The Groton Herald”s editorial last week underscores how profoundly misinformed the editors are regarding Article 26; the purchase of 279 Main Street. For starters, this will mark the third time the proposal has been before Town Meeting, not the forth. And when it was initially proposed last February, the article was not voted on but postponed indefinitely to allow a site selection committee time to review sites and report back to Town Meeting. That occurred and at the June Town Meeting the site selection committee reported their findings which recommended 279 Main Street, Station Avenue in that order and Prescott as a distant third. The article to purchase 279 Main Street was defeated due to concerns over the use of taxpayer money to convey the former Sacred Heart building to a religious institution, but more significantly, the case advanced by GELD that there would be savings to both the GELD ratepayers and taxpayers if the Station Ave. site were pursued further. An independent site engineering evaluation has since been conducted and it appears those savings do not exist and that there are some significant setback issues visa vie wetlands that create further barriers.
The site selection committee did examine numerous sites within the tier 1 district defined by the adequate response time measure. Numerous sites were explored and this included the property next to the current public safety building which was simply not available and the Prescott School which was assessed contrary to the editor”s assertion. The committee, which was comprised of a diverse cross section of our community, held numerous meetings which were open and attended by the public (including your reporter) with minutes recorded and posted on the Town”s website. And eminent domain was indeed taken off the table given Groton”s past experience with the Casella family and the land taking for the high school. Do the editors believe that the Town should repeat that unfortunate experience? The editors do a great disservice to those who volunteered their time to imply that somehow they were manipulated and the outcome preordained. Maybe they should reflect on a previous editorial they wrote the week before (10/7/11) where they observed: “By the end of this process, volunteer members of these boards will discover why the job is thankless.â€ Last weeks editorial certainly contributes to that feeling of those who volunteer their time on behalf of the Town.
I also take strong exception to the editorials allegation that the Selectmen have “used disservice tactics suggesting that any criticism of this site (279 Main St.) is criticism of the fire dept. and firefightersâ€. This is patently untrue and by alleging this, the editors are further demeaning the dialogue over what everyone seems to agree on, i.e. the need for a new center fire and ambulance facility. Phrases such as “mean-spirited assaultâ€ are baseless and certainly not productive. Our firefighters and emergency responders are certainly not pawns of the Selectmen and agree that 279 Main Street is the best choice for a new center station. There are numerous examples of where fire stations have been sited within residential neighborhoods and have proven to be good neighbors. The lot at 279 Main Street is sufficient to meet the needs of a center station now and into the future and the architectural considerations applied during the design process can insure that it will fit within the neighborhood.
While it appears obvious that the editors (of The Groton Herald) are preoccupied with implying ulterior motives and conspiracy in the 279 Main Street proposal, I would ask them to take a moment and reflect on the possibility that it may indeed be the best site available. Of course we could muddle along with the compromised emergency response model we currently have and spend thousands of dollars on independent engineering of every possibility that comes along. We would in all likelihood find ourselves another 8 years down the road, with a lot of money having been spent and with less attractive options.