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."

Jul 212014

The Groton Board of Selectmen wrapped up four and a half hours of hearings on complaints against town employees by former four firefighters saying “We now consider this matter closed,” but the Friday hearings may have just been the first part of an epic disagreement.

The four firefighters who filed the complaints, James Horan, Clarence Jefferson, Ben Miele, and Stephen Tervo, and their attorney, Rob Bowen, issued a news release Monday morning to make clear that as far as they’re concerned, the matter is not closed. A lawsuit to force another type of hearings, before Groton’s fire chief, may be in the offing.

The Friday July 18 BoS hearings were the highest level of the town’s grievance procedure and were the result of the firefighters filing complaints against other town employees for harassment, retaliation, and coercion. The hearings gave the accused town employees an opportunity to respond to the firefighter’s written complaints, but the firefighters did not testify.

The hearing that the firefighters are seeking through Bowen is a hearing conducted under the state Strong Chief Law to determine if any of them took actions that justify their employment being terminated.

“The law seems to entitle them to a ’cause’ hearing, and at the moment, that is what we are seeking.” Bowen said. “It is a bona fide legal dispute and a difference of opinion between two attorneys, and for the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen to label it as ‘frivolous’ is not helpful to the conversation.”

The full news release issued by Bowen reads:

Until June 2014, Clarence Jefferson, Stephen Tervo, Benjamin Miele, and James Horan were members of the Groton Fire Department. Massachusetts General Law chapter 48 section 42 (the so-called Strong Chief Law) gives the fire chief the authority to remove firefighters “for cause after a hearing.” No such hearings have been held, nor does the town plan to hold such hearings. This is unfortunate, as it has left a cloud over these men, who have been in dedicated service to the town for years, and in one case more than three decades.

Their situations are all different, but they have at least two things in common. They engaged in protected union organizing activity, and participated in an independent investigation into allegations against the department by another firefighter. Although that investigation failed to substantiate those claims, further investigation into related issues was conducted, but not by the independent investigator. The town manager took it upon himself to conduct his own follow up. Upon information and belief, he actually delegated his investigation to the chief. Two of the dismissed firefighters could not participate in a meeting due to scheduling conflicts. Only after the fact were they informed the meeting was supposedly “mandatory.” Nevertheless, their absence seems to have been held against them. As a result of this internal investigation, the challenged personnel actions were taken.

The main complaint of the dismissed firefighters is simply that they are entitled to a hearing and a reason, a legitimate reason, for their summary departure. It is not their purpose to try their claims in the press, but they do collectively want to clear their names. To that end, they filed complaints with the Board of Selectmen, In response to those complaints, the Board of Selectmen convened an executive session to investigate those complaints, but this is not a substitute for a hearing in which the firefighters would be allowed to defend the allegations against them. This fundamental right to due process has been denied.

Instead, the town conducted its “investigation” into their allegations in executive session, as the law requires, which means three things. First and foremost, the dismissed firefighters have not been given a chance to defend themselves against the false accusations resulting in their separations. Second, without their direct participation in the hearings, it is simply impossible to know whether their complaints were thoroughly understood and addressed. Finally, because the town continues to deny them their own hearing, it means the public will not know what happened. In the end, it’s the taxpayer who is most aggrieved by this situation.

The towns’ position is that these firefighters were not reappointed, resigned, or retired and so were not entitled to a hearing. Whatever the merits of their argument might be in towns that annually appoint their firefighters, the fact of the matter is that in Groton, annual appointment have not taken place for over three decades. Now, in order to circumvent the requirement of a cause and a hearing for the removal of firefighters, an annual reappointment process has been invented. The firefighters intend to challenge this end run in Court.

This is not some “technicality” or oversight. The lack of an annual reappointment process has led to the justifiably settled expectation of continued employment for these firefighters, an entitlement recognized and protected by the Strong Chief Law due process hearing requirement. Instead, a veteran of 33 years was told to retire when informed that he would not be reappointed, and two other firefighters were summarily dismissed via email without hearing or explanation. Although the forth resigned in protest over his treatment regarding protected union activity, it is believed personnel action against him had also already been determined. It’s not fair to these employees, or to the Town. More importantly, it is an end run around the Strong Chief Law, and, we think, unlawful in violation of that statute and the constitutional right of these firefighters to due process.

