GROTON — Meeting between the holidays, members of the Groton Historical Commission reorganized themselves last week and elected Michael Roberts as their new chairman.
Roberts will replace long-time chairman Al Collins. Collins decided to step down from the leadership position and to resign from the commission following his involvement in an affair dealing with the Water Commission of which he was also chairman.
Collins recently found himself mired in familial difficulties when, in his capacity as chairman of the Water Commission, he criticized the Board of Selectmen for not taking a stronger position against former Water Department employee Stephen Collette, who had allegedly been keeping a whiskey still on town property.
The affair became a personal problem for Collins when brother Robert chose to act as an advisor to Collette, his brother-in-law, at a closed door meeting with selectmen in which both siblings were present.
The affair forced a wedge between the brothers. To prevent any further damage to the relationship, Al Collins decided to withdraw from his official roles as a member of both the Water Department and the Historical Commission.
His membership in the Historical Commission ended Dec. 28 with the nomination and election of Roberts as the group’s new chairman. But Collins was asked and agreed to keep in touch with the group and to act in an advisory capacity when asked.
Meanwhile, Roberts said that he planned to wind down his own membership in other town groups such as the Community Preservation Committee and the Sustainability Committee. He hit the ground running with his leadership of the Historical Commission presenting members with a draft copy of an agricultural survey he had been working on for months.
The survey includes all “working lands” in town from horse farms, to nurseries, to forestry, to traditional farms growing crops and raising livestock and is meant both to illustrate how such businesses help to enrich the community and to raise awareness about Groton’s agricultural heritage.
“Most people have no idea of the broad depth that agriculture has in this town,” noted Roberts upon submission of the draft.
The survey itself, conducted over many months, was approved by residents at town meeting and paid for through an appropriation of $30,000 from CPC funds.
With a final draft expected soon, Roberts said that a limited number of hard copies would be distributed to offices around town including the public library and be posted on the town’s website for public view.
“This project has exceeded my expectations,” concluded Roberts of the results.
But choosing not to sit on their laurels (besides the agricultural survey, the commission has also conducted similar compendiums of the town’s architectural and historical sites), commissioners last week discussed other projects for which funding could be sought from the CPC among them the installation of sprinkler systems in town owned buildings such as Squannacook Hall and Legion Hall as well as perhaps in privately owned buildings identified in the historical survey; placing the Fairgrounds on the national register of historic places; replacement or improvement of Fitch’s Bridge; or better protection for 200 year old slate markers located along the town’s roadways.
Amid talk of perhaps increasing the frequency of meetings from once to twice a month, the commission’s next meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 18.