Art Campbell

Art started The Groton Line late in 2009 as a synthesis of two careers in newspaper journalism and technical communications -- writing about networks, computers, and software. He's lived in Groton 20+ years, so he qualifies as "one of the new guys."

Feb 272015

When the lights go down and curtain comes up at the debut of Treasure Island on the Groton-Dunstable Performing Arts Center stage tonight, it will be more than the Florence Roche Elementary School play. It will be the 30th “pearl” anniversary play for director Joby Jeffery. Friday’s performance marks her 30th year as director of the annual performance, and she’s celebrating with the traditional pearls — and all the emeralds, diamonds, and pieces of eight her crew of 100+ third and fourth grade pirates and almost as many parents can scrape together.

An elfin 40-year veteran second and third grade Groton teacher, now retired, she stands barely a head taller than the kids in the cast. She runs her tech rehearsals like a Broadway pro, marshaling more than 100 third and fourth graders into their places on the big stage or the chorus. Following the script and sheet music for the show, leafing page by page through a three-ring notebook (complete with fourth-grade style pencil case), she demonstrates that invaluable asset of a veteran teacher — eyes in the back of her head to see what’s happening in the back of the room.

As she moves pirates around the stage and sings along with the chorus, her voice spans a range from drill sergeant to favorite teacher having a quiet conversation. Punctuated by occasional blasts of a coach’s whistle when she wants everyone’s attention.

The performances started almost by accident.

“I did theater when I was a kid, but my background is in classical music; I’m a pianist, Jeffery said. “Then when I started teaching, in one third grade class, we went to the Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker part of out field trip, way back, 30 years or 31 years ago. The class decided they wanted to do the entire Nutcracker performance as a play. And I said: ‘We’re going to do it!'”

“There was no theater at that time. It was just my third grade class. We met every morning from 9 to a quarter of 10, and we practiced. We did no dialogue; it was all dance. The boys all wore tights — they were snowflakes. And we put it on in April, just my class, and the principal, Marie Witham, asked, ‘Would you be willing to do an after-school program with theater and music, and I said, ‘Sure!’ and we started out with 80 kids. We did “The Little Red Hen” — very simple,” she remembered.

This year, one of her former second grade students, Tina Cronin, is the Treasure Island choreographer, leading the pirate crew and cast through hornpipes and production numbers. Parent/producer Kristen Ferrara helps keep track of everything on stage, and keeps the parent and family volunteers busy and organized and pulling together — her project plan for Treasure Island lists more than 600 individual tasks from proofreading programs to collecting bandannas and baking cookies. John Wiesman, on keyboards, runs the musical side of this year’s show, setting the beat for the singing and dancing pirates.

Over the years, the kids taught her an important lesson, that she passes back to new actors: “Anything you set your mind to do, you can do. With dedication and commitment, you can strive and reach something you never thought you could do. Kids who could not sing became singers. Kids who had trouble coordinating their bodies. became dancers. And kids who were quiet and shy became these outspoken — not in life; on stage — performers.”

Each year’s play starts in the library.
“I always pick a book; I pick literature. Then I read the book, and I do a lot of my own writing, my own scriptwriting, from the book. Then I look for songs that other people have published. And Edie Tompkins here in town, and John (Wiesman) has written some music for the plays. And then we put it together. It’s really difficult because nothing is published for 100 kids. so I just operate by freely adapting things. For this one, sea chanties, and normal jigs that were around in the 1700s … IT gets harder every year — that’s why we’ve repeated a few,” she said with a grin.

“And the kids all read the books. Treasure Island is tough for fourth graders, but it’s beautifully written. The choice of words and the dialogue is beautiful. That’s what I want to expose them to,” Jeffery said.

Treasure Island debuts tonight, Friday, February 27 at 7 p.m. and continues on Saturday, February 28 at 7 p.m. and concludes with a matinee on Sunday, March 1 at 2 p.m. at the Groton-Dunstable Middle School Performing Arts Center on Main Street in Groton. Tickets may be purchased on the day of the show at the door; admission is $12.00 for adults and $8.00 for students and seniors. All proceeds directly benefit the Florence Roche 3rd and 4th grade students and the play. Groton Dunstable Community Education sponsors the play. No school district funds are used to stage the production.

