AYER -- The dilemma over the town's commuter rail station remains unresolved as the MBTA continues `negotiations with private landowner Phil Berry over a feasible public access route.
The federal funding of $3.2 million given through the Federal Transit Administration for the Ayer Rail Trail commuter parking lot will not be released until there is clear public access established from the parking lot to the station.
Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand said the MBTA has tried to contact Berry's attorney over the last two weeks, but to no avail.
Town officials and others argue that Berry's deed to the land includes the requirement that he provide public easement so that commuters can reach the platform. They also argue that the deed requires a ticket office and lavatories.
Selectman Chris Hillman said he attended a meeting with representatives from the Montachusett Regional Planning Authority and the office of U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas but the MBTA decided not to show up, he said.
"I am thoroughly disgusted with the MBTA in this situation. I felt that we were completely disrespected at that meeting," he said, adding that he does not feel state representatives have done as much as they could have.
Residents recently sent a citizens' petition to the MBTA and MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey urging adoption of the deed requirements. State legislators Jamie Eldridge, Jen Benson and Sheila Harrington were copied on the petition.
"I cannot tell you how disappointed we are at where we have come after we gathered so many signatures," said Ellen FitzPatrick.
FitzPatrick said she was insulted that the MBTA did not show up for the meeting, and urged the town to get the MBTA and Davey together for talks.
"Somebody needs to get the lawyer and/or Mr. Berry to the table to have conversations, however that may be," she said. "And if those conversations are not going in the direction they need to go, somebody needs to take legal means."
Hillman said he was prepared to make a motion to reverse a 2006 stance in which the board said it would not use eminent domain on the project.
Selectman Gary Luca recused himself and Livingston said she needed to process the notion.
But Livingston told FitzPatrick that the best way to help move the situation along is to keep doing what she is doing.
"You keep bringing it up, you keep making sure that all elected officials are aware of the problem," she said.
The upcoming election year is how residents can get their attention, she said of the town's elected state reps.
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