GROTON -- Seeking a third term on the Board of Selectmen, incumbent Anna Eliot appears to have no intention of resting on her laurels.
"I do enjoy giving back to the town," explained Eliot. "I'm very fortunate to be in a position to do that. There are a number of issues that the Board of Selectmen are currently dealing with that I'd like to follow through on and I'm very honored to do be able to do that.
"I want to continue to work collaboratively with the other members of the board," Eliot said of her reasons for running for re-election. "My goal is to work through the issues that confront the town and bringing people together on common goals, to make Groton a better place to live. In particular, there are zoning issues being discussed by the Planning Board and I want to be part of that. I've been part of the Economic Development Committee and the Board of Trade. I want to help local businesses and continue working with (Groton Electric Light Department) on the construction of its Station Avenue Building. I want to see Station Avenue redeveloped. I want to continue working with the Prescott Reuse Committee to see that the school building becomes an income-generating source for the town but doing it in a tasteful way that enhances the center of town along with the new Groton Inn and 134 Main St.
"I think there's a lot more opportunity for business development in town and some of that is being worked on by the Planning Board," continued Eliot. "They're working to amend the zoning bylaw to better accommodate different types of neighborhood-based businesses. Also, there's a lot of people who want to locate on Main Street and I think more businesses could be placed there."
Increasing the town's business sector has long been a concern of Eliot's, as it has to the rest of the selectmen, key factors for which have been the underused Prescott Elementary School and Station Avenue.
"I'd like to see the Prescott School building generate revenue for the town," said Eliot, a member of the Reuse Committee. "We just had a survey and people would like to see some mixed use there, including commercial and community uses. So I would like to see some of that going on there and work with prospective developers to enable that to happen. That's been my goal ultimately, to use the Prescott building to enhance the downtown area.
"As for the development of Station Avenue, that depends on the resale of the fire station and what ends up happening with the surplus property GELD has," said Eliot of plans by the Electric Light Department to build a new headquarters facility in the neighborhood. "Certainly, there are still opportunities along the rail trail and the Buckingham Bus property. Those properties are still viable in the way of development. It likely won't be as we originally envisioned it, but the GELD facility generates a certain amount of activity in that area so that over time, something will come together but it won't happen overnight."
What also has not happened overnight is solving a spending crisis over at the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District.
There, things began late last year, when the approved school operating budget for fiscal 2013 stood at $35,200,000. A review then revealed that total obligations by the district came to $36,204,212.
Initial cuts were able to eliminate the shortfall for that year and 2014, but since the initial problem with the budget had a rollover effect in subsequent years, a major problem remained for 2015.
The bottom line was that for fiscal 2015, the district's budget was off by $1.9 million, of which Groton will need to supply the lion's share if the books are to be balanced. There have been efforts to do that but tempers have sometimes grown short and nerves frayed in the process.
"The Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee and the town manager have worked very hard on the numbers so that we can assist the schools in providing for their budget request," said Eliot. "Hopefully, we can keep it within the levy limit. I also support the debt exclusion for the fire station construction that will free up more funds for the School Department and will continue to work with the School Committee and the new superintendent to help achieve the common goal of making the schools a better place and keep up its standards while at the same time working within existing budget constraints."
During the school's budgetary crisis, talk of an override to solve the problem once and for all has often been discussed but residents have a history of turning down such drastic measures.
"I do not support an override without the schools coming up with a budget that is sustainable," said Eliot of the notion. "At this point, we have created over $1.5 million to help defray a tax increase so hopefully the schools can work within those constraints."
Eliot felt that it was up the School Committee to address the issue of blame for the debacle but hoped that the conclusion of an ongoing audit would cast more light on the situation.
"We have very good teachers and administrators, and I want to see us uphold the caliber of education that we have been giving to our children," said Eliot. "There have been major mistakes made by the School Committee and prior administrations, but now we have to work with those numbers and recalculate some of the funding so we don't deprive the children of the education they deserve."
The other half of the town's budgetary equation, of course, is municipal spending, which Eliot considers under control.
"I think when the town changed to a charter system of government and hired a town manager, the day-to-day operation of the municipal budget has been a sustainable one and one that is understood and as transparent as it can be," said Eliot. "We're in a healthy situation so far as the town's budget is concerned."
On other outstanding issues such as the fate of Squannacook Hall and wastewater services for the Lost Lake neighborhoods, Eliot was realistic in her outlook.
"There's still some promise for developing Squannacook Hall into residential units," said Eliot. "(Fellow selectman) Peter Cunningham and I are working with members of the Christian Union Church to realize a vision for the future of the hall and I'm still hopeful that Halsey Platt's plans will happen.
"As for a sewer system for Lost Lake, that's a hard question to answer," admitted Eliot. "So much of it is involved with voters and what they will tolerate. I'd like to see the Four Corners connected with a system that is tied in to Ayer. That would help to defray the cost of a possible sewer system for Lost Lake, but it's not something that we're going to realize in the near future."
For the time being, the near future holds an election for Eliot, one that she looks forward to winning.
"Groton is my hometown and I just want to be a part of it," said Eliot. "I'm looking forward to hopefully having a very productive campaign."
Election day is scheduled for May 20.