GROTON — Worried that personal agendas threaten to overshadow the needs of the town, Planning Board member George Barringer has decided to join a multi-candidate race for an open seat on the Board of Selectmen.
“I am running for this seat because I am concerned by the recent activities of the Board of Selectmen in which reaction has overtaken reason, where personal agendas have overtaken the needs of the town, and where special interest constituencies threaten,” said Barringer, a resident of Fox Run Road.
Besides having been a member of the Planning Board since the late 1990s, the candidate has also served on the West Groton Sewer Study Committee and the Hazardous Waste Recycling Committee.
“I stand for an open, inclusive board that listens to, and responds to, the needs of the town, respects the minority position while advancing the majority opinion, and a board that moves the town forward though calm, reasoned deliberation and strategies to benefit the town as a whole,” declared Barringer.
Part of Barringer’s motivation for seeking the seat is the recent display of acrimony among its members which has come to dominate public attention.
“I am concerned because it is interfering with the board’s duties,” said Barringer. “At the very least, it is of concern to the citizens of the town and reducing their faith in a government that can act responsibly.”
And one aspect of the responsibility that comes with being a member of the board, is the town’s budget which could grow to be unmanageable in a few short years.
“The budget, although increasing, is maintaining a basic level of service,” said Barringer. “There are few frills. The town cannot control some of the basic factors contributing to the rise in the budget, namely the increase in the cost of medical insurance for town employees and the rise in cost for contractual retirement benefits for the town’s retired employees.”
The schools make up at least two-thirds of municipal spending.
“From all reports, the school system is still graduating students with good educations, academic credentials and good life skills,” said Barringer of a system that has been seeing a steady decline in enrollment. “Could the school system use more money? I’m sure. And I’m sure they would use it wisely, but in this economic environment, there are tradeoffs in this and every area of town activity. I won’t second guess the current School Committee or our current Finance Committee and selectmen.”
To improve Groton’s fiscal profile, some in town have advocated for increased commercial development seeing it as the panacea for curing economic ills. Barringer, however, sees little in the way of large scale development in the town’s future but rather, an increase in the number of small businesses.
A PhD chemist with education and professional experience in industrial pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical chemistry and instrumentation, Barringer knows whereof he speaks, having himself begun three different small businesses including Groton Technology, Inc.; Groton Neochem LLC; and Groton Biosystems LLC.
Barringer has also worked as a consultant to the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industry since 2010 and has taught chemistry at the university graduate level.
“If you review our current zoning maps, you will learn that most of the land set aside for commercial enterprise is currently in use as such,” said Barringer. “I suspect that future economic development will be infill providing goods and services to the townspeople on a local basis. The Station Avenue Overlay District (now Town Overlay District) was formed after lengthy research and debate to provide a mechanism to increase economic activity in the town center. We are fortunate to have recently permitted the first retail business in the original Station Avenue area; a redevelopment of the original central fire station. The other area that can support and needs further economic development is the Four Corners area where the development which is allowed has been slow to develop. The recent initiative by the selectmen and others to provide additional incentives to the property owner to utilize their permitted capacity is noteworthy.”
On other issues, the candidate holds equally candid views including those for the future use of the former Prescott Elementary School and continued acquisition of open space by the town.
“Much has been said about initiatives to utilize the Prescott building for community purposes,” said Barringer. “If that is truly viable, then a responsible organization should come forward with a vetted, realistic and tax neutral proposal to do just that. Otherwise, the town should continue with its activities to find the right commercial developer to utilize the structure in an activity that is suitable for Main Street and which is sensitive to and harmonious with the surrounding businesses and residential uses.”
As for open space, Barringer has chosen to part company with incumbent Jack Petropoulos over continued efforts to preserve open space in Groton.
“The town made decisions long ago (as a result of surveys for the 2000 Master Plan) to make efforts to preserve open space and the character of the town as it existed then,” said Barringer. “The Conservation Commission has followed this strategy to preserve open space as it can. The result is that today, Groton has plentiful open space and the benefits that accrue from that are a benefit of living in Groton today.”
Town Elections are scheduled for May 19.