GROTON -- As predictable as the changing seasons comes fall Town Meeting scheduled this year for Oct. 21.
Voters will be asked to consider a variety of measures including adjustments to the town's fiscal 2014 budget, capital spending requests and changes to bylaws.
Among the first of the 23 warrant articles is a $236,000 adjustment to the town's operating budget for fiscal 2014, which was approved only six months ago.
Town Manager Mark Haddad will seek appropriations to cover increases in employee working hours with a subsequent rise in wages and related benefits. Among the changes planned are increases in hours for one of two part-time assistants in the town clerk's office as well as for a young-adult librarian, upgrading a custodial position from part-time to full-time and a possible $3,000 raise for the new library director.
In separate capital spending articles, voters will be asked to approve the purchase of new cruisers for the Police Department; $50,000 for the Parks Department; a three-year cost of $219,000 to join the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project; and $103,400 for design and bidding for an extension of water mains into the Lost Lake neighborhoods.
At a recent meeting with the Finance Committee, Haddad explained that the Police Department had expected to seek funds for the purchase of two new cruisers. Instead, the department now expects to seek the purchase of only one unmarked car at a cost of $30,000 and a new cruiser to replace the one that was wrecked for which the town would only need to pay $18,000. The balance of $22,000 would be supplied by the insurance company.
The money sought by the Parks Commission would fund improvements to various town fields and commons including replacement of the flagpole at Fireman's Common, installation of fence rails on the Town Common and Hazel Grove, expanding parking at Cutler Field and the purchase of a "solar compacting trash can" for the Hanson playground.
The $219,000 related to the Mosquito Control Project is a sum that will actually be paid in $73,000 installments over three years. The town had once belonged to the group but quit over concerns that chemicals used at the time to control mosquitoes were toxic. Since that time, the group's approach to mosquito management has changed with more environmentally friendly substances targeted in areas where mosquitoes breed rather than random spraying around town. The measure is sponsored by the town's Board of Health.
In the matter of the $103,400 being requested by the town manager for extension of the water mains and installation of cisterns at Lost Lake, that request will be divided among three separate articles. The action is the result of a study conducted by a committee charged by selectmen to review shortcomings in fire suppression efforts that took place at a fire on Boat House Road earlier in the year.
After reviewing the Fire Department's response to the incident, the committee recommended the installation of fire cisterns and the extension of water mains into areas of the Lost Lake neighborhood where currently they do not exist.
Each of the three articles will seek appropriations of $37,000; $33,850; and $32,550 needed to hire engineers to design the new system and to place the results out to bid for a contractor to build.
The first amount would cover 2,700 feet of 12-inch water main on Lost Lake Drive and Pine Trail; the second would cover 1,600 feet extending from the A.L.Prime Gas Station to the entrance of Groton Ridge Heights, 800 feet on Summit Drive and 1,000 feet on Lakeside Drive; and the third amount would cover the cost of burying a pair of 50,000 gallon cisterns at Prescott Street and Weymisset Road.
If the entire system were to be approved by Town Meeting, the estimated cost of building the new system would come to $1.3 million and a 10-year bond paid at least in part through betterment fees.
Other articles to be considered:
* A concept plan for 128 Main St. where Chris Ferris and Richard Cooper of 128 Main Street LLC would like to build a 24-room inn on the same spot where the historic Groton Inn had once stood before being destroyed in a fire.
* A change in zoning for property currently occupied by the town's historic Squannacook Hall ,which has been unused for the last few years. With a potential buyer interested in converting the building into four residential rental units (that would count toward the town's stock of affordable housing), selectmen will seek to change the site's current zoning status from public use to residential/agricultural. A second, related article will ask residents to approve a concept plan to be submitted by Halsey Platt and Chris Brown of Squannacook Hall LLC to convert Squannacook Hall into a multi-family residence. A third article related to Squannacook Hall would, if approved by voters, authorize selectmen to either sell or lease the West Main Street property.
* A change in the zoning by-law related to commercial and office businesses that would add the Planning Board in a review process that currently includes concept plan approval by Town Meeting. Recent court decisions have weakened the authority of Town Meeting in the review process; the zoning change would place the Planning Board more firmly within that process and protect the town from appeal.
* Possible adoption of state law related to the town's senior work-off program in which older homeowners do some work for the town in exchange for an abatement on their property taxes. Until a change in federal IRS regulations mandated that the money earned by the seniors be taxed as income, the seniors earned $500 off their property taxes. To offset the loss incurred by the IRS regulation, selectmen recently voted to increase the credit to $700.
* A change in the town's bylaws to reinstate the Personnel Board. When it was pointed out to them that the need for a Personnel Board was still required under the town Charter, selectmen appointed a Bylaw Review Committee to study the issue of bringing it back. The committee returned with recommendations for a new Personnel Board that included membership, powers and duties, and its role in grievance procedures to be followed by employees. With the recent unionization of Town Hall employees, a new Personnel Board would be working with just three employees covered in the terms of the bylaw change.
In order to participate in Town Meeting, residents must be registered voters in the town of Groton. To register, residents are advised to visit the town clerk's office, located at 173 Main St. and sign up. The deadline to register is Oct. 1 when the Town Clerk's Office will be open until 8 p.m.
For information about upcoming Town Meeting, visit townofgroton.org, where the warrant will be posted in full.
To be held at the Groton-Dunstable Middle School auditorium, fall town meeting is scheduled for Oct. 21.