GROTON -- Following a well attended public hearing held last Monday night, the Board of Selectmen voted to support the creation of a new sewer system for the Lost Lake neighborhoods, but with the proviso that the town as a whole cover no more than 25 percent of the total cost.
The estimated cost of the long-planned project is expected to come to $12.9 million as noted in a warrant article to be submitted to residents at next month's Town Meeting.
Discussion of the issue began at the board's Sept. 4 meeting with a run down by Town Manager Mark Haddad of the results of a survey sent out to residents of the Lost Lake area to gauge public support for a new sewer system.
The results were less than heartening for supporters of the network because of 341 questionnaires mailed, only 213 were returned and of those, only 83 favored a new system while 130 were against.
Earlier discussion on how to tally the results that included counting those questionnaires not returned as being in favor of the project drew criticism from residents and was dropped from consideration.
Noting the obvious, board member Joshua Degen pointed out the disparity between those who supported construction of a new sewer system and those who did not, making it more difficult for the town to proceed with the project.
It was a situation that did not go unnoticed by residents who attended Monday's meeting, some of whom wanted to know why a new sewer system was needed at all.
To answer that question, representatives from the engineering firm of Woodard & Curran took the floor to explain that testing done years before found high levels of nitrogen in the area of Lost Lake and Knops Pond due to inadequate or failing septic systems belonging to homes in the neighborhood.
"The lake is dying," was their conclusion.
It was that danger to the environment and local drinking water that prompted the creation of the Lost Lake Sewer Commission and its subsequent work to bring a sewer project to fruition.
To pay for it, Haddad said that if a 30-year loan was taken out for the project, debt service would come to $394,000 a year at a cost to individual property owners of $51 to $94 a year, depending on whether such commercial property as that at the Four Corners is developed.
Realizing that to win approval of the project at next month's Town Meeting the rest of the town would have to chip in to help pay for it, selectmen voted Monday night to support a new sewer system, providing that no more than 25 percent of the total cost is covered by taxpayers.
"We're trying to come up with a reasonable number that has a reasonable chance of succeeding (at Town Meeting)," concluded chairman Stuart Schulman of the board's decision.
Also Monday night, board members voted to approve a notice of intent (NOI) by the Great Ponds Advisory Committee to be submitted to the Conservation Commission. The NOI would seek permission from the Conservation Commission to apply a chemical solution to the out-of-control weed problem in Lost Lake and Knops Pond.
Members of the committee believe that invasive plant species such as milfoil, combomba, water chestnut and filamentous threaten to turn the lakes into swampland if something is not done soon.
In support of resorting to a chemical solution to the weed problem, committee members have listed 27 other towns in Massachusetts, including Ayer and Littleton, that have used chemicals like Sonar to good effect.
Proponents of the herbicide hope to see the same positive results in Groton, thus saving the town's lakes for use by boaters and swimmers indefinitely into the future.
"This is something I certainly support," said board member Peter Cunningham of the proposal.
"At this juncture, I see no alternative than to explore other ways ... to control the weed problem," agreed Degen, who recalled when the lakes were completely free of weeds only a few years before.
"Everything is a risk," added Schulman, noting that in the case of the issue before the board, the risk was very small.
Should the Conservation Commission approve the use of chemicals to control the weed problem in the lakes, the committee plans to apply to the Community Preservation Committee for funds to help pay the estimated $90,000 cost of the project.
Selectmen last Monday night also voted to approve an expansion of work hours from 15 to 35 for the DPW administrative assistant position.
The extra 20 hours, said Haddad, would cost the town $4,000 for the remainder of the current fiscal year and $6,000 each year thereafter.
"There will be sufficient funds to cover the extra hours over the rest of the current fiscal year," said the town manager about the impact on the fiscal 13 budget.
According to DPW director Tom Delaney, because he had never had an assistant before, there was a learning curve involved, which brought about the discovery that extra hours were necessary in order to have time to complete all the work generated by his growing department.
Agreeing to the request, selectmen voted in favor of the increase in hours effective Sept. 11.
Finally last Monday night, selectmen voted to ratify the appointments of April Iannacone as the Water/Sewer Department business manager and Shawn Drinkwine as a special police officer.