On Saturday, December 2nd town residents will go to the polls here in Billerica to decide whether to overrule the valid action of our Representative Town Meeting. The vote involves overruling town meetings overwhelming vote to fund several routine budget items. One of those items is a clear concern to public safety and the quality of life in our community. I feel an obligation to accurately inform the residents about the public safety implications of this vote.
The item in question involves funding for an improved Tree and Parks Division within our DPW in order to care for our capital assets. I feel that this department plays a vital public safety function. The current department provides support for our traffic safety program which is no small task since Billerica has over 250 miles of roadway. In addition to the cutting of dangerous trees on town property they also provide brush cutting and trimming on untold roadways and intersections every year. If you are a resident who lives or travel through an intersection where brush and overgrowth has obscured intersection sight lines then you understand the problem.
The Tree and Parks Department has been understaffed and neglected for many years. The department’s first priority is always burials at the cemetery and not safe travel on our roadways. This is an unfortunate situation that you as residents, have an opportunity to fix by voting yes for the funding on Saturday, December 2nd at the voting poll.
Regarding the care of our Parks and Playgrounds, one of the theories of community policing is the now famous Broken Windows Theory, whereby people see a building with an unrepaired broken window and suddenly but surely, more broken windows appear and then the whole area can fall into disrepair, including public safety and more importantly, the perception of safety in the area.
This same theory applies to our parks, playgrounds and public spaces. These areas should be treated as capital assets of the community. When overflowing trash barrels and an unkempt appearance only leads to more trash, graffiti, etc. The appearance or lack thereof, then leads to less usage by residents of these public spaces. When this happens residents perceptions continue to degrade, along with the appearance of the area and the cycle continues. Our parks and playgrounds then hinder the quality of life and public safety in the town rather than enhance it. There is nothing better than a park or playground full of people who are the eyes and ears of public safety in a community.
Our Town Meeting and residents have supported hundreds of millions of dollars in capital improvements in this community over the last several years. It is time that we not be penny wise and pound foolish and support the town in protecting our investment. This is precisely why I urge my fellow residents to vote yes this Saturday and support public safety on our roadways and help the town to protect our parks, playgrounds and open spaces.
Daniel C. Rosa
Chief of Police