutions. Anticipating that long-term solutions could take months or years, he said, “The recent tragedy shows us something needs to be done, and be done soon.”

Fellow George Street resident Meta Unterweger agrees. “I don’t want another death on this corner. It’s so sad,” she said.

“I personally think they ought to close the road for now. It’s 10 houses from George Street to School street… I’ll go up School Street,” she said.

Closing off the end of George Street – which could be done since the town maintains that road – is one solution selectmen will have the town highway department look at to determine if it could be feasible or it if would create other problems or pose difficulties for emergency access.

Thompson said she and Rose were joined by the police and fire chiefs, the DPW director and the town planning director at Tuesday’s meeting with MassDOT District 5 administrators “to further reiterate the concerns here in Plainville over this intersection.”

Possible short-, medium- and long-term solutions were discussed, she said, “and our staff will be having a follow-up technical meeting with MassDOT engineers on Monday to work on the details of implementing short-term solutions to improve safety at this location.”

Rose said he plans to keep the issue on the board’s agenda on a weekly basis, and selectmen plan to demand a timeline for solutions from MassDOT.

 

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Hearing shows bipartisan agreement on estate tax problems

By Katie Lannan; September 26, 2017; State House News Service

A proposal to reform the Massachusetts estate tax would help both small businesses and a class of families dubbed “accidental millionaires,” its supporters said Tuesday.

Rep. Shawn Dooley, a Norfolk Republican, filed a bill (H 1510) that would raise the threshold at which someone becomes subject to the estate tax, also known as the “death tax.”

“People that no one would consider wealthy are currently being overly hit by the Massachusetts death tax,” Dooley said.

Dooley gave the example of a hypothetical owner of a small garage in Cambridge, who lives in a triple-decker he and his teacher wife bought for $38,000 years ago but has since ballooned to $1.5 million in value as property prices grew. The man “makes a living” at the garage he wants to pass down to his son, but doesn’t consider himself rich, Dooley said.

“As far as the state’s concerned, he’s very wealthy…and all of a sudden upon his death, he’s going to have to come up with $600,000 or the heirs will,” Dooley said, potentially leading them to sell the business to pay the estate tax bill.

Benjamin Muchler, advocacy director for the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts, dubbed such families “the accidental millionaires” and said he did not believe they were the demographic the estate tax originally sought to capture.

Muchler said very wealthy families are able to reduce their estate tax burden by developing advance gifting and trust strategies.

“For those willing to spend time and money, the current estate tax can be subverted,” he said.

Dooley’s bill would “automatically cull out” a large portion of families who would otherwise be subject to the tax by raising its threshold, and “effectively eliminates the estate tax on the aforementioned accidental millionaires” by excluding the value of the primary residence from the estate calculation, he said.

This year, an individual can leave $5.49 million to heirs without paying a federal estate tax. Under Dooley’s bill, the state tax threshold for 2017 would move from its current $1 million to $2.745 million.

The proposal comes as voters are set to decide next November whether to impose a higher income tax on people earning over $1 million, and while retailers are gathering signatures for a potential 2018 ballot question to lower the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent.

Massachusetts is one of 14 states that levies an estate tax, according to the Tax Foundation, which labels the Bay State’s methods as “unusually complex.”

Dooley, who serves on the Revenue Committee, said he has been working on estate tax reform throughout the three years he has been in office. The committee killed a similar bill he filed last session by including it in an order for further study in September 2016.

Rep. Jay Kaufman, the committee’s House chairman and a Lexington Democrat, told Dooley during the hearing that he appreciated his “non-ideological approach” to estate tax reform, noting that he and Dooley often disagree on ideological matters. He said he said he shared the sense expressed by Dooley and other backers of the bill that “what’s in place right now just doesn’t work.”

“The question is what to do with it,” Kaufman said.

State-level estate tax reform has been “very frequent” nationwide in recent years, said Christopher Carlozzi, the Massachusetts director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He said New Jersey has repealed its estate tax, while Maryland, New York and Minnesota all decided to raise their exemption thresholds.

Carlozzi said the estate tax is the “most troublesome” issue for small business owners, aside from health insurance. He called the tax “inherently inequitable” for small business owners and farmers, both of whom typically have their assets tied up in land, buildings and equipment for their enterprises.

With the state facing a trend of sluggish growth in revenue collections over recent months, the potential revenue loss would likely be a major consideration in any tax policy changes.

Carlozzi said the state collected $337 million, or 1.28 percent of its revenues, from the estate tax in fiscal 2017.

“The elimination or reduction of the estate tax would result in retention of some high-tax payers and their estates in Massachusetts,” Carlozzi said. “The retention of fewer than 200 estates and the collection of income and sales tax through the years from those individuals and their families in Massachusetts could pay for the elimination of the tax.”