Feb 272015

Town Manager Mark Haddad at the February 11 Finance Committee meeting on the FY 2016 budget

Town Manager Mark Haddad at the February 11 Finance Committee meeting on the FY 2016 budget

Groton residents will be asked at the Spring Town Meeting whether the Board of Selectmen should renew Town Manager Mark Haddad’s contract for a third three year term.

Rob Flynn, of Nashua Road, filed a citizen’s petition for a nonbinding referendum that would instruct selectmen not to renew Haddad’s contract with Town Clerk Michael Bouchard at 9:39 this morning. Bouchard certified 10 signatures of registered voters, the number required to put the article on the warrant.

The petition reads:

On June 30,2016, the Groton Town Manager’s contract will expire. We citizens of the town of Groton Massachusetts, ask that our selectmen not renew the contract of the existing Town Manager.

A yes vote: Would inform the Selectmen that Town Meeting objects to the renewal of the current town manager contract upon its expiration on June 30, 2016.

A no vote: Would inform the Selectmen that Town Meeting has no objection to a renewal of current town manager contract upon its expiration on June 30, 2016.

Citizen's petition asking for a referendum on the renewal of Town Manager Mark Haddad's contract.

Citizen’s petition asking for a referendum on the renewal of Town Manager Mark Haddad’s contract. (Click for a larger image)

Although Haddad’s second three-year contract officially expires at the end of June, 2016, a clause in the contract requires Haddad to be notified by the end of this year if the town does not intend to renew. The last time Haddad’s contract was renewed, in 2013, he petitioned the Board of Selectmen for an early contract renewal, months ahead of the scheduled negotiations, which was granted.

Flynn said that the motion on which Spring Town Meeting will vote will include a provision for the vote to be conducted with a secret paper ballot. Paper ballots allow residents the rare luxury of anonymous voting at Town Meeting, which usually runs on voice votes and raised hands. Flynn said the paper ballot was important, given the number of town employees, vendors to the town, and members of town boards and commissions expected to participate who may not be comfortable voting on the referendum while Haddad sits on the stage at the front of the auditorium, watching the voting.

“When I was collecting signatures, I met so many people who agreed with it, with what I was doing, but felt they couldn’t sign because of retaliation or fear of retaliation. Obviously, that tells me the general public is not comfortable speaking out in this way. With the paper ballot, we can give the selectmen a very strong guiding tool about how the town feels. This lets people vote without fear of retaliation or retribution,” Flynn said.

Flynn said he had spoken to Bouchard about using a paper ballot, and was told that implementing it would not be a problem. He went on to say that he had also spoken to all five Groton selectmen about whether they would follow the direction of a Town Meeting referendum, and that “Each one of them said to me that of course they would take it into consideration.”

Because Flynn was very open with selectmen and Town Hall employees, Haddad apparently found out about the petition drive when it started, about two weeks ago.

Haddad did not return a phone call seeking comment; he has not returned calls from The Groton Line for several years, since this news site reported on and used a forensic computer expert to investigate emails related to Haddad’s sexting scandal in 2011 and 2012.

Flynn noted that Haddad sent him an email about the petition two days ago, Wednesday February 25, to “remind” him to file his petition. The email from Haddad to Flynn reads:

Good Evening Mr. Flynn:

I hope this email finds you well. It is my understanding that you are considering submitting a Citizen’s Petition Article for inclusion in the Warrant for the 2015 Spring Town Meeting scheduled to be held on Monday, April 27, 2015. I am writing to you today to make sure that you are aware of the deadline for submitting such an article. As I am sure you know, submission of a Citizen’s Petition requires the signatures of 10 registered voters. The main reason I am writing you is to let you know that the Warrant closes at the close of business on Friday, February 27, 2015 (which is 1:00 p.m.). I wanted to make sure you knew the close date and time. If you are unable to meet that deadline, you have two options. You can petition the Selectmen directly and request that they add the article after the deadline (you would still need the 10 signatures), or you can gather 200 signatures of registered voters and force the calling of a Special Town Meeting.

