Sep 032012
 

Dear Editor:

I want to thank The Groton Herald for its role in educating the public on the fire station to be built on the Lawrence Homestead Trust (LHT) property on Farmers Row. Indeed, as (now former) Chair of the Fire Station Building Committee, it was my hope that the Committee”s efforts would generate interest and participation, and that the Herald”s influence, among others, would further that cause. In fact, prior to the Spring Town Meeting, the Committee:

  • held more than 30 public meetings, five of which were televised and repeated on cable
  • distributed a 20+ page presentation by mail to every home in Groton
  • held 3 public walk-throughs of a neighboring fire station
  • posted summaries of each of its meetings to the Town website and to local papers
  • received extensive and accurate coverage in the news sections of those same papers and on The Groton Line (www.thegrotonline.com)
  • appeared on the Jane Bouvier show

I believe that the 80% approval at Town Meeting was, in part, a reflection of that effort. Yet it is clear that no effort and no decision is perfect, and that we will need to continue to answer both informed and uninformed concerns over time. A few of those that come to mind and have been expressed in the Editorial Section of the local paper”s recent editions include the following:

One contributor cited expertise in mortgage brokerage and real estate, together with the professional appraisal of the LHT site and current market conditions, as the basis for deeming the negotiated price for the site irresponsible. On their face these are valid critiques, but when the law of supply and demand are applied to a location for a fire station, residential experience and market appraisals are of limited value. In fact, in this case, supply was limited to one, demand was absolute, and the seller was not actively pursuing a sale. To make the jump to imply that this means that “Greed is alive and well in Groton.” seems to be, at best, an unreasonable conclusion based on an incomplete understanding.

The Tax Payers Alliance has expressed concern with, among other things, the timing of this initiative, and has suggested that it should be delayed. While it is always tempting to delay incurring expense, it ignores the very real inflation and financing costs. Municipal building costs currently rise at 3% per year. Accordingly for a $7.6M project, construction costs alone would rise by over $1.2M if it were to be delayed by the 5 years that the Alliance suggests. This difference would be further magnified should either inflation or bond prices rise over the same period.

Lastly, in its August 17th editorial, the Herald asks how the Fire Station initiative can “…be in the planning stages without thorough examination of both the proposed plan and less expensive alternatives?” While I respect the right of anyone to question government at anytime, and the responsibility of the press to inform and to opine, I do not understand how the Herald can pose this question about a process which has been so thoroughly documented in, among other channels, its own publication. In fact I am unaware of any instance in which a member of the Herald”s editorial board has ever attended a single Fire Station Building Committee meeting, nor contacted any member of the Committee or the Selectmen”s office in an effort to inform its opinion. The consequence of this is that a number of inaccurate assertions about the Fire Station initiative have been published in the Editorial Section of the Herald over the last 6 months. While the Editorial Section is accepted to be opinion rather than fact, readers have a reasonable expectation that those opinions and assertions will be well founded.

It is all too easy to complain and to oppose. Learning takes effort, and contributing takes even more. I would ask all citizens who would like to understand and affect this important project to attend the public meetings, read the meeting minutes, and to contact the Committee and/or the Board of Selectmen with questions. No one will try to convince you; rather the effort has, and always will be, to provide you with unbiased fact.

I recognize that it is insufficient to wait for questions and have made an effort to be publicly available. I will continue that by being available to meet in person at Clover Farm Market on West Main St on Tuesday September 3 from 5 PM to 6 PM and at Main St Café on Wednesday September 11 from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM. I would be glad to answer questions about this or any current initiative before the Board of Selectmen. I know that other Selectmen feel the same way and have made themselves similarly available. You can reach any of the Selectmen by calling the Selectmen”s office at 978-448-1111.

To be clear, my intention is not to stifle debate, only to inform it.

Jack Petropoulos

Selectman

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