Thus far, the town has decided not to give these men their “day in court.” The discharged firefighters are disappointed that, without their participation in the recent executive session meetings into their own complaints, without their ability to confront the witnesses against them, the town did not find their complaints to be substantiated. The town’s choice of words is equivocal. Their determination that the allegations were “unsubstantiated” only means that in their view nothing unlawful was done. It is not a factual denial of events that have taken place.

But whatever the outcome of these hearings had been, they are not a substitute for a hearing regarding their own separation from employment. Due process has been denied with respect to the personnel actions taken against them. Accordingly, they will seek their redress in court. Although certainly a possible outcome of any litigation is an award of damages, what the terminated firefighters are primarily seeking is the vindication of their reputations.

They plan no other comment at this time; they will present their case to the court of law, not the court of public opinion, and ask that any further communications be directed to their attorney, Robert H. Bowen.

Jul 202014

Groton BoS Chair Josh Degen: "After thorough and complete review of the complaints ... the board has found the allegations advanced in the complaints unsubstantiated."

Groton BoS Chair Josh Degen: “After a thorough and complete review of the complaints … the board has found the allegations advanced in the complaints unsubstantiated.”

After four and a half hours of closed-door hearings Friday, the Groton Board of Selectmen dismissed complaints by four former call firefighters against fire department command staff and other employees. Selectmen agreed that every distinct point in each firefighter’s complaint was “unsubstantiated.”

Reading a statement from the entire board just after noon on July 18, Chair Josh Degen said,” The Board of Selectmen have reviewed the four complaints and at this time, the board would like to thank those involved who appeared before the board and provided information relative to these complaints. After thorough and complete review of the complaints filed, the board has found the allegations advanced in the complaints unsubstantiated, and the individuals named in the complaints are exonerated from having engaged in harassment, retaliation, or coercion, or any members of the fire department.”

After the meeting, Degen went further, saying, “It’s a shame that the four individuals cast allegations at various town employees that proved to be frivolous at best.

The complaints were made by former Deputy Chief Clarence Jefferson and former firefighters James Horan, Ben Miele, and Steve Tervo.

The exact nature of the complaints and the town employees each firefighter named in his individual complaints is not yet public. The town will not release the complaints because they are both under investigation as part of a personnel matter and because they may be precursors to one or more lawsuits. The firefighters’ attorney, Rob Bowen, has advised them not to release the complaints either. Bowen also told them not to comment on the outcome of the hearing, the firefighters said.

These complaints are not directly related to the town’s internal investigation that led to Jefferson, Miele, and Tervo not being reappointed to their jobs in June. Horan, the fourth complainant, resigned his position.

The hearings were conducted with the help of Town Counsel Brian Maser, Degen said, who functioned as a “technical adviser.”

Horan, Jefferson, Miele, and Tervo were not present at the hearings; only the people they alleged to have committed an infraction were interviewed by selectmen Friday.

Degen explained that the hearings, “… are for the board to interview the individual who has been accused. It’s as simple as that. If we’re in executive session, the board, will, after interviewing each individual, conduct a polling of the board to see whether the allegation is substantiated or not substantiated. If it’s done in executive session, due to privacy (requirements in state laws) that will not be released.”

Degen stressed that any of the people accused of wrongdoing could have spoken publicly during the hearings by telling the selectmen that they wished to talk in open session.

“It was up to each individual. Everybody that … came in to testify for each hearing (knew) that they could be conducted in executive session or they could open it up and have it done in public session. It would be televised and there would be reporters in the room — everybody understood. I want to make that clear — that everybody was afforded that opportunity,” he said.

The firefighters had an option under the town’s bylaws to request an advisory opinion from the town’s Personnel Board before the selectmen conducted their hearing; none of them did.

The selectmen’s statement concluded, “The board further recognizes the difficulties that this series of events have caused to those accused and appreciates the full and complete cooperation in an attempt to resolve this matter. The board has the highest level of confidence in the ability of the department to protect the public.

“We now consider this matter closed,” Degen read.

Jul 192014

Ann Elizabeth Murphy, of 551 Longley Road, died after being hit by a vehicle near her home Friday evening around 6:30.

