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Town Engineer Dan Van Schalkwyk earned his Road Scholar certification. He completed seven six-hour classes. Show with, on left, DPW Superintendent Mark Wetzel.

By Anne O’Connor

AYER — The selectmen were all in agreement when it came to implementing a water ban and waiving the right of first refusal to purchase a property.

At the recommendation of Department of Public Works Supervisor Mark Wetzel, the board approved a water ban effective immediately during Tuesday’s meeting.

Due to severe drought conditions, the Department of Environmental Protection called for a ban on outdoor water use, Wetzel said.

For people on town water only hand watering with a hose or watering can is now allowed. Irrigation systems and all other outdoor water use is prohibited.

“If you see your neighbors watering, just remind them,” Wetzel said. He plans to put signs up around town and warn violators about the ban.

People complied with an earlier, partial ban that allowed no outdoor use between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., he said. Even with that restriction, at 6 a.m., when people were watering and showering, workers could see the levels in the water tanks go down.

There is enough water if a fire should occur, but it would be difficult to refill the tanks, Wetzel said.

The town has already stopped irrigating its properties and routine washing of vehicles, said Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand.

“It has to be done,” said Chairman Gary Luca.

Selectman Chris Hillman asked if the ban applied to private wells.

Wetzel said it did not.

A 4.7 acre parcel under Chapter 61 will not be purchased by the town. The designation gives the town the right of first refusal if land comes up for sale.

There was support for purchasing the property, but no funds were identified.

The property on the Nashua Street Extension could provide access from the Nashua River Rail Trail to the schools on Washington Street, said Beth Suedmeyer, a member of the Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee. Residents identified these connections as important in a survey done in 2015.

“We’d see a tremendous amount of use,” she said.

The town had the property assessed and was told it was worth $535,000, Pontbriand said when the hearing opened.

Property owner Calvin Moore said he had an offer on the table that exceeded that amount.

“Who’s going to pay for this,” Hillman said. “The town’s got to pay for it.”

“I appreciate open space,” he said.

“I’m trying to see both sides of the coin, said Selectman Jannice Livingston. The town needs to retain open space but does not have its ducks in a row to pay for any now.

The Moore family has more open space in town, Moore said. They own a 9.5 acre parcel with access to Washington Street abutting the smaller parcel that was under discussion.

After the board voted unanimously to waive the right of first refusal Moore said, “We’re trying to do the right thing for everybody.” The town needs affordable housing.

His sons, the sixth generation of the Moore family to live in Ayer, now run Moore’s Lumber and Hardware.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.

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