I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me directly, either by email or at 978-448-1111.

Best regards,

Mark W. Haddad
Town Manager

Flynn said he was taken aback when he received the email from Haddad, but wasn’t terribly surprised.

“Over the last seven years, there have been a lot of things going on that have not put the town in a good light. Scandal after scandal. It’s issue after issue; it’s spending after spending. It is dividing the town. The town is more divided now than when I moved in and a town manager is supposed to have the reverse effect — a professional manager should unite the town,” he said.

The referendum is not about the Town Charter, which enacted the Town Manager form of government, or the idea of a Town Manager, he said.

“The whole motivation is to change the direction of the town. I think it’s time for a change. I think the town needs a uniter, not a divider, and what the current town manager does is divide the town on every issue. You can go through them, very topic that comes up is controversial and divisive. We shouldn’t have four votes on a fire station — the town manager should be able to get up there and present all the facts, once. We have multiple law suits going on against the town. We need a strong uniter who can bring people together,” Flynn said.

“Look at the interaction in every Board of Selectman’s meeting between the town manager and the board. That’s the crux of this. It’s the perfect storm. Every person in this town looks at that and says, ‘What are we doing?’ There wasn’t one person I spoke to when I was collecting signatures that wasn’t disgusted with the way things are going, the way he’s speaking to the Board of Selectmen.”

“It’s about respect,” Flynn said, “respect for the office, for the people, for the employees, for the Board of Selectmen that he reports to.”

Feb 262015

The Mavilia lot on Pine Trail for which he was found in contempt of court

The Mavilia lot on Pine Trail for which he was found in contempt of court

Richard Mavilia, who has been involved in a yearslong dispute with the town over his use of a lot on Pine Trail to store boats, vehicles and other items, was jailed Monday after a judge in the Northeast Housing Court in Lawrence found him in contempt of court.

Susan M. Trippi, Clerk-Magistrate of the Housing Court, said that Mavilia had appeared on a case filed by Groton Building Inspector Edward Cataldo citing his refusal to comply with numerous orders to remove personal property from the lot, and was jailed. She explained that Mavilia removed the contempt by arranging, from jail, to have the lot cleared; he was then released.

Mavilia owns a rental property across the street from the lot, in the Lost Lake neighborhood, and maintained that he could use the 9/100 acre lot for storage as an accessory lot. The town disagreed.

Town Planner Michelle Collette explained the original charge against Mavilia. “It was an enforcement order that I had written in 2013 about a zoning violation, when I was the interim zoning enforcement officer. The matter then went to the (Zoning) Board of Appeals, the Board of Appeals upheld the enforcement order and we’ve been in court on multiple occasions on this matter.”

She said that Cataldo, who also functions as the town Zoning Enforcement Officer, had been in court on Monday and could speak about the case. Cataldo, however, adamantly refused to talk about the case, repeatedly saying “No comment,” to a series of questions about the case: whether he was familiar with the case, what the original problem was, if it had now been resolved, if the town still had any problems with the site, and why he had filed the contempt complaint.

Town Clerk Michael Bouchard said on Wednesday afternoon that Cataldo had told him that he didn’t want to comment because “It’s a sensitive case” and that he could not be compelled to talk to anyone.

Chair of the Board of Selectmen Josh Degen was more forthright than Cataldo. He said on Monday, “We went to court today and the judge found him in contempt and locked him up for failing to comply with a court order. In my opinion, I think justice was served. It’s been a long time coming, but you can’t be a scofflaw and think that the town regulations have no teeth.”

Feb 232015

Emails about the Council on Aging (CoA), usually a benign nonpolitical town board, are the focus of a convoluted struggle between Town Manager Mark Haddad and Selectman Jack Petropoulos. Haddad is trying to get Petropoulos to give up private emails he sent to a constituent in response to a questions about a CoA survey and a veiled complaint about the operation of the Senior Center, which is under Haddad’s direction. The privacy vs. cooperation issue will come up for discussion, probably a spirited one, during the Board of Selectmen’s meeting tonight, February 23rd.

The story starts a little more than two weeks ago, when John Nojeim sent an email on Saturday afternoon, February 7, to the Board of Selectmen group email address ( Nojeim’s email asked three questions about the Council on Aging survey included in the annual Town Census mailing: who reads and tabulates the survey forms, if the comments are shared with any third parties, and whether the selectmen can see the original forms. He concluded the email with a statement: “I understand there is dissatisfaction with the direction changes implemented by the new director Kathy Shelp, with influence, encouragement, and consent from the town manager.” He didn’t provide any details, and did not answer phone calls asking for a comment.

Haddad monitors that email address, so he was the first person to read and to act upon the message. He sent a copy to Kathy Shelp, Director of the CoA twenty minutes after Nojean sent the original. An hour and a half later, he sent a copy, at 4:55 p.m., to each selectman, asking the group how he should respond and expressing his support for Shelp.

Petropoulos replied to Haddad that same Saturday at 6:04 p.m., writing “Please just answer the questions and leave it at that. There is nothing to hide.” Haddad said in another email that he spoke with BoS Chair Josh Degen and “I also received emails from Selectmen Schulman and Cunningham.” but those emails were not in a package of correspondence provided by the town today, February 23.

There is no record that Haddad ever replied to Nojeim’s original email as instructed to by at least one of the selectmen, Petropoulos. If he did, that email was also not included in the packet of documents released by the town today. Haddad was in meetings and not available for comment late this afternoon.

Over the weekend, of February 7-8, Petropoulos sent an email to Nojeim, and only to him. He didn’t send a copy to Haddad or other selectmen, nor Shelp or the nine Council on Aging members. And that is the email Haddad is trying to secure.

Petropoulos intentionally didn’t include others on the distribution as a matter of principle. He wrote in reply to a query today:

“I am unable to provide The Groton Line with a copy of my response for the same reason that I have refused similar requests made by the Town Manager and the COA (Council On Aging).

As I informed Mark when he protested about not being copied on my response: I responded to the individual as he requested in his letter to the Selectmen, indicating my familiarity with, and confidence in, the operation of the Senior Center and assuring him that his questions would be answered. My refusal to copy the Town Manager on my response, or to provide copies to the COA, is founded in my knowledge that citizens expect their emails to Selectmen to be private, especially when they are complaining about the behavior of, among other things, the Town Manager. I stand by that principle and believe that citizens would expect me to do so.”

On February 9, Haddad raised a strong objection to Petropulos’s insistence on privacy, writing to the selectmen, town counsel, and Town Clerk Michael Bouchard:

… Mr. Petropoulos responded with a second email which is below. In that email he stated that he replied to the email concerning the COA Director, but will not copy me because “nothing good will come from worrying about this, and retorts make you look worse than the criticism will ever do.” I have no idea what kind of response he thought I was going to write. My responses to residents are always professional and factual, but apparently Mr. Petropoulos does not trust me to respond on behalf of the Board. What is most troubling is the fact that he is responding to a resident about issues concerning a Department that I manage, but I cannot be copied on an email from a member of the Board of Selectmen? It appears that the only way I can receive any information from Mr. Petropoulos is by filing a public records request. As I said, that is very troubling and extremely unprofessional in my opinion. I am the Town Manager and I work for the Board of Selectmen. I provide you with information so that you are always aware of what is going on, but I am not afforded the same courtesy. This is no way to manage the Town. I cannot fathom a reason to withhold any information from me concerning a department I manage.

I respectfully request that this be put on the Agenda for a full hearing before the Board. It needs to be addressed as
soon as possible. Thank you.

Omitted from Haddad’s email is an important line from Petropoulos’s to him: “Please know that I know of no criticism of the operation of the Senior Center and told the resident as much.”