According to a news release issued by Groton Police Chief Donald Palma Saturday morning, “Groton Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Services were dispatched to Longley Road in the vicinity of 534 for a motor vehicle and pedestrian accident.

The news release continues, “The victim, a 68-year-old Groton woman, was struck by a motor vehicle while walking on Longley Road. The victim was transported by Groton Fire Department ambulance to Nashoba Hospital, and later transported by helicopter to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston where she succumbed to her injuries.

“The operator of the vehicle, Kara Miller, a 28-year-old Pepperell resident, was not injured.”

Murphy’s name was released by Middlesex District Attorney spokesman Jeff Shapiro. Shapiro said that accident reconstruction teams from his office and Groton Police would work together on the investigation. Shapiro did not have any information about whether Murphy was walking along the side of the road or attempting to cross the road when she was struck.

Jul 172014

Groton State Representative Sheila Harrington (R), three other area state legislators, and the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce will host a regional forum on the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project August 5 in Lunenburg.

A Kinder Morgan subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, has proposed building a 36-inch natural gas pipeline from a distribution terminal in upstate New York through 45 Massachusetts communities on its way to a second terminal in Dracut, Massachusetts.

The proposal is preliminary at this point, Kinder Morgan spokesmen have said, but the tentative route has drawn widespread criticism because it passes through wetlands and conservation areas in many towns along the route. The company has also drawn flak because it approached landowners in some towns, asking for permission to survey their lands before officials in the affected town were contacted early this year.

Harrington, Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg), Representative Stephen DiNatale (D-Fitchburg), Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster), and the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce will host, according to a draft news release, ” … a regional forum for impacted communities in Middlesex and Worcester counties to discuss the proposed project.”

The public forum will be held on Tuesday, August 5, at 7 p.m. in the Lunenburg High School auditorium at 1079 Massachusetts Avenue in Lunenburg (see map at the bottom of this story). According to the news release, “The purpose of this regional forum is for state elected and local officials, residents, and business owners to share information and coordinate efforts on the issue. The discussion is open to all members of the public.”

Harrington wrote in an email, “”This forum will give elected officials at all levels of government an opportunity to have a productive, inclusive conversation with the citizens of the region about how Kinder Morgan’s planned pipeline would effect our lives, our property values, and our businesses. We hope to come out of the forum more informed, more organized, and more prepared.”

Harrington has been working for several weeks to build legislative support to allow the state Department of Transportation to propose an alternate pipeline route to Kinder Morgan, along State Route 2 and Interstate 495.

She wrote two weeks ago that,

” … I met with a caucus of affected legislators at the State House. I received a lot of support for the proposal and I was tasked with writing a letter to the Department of Transportation with a request from the legislators to consider giving access over their existing rights of way. After I complete this proposed letter, and my fellow legislators have approved it, we will seek signature support from as many members of the legislature as possible.

Later that afternoon I received a call from one of the representatives I met with from Kinder Morgan asking how the proposal was received by the legislators. I advised him that they fully supported the proposal and that we would be asking DOT to look into making access over existing rights of way available to Kinder Morgan. This would not only alleviate the negative impact to our communities and our conservation land, but it would possible provide much needed revenue to our Department of Transportation. Kinder Morgan represented to me that they were very enthusiastic about the proposal and that they would be meeting with the Department of Transportation the following day. I asked him to let the DOT representatives know that they would soon be receiving something from legislators asking for their cooperation.”

Kinder Morgan is, according to the company website, “the fourth largest energy company (based on combined enterprise value) in North America. We own an interest in or operate approximately 80,000 miles of pipelines and 180 terminals.”

The company has conducted 16 community meetings with boards of selectmen along the propose route over the last 90 days, according to Richard Wheatley, Kinder Morgan’s Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs.

“Land surveys are under way in western Massachusetts and progressing back to the east,” Wheatley wrote in an email. “We have received survey permissions from approximately 50 percent of landowners needed in Massachusetts. The public outreach process continues, and the project continues to advance.”

Because the August 5 forum was just announced, neither the organizers nor Kinder Morgan knew if Kinder Morgan representatives would attend.

“This is an important regional issue,” Benson said. “Information to this point has been limited. All residents and business owners in the area will be impacted one way or another, and I think it is important that both state officials and local officials are briefed on the issue in order to discuss with residents and allow them to make informed decisions.”

