Three Fall Town Meeting articles that would have created the Lost Lake Sewer District, forged an agreement with Ayer to treat the region’s effluent, and funded construction of a $13 million dollar low pressure sewer system ground to a halt in front of a packed auditorium Monday evening. Although the idea of a sewer system serving more than 300 homes, Grotonwood Camp and Conference Center, and businesses in the underutilized Four Corners shopping area has been around for more than a decade, the three articles were the most serious attempt to put a system in place.
Although members of almost all affected town boards endorsed the proposal (Fin Comm didn’t endorse it for financial reasons), the Lost Lake Sewer Advisory Committee and its engineering firm, Woodard and Curran, drew heat from Selectman Jack Petropoulos and resident after resident speaking against the three articles. Negative comments and criticism seemed to boil down to two big sticking points: research demonstrating the need for the system was largely based on water samples taken in the 1970s and 1980s, before state septic system regulations were enacted, and the price tag of the system was either just too high or the burden wasn’t well distributed and allocated appropriately.
Because the advisory committee is a standing committee that reports to the Board of Selectmen through Town Manager Mark Haddad, some selectmen expected the committee to regroup and attempt to answer resident’s questions and objections. If a full-blown water testing analysis is deemed to be necessary, that could require another appearance before Town Meeting seeking funds to pay for the scientific study.
Article 5, which would have created the Lost Lake Sewer district, was voted down by roaring voice vote. It wasn’t close enough that Moderator Jason Kauppi needed to ask for a head count. After the vote, the Board of Selectmen indefinitely postponed Articles 6 and 7 for construction funding and the agreement with Ayer.
The proposal cleared one important hurdle last week, when Carol Quinn, Chairperson of the Lost Lake Sewer Advisory Committee, confirmed that “The Massachusetts Water Resource Commission voted unanimously to grant Groton the Interbasin Transfer.” The state approval is a required component that allows Groton to move water and waste into a different watershed, Ayer’s, for treatment and disposal, should the sewer system be approved and constructed. Without the state approval, the proposed project would not be possible. It was not immediately known if, or when, the approval would expire.
After the Lost Lake Sewer articles were debated and dealt with, the meeting adjourned at 10:00 p.m. It will resume in two weeks, on October 29 at 7:00 p.m. to deal with the remaining warrant articles, including four related to another major capital improvement, construction of a new Central Fire Station. Two citizen’s petition articles seek to prevent its construction in a hayfield along Farmer’s Row; two Town Hall articles would extend town sewer service to the Farmer’s Row site and rezoning the parcel from agricultural to public use.
The Historic Districts Commission is conducting a public hearing this evening, Tuesday October 16, to consider the fire station location. The meeting notice states: “The Groton Historic Districts Commission (GHDC) will hold a Public Hearing on TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2012, at 7:45 p.m. at Town Hall, 173 Main Street, Groton, to consider the application submitted by the Town of Groton, Mark Haddad – Town Manager for a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct a new Center Fire Station located at Farmers Row (Assessors Map 108 – Parcel 1), Groton, Massachusetts. Property owner(s): Lawrence Homestead Trust.”
In addition to live online coverage of the Town Meeting by The Groton Line, several Groton residents provided their own electronic news coverage from the meeting. Here’s the replay of last night’s webcast: