AYER -- The issue of private roads surfaced once again at the selectmen's meeting on Tuesday night, when resident Howard Hall of Mountain View Avenue told the board that the road needs to be paved.

Hall said he's worked with Department of Public Works Superintendent Mark Wetzel to patch the road and make it "livable," but the road is deteriorating fast.

"You plow them in the winter, you salt them, OK, but you don't pave them," Hall said, adding that he'll gladly sit down with someone to put together a program.

"More of it may be a can't-do than a can-do," said Selectman Gary Luca.

"I don't believe that," Hall said. "I've been paying my taxes for over 30 years. I want my road paved. It has to be a 'can-be.' We have to figure out a way to get it done. I know I'm not the only one in this same situation."

Residents of Old Groton Road, considered a private road, have also come before the board in recent months with plowing and maintenance problems.

Wetzel, who has connected with town counsel on what the town can legally do on private roads, said the town of Westford put a private road committee together that did a report on what the costs would be to upgrade private roads.

He suggested putting together an outline of how Ayer can do something similar for the next meeting.

"I don't think we have to reinvent the wheel because their report followed a very good process and had very good recommendations," Wetzel said.


Wetzel also explained the town counsel's legal opinion on repairs to Old Groton Road, which finds that the town has no obligation to repair a private way.

But the opinion states that the town can adopt a bylaw to do temporary repairs.

"If we're going to do repairs on private roads, we have to have a process or a bylaw that states what the process is and who's responsible for what cost," Wetzel said.

Selectmen again stressed the need to reach a solution before winter, when snow paving issues come up again.

Selectman Jannice Livingston argued that in the past, the road used to get some type of repair from the DPW.

"I don't understand, you're going to tell me that we need funding and we probably do, but how was it done before?" she asked. "Because obviously there was a mechanism there because we were obviously spending money doing some type of a repair."

Luca suggested grading the road so that the plows can get down it in the winter. After some discussion, the board voted in favor.

After the meeting, Luca said he did not think grading was considered repairing.

ZBA has quorum

Selectmen appointed Howard Hall and Planning Board member Jeremy Callahan to the Zoning Board of Appeals, creating a quorum on the board.

The board was left without a quorum for weeks after members resigned when selectmen failed to appoint former selectman Pauline Conley.

But Callahan has a harassment prevention order against him by former Planning Board employee Susan Sullivan that forbids him from being in Town Hall beyond business hours.

"My concern is that due to his circumstances right now, is the rest of the ZBA willing to possibly meet in an off-site location," Livingston said.

Callahan filed four Open Meeting Law complaints against the Planning Board, which had not agreed to relocate its meetings so that he can attend.

Those complaints cost the town roughly $3,000 in legal costs, which the selectmen approved in the form of a reserve fund transfer.

Letter to George Ramirez

The board sent a letter to George Ramirez, executive vice president of Devens, saying that selectmen are "greatly disappointed" in his response to the town's request for a renegotiation in the wastewater agreement with MassDevelopment.

The town has been trying to reduce the overall wastewater capacity that flows to Devens, ultimately creating a cheaper agreement. But last month, selectmen received a letter from Ramirez that said doing so would increase the cost for Shirley and the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Shirley. Ramirez also claimed that the DPW superintendent at that time declined to reduce the town's overall capacity. 

"Your letter recognizes the annual cost to the taxpayers under the existing agreement, but provides no mechanism to address that cost or any opportunity for the town and MassDevelopment to work together to reduce this cost and address the public concerns for wasted resources of MassDevelopment and imperiled finances of the town," the letter reads.

The suggestion that the town wait until the contract ends in 2021 to renegotiate the capacity, the letter states, does not address the "waste of public funds" under the current agreement.

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