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."

Aug 242014
 

The old Groton Inn tract, almost ready for a new life as the heart of Groton center.Art Campbell | The Groton Line

The old Groton Inn tract, almost ready for a new life as the heart of Groton center.
Click to view a larger panorama.


Chris Ferris says September 2 is The Day. The day he and partner Richard Cooper and their development company, 128 Main Street LLC, will close the sale of George Pergantis’s 8.5 acre property and take control of the tract in the heart of Groton center. The day the “Olde” Groton Inn era closes and the new Groton Inn era begins.

When there was snow on the ground early this spring, Ferris was hoping the closing could take place as early as June or July. An initial closing date of July 18 slipped by because Cooper, Ferris, and their bankers couldn’t all be in the same place at the same time. Another loose plan to close later in July didn’t come together and the month slipped by. An August closing was derailed because three of Pergantis’s apartment tenants and Pergantis hadn’t moved out of the two apartment buildings at the rear of the property.

But now the apartments once occupied by tenants are vacant, Cooper told Ferris early this week. The financiers are lined up. And September 2 is Closing Day, Ferris said.

“We’re planning on Tuesday, the second. That’s the target date and at this point it looks like we’re on target. But even the best-laid plans go awry,” said. “And once Labor Day is behind me, my schedule frees up a lot more and I’ll be down there on a much more regular basis.”

Pergantis agrees September 2 is The Day.

“Now listen carefully,” Pergantis said ten days ago. “The property is sold. In a week, a couple weeks, I will move to Fitchburg. I’ll open a restaurant, with a full liquor license and the restaurant; I’ve got a nice house by the restaurant; it’s all done.”

Ferris is confident enough that papers will change hands that he has offered the two apartment buildings and the converted 1913 garage building to the Groton Fire Department for training, before demolition begins.

And demolition will begin pretty quickly, he said. Foundations for the new Groton Inn hospitality campus should be poured this summer and fall, so construction can continue over the winter, Ferris said. The new $15M Groton Inn complex includes a 29 room inn modeled after the original 17th century building and several secondary buildings with suites, apartments, and function facilities.


Aug 212014
 

Groton's Anna Solomon, Krisin Fuller, and Noah Solomon paint a picnic table to get ready for this weekend's Middlesex County 4-H FairKaren Fuller

Groton’s Anna Solomon, Krisin Fuller, and Noah Solomon paint a picnic table to get ready for this weekend’s Middlesex County 4-H Fair

The approach of Labor Day heralds the end of summer, the start of school… and for a number of Groton kids, the 58th Annual Middlesex County 4-H Fair. The area’s largest agricultural extravaganza runs from this weekend, Friday through Sunday, August 22-24 at the Middlesex County 4-H Fairgrounds, 55 South Chelmsford Road (Route 110) in Westford.

This year, Groton resident Catie Dunn is one of the Fairs Directors, and Groton resident Joe Hamelin is an Honorary 4H Fair Director.

A news release from the fair describes it as “The Middlesex County 4-H Fair presents the classic New England fair experience. Focused on the 4-H youth of Middlesex County, it provides an opportunity for them to showcase their projects and the public to enjoy and learn about them. The fair is an agricultural, non commercial, youth fair, and all of the exhibitors are members of 4-H Clubs around Massachusetts. The fair is the perfect day out for youth and their families. All parts of the fair are accessible to the public, providing a unique opportunity for children and adults to interact with the projects and the youth of 4-H.

Groton's Anna Solomon will be in the Middlesex County 4-H Fair horse show this weekend

Groton’s Anna Solomon will be in the Middlesex County 4-H Fair horse show this weekend

What kinds of animals can you see at the fair? Cows, horses, cats, dogs, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs, chickens and much more! What else is there to do at the fair? Ride a pony; Have your face painted; Jump in a moonwalk; Eat chicken BBQ; See many shows and exhibits; View static entries including arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, photography and much more!

Noah Solomon will show his goats at the 4-H fair this weekend

Noah Solomon will show his goats at the 4-H fair this weekend

A new activity, a Youth Farmer’s Market, will be held on Saturday. Donations of vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers will be collected from 4-H families and sold to benefit the fair. Four-H members will also be selling reusable 4-H Fair shopping bags to bring purchases home.

