GROTON — As a new year begins, local officials are expected to conduct a last round of meetings and public hearings related to a number of measures to be listed on the warrant for a Special Town Meeting scheduled for Jan. 26.
Among the trio of articles to be presented to voters for their consideration are those covering funding for a new Center Fire Station to be constructed on Farmers Row, funding for the removal and/or replacement of Fitch’s Bridge, and funding to pay for the cost of herbicides for use in ridding Lost Lake of weeds.
The most high profile of the articles will be that of the fire station, an issue with which residents have been wrestling with in one form or another for almost two years. Finally, after an exhaustive review process, town officials settled on a location along Farmers Row, close to the existing Public Safety Building.
According to Town Manager Mark Haddad, the fire station article, if approved by voters, would authorize the appropriation of $5.9 million to cover the cost of building the new facility.
When completed, the new building will include a four bay garage and two 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.
In anticipation of an affirmative decision by residents at town meeting, the project has already been put out to bid. With “sub-bids” having been received and opened by Dec. 12, a contractor is expected to have been chosen in time for the town meeting vote.
Although the total cost of the new fire station would come to $7.5 million, the town manager has said the lower figure was arrived at because a sum of $800,000 for design plans and permitting was previously approved by voters as well as $350,000 to buy the 2.7 acre parcel upon which the facility is to be constructed.
If the spending measure is passed at town meeting, construction of the new fire station is expected to begin by March 1, 2013 and completed a year later on April 1, 2014.
Also on the warrant will be a second article seeking the appropriation of funds to cover the cost of a weed killing program to be conducted at Lost Lake using a herbicide that has proven safe and effective in other Massachusetts’ ponds and lakes.
If approved, the measure will allow the town to appropriate a sum of an estimated $100,000 to pay for the use of a herbicide called Sonar that will be used to treat the lake water and kill the weeds.
Although the issue of invasive plant species such as milfoil, combomba, water chestnut, and free floating filamentous infesting the town’s lakes and ponds has been around for many years, only recently has the problem reached crisis proportions with forests of plants carpeting the bottom of bodies of water such as Lost Lake.
With the failure of such traditional methods of weed control such as mowing with a weed harvester, frustrated supporters of the lakes turned to the use of herbicides to solve the problem once and for all.
A third article will seek residents’ approval for the appropriation of funds for the repair and replacement of the historic Fitch’s Bridge that spans the Nashua River but which is currently closed to traffic.
A final cost for the work having yet to be determined, the Greenway Committee, sponsors of the article, expects to have a figure from its consultants by the middle of December and in time for presentation at town meeting.
Built and installed in the late nineteenth century by the Berlin Iron Bridge Co. of Connecticut, Fitch’s Bridge has been closed to auto traffic since the 1960s and in recent times has been used mostly by teenagers looking for a good spot from which to jump into the Nashua River.
Plans laid out by consultants hired to do the work of replacing the bridge call for removal of the existing span and its replacement by a new, truss style, 10 foot wide span intended for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The actual bridge replacement will take about a week with another seven weeks or so needed for erosion control and repair of the embankments where the span meets the shore.
Lastly, in the works is a final question that could be placed on the warrant should enough signatures be gathered. The added article will come in the form of a citizens’ petition requesting the creation of a new Lost Lake Sewer District.
The Board of Selectmen had discussed seeking such action with placement of a formal article on the warrant but decided it would come too soon following the rejection by residents of the Lost Lake neighborhood of a similar request made at last year’s fall town meeting.
Nevertheless, the citizens’ petition effort is being advocated by Board of Selectmen member Jack Petropoulos and will not seek funding but simply approval to form a sewer district so as to place the town in a position to qualify for any state or federal grant money that might become available.
“If approved, the article would create a legal entity with no cost and no obligations,” said Petropoulos. “It will simply create an entity that could accomplish some administrative tasks specifically and apply for USDA grants. And the reason for doing it at this special town meeting is because the deadline for applications is March 31 after which Groton would not be able to apply and not be able to get any money due to changes in the use of census data.”
Special town meeting will be held at the Middle School’s Performing Arts Center on Jan. 26.
Unusual for a town meeting event, the session is to be held on a Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.