GROTON -- Introduced at a recent meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the first draft of the warrant for the upcoming spring town meeting listed a 34 articles covering everything from the budget to disposal of public buildings.
Being only the first draft, changes could be made to the warrant by the time a final version is approved by selectmen.
In the meantime, topping the agenda is expected to be the budget which, if all the pieces fall into place, will come to $32,025,074 or a 5.5 percent increase from 2014.
The reason for the sharp rise in spending is the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District, whose books were discovered to be out of balance by $2.7 million for fiscal 2015. Cuts in school spending reduced that number leaving Groton with $1.5 million as its share needed to make up the difference.
Should Dunstable approve raising the money for its own share of the shortfall and the proposed budget for Groton approved by voters, the tax rate for property owners would rise to $18.41 or an average increase of $412 annually.
But in order for everything to work, certain pieces of the puzzle have to fall into place. That includes a separate warrant article that would rescind an earlier vote by town meeting approving the $73,000 to join the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project.
That cut, and others previously made to the budget, would be added to more savings should voters approve an April 1 ballot question changing the way the new Center Fire Station is funded, which they did.
If all those steps are approved by residents, the town would be able to meet its plan to help the schools balance their books. The danger, however, is that it is not all one time spending but would need to be renewed every year.
In addition to the regular budget, the warrant will ask voters to approve other one-time spending such as $280,000 for a replacement ambulance for the Fire Department; $50,000 for a replacement forestry truck for the Fire Department; $35,000 for a replacement pick-up truck for the DPW; $40,000 to bolster the town's information technology infrastructure; $30,000 to update the alarm system in town buildings; $43,690 for HVAC upgrades needed by the Library; $120,000 for the purchase of three police cruisers; and $10,200 for a rough mower, $20,000 for golf carts, and $6,500 for a boom sprayer by the Pool & Golf Center.
Also on the draft warrant are a number of measures that would seek to amend existing zoning regulations. Included are clarification of regs dealing with wetlands, unregistered vehicles and related automotive equipment stored on private property; breakdown of business zones in town to better define what types of business fit best in which neighborhoods; clarifying the role and responsibilities of the Historic Districts Commission in accordance with state standards; requirement of homeowners to hook up with public wastewater services if available should their own septic systems fail to meet standards set by the state's Title 5 regulations.
Other articles on the warrant deal with the disposal of public buildings such as the former Prescott School for which selectmen will seek authorization to rent or sell to interested developers. Already, said Haddad, the town has received two responses to recently issued RFPs (Request For Proposal) for the property.
But ridding the town of the building may not be easy as residents at the board's meeting of March 10 raised spirited arguments against such a course saying that there are many other possibilities for use of the building including as a senior center or by the historical society.
Also receiving its share of interest from potential buyers, said Haddad, is the old Center Fire Station for which there has been "tremendous interest" with 4-5 responses to an RFP.
Town meeting will be asked once again to approve a concept plan for the disused Squannacook Hall in West Groton that proposes to convert the historic building into residential units. In two other articles, residents will be asked to approve repair of the hall's septic system at a cost of $30,000 and to authorize selectmen to sell or lease the property.
Other warrant articles include:
* Appropriation of $10,000 to cover the cost of updating personal property values in town in accordance with state law.
* Appropriation of $9,000 to install automatic door openers at the library.
* Authorization for the Nashoba Valley Technical High School to borrow funds for a roof repair project.
* Appropriation from CPC funds (Community Preservation Committee) to pay for restoration of historic milestones around town, transfer of funds to the Conservation Fund, Sargisson Beach restoration, repair of the driving range at the Pool & Golf Center and increased hours for the housing coordinator.
* Appropriation of $486,475 for payment on the debt for Surrenden Farms.
Town meeting is scheduled for April 28.
Selectmen approved a recommendation from the Polling Relocation Committee that voting activities for precincts two and three should be located at the Pool & Golf Center.
Town officials hope to have the center ready for voting by Election Day in May.
Finally, selectmen, impressed with her background in forestry, voted to appoint Susan Black to fill a vacancy on the Conservation Commission.