LEOMINSTER — City officials will give an update on the Twin Cities Rail Trail project on Monday night.
The meeting information session, led by Mayor Dean Mazzarella, starts at 5 p.m. at City Hall, followed by the council’s regular meeting at 6:30 p.m.
The trail will follow the old Fitchburg & Worcester Railroad line, from Mechanic Street in downtown Leominster to the MART Intermodal Transportation Center in downtown Fitchburg.
The trail is expected to cost about $18 million, funded by federal, state and local governments. It is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2020.
Both Leominster and Fitchburg must sign off on easements by Aug. 15. The federal government will not pay for projects that include private land.
Fitchburg councilors voted unanimously to approve easements along its section to the trail on Tuesday night.
Several Leominster residents attended that meeting, hoping to convince the councilors to reject the motion, or at least delay approval until they had more information.
Mary Jean, a Leominster resident who owns property at 268 Winoosnock Road in Fitchburg, said land-takings and easements go far beyond the promised 12-foot-wide paved path. She said it will affect numerous businesses, including a bank and car dealer.
Dennis Rosa, a former Leominster city councilor and state representative, said that as an elected official he regularly voted for public transportation and economic development that benefited both cities.
“In my opinion, this is the most negative, anti-business, anti-homeowner, anti-residents transportation project in this region,” he said.
He said more 80 Fitchburg properties and more than 130 Leominster properties will be affected.
“We’re just finding out how devastating this is,” Rosa said.
He pleaded with councilors to delay a vote, and “work with us” on a more palatable solution.
“This is not positive economic development. It’s negative, very negative,” he said.
John Ferrara, who owns a building at 45 North Main St., said he could not understand how a small part of his building could encroach on a 12-foot-wide path.
He also asked how police and fire will be able to respond to crime or emergencies.
Fitchburg resident Ralph Miller called the trail “a stupid project wasting taxpayers’ money.
Miller and others said the money could be better spent fixing city roads.
Councilors and city officials said the state money is a fixed grant that can only be spent on the rail trail.
Several councilors said they understood the concerns of Leominster residents. However, they said, they were elected to follow the will of Fitchburg residents.
Further, city officials said several business owners support the plan, and the lone easement in Fitchburg is favored by the land owner.