Daily admission is $8 for ages 10 and up, $6 for 65 years and up, $3 for 4 to 9 years, free for 3 years and under. Hours are Friday, August 22 from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, August 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, August 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

There is free parking in the parking lot on Route 110 with a free bus ride to and from your car and the main admission gate on Route 10 — just follow the signs. Handicap parking is available along the roadway next to the fairgrounds, but a valid handicap sticker is required. There is paid parking available next to the fairgrounds for $5 per car per visit.

The fair’s website is http://www.4hmiddlesexfair.org/ and has more information about the event.


Aug 202014
 

BoS Chair Josh Degen: "Kinder Morgan is jerking us around."Art Campbell | The Groton Line

BoS Chair Josh Degen: “Kinder Morgan is jerking us around.”

Groton’s Board of Selectmen took a second swing at barring surveyors for natural gas pipeline proponent Kinder Morgan from working in the town at it’s August 18th evening meeting. First, it voted to rescind a month old “unenforceable” ban on the use of public ways by Kinder Morgan employees. Then it voted 4-1 in favor of a new resolution that also restricts access to town roads, but in a manner that town counsel told the selectmen is legal, and hinges on whether the Federal government agrees with Kinder Morgan that the gas pipeline is needed and that its construction would be in the public interest.

BoS Chair Josh Degen isn’t convinced of either yet. During the meeting, he said, “There is a public need determination that needs to be made, both by the state and by FERC. Currently, that has not been applied for, granted, or even discussed in any way, shape, or fashion.”

The lack of that documented need let the BoS set up a potential Catch 22 situation for Kinder Morgan to solve:

  • The Board voted to insist that any company surveyors working on natural gas pipeline projects in Groton obtain written permission from the Board of Selectmen.
  • To get BoS permission, the company needs a positive “Public Interest Determination” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a validation by the US government that the survey work is being conducted for a viable project.
  • To get the Public Interest Determination, the energy company — Kinder Morgan is this case — needs to file documentation with FERC detailing its proposal.
  • The documentation routinely includes preliminary survey data, and as far as town officials know, that has not been gathered in Groton yet.
  • If Kinder Morgan surveyors attempt to gather the data, they would be in violation of the new rule, because they would not have permission from the BoS.

Which means Kinder Morgan’s surveyors either need to attempt to gather data in violation of the new town rule, or the company will be forced to submit its application with incomplete or less-than-the-highest-quality survey information.

Speaking off the record, people familiar with the FERC documentation review process said that a filing with uneven survey data would not automatically be dismissed, but the review of the filing would not be as straightforward as a comparable filing with complete survey data.

The motion was presented by Selectman Stuart Schulman, one of the town’s delegates to a regional inter-town council of town that would be affected by the proposed 129-mile long, 36-inch Northeast Energy Direct pipeline that would run from upstate New York to Dracut, Massachusetts. When discussion about the pipeline began this spring, Schulman was the only selectman who had made up his mind to oppose the project.

BoS Chair Josh Degen is hoping other town’s follow Groton’s lead in opposing the pipeline. “The vote that the Groton Board of Selectmen took Monday evening, to restrict access to surveying by any pipeline company, should be emulated and adopted by every community affected by a pipeline project throughout the state. Boards of selectmen, town counsels, and mayors should enact this as soon as possible to ensure that their communities are protected to the highest level possible that is within the means of their town leadership.”

Degen sees town cooperation with Kinder Morgan — or the town’s opposition to the company — as a reflection of how the town is treating the town.

“I’ll go on the record: Kinder Morgan is jerking us around, both the town of Groton and many other communities, because data and information that they have said at public meetings would be provided to the town and the residents has been less than forthcoming, if forthcoming at all. If they want to be cooperative partners, and want us, as a community, to be cooperative, then it begins with the applicant, not the municipality.

“Until such time that they are willing to discuss alternates routes; mitigation measures that would provided to communities; whether the fuel, the gas, would stay in New England or that they would allow it to be transported to a facility for export; and various other unanswered questions to which they promised and committed to provide answers to occur, then why should any municipality cooperate with their requests?” he asked.

