8 CPC requests granted

By Pierre Comtois

Groton Landmark - Nov 2, 2007

GROTON -- With little dissent, the majority of the 150 residents attending last Monday's second session of Special Town Meeting voted to support all of the spending requests submitted for their consideration by the Community Preservation Committee (CPC).

Among the appropriation measures listed in the warrant were those for the Williams Barn Committee, the Building Committee, the Conservation Commission, the Town Clerk, the Historical Commission, the Board of Selectmen, and the Groton Housing Authority.

Funds in the CPC account are raised by a surcharge on local property taxes and earmarked solely for the purchase of open land, historic preservation, the creation of affordable housing, and public parkland and recreation. The CPC screens spending requests, but town meeting voters must ultimately decide.

Although a majority of residents had little trouble approving most of the proposed items, the request from the Building Committee, for $20,000 to cover the cost of conducting a feasibility study for the 120-year-old Squannacook Hall in West Groton, drew the most comment.

According to Building Committee member Michelle Collette, a feasibility study was required to discover the full extent of repairs needed to bring Squannacook Hall back into full use as a public building. The hall has been closed to most activities, by order of the selectmen, pending a decision on the future of the structure.

The study would also include a cost estimate, should the town choose to renovate the historic structure, which currently sees limited use by the Boy Scouts. The Scouts continue to perform light maintenance duties at the hall.

But a major concern raised by the Planning Board and echoed by other town officials was the almost complete lack of parking around Squannacook Hall.

"Maybe parking is not so important," said resident Brooks Lyman of the question.

Others, such as Thomas Hartnett, pointed out that events have been held at the hall for decades and parking has always been a problem, so why should parking become an issue now?

Strongly in support of preserving the hall, West Groton resident Barney Blood said parking should not be an issue and suggested that the town purchase land across the street that could be used for parking.

"We can't answer the legitimate questions that everyone has until we do a feasibility study," said Collette.

"I think this is a needed project and one we need to look at it," said Board of Selectmen Chairman Fran Dillon.

In the end, a majority of residents agreed with Dillon and voted in favor of appropriating the requested funds from the CPA account.

Also approved by residents, with considerably less debate, were:

* $1,900 for the Williams Barn Committee, to pay for a survey of land.

* $200,000 for the Conservation Commission, for bolstering its fund used to purchase land when unforeseen opportunities arise with little time to arrange financing.

* $34,000 to pay for continuing efforts to preserve historic records.

* $18,000 to help cover the remaining cost of its town-wide inventory of historic structures.

* $10,000 to pay for an engineering study needed for the proposed creation of a Rail Trail leading from West Groton into Townsend.

* $25,000 for a consultant to advise the town on how it can implement its affordable housing plan.

* $25,000 for the Groton Housing Authority, to pay for a feasibility study to see if land owned along Nashua Road could be used in the construction of affordable housing.

Residents also approved a citizens' petition to establish a seven-member Tax Base Study Committee, charged with studying historic trends of various revenue sources as they relate to what services are provided by the town.