GROTON -- On the final lap toward construction of a new Center Fire Station, the Board of Selectmen reviewed a trio of warrant articles to be submitted to voters for consideration at special Town Meeting scheduled for Jan. 26.
The review took place at the board's meeting of Dec. 3 with that of the fire station taking top billing.
According to Town Manager Mark Haddad, the appropriation measure would ask residents to authorize town administrators to raise or borrow the sum of $5.9 million to cover the cost of building the new fire station.
The building itself is to include a four-bay garage and two-story administration complex with offices on the first floor; fitness room, dormitory, kitchen, dining room, and day room planned for the second floor; and HVAC and other mechanical equipment to be placed in the third-floor "attic" space.
Haddad told selectmen the project had already been put out to bid and that "sub-bids" would be received and opened by Dec. 12, with a contractor chosen in time for the Town Meeting decision.
Although the total cost of the new fire station would come to $7.5 million, the town manager said the lower figure was arrived at because a sum of $800,000 for design plans and permitting was previously approved by voters as well as $350,000 to buy the 2.7-acre parcel upon which the facility is to be constructed.
If the spending measure is passed at Town Meeting, construction of the new fire station is expected to begin by March 1 and completed a year later on April 1, 2014.
Also on the warrant is an article seeking the appropriation of funds for the repair and replacement of the historic Fitch's Bridge that spans the Nashua River but which is currently closed to traffic.
A final cost for the work having yet to be determined, the Greenway Committee, sponsor of the article, expects to have a figure from its consultants by the middle of December and in time for presentation at Town Meeting.
As things stand, current plans call for removal of the existing bridge and its replacement by a new, truss style, 10-foot wide span intended for pedestrians and bicyclists.
A third warrant article will seek the appropriation of funds to cover the cost of a weed-killing program to be conducted at Lost Lake using a herbicide that has proven safe and effective in other Massachusetts' ponds and lakes.
If approved, the measure will allow the town to appropriate an estimated $100,000 to pay for the use of an herbicide called Sonar that will be used to treat the lake water and kill the weeds.
Discussed at the board's Dec. 3 meeting but left undecided was the question of adding a fourth article to the warrant, one dealing with a proposed sewer system for the Lost Lake neighborhoods.
The issue was considered a sensitive one, as the plan was only recently rejected by residents at the fall Town Meeting held in October.
The defeated measure had sought the appropriation of $12.9 million to pay for design and construction of the new sewer system but residents believed that there had been too many unanswered questions to approve it.
But realizing the need for the system, town officials have refused to give up on the idea, with selectmen asking Haddad to re-form the Lost Lake Sewer Commission and prepare a new charge for the group.
On the same evening, Haddad reported that a coveted funding deal with the state that would have allowed Groton to borrow what it needed to build the sewer system at 0 percent interest had fallen through and that the town would need to re-apply for the money.
To re-qualify for the low interest state loan, a sewer project would have to be approved at Town Meeting by June of 2013.
The notion of placing an article on the warrant was thought to be needed in order to demonstrate to the state that the town was serious in pursuing a sewer system but it was felt that it might be too soon following the defeat of the previous effort to chance it being voted down again.
"We want to make sure we have a story to tell," said Haddad of moving carefully on the subject.
In the meantime, said the town manager, a re-established commission would look at other ways in which the proposal could proceed as well as additional means of funding.
Also at the Dec. 3 meeting, board members:
* Voted to appoint members to a new Town Meeting Review Committee charged with trying to find ways to improve Town Meeting, including the viability of the institution of Town Meeting, its legal framework, cost to the taxpayer, and the times meetings are held. Findings and recommendations of the committee would then be submitted to the board for consideration and possible further action. Among the members appointed by the board were Berta Erickson, Robert Collins, Greg Fishbone, and Scott Harker.
* Agreed to issue an request for proposals from contractors for ideas on what might be done with Squannacook Hall in West Groton. The historic building has been shuttered by the board for some months.
* Approved an emergency action plan required by the state giving data related to the performance and structural integrity of the Lost Lake Dam.