By Hiroko Sato
GROTON — Saying that the town ought to help residents stay safer in the Lost Lake neighborhood that lacks fire hydrants, Town Meeting on Monday night approved the borrowing of $1.83 million to install a fire-protection system for the area.
Though some residents, along with Selectman Jack Petropoulos, argued that all taxpayers shouldering the cost of the project that only benefits the Lost Lake area may not be all that fair, others said safety comes first.
“With the density of (homes in) Lost Lake, we should be doing everything we can,” said Eric Fisher of Old Ayer Road, which is far from the Lost Lake neighborhood.
Town Meeting also approved the $3 million sewer system construction project for the Four Corners business district, agreeing to spend $285,000 upfront for engineering in order to apply for a state grant that could pay for the rest. Some residents and town officials said it’s a no-brainer to take advantage of the state grant to build a sewer system when the business district clearly needs some sort of infrastructure improvement.
Jeff Gordon, broker/owner of EXIT Assurance Realty in Groton who serves as the president of the Groton Board of Trade, said the Four Corners, which is known for the Shaw’s supermarket shopping plaza at the intersection of Routes 119 and 225, will not have a major business unless a sewer system is ready. Making the Four Corners a success as a business district is part of the town’s master plan, Gordon said.
“You voted for it. Let’s keep going,” Gordon said.
The proposals regarding the Lost Lake fire protection and the Four Corners sewer project — both of which sparked public debates over the past months — passed with a majority vote after lengthy discussions. The fire protection project involves water main extensions on Lost Lake Drive and some other streets, installation of two 50,000-gallon underground fire cisterns and a dry fire hydrant that draws water from the lake. Fire Chief Steele McCurdy said the neighborhood has had 13 fires in the past seven years, which is an “astronomically high rate.” Many of the neighborhood’s roads are too narrow to bring tanker trucks in, he said.
But, Petropoulos, the lone selectman to oppose the Lost Lake fire protection, argued that the town should have a townwide fire- protection plan first.
“We are not really fire hydrant infrastructure. We are building drinking water infrastructure” and paying for it with tax dollars, Petropoulos said.
Selectmen Chairman Joshua Degen said he used to agree with Petropoulos but later changed his mind.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this area needs protection,” Degen said.
For the Four Corners sewer project, Town Meeting agreed to establish the sewer district, enter a inter-municipal agreement with the town of Ayer that will be accepting wastewater from the district and expend $3 million for the project on condition that the bulk of it would not be spent unless the town secures a state grant to pay for it.
Saying few businesses in the district are interested in the sewer project, Degen proposed to indefinitely postpone the proposal, but Town Meeting disagreed. Some residents argued that the project may not financially benefit the town, but others said some businesses have decided not to locate there because of the lack of sewer capacity.
Town Meeting will resume next Monday at 7 p.m.