As referenced in Haddad’s email, Haddad has filed two Public Information Requests on Petropoulos to obtain emails or the names of residents who expressed criticism of him. Selectman Peter Cunningham, the BoS liaison to the Council on Aging, has filed a third PIR on Petropoulos, seeking all emails between him and Art Campbell, editor of The Groton Line. When Petropoulos issued a cost estimate of more than $3,000 to print and redact one year’s worth of communications, Cunningham appealed the estimated charges to the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office, which is considering the matter.

Leaping forward to the end of that week, February 13th, the Council on Aging Executive Board dealt itself into the game, when Maydell Gamester sent an email to Haddad and CC:ing the town’s human resources director and the Board of Selectmen. She wrote:

“As the Executive Committee of the COA Board of Directors we take our responsibilities seriously and would like to respond to the concerns in a factual manner. In order to do so we respectfully ask for three items:
1. Did Selectman Petropolous discuss the facts about the census survey procedures when responding to the email? If so, what were those facts and from whom did he receive the information?
2. We are respectfully requesting copies of all correspondence regarding this issue be sent to the COA Executive Board.
3. Did any Selectman, other than Selectman Petropolous respond to the original concern? If so, we again request copies of those correspondences to determine the facts discussed.”

In addition to Gamester, the email was sent by CoA Board Vice-Chair Marie Melican, CoA Board Treasurer George Faircloth, and CoA Board Secretary Gail Chalmers. Gamester said at a CoA meeting called this afternoon to discuss the situation that she sent it to Haddad rather than the selectmen because the original email to Kathy Shelp came from Haddad.

The Council on Aging reports to the Board of Selectmen. Shelp reports to the Town Manager.

Gamester refused to comment February 22 on half a dozen other questions about the emails, concluding the phone conversation with: “You can put whatever you want in the newspaper or on the channel or whatever it is, because I’m not saying nothing.”

Neither Haddad, Shelp, nor any members of the Council on Aging attempted to contact Nojeim to answer his questions (Remember the questions?) in his original email.

Shelp did answer them, in less than a minute, at the CoA meeting this afternoon:
Q. Please inform me [sic] the names of people who actually tabulate and read the input provided on the COA survey included in the census package.
A. The Council on Aging staff members, and possibly volunteers, depending on how many replies are received.

Q. Are the comments provided to an independent 3rd party?
A. A volunteer has stepped forward to synthesize the replies into a report.

Q. Do the selectmen see them verbatim? [sic]
A. The anonymous survey forms will be available at the Senior Center for anyone to view — they are public documents.

Feb 222015

Peter Schultz enjoys the 12-hour February thaw, basking in the sun Sunday on Lone Lane

Peter Schultz enjoys the 12-hour February thaw, basking in the sun Sunday on Lone Lane

That brief Sunday-long respite from deep winter was just a break between Saturday’s three inches of snow and forecast record low temperatures on Monday night and early Tuesday morning that may approach -10 degrees with some wind. A wind chill advisory has already been issued by the National Weather Service. Temperatures may not push above freezing until next weekend, forecasters predicted.

Feb 212015

Bargaining teams from the Groton Dunstable Educators’ Association and the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee came out of Thursday’s all day mediation session with a tentative contract agreement between the district’s teachers and professionals — Unit A employees — and the district.

According to a joint news release, negotiators reached, ” … a tentative settlement of their contract covering this year and the next two years. The settlement was reached on February 19 after a seven-hour mediation session under the direction of a state mediator. The agreement is subject to ratification by the teachers and the School Committee and the terms of the settlement are confidential pending the ratification votes. Ratification is expected to take place over the next several weeks.”

The memo of understanding covers one of three “units” represented by the union, which is affiliated with the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the National Education Association. Unit A includes all certified teachers, school nurses, school psychologists, guidance counselors, and salaried occupational therapists. Unit C includes district secretaries. Unit D is made up of education paraprofessionals.