 

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Rep. Shawn Dooley Announces Hiring of New Chief of Staff

BOSTON— State Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) announces the hiring of his new Chief of Staff, William Rigdon, as of July 17th.

Will is a lifelong resident of Norfolk and attended both the Norfolk Public Schools as well as King Philip Regional. In 2013, Will graduated as the Valedictorian of his class and went on to attend Boston University’s Questrom School of Business where he also was the Valedictorian.   This accomplishment was made even more impressive by the fact that he achieved this honor in just 3 short years – a first at Boston University.

During his time at BU, Rigdon gained valuable experience both in the private sector as a corporate operations consultant at Universal Automation & Mechanical Services in Walpole and in the public sector completing a campaign internship with State Representative Angelo D’Emilia (R-Bridgewater), a legislative internship with State Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), and an internship on the finance team at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in Washington, DC during the 2016 election cycle.

Since graduating, Rigdon worked as the Finance Coordinator at the Massachusetts Republican Party coordinating all aspects of fundraising, finance, and expenditures.

“I recruited him hard and quite frankly I was a little surprised that I was able to get someone as talented and sought after as Will for my office,” Dooley stated.  “With his experience, connections, and intellect he has already hit the ground running and will be a huge asset to the people of the 9th Norfolk District.”  Dooley also admitted that, “the Party wasn’t thrilled that I poached one of their star players, but my priority will always be getting the best for our community.”

Rigdon is equally as excited to be on board “I’ve loved politics for as long as I can remember. I’ve worked in different offices and organizations, but the Ninth Norfolk is my home. This is my way to give back to a community that has helped shape me into the person I am today.”

 

Will

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Representative Shawn Dooley Announces Fall Office Hours

BOSTON—Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) has announced his fall office hours for all six of the towns he represents:

  • Norfolk:
    • Tuesday October 3rd
    • 9:00-10:00 AM
    • Norfolk Senior Center (28 Medway Branch)
  • Wrentham:
    • Tuesday October 3rd
    • 10:30 -11:30 AM
    • Wrentham Senior Center (400 Taunton Street)
  • Plainville:
    • Tuesday October 3rd,
    • 12:30-1:30 PM
    • Plainville Senior Center (9 School Street)
  • Millis:
    • Thursday October 5th
    • 10:00-11:00 AM,
    • Millis Town Hall Room 229 (900 Main Street)
  • Medfield:
    • Thursday October 5th,
    • 11:30 AM- 12:30 PM
    • Medfield Town Hall Warrant Room (459 Main Street)
  • Walpole:
    • Thursday October 5th
    • 1:00 PM-2:00PM
    • Walpole Town Hall Room 116 (135 School Street)

All constituents are welcome to stop in, say hello, and discuss any issues they would like. As always, Representative Dooley is also happy to meet privately in the district or in his Boston office. If interested in scheduling an appointment, please contact his Chief of Staff, William Rigdon, at William.Rigdon@mahouse.gov or 617-722-2810.

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Eight Students Complete Internships with Representative Dooley

BOSTON—This summer Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) was pleased to have eight local students complete internships in his office:

  • Luke Eldridge (Wrentham)—King Philip High School, 2018
  • Brandon Goldman (Medfield)—University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2019
  • Dan Hedberg (Plainville)—King Philip High School, 2018
  • Kevin Langley (Wrentham)—University of Alabama, 2019
  • Matthew Regan (Milton)—University of Massachusetts Boston, 2018
  • Nick Sammarco (Plainville)—King Philip High School, 2018
  • Steven Segel (Newton)—Newton South High School, 2019
  • Joyce Welch (Cranston, RI)—Connecticut College, 2019

Interns in Dooley’s office get an immersive experience in all sides of state and local politics from campaign life in the district to policy work in the State House. “Interning in my office is challenging, but ultimately I hope it is one of the most rewarding and fun experiences students interested in politics can have” said Dooley. “All of my interns this summer were as hard-working, dedicated, and eager to learn as I’ve seen. With the skills they have mastered while working in my office, I know undoubtedly that they will be an asset and a success in anything they choose to pursue. I thank them all for their service to me and all the citizens of the 9th Norfolk District.”

Any high school and college students interested in applying for an internship in Dooley’s office are encouraged to reach out to his Chief of Staff, William Rigdon, at William.Rigdon@mahouse.gov.

Summer 2017 Intern Photo

Left to Right: Steven Segel, Joyce Welch, Rep. Dooley, Nick Sammarco, Chief of Staff William Rigdon, and Brandon Goldman. (Photo Credits: MA House of Representatives) Not Pictured: Luke Eldridge, Dan Hedberg, Kevin Langley, and Matthew Regan

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