Monday, August 8, 2016
State Rep Deserves Credit For "Dirty Work"
Posted: Sunday, August 7, 2016 11:17 pm | Updated: 11:18 pm, Sun Aug 7, 2016.
Now there's a topic that just rolls off the tongue and excites everyone who gets the opportunity to discuss it. Unless you are an engineer or wastewater professional of some type, sewerage issues are hardly fascinating. They combine two things most people agree are inevitable parts of life we can't escape dealing with, but stink - sewage and politics.
When it comes to economic and community development, sewerage plays a huge role in the growth of cities and towns. Communities like my hometown of Norton have long lagged behind others because they could not handle the sewerage needs of industrial concerns. It was only after Norton reluctantly joined neighboring Mansfield in operating a treatment plant that things began to change, and residential taxpayers started seeing at least a little relief.
Last week, ground was broken on an addition to the Mansfield sewerage plant (located in Norton, but that's a long story for another time). It will help serve the towns of Mansfield, Norton, Foxboro, Sharon and Easton. It will increase the plant's capacity by about one-third, and it will be the key to expanding commercial/industrial growth in this area.
And quite frankly - it never would have happened if not for the efforts of State Rep. Jay Barrows.
Not that he did this by himself, mind you. As he would be the first to say, getting to this point took tremendous effort and cooperation from a lot of groups and individuals. To say this has been a long and winding road would be a gross understatement.
But the glue that held this deal together, the force that raised it from the dead several times and guided it through the labyrinth of local and state politics, was the Republican representative from Mansfield. Make no mistake about that.
This space has criticized Rep. Barrows when it was thought to be deserved, and it praises him now with equal sincerity and energy. Only those connected to this long, local nightmare can truly appreciate what Barrows has accomplished for his district and beyond in this regard.
He inherited a mess when he came into office. Mansfield and Norton were constantly at each other's throats over this plant. The problems date back to at least the 1970's, when Mansfield was forced to go it alone after Foxboro and then Norton backed out of a joint agreement at the last moment. It became a political minefield where few dared to venture, and fewer still could navigate successfully.
The original plant was built largely with federal and state funding. The towns involved couldn't come to agreement on capacity, allotments, commitments, funding or much of anything else. Obtaining land for the project from private owners was a complex issue, especially when it had to be done on behalf of three towns that all had to officially agree to everything.
At one Town Meeting in Norton, after being assured by local officials they had an agreement to purchase the property, Barrows got up and explained the next steps to that audience. Then the property owner stood and informed those assembled he had made no such agreement.
Such is the life of a state representative.
Politicians have to get reelected first, or they can't accomplish anything. They like the glamour issues, the ones where the resolutions come quickly and they can schedule the press conference and share the credit. They are not always enamored with the "dirty work," and there is no dirtier work than this issue.
But Rep. Barrows willingly took on the responsibility. He did the complicated and time-consuming job in Boston, negotiating with legislative leaders and regulatory agencies. He got the new district formed and funded. He mediated between town officials, took the heat from disgruntled property owners and voters, and toiled on this issue that would bring him little positive publicity, but plenty of grief.
He did his job, and did it well. His patience, diligence, calm demeanor and quiet determination made him uniquely qualified for the task.
Some talk about leading. Others do it. Jay Barrows belongs in the latter group. While I strongly disagree with him on many issues, I admire and appreciate what he has done for our local communities.
Jay - the next flush is for you.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.