GROTON -- With the passage of a major spending measure by residents at special Town Meeting that cleared the way for construction of a new Center Fire Station, the Board of Selectmen last night tidied up some last-minute details to a project that has consumed months of effort by the town manager, the fire chief and many other officials and residents.
The final details were brought before the board at its meeting of Feb. 4 by Town Manager Mark Haddad in the form of a requested vote accepting a deed to the Farmers Row property where the new fire station is to be built.
According to Haddad, the town is expected to close on the purchase and sales of the site with owners Lawrence Homestead Trust on Feb. 14 and selectmen's acceptance of the deed was needed beforehand.
However, there was a slight glitch in the proceedings when a second vote approving the creation of an easement for property lying between the existing public safety building and the site where the new fire station is to be constructed was also asked by Haddad.
In that case, board member Joshua Degen at first said he would refuse to vote for the easement request on the grounds that wording in the supporting document left open the possibility that a 40b housing project could be built on the site of the Trust's remaining three lots.
Both Haddad and Water Superintendent Thomas Orcutt pointed out, however, that wording in the document assured that only a single-family home could be built on each of the lots.
Furthermore, they said, not enough sewer capacity had been set aside for anything more, which would have to be approved at Town Meeting anyway.
With that, Degen relented and joined the other members of the board in voting in favor of the easement.
When construction on the fire station is completed in the spring, the new $7,734,000 building will include a four-bay garage and two-story administration complex with offices on the first floor; fitness room, dormitory, kitchen, dining room, and day room planned for the second floor; and HVAC and other mechanical equipment to be placed in the third-floor "attic" space.
Also at their meeting of Feb. 4, selectmen:
* Voted to move up the date for town elections from May 21 to April 30 to coincide with a special state primary being held for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by John Kerry due to his being appointed secretary of state. Town Clerk Michael Bouchard, who requested the change, said it would save the town $2,500 for holding one election rather than two and that holding the two at the same time might boost the number of people who come out to vote.
* Were also asked by Bouchard to choose among three potential sites at which to hold town elections in the future: the former country club, the former Prescott School or Town Hall. Bouchard brought the issue to the board originally after the tragic shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., thinking it prudent to move election activity from the middle school to another site. Of the sites, the country club was ideal except for issues of handicapped accessibility and Town Hall was problematic due to lack of parking and having to hold elections on two floors and possibly interfering with the activities of Town Hall workers. Of the three sites, Prescott seemed the best, with ample parking and space for voting as well as accessibility. Nevertheless, selectmen decided to postpone a decision pending further discussion of the three sites.
* Received a request from attorney Robert Collins to help straighten out a zoning issue along Cow Pond Brook Road. There, said Collins, a former owner of the property through which the road runs had reserved for himself strips of land on either side of the street to prevent legal frontage for the creation of home lots. But when the land was subsequently sold and the road adopted by the town, a thorough title search was not done with the result that home lots were sold without knowledge of the strips, which passed into the ownership of the town. Collins said not having legal access from their lots to the road presented a hardship for homeowners if they decided to sell. The problem could be solved, however, if selectmen voted to incorporate the strips into the right of way for the road. "It's a very easy fix," concluded the attorney. Selectmen however, were uncertain about the legal issues involved and decided to wait until their next meeting to make a decision pending review of an email received by Haddad from the town's counsel that purportedly agreed with Collins estimation of the situation.
* Were informed by Haddad that he had finalized wording of an request for proposal for the sale of Squannacook Hall located in West Groton. The hall, which has been closed by order of the board for months, proved difficult for the town to do anything with due to lack of space for a proper septic system. By offering the building for sale, it was hoped that a buyer will be able to solve the problem and save the historic building for future use. The town manager told selectmen that he intended to move forward with advertising the RFP.
* Voted to approve the sale of the former Tarbell School to Robin Kane, owner of the Country Kids daycare, who plans to convert the building into a multiuse learning center. The vote also authorized board Chairman Stuart Schulman to sign for any changes in sale documents that might be needed before the deal is finalized.
* Voted to approve an application by the Great Ponds Advisory Committee to the Conservation Commission for weed harvesting in Baddacook Pond. Advocates told selectmen that the pond was in danger of being choked off by the weeds while Orcutt warned that care needed to be taken that seeds were not spread in the process. The water superintendent feared that if the weeds ended up being spread even more, only a chemical solution could solve the problem and that might threaten the aquifer from which the town drew some of its drinking water. In its vote, selectmen included wording that the committee take the Water Department's concerns into account when making its appeal to the Conservation Commission.