School Committee Chair Alison Manugian said: “The School Committee is pleased that the mediation process was effective; helping us all to reach settlement in three sessions. We thank the members of both negotiating teams for their hours of support and assistance. We look forward to strong relationships and ongoing conversations about education with the entire GDRSD community,”

GDEA President Adam Snodgrass said: “We feel that the relationship between the GDEA and the School Committee made a very positive turn on Thursday. The mediation session allowed us to address the issues of our contract in a very long, but very productive, session. This gives us a good foundation to build on as we work together in the future and we are hopeful for similar progress in the mediation for the Unit C and Unit D contracts in the coming weeks.”

Manugian said the tentative agreement was within the district’s draft budget for the next fiscal year, was under the district’s tax levy limit, and would not require an override vote.

Feb 182015

John Giger

John Giger

John Giger, a Groton representative on the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee and a member of the team currently negotiating contracts with district employee’s unions, has resigned after serving two years of his second three-year term. His resignation came the day after an especially contentious committee meeting spiked by declarations from teacher’s union representatives during the public comment portion of the meeting and a later discussion about the procedure for setting the school year calendar.

“On February 12th, I resigned as a member of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee. I will tell you there is no personal, medical, or family reason involved in my decision to resign, but beyond that, I don’t have any further comment. And the reason I don’t is because I don’t believe any of it would be helpful to the goals and mission of the district,” Giger said.

School Committee Chair Alison Manugian said, “Having worked with him … he’s not someone who make this as a rash decision. It wasn’t an easy decision for him. I know the school committee is going to miss him — he’s been a fabulous addition to that group and is someone whom I have a ton of respect for. I am not pleased,” she said.

“I had two contracts that I was responsible for negotiating,” Giger said. “One was the custodians and cafeteria, and that one’s been settled. And the other was with the paraprofessionals, and that one has not been settled.”

The Groton Educator’s Association and members of the district negotiating team are meeting Thursday, February 19th in a six-hour mediated session in the group’s third mediated attempt to reach an employment agreement.

Giger said the resignation has no impact on his role on the town Planning Board.

He also served on a third town committee. “I was the chair of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Working Group, but my appointment there was as the representative of the School Committee, so that’s off the table now,” he said.

“I figured out the other night … that over the last five years, I’ve contributed at least six thousand five hundred hours to the school committee,” but he stressed that the time commitment wasn’t a factor in his resignation. He did say, “You might want to take a look at he school committee meeting video form the 111th and you can draw what conclusions from that that you want to.”

The Groton Channel’s Recording of the February 11th School Committee Meeting

School Committee 2-11-15 from Groton Channel on Vimeo.

With a year left in Giger’s term and a town election scheduled for May 19th, town officials asked town counsel David Doneski to present options for filling his chair for one year, Town Clerk Michael Bouchard said. It is possible the Groton Board of Selectmen and Groton members of the School Committee could appoint a replacement, or that a one-year term could be put on the ballot. Bouchard said that he hoped the Board of Selectmen would receive Doneski’s list of options and recommendations in time to discuss them at the board’s upcoming meeting on Monday February 23.

Feb 172015

Groton DPW crews used front end loaders to move snow from roads, and then haul it away after record February snowsArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Groton DPW crews used front end loaders to move snow from roads, and then haul it away after record February snows

Near record snowfalls of an estimated eight to nine feet this winter are plowing Groton’s snow and ice removal budget into a $100,000+ deficit, but it is a deficit that was budgeted and anticipated, town officials say.
A cold, strong, north wind blew snow across Groton roads.Art Campbell | The Groton Line

A cold, strong, north wind blew snow across Groton roads.

Snow banks topped with drifting snow grew taller than vans and truck along Route 40Art Campbell | The Groton Line

Snow banks topped with drifting snow grew taller than vans and truck along Route 40

There isn’t an “official” snowfall total for Groton, or any nearby towns. The closest official National Weather Service reporting stations are not really in Groton’s neighborhood. The closest, in Worcester, has logged 100.3 inches so far this season. Boston is at 95.7 inches. Both numbers are approaching the all-time snowiest winter totals for the towns, making this winter one for the record books.

