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GROTON — Continuing to explore the possibility of a change in town government, the Board of Selectmen held a second public hearing last Monday and heard from guests Kate Fitzpatrick and Bernard Lynch, town managers of Needham and Chelmsford respectively.

Lynch opened the discussion by saying Chelmsford made the change to town manager when growth there outstripped the ability of selectmen to keep proper control of everything.

“The problems got quite complex,” said Lynch. Changing to a town manager form of government had the benefit of freeing up the Board of Selectmen and allowing members to take a more “global” outlook on town affairs.

However, Lynch said that with all the hiring and appointing authority delegated to the town manager, politics was taken out of the selection process.

With Groton’s increasing population and growing development, selectmen decided recently to take advantage of the imminent departure of Jean Kitchen, the town’s current administrative officer, to consider other forms of town government.

Should any change in government be suggested, it would likely require changes to the town charter for which a future town meeting vote would need be required.

Concerns raised by the board at Monday’s meeting with Lynch and Fitzpatrick included the relationship between the town manager and the Finance Committee, appointment authority, the town manager’s relationship with the school district, and budget formulation. Also discussed was the need for a townwide consensus on having a town manager before bring the matter before residents for town meeting vote, and developing a “roadmap” for steering the idea through an approval process.

“I think what you’re doing is a right first step,” said Lynch of the idea of a roadmap.

Lynch told selectmen that if the “right organization” was in place, the town could avoid many of the problems brought on by growth. He advised selectmen to concentrate on the issues in town that need to be addressed in order to find the proper fit for the form of town government that best suited Groton.

The board intends to continue holding a public dialogue on the issue of a possible change in town government as the summer progresses.

Under the law, developers seeking to construct buildings in town must appear before the board for review and approval of the design of any new structure.

Although the board’s decision Monday came with little discussion, one aspect of the Crossroads plan had been cause for concern at an earlier meeting. At that time, designs for one of the site’s four buildings, intended for a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, had given town officials pause.

Among the objections to the design were its oversized roof, too-small cupola, unusual rooftop balustrade, narrow trim, and close-set windows.

Planning administrator Michelle Collette had described the overall effect of the design as looking like a “standard franchise” pattern.

But since that earlier meeting, representatives of Crossroads incorporated the suggested changes then met with the Planning Board and received its approval.

With the improvements to the design, selectmen last Monday were satisfied and decided that they met the requirements of the town’s harmonious development bylaw.

Also last week, the board:

* Assured members of the town’s Community Preservation Committee (CPC) that it would not act “unilaterally” in any decision it made regarding 14 acres of land that is to be set aside for town use after the purchase of the former Surrenden Farm property. That purchase, which will be consummated in December if negotiations are successfully concluded, will include a total of 360 acres, most of which will be set aside as conservation land. Of that total, 14 acres will be reserved for use by the town for playing fields or possibly as the site of an affordable housing project. With the board having authority over how the 14 acres will be used, the CPC was fearful that if an affordable housing project were chosen and funded with CPA money, the review process might be taken out of their hands. But selectmen assured CPC members that if CPA money were needed, the committee’s established approval process would not be ignored.

* Voted to pay the Greenman Pederson engineering firm $8,000 to cover unforeseen expenses in handling the redesign of the Four Corners intersection. The amount came over and above an initial charge to the town of $5,500 which was based on what the company estimated would be the cost of the work. Later, other work was needed and was approved by the town’s administrative officer, Jean Kitchen. However, the additional work was done without a written work order indicating the additions as stipulated in the town’s contract with Greenman Pederson. It was this last point that worried selectmen and that prompted town accountant Valerie Jenkins to insist on a letter for her files explaining the board’s action should it agree to pay the $8,000.

* Voted unanimously to allow Fire Chief Joseph Bosselait to apply for a federal SAFER grant (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Response) worth $103,500 over four years. According to the rules of the grant, the town must match the funding on a sliding scale beginning with 10 percent in the first year and increasing to 100 percent in the fifth year. Although the grant would cover the cost of adding one firefighter to the town’s Fire Department, the town would be prevented from reducing the department’s staff during the five-year life of the grant. In making his case before the board, Bosselait argued that the town was growing fast and that increased coverage by his department was needed. Finding the argument persuasive, selectmen voted to allow the chief to apply for the grant.

* Voted to appoint Water Department employee Kathy Morin to the treasurer’s office as assistant to the treasurer while allowing the Water Commission to advertise for Morin’s former position as Water Department business manager. Because the position might entail some changes, the board asked commissioners to submit their job description to the Personnel Board for review and possible rerating.

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