GROTON -- As the pace for the creation of a new sewer system for the Lost Lake neighborhoods continued to pick up, the Board of Selectmen learned last Monday night that an article would be prepared for the fall Town Meeting warrant seeking an appropriation of $11.9 million to cover construction costs for the project.
The project, if approved by residents, was described by Town Manager Mark Haddad as one of the two largest ever to be taken on by the town of Groton with the other being a new Center Fire Station proposed for Farmers Row.
The subject came up at the July 7 meeting of the board when selectmen were briefed by members of the Lost Lake Sewer Committee on their plans for the lead up to fall Town Meeting.
The committee was first established by selectmen in response to a study conducted by the engineering firm of Woodard & Curran in 2003 that concluded environmentally sensitive areas in town should be included in any plan to expand sewer services.
In particular, potential problems were likely in West Groton and the Lost Lake neighborhoods, which were found to have high concentrations of homes located on small lots.
Each part of town had its own peculiarities as well, with the predominance of ledge in West Groton and a high water table at Lost Lake. Combined with the problem of small lots, those issues made it impossible or expensive for homeowners to upgrade failing septic systems in compliance with the requirements of the state's
The Lost Lake Sewer Commission completed the charge given it by selectmen, including coming up with estimates on the cost of a sewer system, identifying possible funding sources, and conducting an important income survey of residents needed to qualify for state and federal grants.
Earlier this year, Groton also joined Ayer in an inter-municipal agreement regarding a proposed hook-up between a planned sewer line for the Lost Lake area and wastewater facilities in the neighboring town for which a more permanent version is to be pursued in the coming weeks.
In addition to committee members, representatives of Woodard & Curran also attended last Monday night's meeting reporting that an official filing of the proposed project was ready for submission to the state for approval. The filing is to include such items as environmental notification showing the areas of Lost Lake to be sewered, the location of a needed pump station, the sewer route to Ayer, and a license application for an inter-basin transfer needed to remove wastewater from Groton and move it to Ayer.
Cost for the entire project minus engineering and design work is estimated at $11.9 million.
How to pay that amount was also discussed last Monday night, with Haddad suggesting that up to $125,000 a year could be used from the town's rainy-day fund in addition to rates to be paid by property owners in the Lost Lake area.
Reasoning for the use of public funds for the project was that protection of the area's groundwater was a concern for everyone in town.
With public hearings planned on the issue over the weeks leading up to Town Meeting, Haddad said he would report back to the board following the results of a questionnaire to be sent to households with their electric bills seeking residents' thoughts on the proposed sewer system.
Also last Monday night, selectmen:
* Voted to approve requests by owners of the Still River Winery and Zoll Cellars to sell bottles of their wines at the farmers market in town. The way was cleared for permission after residents at annual Town Meeting approved a measure allowing for such sales at the market. A fee of $50 is to be charged to the two companies.
* Voted to appoint members to a new Underground Utility Study Committee, including Anna Eliot of the Board of Selectmen; Kevin Kelly, director of the Groton Electric Light Department; DPW Director Tom Delaney; Planning Board member Scott Wilson; and representatives from telecommunications company Verizon and Charter cable television. Formation of the committee came in the wake of discussions about improving the downtown area in which removing overhead utilities and placing them underground was raised. At the time, a quote of $1 million per mile had been mentioned. The new committee will be charged with coming up with a cost estimation and a plan of implementation.
* Learned that a second vote at Town Meeting would not be required to change an agreement between the town and Country Kids Preschool for use of the former Tarbell Elementary School building. Residents had voted to allow a sales-and-purchase agreement between the town and preschool owner Robin Kane to proceed, but when an effort to acquire funding from the Community Preservation Committee failed, Kane was forced to seek a lease instead of outright purchase. Haddad reported to selectmen last Monday night that according to legal counsel, state law did not require a second vote on the issue at Town Meeting allowing him to proceed with a lease arrangement.
* Revisited their meeting of June 18 when the board appointed the membership of a new Wetlands Bylaw Review Committee. During that meeting, resident Art Prest protested Cynthia Swezey's membership on personal grounds. Last Monday night, board chairman Stuart Schulman apologized for not recognizing the nature of the criticism in time to stop it. "This one snuck up on me," explained Schulman, adding that people who volunteer their time for public service should not be subjected to personal attacks. It was reported last Monday night that Prest himself has since apologized to Swezey via email.
* Voted to open the warrant for fall Town Meeting and to close it on Aug. 23. The date for Town Meeting itself was scheduled for Oct. 15.