Looking down the road to when Kinder Morgan submits its pre-filing in September, Degen added, “I would be more than happy when the application is submitted to FERC to have standing and offer testimony to the actions that Kinder Morgan has and has not done relative to statements they have made publicly.”

Schulman was optimistic that Groton’s move would encourage other communities to pass the same type of resolution, to “make a statement.” He explained, “We’re making a statement and I also think that there are a lot of statements that are being made and continue to need to be made and, hopefully, if enough statements are made and enough people are listening to those statements, we could get some positive results.”

Groton Police Chief Donald Palma, who had expressed doubts about the BoS’s first attempt to close the town’s public ways to Kinder Morgan surveyors, told the selectmen that he wasn’t positive how his officers would enforce the revised resolution; that he’d have to research what was possible.



Read Haddad’s letter to Kinder Morgan.


Aug 192014
 

Both the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District and Nashoba Valley Technical High School have released their bus routes for the coming school year.

G-DRSD has the schedules online at http://www.gdrsd.org/District/4051-2014-2015-Bus-Route-Information.html and you can view or download individual school’s schedules here:

Nashoba Valley Technical High School

Nashoba Valley Technical High School Groton Bus Schedule for 2014/2015

6:00Lost Lake at Otter Lane
6:12#172 Wyman Road
6:15Kirk Farm Road
6:18Nashua Road at Longley
6:22Walking Path Bridge/Arlington Road
6:23Mill Street at Gratuity Road
6:24Mill Street at Jenkins Road
6:24Pepperell Road at St.James
6:31Pepperell Road at Bixby Hill Road
6:32Pepperell Road at Hill Road
6:47#130 Kemp Street
6:38Townsend Road at Crosswind Drive
6:52Donelan's Pepperell
6:53Cumberland Farms Pepperell
7:07Main Street at Groton Inn
7:10#385 Boston Road
7:12Boston Road at Shelters Road
7:13Hidden Valley Road at New Pond Road
7:14Forge Village Road at Old Carriage Path
7:15#271 Forge Village Road
7:20Forge Village Road at Pine Ridge Road

Aug 152014
 

According to a news release from the Massachusetts State Police, a “Sobriety Checkpoint” will be implemented by the department on a public way somewhere in Middlesex County and will operate Saturday August 16 into Sunday August 17, 2014.

The press release states: “The purpose is to further educate the motoring public and strengthen the public’s awareness to the need of detecting and removing those motorists who operate under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs from our roadways. It will be operated during varied hours, the selection of vehicles will not be arbitrary, safety will be assured, and any inconveniences to motorists will be minimized with advance notice to reduce fear and anxiety.”


Aug 132014
 

Area businesses "Against The Pipeline"

Area businesses “Against The Pipeline” poster created by Stop The Pipeline

Ten Groton businesses have joined the latest show of grass roots support against the proposed Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline that would span 45 northern Massachusetts towns. The Groton firms are among 100 area businesses from Ashby to Tyngsboro that were listed by Stop The Pipeline, a local action group, as opposing the creation of the 36″ underground pipeline at a small rally in Pepperell today.

The Groton businesses that have signed Stop The Pipeline’s pledge, organizer Claire Miller said are:

  • Anytime Fitness
  • Filho’s Cucina
  • Groton Cleaners
  • Groton Integrated Therapies
  • Groton Market
  • Kitchen Art of New England
  • Kramer Painting
  • Law Office of William Boyce
  • The Gosselini Group, Inc. Relators
  • The Natural Market

The form signed by each business owner calls on Governor Deval Patrick ” … to withdraw his proposal to publicly finance new gas infrastructure and hold this pipeline to the strictest standards for any permits. He must keep our state moving toward a path of competitive clean energy like appropriately sited wind and solar.”

Kinder Morgan Calls Street Closing Illegal

In a related development, the Groton Board of Selectmen has received a response from Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company to a letter sent to the company after it’s July 14 motion to bar employees of the Houston Texas firm from using public streets to establish survey reference points. Reference points are a preliminary survey step that ensures accuracy for later steps, when tentative pipeline routes and alternates are laid out.

The letter, addressed to BoS Chair Josh Degen, relates the energy company’s position as, “Tenesssee’s position that the Selectmen do not have the legal authority to deny Tennessee permission to survey on public roads. Roads are dedicated for public the use. All of our work will be done in a safe and workman like manner.”

