GROTON -- Drivers will have to get used to slowing down along a significant stretch of Farmers Row over the next year after electronic speed limit signs are installed on a trial basis.
Permission to create the school zone was granted to the Groton School on condition that the signs be placed for a maximum of one year before the Board of Selectmen reviews the subject again.
The Groton School had requested the no-speeding zone at the board's July 23 meeting, explaining that fast-moving cars along Farmers Row threatened the safety of students crossing the street. Attorney Robert Collins, representing the school, told the selectmen his client wanted to create the school zone between Shirley Road and Peabody Street by reducing the speed limit along its length to 20 miles per hour.
According to Collins, a traffic study conducted by the school showed that the average speed of cars traveling along the road was 40 miles per hour with many going as fast as 55 miles an hour. In addition, he said, the road also hosts much truck traffic.
The current speed limit is set at 35 miles per hour.
Selectmen at the time asked Collins to consult with Police Chief Donald Palma about alternatives to the electronic signs.
The two returned to last Monday night's selectmen's meeting, with Palma saying that although he "did not have an issue" with the proposal, he suggested the speed limit only be in effect at certain hours of day when students were likely to be
Nevertheless, selectmen continued to express reservations, with member Joshua Degen asking if an incremental approach could be taken.
He suggested the use of a kind of traffic light where students could push a button to control traffic before crossing the street or if crosswalks could be installed.
"I would hate to see that historic road littered by flashing signs," Degen said.
He added that that no one he had spoken to since the previous meeting was in favor of the proposal.
Board chairman Stuart Schulman reiterated his doubts about forcing drivers to slow down to 20 miles an hour for a stretch of 1,500 feet, which struck him as being too long.
But recognizing the need for student safety, selectmen voted to allow the school to install the flashing lights for 12 months on condition that it work with Palma in setting hours of operation and review the system in a year's time.
Also last Monday night, selectmen decided to proceed with negotiations for renewal of the town manager's contract.
The move came with no discussion late in the meeting and after a two-week delay following an objection by new member Jack Petropoulos that he needed more time to study the issue.
Mark Haddad, who holds degrees from Suffolk University and Merrimack College, was chosen as Groton's first town manager in 2008 and awarded a three-year contract in 2010 after the end of a trial period. His current contract expires on July 31, 2013.
With last Monday night's agreement among selectmen, Schulman and Degen were designated as the board's representatives in opening negotiations with Haddad.
Last Monday night, board members also:
l Voted to award Janet Shea, new owner of the Clover Farm General Store in West Groton, a common victualler license. The decision was made on condition Shea was also granted a food-service permit from the Board of Health which she did later that night. Shea said that she hoped to reopen the store under her management by the middle of this month.
l Decided to delay a decision to recommend a request for support from Country Kids owner Robin Kane for funding from the CPC (Community Preservation Committee) until Haddad could draw up a list detailing exactly what the money would be used for. Because Kane will be leasing the former Tarbell Elementary School building from the town instead of purchasing it outright, she is eligible to apply for funding through the CPA. According to Haddad, Kane would use the $350,000 for lead paint remediation, roof repairs, installation of a handicapped elevator and handicapped rest room. That information would be confirmed before the town manager returned to the board for a final vote authorizing him to draft a letter of recommendation to the CPC.
l Voted to reaffirm their memorandum of understanding with the Groton Electric Light Department (GELD) to buy surplus land along Station Avenue for use in building a new Center Fire Station if needed. Currently, the town is moving forward with plans to build the new station on property located along Farmers Row but town officials prefer to keep their options open. The only change in the agreement was in wording changing references to the Station Avenue Overlay District to the Town Center Overlay District.
l Voted to ratify the appointment of Anthony Montesion, Charles DiRienzo, and Michael Jackson as special police officers. Selectmen also voted to ratify the appointment of Tom Sangiolo to the Great Ponds Advisory Committee.
l Voted to allow the Police Department use of the Groton Gun Range for one day only. The decision allowed use of the range on Aug. 9 from 8 a.m. to noon for training of two police officers new to the Groton force.