Groton selectmen less than happy with some new spending requests

Groton Town Hall

GROTON — Selectmen met in joint session with the Finance Committee to review a draft of the warrant for fall Town Meeting.

Scheduled for Oct. 19, the meeting will include a warrant with 15 articles.

Review of the warrant had no sooner begun, however, when it became bogged down. The discussion was over a request for new spending to be added to the fiscal 2016 budget that had already been approved at annual Town Meeting last spring.

Nearly $40,000 more to cover unforeseen expenses in the renovation of the Public Safety Building was approved by voters when the Fire Department offices were moved to the new Center Fire Station. The added funds, said Haddad, would come from free cash and would in essence be covered by money saved from construction of the fire station.

Unhappy with the request, selectmen declined to support the measure outright, allowing time for the Finance Committee to review it in more detail.

Board members were also not happy to hear of a plan by the Department of Public Works to hire a third full-time maintenance worker. That position had been eliminated a few years before as a cost-cutting measure and selectmen were reluctant to recreate it with its accompanying benefits package.

Finally, the Fire Department asked for $40,000 to pay for training and turnout equipment for 39 on-call firefighters.

In addition to the budget amendments, the warrant will also include measures covering an extension of the Four Corners Sewer District. It will include the Rocky Hill subdivision along with commercial property at the intersection of Route 119 and Sandy Pond Road; an extension of the town center sewer district to 122 Old Ayer Road, property recently purchased from Thomas More College by Indian Hill Music; the appropriation of $219,000 for a mosquito control project delayed from a previous Town Meeting; and a number of zoning amendments.

Selectmen also:

* Considered requesting a land-purchase plan from the Conservation Commission with some members openly wondering how much open land the town needs to buy. It was decided that it would be inappropriate to discuss the issue without the presence of the Conservation Commission. As a result, the matter was continued until a meeting with the commissioners can be scheduled.

* Voted to appoint Michael McCoy to the Charter Review Committee; John Giger as a member of the Regional School Agreement Review Committee; Leslie Lathrop to the Municipal Building Committee for Prescott School; and Steve Henderson to the Trails Committee.

* Approved the creation of a quarterly newsletter and left it to Haddad to figure out which would be the best means, including mailing with electric bills or posting it online, of getting it before residents.

* Reviewed the status of the town’s OPEB account. Other Post Employment Benefits is a savings/investment process designed by the state to help towns and cities keep financially solvent even as employee benefit liabilities continue to increase. To address the problem, residents at Town Meeting voted to establish an OPEB trust fund authorizing the appropriation of an initial deposit of $200,000. The town’s total unfunded liabilities come to $8.3 million. Currently, reported the town manager, that initial deposit has been made with plans to make another installment next year.