Tennessee Gas and Kinder Morgan’s read on the selectmen’s action matched that of town counsel and police chief Donald Palma — that the board’s attempt to close town roads and streets to employees of a company — or anyone else — was probably not legal.



Read Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s letter to the BoS.


Degen explained that, “It’s pretty simple. What we did, is, apparently a symbolic vote because according to town counsel, we cannot prohibit surveying on public ways. And the bottom line is that what we did was symbolic, to go along with the vote and will of Town Meeting (a special Town Meeting passed a nonbinding resolution on stating the town’s opposition to the preliminary pipeline plan on June 29, 2014), however, it will not stand up.”

He said the motion and the response would be discussed at the next BoS meeting on August 18, and invited the public to attend and make its feelings known to the board.


Aug 072014
 

Dear Editor,

The Town of Groton is about to reissue a Request for Proposals for the sale of the Prescott School. As was evident at the Spring town meeting, there are many varied opinions as to how this important and historically significant building should be used. Even the Prescott School Reuse Committee could not reach a consensus.

Perhaps those with passionate ideas and sufficient resources should collaborate and make a joint effort to acquire and reuse the property in a way that can serve many interests including the public. Otherwise, it will likely become an office building occupied by employees who drive here to work, buy a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts and later on maybe buy something for lunch, complete their eight hour shifts, and then drive home to somewhere other than Groton. If that’s the best we can do, so be it. Personally, I think the property deserves a better fate. All we need is a wealthy benefactor who could use some Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives!

As the Realtor responsible for the expanded marketing of town owned properties, I am trying to explore all options for the reuse of the Prescott School. The inquiries I have received thus far have all been about housing options. The appraisal commissioned by the town last April noted that the highest and best use of the property would indeed be housing, particularly rental housing. However, this is not what the current Board of Selectmen envision.

Regards,

John H Carver, Broker-Owner
eRealty-MA, LLC
56 Mclains Woods Road
Groton, MA 01450-1000


Aug 042014
 

Evelyn Smith

Evelyn Smith

Evelyn M. Smith died at her West Groton home after a brief illness. She was a lifelong resident of West Groton, the daughter of the late Orland E. and Catherine T. Downs Spinney.

Evelyn was valedictorian of Groton High School’s Class of 1945. The wife of the late Vernon L. Smith, Evelyn was a loving mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She is survived by her two sons, Allan E. Smith and Vernon L. Smith Jr., both of West Groton, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

She was a devoted and lifelong parishioner of St. James Parish in West Groton. A funeral mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday, August 7 at Our Lady of Grace Parish worshipping at St. James Church on St. James Avenue in West Groton.

There will be no viewing. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in her memory to Nashoba Nursing Service and Hospice, 2 Shaker Rd., Suite D225, Shirley, Ma. 01464. Arrangements are by Badger Funeral Home, 45 School St. Groton, MA.


Jul 302014
 

The proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline moved a couple large steps forward today, when Kinder Morgan issued a news release saying that it has signed contracts with many New England natural gas distribution companies for the gas that would flow through the company’s pipeline. The proposed 36″ pipeline runs from a distribution terminal in upstate New York through 45 Massachusetts towns to another terminal in Dracut, Massachusetts. Groton and neighboring towns — Pepperell, Dunstable, and Tyngsboro, are on the tentative route.

Although not stressed in the release, Richard Wheatley, Kinder Morgan’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs, confirmed that his company would submit “pre-filing” documents to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September. This is an optional step in negotiating Federal approval to construct the pipeline. Kinder Morgan spokesmen had not previously said that the filing would definitely take place. If the company makes that deadline and meets other regulatory requirements, and construction stays on schedule, the pipeline could begin transporting natural gas in November, 2018.

These announcements come on the heels of another news release issued Monday, from New Jersey based engineering firm Hatch Mott MacDonald, stating that it has been selected by Kinder Morgan “to lead a regional team that will provide engineering, design and permitting services” for the project from its Holyoke and Westwood Massachusetts offices.

