By Hiroko Sato
GROTON -- Two months after Town Meeting shelved the Lost Lake sewer installation project amid skepticism that it may never help improve lake water quality, 100 residents are asking fellow voters to weigh in on the issue again.
This time, the proposal coming up at the Jan. 26 Special Town Meeting isn't about where to install sewer pipes or how much of the cost homeowners should shoulder. Rather, it simply asks to establish a Lost Lake Sewer District. By establishing the district, the town can demonstrate its strong interest in building the sewer system and that it's taking steps toward it, said Selectman Jack Petropoulos. And he and 99 other residents believe the town must show that it wants to put itself in line for an up to $1 million federal grant that may be available should the sewer project ever become a reality.
And Groton must get in line before March 31, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development changes eligibility guidelines, Petropoulos said.
Passage of the proposal would not automatically mean the sewer district would be created overnight or the town would begin constructing the system, Petropoulos said.
"We are telling the town(speople) that there is no risk here" for supporting the proposal, said Petropoulos, one of the 100 residents who petitioned the proposal.
According to Petropoulos, the USDA Rural Development program provides the sewer construction grant only to communities that have a population of less than 10,000 based on U.S. Census data. The USDA currently uses 2000 census data, which shows Groton's population as less than 10,000. On April 1, the agency will start using 2010 census data.
Selectmen proposed to build a $12.9 million sewer system for the Lost Lake and Four Corners neighborhoods at the Special Town Meeting on Oct. 15. The project stemmed from the concerns over lakeside homes' lot sizes that could not satisfy today's septic codes and the weed growth in the lake that nutrients from septic runoffs are believed to aid. Some residents said, however, that there wasn't enough water testing to prove the investment would be worthwhile to stop the weed infestation. Selectmen in the end proposed to take it off the table indefinitely and the majority of Town Meeting agreed.
Petropoulos, who was among those who were critical of the sewer project in October, said that the USDA grant could cover such expenses as the designing of the system.
"It's important for everybody to understand the actual creation of the sewer district is a complicated legal event," Petropoulos said. "All we are doing at the (upcoming Special) Town Meeting is to say, 'Yes, we'd like to take the next step for creating the sewer district.'"
The Special Town Meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at Groton-Dunstable Regional Middle School.