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PEPPERELL — When selectmen advertised for a few good citizens to step forward to join a study and advisory work group aimed at future development of the former paper mill, they never expected to see the resulting response.

Twenty-four residents submitted Citizen Activity Forms — “The most I’ve ever seen for a committee,” Chairman Lyndon Johnson said — proving the future of the blighted, privately owned paper mill is formost in many resident’s minds.

The number of applicants created a debate as to how many members the Mill Site Study Committee should have, as well as who should be on it. Selectmen agreed upon 12, having considered nine to 13. The group will meet for the first time June 25.

Creation of the committee is an outgrowth of town meeting approval for Pepperell joining the Economic Target Area (ETA) that includes Groton, Ayer, Devens and Shirley as well as subscribing to an enhanced 180-day permitting process outlined in state law Chapter 43D.

At town administrator Robert Hanson’s suggestion, selectmen named applicants not selected for the main committee to become members of a focus group to work with it.

“After appointments are made, it doesn’t mean we throw away the other applications,” Hanson assured.

Selectman Patrick McNabb argued to retain applicants with engineering expertise in the focus group.

“There are things an engineer can identify and filter up to the large group. I’m afraid of turning people off. This is actually fun,” he said.

A concerted effort was made to include a spectrum of expertise on the study committee. Selectmen spent time considering each name.

Committee members include:

* Jeffrey Chabot, a contractor.

* Roger Goscomb, a Real Estate agent.

* Stephen Themelis, planner and painting contractor.

* Jeffrey Sauer, conservation commissioner.

* Ronald Karr, former planner, Master Plan Committee member, and historian.

* Michael Landino, Capital Program Committee member and vice president of a development company.

* Matt Nesbit, an environmental consultant.

* Curtis Amidon, a geotechnical engineer.

* Stephanie Cronin, Finance Committee member with business development experience.

* Jerilynn Bozicas, a business owner.

* Albert Harris, 40-plus-year paper mill worker and retired firefighter.

* Gary Giguere, former selectman, FinCom member with 49 years at the mill.

The over-arching question at the site is that of potential contamination. That was one of McNabb’s platforms during his election campaign because he is an environmental engineer.

He said the town has results of a 1995 site analysis (often referred to as a preliminary study) during which a lot of borings were taken. The mill sits on three to 18-feet of fill. Groundwater level is eight feet beneath it.