DiNatale said, “I have many questions and concerns about the pipeline proposal such as acquisition of land and costs. I can only hope that our rate payers residing in the North Central Region of the state will benefit from this project.”

According to the news release, “Proponents of the pipeline believe the pipeline is essential to address shortage of natural gas in New England. Opponents of the pipeline have concerns that the project will bring risks to the environment, carry natural gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing methods, decrease property values, and possibly damage conservation land and wetlands.”

Jul 172014

White paint outlines a new bump out in Main Street in front of Town Hall.Art Campbell | The Groton Line

White paint outlines a new bump out in Main Street in front of Town Hall.

If you look closely, you can see the future sketched on Main Street in front of Town Hall. White paint outlines a new pedestrian bump out that widens the sidewalk and narrows the street by eliminating the curb lane. The bump out will eliminate several parking spots in front of Town Hall and should make crossing the street safer for pedestrians.

“Starting, hopefully, next week, we are going to be implementing an idea that was on the Station Avenue plan for improved sight lines and pedestrian safety in front of the Town Hall,” Tom Delaney, Manager of the Department of Public Works, said.

The finished project will include new granite curbs, concrete sidewalk, and a grass buffer installed over a period of two weeks. More of the granite posts like the two now in place in front of the building will be installed too, Delaney said.

Jul 172014

The Groton Board of Selectmen will meet in a highly unusual 7:30 a.m. meeting tomorrow, Friday, July 18, to conduct hearings into four complaints against town officials and employees. The meeting may last several hours, possibly until 3 p.m. — the meeting room is booked for the selectmen’s meeting all day. The only item on the posted agenda is an executive session, a meeting conducted behind closed doors.

The complaints were by four call firefighters who either lost their jobs or resigned in the wake of town investigations this spring. The town will not release the complaints because they are both under investigation as part of a personnel matter and because they may be precursors to one or more lawsuits.

Former Deputy Chief Clarence Jefferson and former firefighters Ben Miele and Steve Tervo were not reappointed to their jobs in June as a result of an investigation by Town Manager Mark Haddad, who reported in an email to selectmen on June 5 that he believed Jefferson lied to him during an investigation and thought he may have leaked confidential information; because one of the firefighters (not identified by name) “has an awful attitude;” and because the second was “less than truthful.” A fourth firefighter, James Horan, resigned because of an earlier investigation and actions he alleges town officials took after he organized meetings between call firefighters and a Teamsters union organizer.

Haddad wrote in another email that he made no notes during his interviews and investigation, and wrote no reports or opinions other than the conclusions he sent in the June 5 email to selectmen.

All four firefighters filed complaints with the town in the wake of their terminations. Friday’s hearings are the result — selectmen will collect testimony from the town officials named in the complaints, but not hear from the firefighters who filed the complaints. Town hall sources and local attorneys not related to the case said that Town Counsel Brian Maser would routinely recommend that town officials who are called to testify should speak in closed executive session. Each has the option to speak in open public session and to respond to the charges against him or her publicly. If they speak in public session, the testimony could be used in subsequent legal proceedings.

If the town officials and employees speak in executive session, as expected, their testimony would not be made public.

After the selectmen gather information from the accused employees, they deliberate on the information they gather and render an opinion on the validity of the complaints. Although the board’s ruling on the complaints is likely to be delivered in an open meeting, the deliberations are usually not public, and the board is not under any obligation to explain the reasons behind its conclusion.

Jul 162014

 Chairman Josh Degen tells the Board of Selectmen that compliance with the Open Meeting Law Art Campbell | The Groton Line

Chairman Josh Degen tells the Board of Selectmen that compliance with the Open Meeting Law “This is serious. This is really serious.”

Monday evening, the Groton Board of Selectmen followed up on the Massachusetts Attorney General’s recent determination that the board violated the state Open Meeting Law this spring. Led by Chair Josh Degen, members discussed how to ensure that no more OLM violations occur. All members of the board agreed that more Open Meeting Law training was required, but there were differences of opinion on whether and for whom the training should be mandatory.

