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GROTON — Relocation of the Groton Electrical Light Department has been discussed for years, but the public utility now appears likely to build a new administrative office and garage near its current home on Station Avenue.

At least two scenarios to that effect are being considered at this point, said department general manager Kevin Kelly. He confirmed negotiations are quietly underway with a neighboring landowner, which would allow the utility to consolidate its operations into one building that would sit slightly closer to Main Street. The department also has an alternate plan to rebuild on its current properly, which would put a larger setback between a new garage and Station Avenue, opening up some frontage off that road near its junction with the Rail Trail.

With negotiations still ongoing, Kelly said it’s too early to make any predictions, but he did say cost was a key factor against talk of relocation.

“It’s almost $1 million cheaper to stay on Station Avenue,” he said. “That’s a lot. Station Avenue is by far the preferred option.”

Kelly said that cost comparison is based on projected expenses of moving the light department to a piece of property it acquired off Route 40 last fall. While that site could potentiality accommodate the department, he said it’s very hilly and would need extensive leveling beforehand. Instead, he said it’s better suited to its current role as buffer space and a possible expansion area for a nearby substation.

Kelly said his department is hoping it can offset the acquisition cost of abutting land on Station Avenue by surplussing land currently holding the department garages. That would have the added benefit of opening the area up for business use or Rail Trail beautification. However, he said the time frame for all that is far from set.

“At this point we’ve been talking about this for 20 years,” he said. “So when I say the solution may be 10 or 20 years out, that’s the frame of reference I’m going by. Things can move extremely slowly, I’ve been here for seven years now and nothing has moved.”

Regardless, light department commissioner Kevin Lindemer said they’re pushing to get an article for the land purchase on the warrant for Town Meeting this spring, saying they want the flexibility to move forward, if possible. Though he would not give any dollar figures, he said any purchase would be made using light department enterprise funds built-up by local rate payers. He added the commissioners are very sensitive to that fact and they’re looking at this option as a way to meet light department’s needs without hiking electric rates

“Over the past few years we’ve considered several options and our requirement is that whatever we do will not cause electricity rates to go up in town,” he said. “We’re confident that we have at least one option that will not negatively impact rate payers.”

In any event, Kelly said the light department’s space targets are 8,000 square feet for the garage, plus another 5,000 for the administrative headquarters. That’s somewhat larger than the current facilities, but Kelly said it’s meant cover their next 20 to 30 years and would add a conference room, one extra office, gender specific locker rooms and handicapped bathrooms. With the garages, Kelly said the biggest difference is that it would be fully heated.

For town officials, the light department’s announcement brings the discussion of using public land to spur development in the Station Avenue overlay district full circle. The district has expedited permitting and allows mixed-use, office, and commercial development. It was with that goal that the town issued a Request for Proposal for development of the light department property last fall, but there were no takers.

Selectman Fran Dillon said he would have preferred to see the light department move its garage to Route 40 in order to move the big trucks off Station Avenue, open up more space for commercial development and keep roughly 800 rate payers visiting Station Avenue once per month to pay their electrical bills, and perhaps patronizing any businesses that set up shop there. However, he acknowledged cost was likely a factor for the utility.

Similarly, town manger Mark Haddad said he would have preferred the light department to relocate to off Route 40, but added the utility’s decision was understandable, given the lack of response to the request for proposals. Even so, Haddad said this could end up being a positive for redevelopment of Station Avenue and Rail Trail area.

“I think it can work, because the plan the light department has now is to move away from the Rail Trail and open up that whole area,” he said. ” I think there’s good potential. We obvious want to work closely with the light department on that.”