In Groton, crews were busy yesterday, busting drifts driven by a bitter north wind that tried to stretch across roads newly cleared from the Valentine’s Day blizzard’s foot of snow. Overtime, equipment maintenance, and restoring salt and sand supplies have used up about $100,000 of the department’s $200,000 expected snow and ice removal deficit budget, DPW Manager Tom Delaney said.

How do you think Groton’s DPW is doing on snow removal? Vote in The Groton Line poll in the middle of our home page’s Opinion section.

Town Accountant Patricia Dufresne explained that a $200,000 deficit allowance, over and above normal expenditures, is built into the town’s annual budget for snow and ice removal. Snow and ice is one of just a few budget categories that towns may use deficit financing for, under state law, she and Delaney said.

The deficit is paid back from new funds in the next fiscal year, Delaney said. Dufresne said the money isn’t taken from the next fiscal year’s budget though — it can be generated by increasing the town’s tax rate slightly.

Today’s forecast calls for up to several inches of new snow, with another significant storm possible this coming weekend.

Feb 142015

Evelyn Brandt

Evelyn Brandt became Groton’s newest resident Friday, and got an ambulance ride to celebrate

If you were on the road yesterday morning, Friday the 13th, heading down route 119 south and east of Groton about 9 o’clock, you might have had the bad luck to get caught in traffic. An ambulance or two may have bulled their way through the chain of cars, pushing them toward the snow banks on either side of Boston Road before they whipped by in a blaze of flashing blue and red.

But it wasn’t a bad thing — instead, it was one of life’s best things for Caitlin and Andy Brandt. And for their very new daughter, Evelyn. Evelyn became Groton’s newest resident at 9:32 a.m., in the back of Groton’s A-2 ambulance, when Captain Susan Daly welcomed her into the world.

“I honestly had no idea. I was doing dishes at 8:30 and then said I didn’t really feel good. So we got in the car, ” Caitlin said. “We were on the way to the hospital, but didn’t even make it out of town. We had to pull over — I was OK until I got in the car. The ambulance showed up at 9:29, they said, and she was born at 9:32. They had just shut the doors of the ambulance.”

Evelyn weighed in at six pounds, 14 ounces, and “Everybody’s healthy and happy,” her mom reported Saturday evening from her room at Emerson Hospital in Concord. Evelyn has a sister, nine, and a brother, four. “And I really want to thank the Groton and Ayer Fire Departments and EMTs!” she said.

It was an experience that Evelyn may not remember but Daly certainly will. It was her first delivery in 14 years of service.

“Mom did all the work,” Daly said, but she credited her team of first responders — Lt. Jimmy Crocker, Michael MacGregor, Andrew Mahoney, all firefighter/EMTS — for doing everything as well as Brandt did. “It was wonderful,” she said, “We don’t often get to be there with people for happy things!”

Paramedics from Ayer assisted at the scene.

Feb 102015

PrescottBuildingArt Campbell | The Groton Line

The largest building on Groton’s Main Street, the Prescott School building, has a new group of supporters and advocates, the “Friends of Prescott.” About 20 people strong, the group held an organizational meeting February 5, has set up a website (, and is “seeking to expand its membership,” according to a news release sent by the group’s president, Mary Jennings.

“This group was formed in response to the failed vote at the 2014 Fall Groton Town Meeting to sell the historic building to a local businessman,” the news release notes.

The news release continues,

“Some of the members have volunteered to work with the nine member town-side Municipal Building committee appointed by the selectmen. (Town Manager) Mark Haddad is a liaison to that municipal committee (separate from the friends).

We see ourselves in part as a lobbying group for the Municipal Committee … we’re separate from it and want to keep the focus on the community options which haven’t necessarily been part of the conversation these past few years.
Members came together due to their common belief that the Selectmen had limited their options for the building by only offering it for sale through a Request for Proposal to a third party. Group members believe the town should take time to study the possibility of preserving the building for a wide range of community uses.

Friends of Prescott seek to expand its membership and invite interested citizens to attend its next meeting, on Tuesday, February 24 at 7 p.m. at the Middle School North library. Go to for updated information and ways to link to members directly.

