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Petropoulos Opposes Lake Sewer Project

Selectman Jack Petropoulos told his colleagues Monday night that he was opposed to the Lost Lake Sewer project based on his concern for the "cost levied on people that are not contributing to the problem at the lake. I'm not sure about the leaching in Martins Pond Brook. The Lost Lake tests were non-detectable for nitrates or phosphates. We haven't proven to ourselves that there is an issue. We are billing for things that people may not be contributing to." He went on to cite that the water and storm water management are the largest single contributors "with 40 percent from storm water and fertilizer and 20 percent from sewers.

"I am concerned that we don't know the full cost of the project before we vote. The town contribution of 25 percent is based on what we have available. This should be a moral and civic obligation," he said.

Selectman Anna Eliot pointed out that with inclusion of the commercial area of Four Corners contributing 32 percent and the town contribution of 25 percent toward the $12.9M cost for the Lost Lake Sewer project, it is less than 50 percent to be covered by the Lost Lake residents.

Petropoulos said, "Test results from the water that came in today shows non-detectable amounts of nitrates and phosphates. This was done on one day and is not the way to do this."

Consultant Bob Rafferty of Woodward & Curran, the firm that has been working with the Lost Lake Sewer Committee explained that there were detailed tests conducted "in 1977, 1981 and 1985, and the state took these values and said it was enough. The DEP approved this without sampling. The scope of the work did not include sampling. Not one agency had any issues."

He stressed that the tests that were taken in "October 2011 and last Tuesday are meaningless. They have no statistical relevance. You need to test where the algae grow in the summer. Plants die off and can cause a high nitrate number."

Town Manager Mark Haddad advised that the Finance Committee voted 4 to 3 not to support the article and the 25 percent contribution from the town, adding, "They want more detail about what the town benefit is for the $196K per year."

The remaining four selectmen voted to support the Lost Lake Sewer project.

Cost Analysis

Town Manager presented Selectmen with a detailed cost analysis of how the town would be able to afford to cover debt service for the Lost Lake Sewer project at $12.9 M and the proposed Center fire Station at $7.5M. and for replacing Fitch's Bridge should it pass at Fall Town Meeting.

He explained the analysis used as a basis for the sewer project a 20-year bond at two percent. He calculated Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDUs) for the Lost Lake area and Four Corners commercial area at 665. With Four Corners having 214 EDUs or 32 percent of the EDUs, and 50 set aside for the Mass. Baptist Church, owners of Grotonwood, he stressed that betterments would be assessed based on how the EDU's are assigned.

Town contribution would be $196K per year over the 20-year bond. Already the town is spending money approved at Town Meeting on the project for the sewer plan and the Environmental impact Report. In addition there are one-time costs, the $350K for the purchase of the land on Farmers Row for the Fire Station, and $387 for capital building. Going forward for FY14, Haddad said that all three projects, Lost Lake Sewer, new Center Fire Station and replacement for Fitch's Bridge will still be under the levy limit for the town and not require an override. Today the town is $551K under the levy limit.

He added that his analysis includes a 2.5 percent increase for Groton-Dunstable School District and Nashoba Valley Technical High School should it be needed. Haddad said, "If we do these projects, it would not raise taxes, because of budgeted items that will not be repeated." Selectman Peter Cunningham commented, "It is tight but doable."

Selectman Chairman Stuart Schulman asked what would happen if we didn't do one of these and Haddad responded that taxes would go down.

Fitch's Bridge Cost

Inclusion in the analysis for replacing Fitch's Bridge, estimated to be $800K, was a major concern for the Board as this would leave a very small cushion - only $60K - for the town.

The Fall Town Meeting warrant article asked for $100K to do another engineering study; this time for removal of the old steel structure. Cunningham cautioned that if this is approved, shortly thereafter, there will be an article asking for an estimated $800K for the actual work and a pre-fabricated bridge to be used only by pedestrians, equestrians and bicyclists. His point was that if voters approve the $100K for engineering, they tacitly approve the cost of the bridge.

Chairman Stuart Schulman stressed, "Fitch's Bridge (cost) is significant and if it is removed, it gives the us a better cushion. The sewer and fire station are number one, and I, for one, feel that we need more cushion, and not including the bridge puts us in a better financial position."

Schulman and Selectman Josh Degen voted not to support the Fitch Bridge article while Selectmen Cunningham, Eliot and Petropoulos will make their decision at Town Meeting.

Groton Herald

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