The violation occurred when then-Chair Peter Cunningham made a series of phone calls polling BoS members on a possible board action. After the phone calls were disclosed:

  • Cunningham and Selectmen Anna Eliot and Stuart Schulman said they thought the phone calls and polling was not a violation of the OML.
  • Selectmen Jack Petropoulos disagreed and thought the calls were a violation.
  • Current Chair Josh Degen talked to Cunningham twice about bringing the idea forward, told Cunningham the phone calls might be a violation, and that the discussion could only take place in a public meeting.
  • Town Manager Mark Haddad said the calls were not a violation.
  • The The Groton Line filed an Open Meeting Law complaint, alleging a violation.
  • In the town’s official response to the complaint, Town Counsel David Doneski stated the calls were not a violation of the law.

The Groton Line appealed Doneski’s response to the Attorney General’s office, which determined that in fact a violation of the Open Meeting Law had occurred.

Degen introduced a two part plan to ensure compliance with the OML in the July 14 meeting.

“What I’m proposing is that we ask a representative of the AG’s office to come out and do an Open Meeting Law training seminar with every elected and appointed board. You either have to attend, or view the video of that Open Meeting Law seminar and then sign a document saying that they have viewed it and then turn that document in to the Town Clerk’s office,” he said. He later added that the document would include a line saying that they would comply with the Open Meeting Law.
The first part of Degen’s plan, to sponsor a training seminar, was embraced by all members of the board.

The second phase, to require office holders to either attend an OML seminar or certify that they had viewed the video of the to-be-arranged Groton seminar, provoked some discussion. Office holders are currently required to certify to the town clerk that they have reviewed conflict of interest and ethics documents required by the state. The OML training would be the first local requirement for training or knowledge by office holders.

“I’m kind of ambivalent about this and I’m not sure that I like the idea of requiring people to take a test,” Shulman said. “Maybe the Board of Selectmen needs to take the course. I’m not so sure that anyone else needs to take it, because we violated the Open Meeting Law.”

Degen’s proposal did not include any kind of test, just attendance at, or viewing a video of, a seminar.

“I think holding the training is a good thing, and making it available to people is a good idea. Whether you’re going to compel them to attend or not,,, I think that’s more complicated,” Cunningham said.

“I don’t mind having the training,” Eliot said, “making it mandatory is kind of onerous on some of the members of the volunteers. We have a great deal of volunteers, and I really appreciate the time and effort that they give, but it’s up to the chair of the committee that they serve on to make sure that they comply.”

Degen was adamant that the training be required of selectmen and members of boards and committees reporting to the board.

“This is serious. This is really serious. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t serve,” Degen said.

Open Meeting Law Resources

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has a series of six OML training videos online.

Three two-hour long OML seminars, each with a webinar component, sponsored by the Attorney General’s Office are planned for this fall, according to its website.

Speaking from the floor, Finance Committee Vice-chair Gary Green told the selectmen that, “The Open Meeting Law is not obvious. There are so many things related to the Open Meeting Law that are not obvious. You run into a member of your committee on the street, and you’re like ‘Uh, what can we say? Can we say ‘Hi?’ I think it’s critical that we bring training, and I don’t think it’s sufficient to hand out a packet that explains the law. it’s legalize, and it’s not the legalize that’s important, it’s how we interpret that legalize that’s important. I think it’s critical both for citizens to understand the Open Meeting Law and what they can and can’t do, as well as sits on a board. I wouldn’t do a test, but I absolutely think having a video that everybody can see and asking people to state that they’ve seen that is reasonable.”

Art Prest, newly appointed to the Finance Committee, said, “In some type of training, we can ask questions. Watching a video, I can’t ask questions. I’ve been to many meetings of committees and I sit there and I think ‘Did that just happen? I think they just violated the Open Meeting Law,’ but I don’t know. I’d like to have more information and more intelligence and more education. I think it’s important; I think it’s critical.”

A motion was offered by Cunningham to reach out to the Attorney General’s office to arrange an OML seminar in Groton passed quickly, without debate.

Implementing the second half of Degen’s proposal was more difficult. Petropoulos and Degen each needed several tries at formulating a motion spelling out the new requirements on office holders reporting to the BoS and support staff — that they either attend the seminar or view the video of the seminar and certify that to the town clerk.

Cunningham, Degen, Petropoulos, and Schulman voted in favor of the training and certification requirement. Eliot abstained.

