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SHIRLEY — The Montachusett Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is a branch of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDot) and the Federal Transit Administration.

Monday night, Sherry Bean, a transportation planner with the Fitchburg-based Montachusettt Regional Planning Commission (MRPC), asked the Board of Selectmen to appoint a representative to the new board.

Shirley is within one of several “subregions” served by the MPO.

The representative doesn’t have to be a selectman, she said. “It can be a designee.”

A full MPO contingent includes eight members from the four communities in the subregion, which also includes Ayer, Bean said.Other voting MPO members include officials or designees from MassDot, MRPC, the Montachusett Regional transit Authority and the Mayors of Fitchburg, Leominster, and Gardner.

MPO membership doesn’t guarantee community- transportation projects will get top priority for state and federal funding, she said, but it helps keep those projects on the front burner when proposals for their communities are voted on each year.

Bean posited that with fewer dollars chasing more needed infrastructure work across the state and the nation, membership is a proactive way for communities to stay in the loop.

For example, when former DPW Director Joe Lynch was a member, he became chairman of the MPO and advocated strongly for the multimillion-dollar Townsend Road rebuild project, which eventually moved forward with government funding.

Lynch’s position was eliminated last year as Shirley’s financial woes escalated. The town hasn’t been represented on the MPO since he left.

Ayer Selectman Frank Maxant is MPO chairman now and has consistently pushed for the train station parking garage project in that town.

“We have projects we’d like to push too,” Selectman Andy Deveau said.

Bean said the MRPC would like to settle the issue by the end of this month.

Chairman David Swain said the board would take it up at next week’s meeting.

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