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Light agenda includes new permit fee for yard burning

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GROTON — With the holidays fast approaching, selectmen held an abbreviated meeting, restricting themselves to just a briefing by the town manager, voting to reauthorize common victualler licenses, creating a new fee for the burning of yard waste, and hearing about a new Internet site for Groton.

Town manager Mark Haddad reported to the Board of Selectmen on Dec. 8 that work toward a first draft of the town’s operating budget has gone smoothly and said he was satisfied with the cooperation shown by the town’s various departments.

“I could not be happier with the budgets submitted,” Haddad said.

Haddad said all departments complied with his request and submitted level-funded budgets for FY10.

“I just can’t say enough about the level of cooperation I have had,” Haddad said of the process. After individual reviews of proposed departmental budgets, his next step is to collate the information and draw up a first draft of the town’s operational budget.

Haddad cautioned, however, that any approximate bottom line should be approached carefully, as the amount of aid to come from the state is unknown and likely to be less than in previous years.

Coming up with a level-funded town budget has required finding places where spending could be cut, to save as much money as possible. One possible avenue has been to turn off street lights, with many having been identified by the police chief as candidates for elimination. A public hearing on that issue will be held in mid-January.

After voting to renew victualler licenses, selectmen took up the issue of instituting a “burn permit” fee.

Finding that Groton was one of the few towns around that did not charge a fee to burn yard waste, town officials looked into the matter and decided that a $10 annual permit fee for the burning of yard waste was not out of the question.

With an average of 700 burn permits given out in an average year, Haddad told the board that the town could raise as much as $7,000 in much-needed new cash.

The new fee was adopted on a vote of 3 to 1. Only board Chairman Joshua Degen voted against the fee.

There was at least some justification for the new fee besides simply raising money. It seems there has always been some cost to the town for keeping track of permits and the new fee would help offset that expense.

The new permit fees will cover the period of Jan. 15 to May 1 for residential burning only and will become effective on Jan. 1.

Finally on Monday night, selectmen learned from cable television program host Jane Bouvier that a new service will be offered connected to her Around Town “brand.”

Located on the Internet at www.aroundtownwebsite.com, the new service will provide a public calendar open to government, commercial and private events.

In addition, Bouvier said that a second feature of the site will be a Seen Around Town blog for local gossip and word-of-mouth style news.