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BOS has unanswered questions on fire station petitions


GROTON — With fall Town Meeting approaching fast, the Board of Selectmen last Monday night took the opportunity for a last-minute review of members’ positions regarding the 26 articles to be listed on the warrant.

Topping the list will be issues dealing with a new Center Fire Station proposed for land off Farmers Row.

The $7.5 million project is to include a four-bay garage and three-story administration complex with offices on the first floor; fitness room, dormitory, kitchen, dining room, and day room planned for the second floor; and HVAC and other mechanical equipment to be placed in the third-floor “attic” space.

Cost of the 2.7-acre parcel upon which the barn-like building is to be constructed has been set at $350,000.

Although a pair of town-sponsored articles dealing with the proposed fire station were relatively straightforward, including amending the town code to rezone the Farmers Row parcel from residential-agricultural to public use and connecting the parcel with the town’s sewer system, two other citizens petitions seek to undermine the whole project

In one, residents will be asked to take back a decision made at the prior Town Meeting that gave permission for the purchase of the Farmers Row property from the Lawrence Homestead Trust and in a second, residents will be asked to simply register their opposition against any construction of a fire station at the Farmers Row property.

But it was the simple wording of the two articles that drew questions from board members last Monday night.

“What happens, if anything, if this article passes?” board chairman Stuart Schulman wanted to know.

Town Manager Mark Haddad was also at a loss, suggesting that the town’s counsel would need to review the language to find out if it was legally binding even if approved by Town Meeting.

None of the articles’ sponsors were present at last Monday night’s meeting to comment on the board’s questions.

On another issue, selectmen heard a request from the Conservation Commission for their support dealing with the purchase of an 108-acre tract located off Chicopee Row.

In the article, the Conservation Commission seeks permission to use money from its Conservation Fund to buy 49 acres currently owned by Susan Walker and another 59 acres owned by Marjorie Cox located off Chicopee row at an estimated purchase price of $716,000

However, commissioners said last Monday night that they hoped to win a state grant that would cover up to 60 percent of the cost.

The problem for selectmen was that should the purchase be approved at Town Meeting and the commission end up not getting the grant, having to pay the total cost of the land would completely empty its Conservation Fund, leaving no money available for use against the purchase of any other land.

Selectmen asked if contingency language could be included in the purchase-and-sales agreement allowing the Conservation Commission to back out or renegotiate the deal should the grant not be approved.

Although the board was assured by commissioners that such was the intent of the commission, they did not have a definitive answer that night.

As a result, selectmen chose to hold off giving their support to the article until a meeting to be held prior to Town Meeting, when it was hoped more definitive information on the contingency language could be had.

Other articles on the warrant will ask voters for:

* Permission to create an affordable-housing revolving fund not to exceed $50,000. In the future, the fund would be used mostly for marketing and monitoring purposes and be self-supportive with revenues earned from fees charged to developers.

* Permission to appropriate an as yet undetermined sum for repair of the septic system at Squannacook Hall needed to make the historic building available once again for public use or even private sale.

* Permission to appropriate between $650,000 and $850,000 to pay for surveying, engineering and permitting needed to replace the 115-year-old Fitch’s Bridge that currently spans the Nashua River in West Groton.

* Authorization for the town to accept a number of private roads as public ways, including Quail Ridge Road, Forest Drive, Paugus Trail, Winding Way and part of Robin Hill Road.

* Consider a citizen’s petition seeking to amend the zoning bylaw to allow for housing for agricultural laborers in town.

* Permission to create a Lost Lake Sewer District, authorization of an intermunicipal agreement between Groton and Ayer for wastewater services, and the appropriation of $12.5 million needed to design and build a new sewer system for the Lost Lake neighborhoods.

Fall town meeting is scheduled for Oct. 15 at 7 p.m.