APRIL 30: Town Will Combine Local Election with Statewide Special Election for U.S. Senate
Town Clerk Michael Bouchard updated Selectmen about two ballot elections that will come before the town due to resignation of the Massachusetts US senator, a primary and an actual election for the replacement. He is expecting a special primary election to be held April 30, with the state election slated for June 25.
Because this special election falls in the middle of the town election cycle, Bouchard said that the state will allow any city or town election that would have fallen within 30 days of these special elections to be combined, so the town now has the option to move its regularly scheduled May 21 election to the April 30 ballot. This move would save the town $2500.
By doing this, Bouchard said, "It will reduce voter fatigue and hopefully would have a better voter turnout." The downside, he said, is that local candidates will have a shorter time, reducing the usual eight weeks from taking out papers to election day to five weeks. This will also have an impact on Spring Town Meeting schedule.
The Board voted to move the town election from May 21 to April 30 to coincide with the US Senate election.
Bouchard also advised the board of the potential for a change in location for the polling for Precincts 2 and 3. The two precincts usually vote at the Middle School gym, but Bouchard urged an 'abundance of caution' to protect students, and wants to move the polling to another location from the schools.
After looking at a number of potential options, considering handicapped access and available parking, he narrowed the choices down to three: Groton Pool & Golf Club, Prescott School gym, and Town Hall. All three venues can accommodate the two precincts, but each also has its challenges. Groton Pool & Golf Club has plenty of room, adequate parking, but limited handicapped access. Prescott School gym is adequate, with a good ramp and good parking. It would require a police officer to assist with traffic congestion. Town Hall has the space, and Station Avenue could be blocked and used only for voter parking. Selectman Josh Degen expressed concern about this plan as fire trucks need to be able to get out of that area quickly, and suggested moving them to another area for that day. "I think it's a good idea to get the polling out of the schools. It takes any liability out of this."
This decision will need to be made soon so that there is sufficient time to notify affected voters of the change in location.
Farmers Row Land
The town is moving forward with acquisition of Lawrence Homestead Trust land on Farmers Row slated as the site for the new Center Fire Station. Legal documents on the parcel are ready to be signed. Selectman Josh Degen has expressed concern that before he signs, he wants some assurances that the remaining three lots of the agricultural parcel could not be used for a Chapter 40B development. He pointed out that with approval of the sewer line running from the Public Safety building to the fire station location; provisions were made for three stubs to serve the three house lots in between the two municipal facilities. He stressed that nothing was explicit in the documents that stipulated that the land could not be used for this purpose.
Town Manager Mark Haddad advised that there is not sufficient sewer capacity available for such a development at that site. He said that the sewer line is a 1½ inch main, sufficient only to accommodate the fire station and three lots for four-bedroom houses.
Haddad advised the board that the FRP (Request for Proposal) for the future of Squannacook Hall has been finalized and a March 28 deadline has been set for responses. Selectman Jack Petropoulos asked that local realtors be able to participate, but Haddad said that using an RFP process would be in conflict with a traditional real estate listing. However, he said he would make local realtors aware of the RFP.
The purchase and sale agreement for Tarbell School is signed and Selectmen authorized Chairman Stuart Schulman to sign the remaining conveyance documents prior to the closing for the 117 Pepperell Road property.
Baddacook Pond Weeds
Selectmen agreed to file a Notice of Intent to use the weed harvester in Baddacook Pond during late June and July to eliminate the biomasses in the pond.
Great Pond Advisory Committee member Bill Strickland told the Board that the Natural Heritage Agency will allow the harvesting of these weeds in front of the homes and the boat ramp at the pond. "Last year, we took out 15 tons of weeds," Strickland said.
Water Superintendent Tom Orcutt asked that the Board and Advisory Committee work with the Water Department on this because of the town water supply from the Baddacook well.