Jul 152014

Dennis Eklof tells selectmen "I am against the pipeline."

Dennis Eklof tells selectmen “I am against the pipeline.”

The Groton Board of Selectmen ratcheted up its opposition to the Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan, one of the country’s largest energy companies at its Monday, July 14 meeting. The board:

  • Appointed Dennis Eklof and Peter Morrison to its Pipeline Working Group, a seven-member advisory committee that is supposed to keep selectmen apprised of developments as the pipeline proposal is evaluated. Read the group’s charge from the BoS.)
  • Listened to Selectman Stuart Schulman report on the activities of the Northern Massachusetts Municipal Gas Pipeline Coalition, a group of town around Groton who are sharing information about the pipeline proposal
  • Passed a resolution closing Groton’s roads and streets to surveyors working to establish control points used to lay out the route of the pipeline.

Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline has proposed building a 36-inch natural gas pipeline from a Kinder Morgan terminal in upstate New York through 45 Massachusetts towns, including Groton, to another terminal in Dracut that both distributes the gas to the region and pumps some on to other terminals.

Eklof, semiretired after 45 years in the energy business, is already serving with Selectman Stuart Schulman as Groton delegates to an inter-town Pipeline Coalition that is sharing information about the pipeline.

“I’m against the pipeline,” he told selectmen, raising both hands to a “Stop!” signal. “I think I bring a lot of knowledge, background, and information that can help this town make the right decisions and present a case to make sure the state makes the right decisions as well. I believe there are alternative pipeline locations, if in fact we need a pipeline.”

“I think there are probably two prongs to effective opposition to this pipeline. One is simply public interest. FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) has a responsibility for making decisions, but there are still politics involved, and the more we can inform the public; our citizens, and the citizens of the larger group of town in the coalition, the more they can be effective. The other approach is … right now there is a prevailing opinion, and certainly the six governors of the New England states have come out strongly in favor of building the pipeline. Kinder Morgan is willing to put up its capital to do so — it’s a long-term investment for them. We don’t have any firm, well-developed alternatives. If we don’t have that, I think our effectiveness to argue with FERC is going to be severely diminished,” Eklof said just before the BoS voted unanimously to have him join the Working Group as its second at-large citizen member.

Peter Morrison will represent the Conservation Commission in the Working Group.

Schulman told other selectmen that Ekloff has already demonstrated his knowledge and value during meetings of the consortium of towns working to share pipeline information. After changing the name of the group three times, Schulman said the name this week is: “Northern Massachusetts Municipal Gas Pipeline Coalition,” but because two New Hampshire towns may join, the name may change again.

Schulman is co-chair of the liaison group, with Townsend’s Timothy Sheehan. He said the group is working to inventory 49 or more websites it has identified that have pipeline related information, and plans to ask state officials to slow down the pipeline planning process.

“This group is not officially against the pipeline,” Schulman said.

The final pipeline related action of the board was a vote to prevent Kinder Morgan survey teams from establishing survey reference points on town roads by banning them from the roads. The reference points are a preliminary survey step that ensures accuracy for later steps, when the tentative pipeline route is laid out.

Denying access to town roads is likely to be a symbolic gesture, though, and may not even rise to the level of a nuisance to survey teams.

“What David (Doneski, Town Counsel) said is that you can deny the access. It would be more symbolic than anything else, because you don’t own an interest in these particular roads; you really don’t have the legal right to deny access,” Town Manager Mark Haddad told the selectmen. Although ” … my understanding from town counsel is they can go to the DPU and get the permission if they have to,” he still recommended the symbolic vote.

The board does not control any of the land on the tentative pipeline route, although the Conservation Commission and Groton-Dunstable Regional School District does.

Selectman Jack Petropoulos wasn’t in favor of closing town roads to surveyors. “I have concerns about denial of access to anybody for public property. I think it’s a bad precedent and I’m concerned about that. I’m not interested in having the pipeline go through our town and I’m supportive of reasonable efforts to not do so, but denying access to public property to one group … we set a bad precedent,” he said.

Schulman made a motion that “We deny access to public roads to Kinder Morgan for survey purposes.” Selectman Peter Cunningham seconded, and the motion passed 4-1 with Petropoulos standing alone.

