CANDIDATE QUESTION TIME: Josh Degen Responds to Questions
Q. For many years the Board of Selectmen was composed of 3 members. As the workload began to increase, the board was increased to five members. With the Charter and hiring of a Town Manager the workload of the board has significantly reduced. Do you think we should go back to being a 3-person board? If so why or why not.?
A. No I think that a five member board brings forth a diversity of opinion that is needed for a growing community like Groton.
Q. What was your greatest accomplishment during your last term as Selectman?
A. There were many accomplishments but the one that sticks out in my mind was my ability to re-establish a smooth working relationship with my fellow selectmen and our Town Manager in the aftermath of the texting scandal.
Q. Participation at town meeting is declining and participation at town elections and the numbers of volunteers seems to be declining too. Is this trend linked to the Charter form of government? Is so what should be done? If not, if such a trend continues, what does this mean for the town? Can Selectmen do anything about it?
A. People seem to have become somewhat caught up in their work and personal lives. This occurred prior to the adoption of our charter. We need our citizens to care for our community more like one of their family than just another chore that must be done. Creating a sense of inclusiveness might help foster this. If we can not achieve this goal then changes in governmental procedures will need to occur. Things like Town Meeting may go by the wayside and decisions effecting Groton may need to be handled in a less participatory way. I believe that our current system works well but needs a shot in the arm to get more citizens stimulated to participate.
Q. Given the minimal use of the Lost Lake substation for fire fighting, do you think that, in hindsight, its construction was a mistake? Why? Why not?
A. The Lost Lake fire station is a substation. It was a substation before it was rebuilt and it remains that today. The former station was woefully unequipped to sustain firefighters, trucks and equipment. The current station meets both present need and needs for the future. The police department has moved a portion of their force into this facility. This is both good for the Lost Lake area and helps to meet a space need for the GPD.
Q. What elements, if any, of the Charter form of government need revision?
A. The Charter is a living document that needs constant revisiting to address changing conditions. Now that we have lived with it for over four years we must reevaluate the things that work and tweak the few areas that do not.
Q. Taxes in Groton are among the highest in the state for towns of our size. What, if anything, should be done? Where could you see some savings, if savings are desired?
A. Our taxes are high due to the 96% residential component of Groton. We value our rural character. We have spent a lot of money buying pristine land in order to prevent more residential development. The existing commercially zoned land is slowly being used by new businesses. We as Selectmen need to foster passive commercial opportunities. I for one do not want us to look anything like the Rt. 110 section of Westford or the soon to be overdeveloped Rt. 119 section of Littleton. If you want Groton to look like that then you do not hold the vision that I hold. We attempt to hold our taxes in check, however a residential tax base like ours desires more and more services both from the municipality and GDRSD. We will be hard pressed to offer more and supply tax relief unless we are willing to forgo the rural character that we strive to preserve.
Q. Do you think a bylaw limiting the number of consecutive terms that a Selectmen could serve has any merit? Why? Why not?
A. I believe in term limits for state and federal positions. At the local level here in Groton, those who effectively serve our town should be able to continue as long as they are both willing and have the support of the voters.
Q. What three issues affecting Groton's long-term future need your attention?
A. 1) The smooth operations of town government.
2) The delivery and quality of services that meet the needs of a growing town.
3) Vision to meet the needs of not only the current but future inhabitants of Groton.
Q. Do you have any comment on how Selectmen handled the recent non-appointment of the Personnel Committee?
A. No I do not.