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Special Contributors

Part one of an ongoing series

AYER — The town has several issues that will come to a head in the next few years.

A Special Town Meeting is scheduled for Feb. 10, and Spring Town Meeting will be in May as usual. The school is facing a large shortfall for this and next year, and several other issues with big-dollar ramifications face voters and the Board of Selectmen.

Read this with the understanding that it was created to inform, and the authors do have an opinion regarding the direction of the town. Namely, we feel it’s imperative that sane, rational, thoughtful collaboration will help our town toward a path where everyone gets what they need, everyone gets some of what they want and Ayer remains a lovely place to live.

Then inform yourself, come to town meetings, call your selectmen or write a letter. Ask your neighbor for a different perspective. Don’t blindly trust one information source, whether that is one friend, one news article or one group’s opinion. Choose one issue that speaks to you, learn more and help the rest of us understand.

Ayer: Who are we? What do we want?

Before we discuss town issues, ask difficult questions, analyze budgets, assess blame or compromise on solutions, we need to contemplate some of our more important fundamental values as a town such as what kind of town we want.

We have some decisions to make about what Ayer is and will be in the future:

* What kind of town do we want to live in over the next couple of decades?

* Who do we want to live here?

* How many families do we want to live here?

* What kind of services do we want?

* What quality of services do we consider acceptable?

* What is a reasonable price for services?

* How do we respond to outside circumstances that are out of our control?

We must work together to develop and implement a sound plan that incorporates our values.

Much of this work has already begun. Many of the questions above have been asked and studied. Hearings were held, consultants were hired, and a plan was written and reported to the town by the Comprehensive Planning Committee.

Now the Comprehensive Planning Implementation Committee is trying to make the plan happen. It is available at

www.ayer.ma.us/downloads/AyerComprehensivePlan2005-Rev.pdf

Our discussions about the town ought to incorporate the hard work done by this team and work within the constructs they’ve put in place.

About existing services

In the spirit of Garrison Keillor’s town of Lake Wobegon, where “everyone is good looking and all the kids are above average,” we would like to believe our town employees, every last one of them, do the best they can and work hard to deliver the best services every day.

Our teachers and school management put in unbelievable hours to deliver a great learning opportunity for our kids.

The firefighters and policemen and their management regularly help the needy. They put their lives on the line, save lives, put out fires and keep harsh forces at bay.

The Department of Public Works staff keeps our water and streets clean, move our trash and make sure we have functional roads and lighting, and more.

The folks in Town Hall work long hours to keep money working for us, make sure our buildings are safe and well built, regulate zoning to assure a controlled and well-managed growth, and more.

As far as we can see, no one is intentionally doing it wrong. Perhaps there are different opinions of what “right” is, but no one person is trying to do wrong.

Town statistics

For an understanding of our population and other information, an appendix will run at the end of this series.

About the authors

We have been involved in town government for several years, participating on appointed boards, volunteering, supporting various candidates and positions. This work is fascinating, rewarding and frustrating, but most of all, it’s hard, especially to keep up with the information and misinformation. We have decided to write this series to help educate our friends and neighbors in Ayer and encourage you to participate.