Tuesday morning, Groton Police Chief Donald Palma had not heard of the board’s action to close the roads to surveyors until a reporter called to see how he planned to implement the board’s motion.

“I do not believe that is enforceable,” Palma said. “I would have to see what their statement was, but at face value, I don’t know how I could enforce that. I don’t think I have the people, number one, but I don’t think I could enforce that legally. They’re public ways. Any road maintained by the state or the Town of Groton is a way to which the public has a right of access. I just don’t see how you can do that.”

Jul 152014

Talk On Main Street, a new television series of discussions of regional issues, debuts Tuesday, July 22. The show is unique because it will have a live studio audience in the Black Box Theater of the Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, be cable cast on The Groton Channel, and be streamed live on the Internet.

The first program tackles some selected aspects of the Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan that would span 45 towns along the northern edge of Massachusetts. Talk On Main Street: The Pipeline features Groton-based energy experts Dennis Eklof and James O’Reilly address issues and answering questions posed by program moderator Jason Kauppi, sho is also Groton Town Moderator. Eklof is an expert in global energy forecasting and consulting. O’Reilly is Director of Public Policy for Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, is an expert energy efficiency policy and programs.

Talk On Main Street uses a give-and-take-discussion format that goes in depth with subject matter experts who can provide important information on current areas of concern. We will cover issues that are relevant to our region and provide good and accurate information delivered in a conversational style that makes that information understandable.

In addition to questions from Kauppi, and time permitting, the experts will take some questions from the studio audience and the online audience watching from their homes.

Talk on Main Street will cablecast in Groton, Massachusetts on Verizon channel 40 and Charter channel 12. Live Internet streaming will be available at Viewers can submit questions on Twitter with the #TalkOnMainStreet hashtag or by email at If you want to attend Talk On Main Street, be at The Black Box Theater before 6:50 on July 22.

The first show will likely focus on these topics:

  • Permitting process / role of FERC
  • Need for more natural gas pipelines
  • Financing a pipeline, including tariffs — what they are and how they work

And may also include additional related items such as:

  • Current and future demand for gas
  • Alternative routes for the pipeline and related issues.
  • Survey activity by Kinder Morgan
  • Opposing a pipeline
  • Safety

The crew of people behind Talk on Main Street is: Jack Petropoulos and Art Campbell, Producers; David Melpignano, Director; and Jason Kauppi, Moderator. All are Groton residents.
(Art Campbell is Editor and Publisher of The Groton Line.)

Jul 142014

The Groton Fire Department, fresh from moving in to its new Central Fire Station on Farmers Row, conducted its first training class on Saturday. Forty emergency medical technicians from around the state, including 18 from Groton, worked on motor vehicle accident extraction techniques and practiced with Groton firefighters who demonstrated rescue tools and tactics.

The new fire station was completed just a couple weeks behind schedule after more than a year of construction and more than a decade of planning, designing, and political wrangling. Fire engines and trucks from the old Central Fire Station, Station 1 on Station Avenue and ambulances and the rescue truck from the public safety building are now all under one roof in the $9M facility.

The station’s new training rooms and facilities are attracting favorable reviews from lots of area fire departments, Captain Susan Daly said. She predicted that many first responder course instructors will be attracted to the new facility and that more classes will be taught in Groton, making training opportunities more accessible to Groton personnel and not pulling Groton personnel out of town.

“The EMTs are practicing extrication, and the new ones are learning what firefighters do, how we can get into a car safely to secure a patient, How we do our job, and allowing us to do our job before they come in to do their job,” Lieutenant Michael Culley said. We’re showing them the techniques we use to get in there and gain access to a patient. As EMTs, they may be called upon to help in that rescue situation. And if there are multiple vehicles involved and we’re calling in extra personnel, they might have to become part of the rescue.”

The new Hurst tools are self-contained, battery-operated hydraulic units. The older style of rescue cutters, rams, and spreaders required setting up a remote generator-driven hydraulic pump that charged long hydraulic hoses that led to the tools. The new design is physically larger, but more maneuverable and quicker to deploy, Daly said.

“We have gotten new hydraulic extrication tools within the last two years — those are the tools we’re going to be demoing today. We’re able to come off a truck, get a tool, and get to work immediately, so we can help a patient much faster. It’s much quicker with these tools,” she said.