Byline: Paula J. Owen
WESTMINSTER - It could shape up as a David-and-Goliath tale: The small, bucolic town of Westminster, population about 7,000, going up against the state's Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which is backed with millions in federal stimulus money.
Although this small town issued a cease-and-desist order on a big-money MBTA project on Friday, the fact is, officials from the MBTA say, their projects fall under federal regulations, not small-town, local bylaws.
The rub is over the proposed layover station at the Westminster Business Park off Route 2A.
The layover station is part of a larger project costing more than $100 million and including improvements along the rails into Boston and the construction of a new commuter station in Fitchburg. The proposed layover station in Westminster will house five trains that will park overnight, with the last one arriving at 1 a.m. The trains will start up an hour before their departure at 5 a.m. The design includes track for a sixth train in the future.
When first proposed, town officials supported the project and sent a letter to the MBTA saying so.
But this is a different time - and a different Board of Selectmen.
And these selectmen issued a cease-and-desist order, alleging unlawful earth removal at the construction site.
Westminster police hand-delivered the order on-site to MBTA contractor Mark Eggleston of S&R Construction; and by certified mail to the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, which owns the land being developed; to top officials at the MBTA; and to a co-owner of the Westminster Business Park.
Selectman Joseph E. Flanagan said the order was issued because the MBTA had not met with Westminster officials before construction started, nor had the MBTA applied for an earth-removal permit.
"We are being asked to ignore our general bylaws and trust that the MBTA will do the right thing," Mr. Flanagan, "but the history of this project is already filled with broken promises, and construction hasn't even started."
Joseph Pesaturo, spokesman for the MBTA, said when the project was first proposed, Westminster selectmen expressed their support for the project in a letter to MART that was forwarded to the MBTA.
Mr. Pesaturo said the work will continue on the layover station despite the order from the town. MBTA officials, he said, will meet with selectmen Jan. 7 to address the town's concerns.
However, the bad blood between the town and MBTA runs deeper than gaining...