Out in front of the lot, near where Route 225 turns to head west, Alix Chace is trying to get rid of the pennants. For good. Chace, who lives around the corner and about half a mile away on Broadmeadow Road, is carrying a picket sign and toting a petition to put an article on the Fall Town Meeting (on October 15th, unless changed by the Board of Selectmen, said Town Clerk Michael Bouchard) warrant that would nullify the articles passed by 80% of voters in this year’s Spring Town Meeting, two articles that authorized the purchase of the Lawrence Homestead site and preliminary plans by an architectural firm. Chace started her vigil Tuesday evening, and plans to be on the site Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-7 p.m., she wrote in an email. In an interview, she said she had not attended the Spring Town Meeting.
The Fall Town Meeting is also likely to feature a contrasting article, one providing funds for construction of the replacement Central Fire Station, estimated to be approximately 18,500 square feet over two or three floors and to cost around eight million dollars. The 2.7 acre Farmer’s Row site has not yet been secured by the town, which is negotiating the purchase with the Lawrence Homestead Trust for $350,000, as approved at Spring Town Meeting.
The mix should provoke an interesting public hearing on the project this Wednesday, August 8 in the second floor meeting room in Town Hall at 7:00 p.m. The Center Fire Station Building Committee is planning a presentation to show residents the current set of draft plans, and to solicit feedback.
The makeup of the Building Committee has changed since its electoral successes at Spring Town Meeting. The chairman at that time, Jack Petropoulos, resigned after his election to the Board of Selectmen in May. According to the committee’s June 1 meeting minutes, Groton restaurateur Steve Webber was appointed by Town Manager Mark Haddad to fill Petropolos’s slot. Haddad also announced at that meeting that Fire Chief Joe Bosselait would also resign to became an “advisory” member and an abutter to the Lawrence Homestead site would be sought to fill Bosselait’s slot. Instead, Bosselait’s slot was ultimately filled when Haddad nominated Don Black, former chairman of the 2011 Central Fire Station Site Selection Committee that twice failed to win voter approval for a fire station site. Black lives on Raddin Way and is not an abutter to the proposed station site, but has a background as a former volunteer firefighter and as a licensed contractor.
On June 8, Webber nominated Ayer Fire Department Lieutenant and Groton resident Jeremy Januskiewcz as the committee chairman.
Since Petropoulos led the committee to a winning vote to acquire the Lawrence Homestead site and moved on to join the Board of Selectmen, the flow of public information from the committee has declined. Until last week, no minutes or other documents from June or July had been posted to the committee’s dedicated web page on the town web site. Apparently in partial fulfillment of a public records request by The Groton Line, minutes for the committee’s June meetings were posted last week. And minutes from last month and last week were posted to the town web site today, Wednesday August 8, several hours before the public hearing.
The request also asked for any June or July “summaries” of committee meetings. Written by Petropoulos, the short notes were published after most committee meetings and contained brief informal reports of what had transpired at each meeting, so the community could stay abreast of developments.
None have been published since the end of May, Januskiewcz said, because there hasn’t been much transpiring at the committee meetings — mostly back-and-forth conversations with the fire station’s architects. He also said that the summaries and communications are likely to resume soon, because the fire station plans are being aired before several important town committees: the Finance Committee, Conservation Commission, the Historic Districts Commission, and the Planning Board.
On July 24, at a meeting of the Historical Districts Commission, members of the fire station committee and its architect briefed the HDC on the gelling plans for the fire station — what the HDC’s agenda calls an “informal discussion.” In line with projections the committee made at Spring Town Meeting, drawings show a barn-like building of about 18,500 square feet on its 2.6 acre lot. A change from earlier plans now place building equipment, such as the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) in a third floor “attic.” Plans also showed a 47-foot tall “training tower” that is actually one of the building’s regular stairwells, enhanced and ruggedized so that it can also be used for training firefighters, Januskiewcz explained, but that has since been trimmed down to fit under the zoning rule’s 36 foot limitation.
Neither the Fire Station Building Committee nor the Historic Districts Commission has made the documents associated with the “informal discussion” public yet. The HDC, in fact, has no meeting minutes whatsoever posted on the town web site.
Tuesday evening, Haddad was grilled by FinCom members Bob Hargraves and Jay Prager, who questioned the size and cost of the proposed building, although the preliminary plans generally comply with what was proposed at the Spring Town Meeting.