By Kristen Levine, Reporter
The Local Rapid Recovery Plan in Princeton has finished its Phase 2 planning process, coming out with a list of potential projects to improve the town and quality of life for residents and visitors alike. The Recovery Plan was originally introduced as a means for Princeton’s local businesses to recover from Covid-19. Brought to the Selectboard by the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning commission, the Plan offers suggestions for municipal improvements.
The project’s second phase, as defined by Town Administrator Sherry Patch, was for creating the actionable project plan; “The goal is to consult with key stakeholders and develop a final list of projects,” she said. Phase 3 will be for final plans, finding accessible goals and to create a draft of project recommendations that will be submitted to the Commonwealth for final approval.
“We haven’t picked any ideas yet, as they’re still under discussion,” said Patch. “There’s different possibilities for things we can do; we will get a report together and hopefully move into implementation and grant money soon.”
The list of potential projects varies from creating sidewalks and bike paths on Worcester Road to smaller but no less important things, like picnic tables and benches in the Post Office Place greens. All projects proposed for the Recovery Plan offer a chance for Princeton’s improvement or beautification, creating more accessible spaces not only for residents but for town visitors. As part of revitalizing a town after the economic and social setbacks from Covid-19, any project undertaken will build Princeton into a destination.
“We’re always looking for ways to help businesses succeed,” Patch said. “Some recommendations we’ve already started. [There is] e-permitting software; right now it’s for building permits, Board of Health, those kinds of things.”
The e-permit software will be featured in a kiosk in Town Hall, with instructions on how to apply for building permits in a hands-off approach. The submitted requests will be accessible to inspectors on a 24/7 basis. “[Inspectors] can see what’s going on, and we’re hoping it will speed up the process,” Patch added.
Dominque DuTremble, a regional planner with the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission, has been instrumental in the planning and implementation process.
“She’s awesome,” Patch said. “She’s the facilitator and lead planner, and she’s been really helpful coordinating and keeping things on track…. we’re meeting next with Dominque and Karen Cruise [Chair of the Board of Selectmen] to review the list of potential strategies…. what we’re looking to do is establish goals that don’t require a lot of capital investment and are low-cost and effective.”
Searching out cost-effectiveness in the approach to projects has been one of the leading goals of the Recovery Plan. With aid from grants, Patch hopes to see more expensive projects become more feasible as capital is accrued.
“[The final project plans] go to the Department of Housing and Community Development,” she said. “Once these plans are submitted and approved, some grant funds follow. The grants are a combination of state and federal funding.”
Businesses in town are looking optimistic about revitalization through the Plan, according to Patch. “Local businesses are interested in creating a local merchant’s association; there’s excitement about the possibilities.”