At its organizational meeting February 5, the group voted to act to raise public awareness about the building and its potential uses, and to assist seeking possible funding to assure continued town ownership in the short term and possibly long term future. The Friends also elected officers: President, Mary Jennings; Secretary, Pat Lawrence; and Treasurer, Bruce Easom.”

Over the past two years, the town issued two Request For Proposals to sell or lease the Prescott building. The leading contender was local architect Gregg Yanchenko, who proposed transforming the old school into commercial office space for his own and other firms, as well as leasing space to the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee.

Most recently, the Prescott School Reuse Committee was reformed in late December 2014 as “Municipal Building Committee for Prescott School.” The initial members included: Brian Bolton, Jane Bouvier, Anna Eliot, Gary Green, Alison Manugian, Halsey Platt, David Melpignano, Becky Pine, Lynwood Prest, and Greg Sheldon. Bouvier has since resigned; no one was appointed to fill the vacancy and the committee will continue with nine members. The next Municipal Building Committee meeting is Monday, February 23 at 5 p.m. at the Prescott building.

The Board of Selectman created this charge for the committee:

The Committee shall be responsible for gathering input from citizens, users and potential users, reviewing conceptual designs, making recommendations and acting in an advisory capacity for the Prescott School. The Committee shall do its best to complete its work by June 30, 2015. The Committee’s work should include, but not be limited to the following:

  1. Identify realistic options for maintaining the building to stabilize the structure and reserve its historic value while serving the Town’s needs. This shall include a discussion of its current condition.
  2. Develop and recommend a plan to the Board of Selectmen that maximizes the best uses of the building for the short (next 5 years) and long term (next 20+ years). Recommendations should be based on a complete analysis of available options and demonstrate fiscal responsibility. To demonstrate fiscal responsibility, the Committee shall develop estimated costs and project time-frame associated with any recommendation.
  3. Develop informational materials about any proposed re-use of the Prescott School and conduct a public information program. This shall include at least one or more public hearings to gather input from the community.
  4. Develop a timeline for completion of the work and submission of a final report to the Board by June 30, 2015. This timeline should include monthly reports to the Board of Selectmen and identify milestones to insure[sic] timely action by the Board.

The Yanchenko Proposal

Groton architect Gregg Yanchenko twice missed purchasing the Prescott School building from the town last year when both the spring and fall town meetings voted down his proposal. Yanchenko said Tuesday afternoon February 10 that his firm is still continuing to grow as expected and he is still looking for a new, larger building in the Groton area.

During the first night of the 2014 Fall Town Meeting on Oct. 20, fewer than 3% of the town’s eligible voters narrowly rejected — by two votes; 126-65 — a proposal from Yanchenko to purchase the Prescott School building for $35,000. Yanchenko pledged to spend $1.7 million to renovate the building to create office space for private businesses, including his own; agreed to negotiate a long-term lease with the school district so its central offices could remain in the building; to create a footbridge from the rear of the property to the Nashua River Rail Trail; and spend about $65,000 to create a municipal parking lot on the property.

According to the minutes of the meeting, “The Meeting held a vigorous debate which lasted 1 hour 45 minutes. The editor summarized the main points of the arguments:

  • Those favoring the sale or lease argued that the building has been dormant, except for the housing of the Regional School Superintendent’s office, for quite some time. The proposal by Mr. Yanchenko would improve the building, would occupy the building, would create jobs to renovate the building, and create business lease space in the center of town. In addition, Mr. Yanchenko would construct a 60-car municipal parking lot and make the building available to community activities.
  • Those opposed to the sale or lease favor that the Town retain control of the building and develop it for use as a community center, similar to what other communities have done. This side felt this was the best use of the building to benefit the community. This side also argued that if the building is sold, then the Town would lose control over its options.”

At the previous Town Meeting, the spring event on May 5, 2014, a marathon session lasting more than four hours led to an 11:15 p.m. vote on the sale or lease of the Prescott building to Yanchenko. Supported by most members of the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee, the article missed the required 2/3 majority by eight votes, 84-53.