Closer to home, in Groton, John Giger and Selectmen Peter Cunningham and Jack Petropoulos told the Board of Selectmen Monday evening that its advisory committee on the project, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Working Group, met for the first time earlier Monday. John Giger, the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District representative, was elected chair and Pete Morrison, the Conservation Commission representative, was elected vice-chair. Other members of the committee include: Board of Selectmen representatives Jack Petropoulos and Peter Cunningham; Groton Electric Light Commission, Kevin Kelly; Citizens at-large Dennis Eklof and John Llodra (Secretary), Town Manager Mark Haddad.

The group also has several non-voting advisors: Takashi Tada, the town’s Conservation Asministrator an alternate member from Conservation Commission, the Groton Fire Chief, a yet-to-be-named person from the Historical Commission, and Fran Stanley, who is recording secretary.

The working group is charged with meeting periodically to monitor how the pipeline project proceeds through the regulatory and construction phases, advise the selectmen on strategies the town may employ and implement the strategies, keep in touch with state and federal elected officials, and keep the public informed of the committee’s activities about the pipeline project’s progress. The first report is due to the selectmen by the end of August.

Kelly was not at all surprised that the pipeline was “subscribed” by potential customers — he has been saying the need for more natural gas in New England, both for heating and fueling electrical generation plants has been both growing and obvious for several years.

“So all these people who have saying: ‘There’s no need! There’s no need,’” have been proven wrong by the marketplace, he said.

According to the Kinder Morgan news release, local natural gas supplier National Grid has signed up for an allocation, as have The Berkshire Gas Company, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, Connecticut Natural Gas Corporation, Liberty Utilities (EnergyNorth Natural Gas) Corp., Southern Connecticut Gas Corporation, and three other unnamed local distribution companies. The total subscription so far is 500,000 dekatherms per day. A dekatherm is equal to one million cubic feet of natural gas.

“This is mostly residential heating. These are all suppliers of natural gas to homes and businesses. None of this is for electricity. In addition to that 500,000 (dekatherms) that they got a commitment for, we still need approximately 600,000 (dekatherms, or 600 million cubic feet of gas) more — and that is just replacement power for Salem Harbor, Vermont Yankee, and Brayton Point (closed or closing power plants). The plants that can produce that were all standing idle last winter because they couldn’t get the natural gas. They were all standing idle while the price of natural gas went through the roof as availability declined,” he said.

Kelly said he expected Independent System Operators — New England (ISO-NE) a major electricity management company, to commit to an additional 600,000 dekatherms through the proposed pipeline tariff.

“We are extremely pleased to provide a key solution to New England’s long-term energy infrastructure needs,” said Kinder Morgan Natural Gas Pipelines East Region President Kimberly S. Watson. “Multiple studies continue to suggest there is a need for up to 2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of new pipeline capacity into New England and neighboring markets, and the commitment by the LDCs represents a critical milestone in the development of TGP’s role in solving the need for new energy infrastructure. TGP provides unmatched supply diversity, including access to the prolific Marcellus Shale, making the Northeast Energy Direct Project an ideal solution to satisfy rapidly growing natural gas demand that is forecast in the Northeast and New England in the years ahead.”

The Kinder Morgan news release yielded a couple more new details on the proposal: “Northeast Energy Direct has capacity scalable from approximately 800,000 Dth/d to 1.2 Bcf/d, or ultimately up to 2.2 Bcf/d, depending on final customer commitments.”

The engineering team led by Hatch Mott MacDonald will, according to its news release, ” … draws on the experience of many locally based firms to provide environmental assessment and permitting services. AECOM Technical Services, Inc. will lead the environmental permitting and utilize resources from its offices in Chelmsford, Mass., Horsham, Pa. and Latham, N.Y., as well as other regional locations. The team will receive support from other local firms including Epsilon Associates (Maynard, Mass.), Normandeau Associates (Bedford, N.H., Falmouth, Mass., and West Haverstraw, N.Y.), Oxbow Associates (Boxborough, Mass.) and the Louis Berger Group (Needham, Mass. and Albany, N.Y.).

“The proposed Wright, N.Y., to Dracut, Mass., segment would result in the construction of approximately
179 miles of pipeline, additional meter stations and compressor stations, and modifications to existing
facilities in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.”