Get Ready: Hard Financial Decisions Ahead
While voters are accustomed to acting on town financial matters at spring Town Meeting, this year they will have some hard, financial decisions to make at the OctoberTown Meeting as there are requests for significant expenditures for work on two municipal structures, increasing funds to support some of the needs of Prescott School, and transferring more than $1M from free cash for Capital Stabilization, Town Stabilization Fund and for Groton’s share of the Groton Dunstable Regional Schools long range Capital Plan.
In addition, voters will be asked to approve an article to amend town bylaws to ban certain uses of recreational marijuana, and also an article to extend the waiting time for the demolition delay bylaw.
DPW Highway Garage
There will be a request for $223,000 from free cash to fund the design and bidding for a renovated and expanded Highway Garage, following the recommendations from the architect who reviewed the building needs. What started out as a “Fluff and Buff” effort evolved into a much more extensive plan with an estimated total cost for design and construction of $3.85 M according to Town Manager Mark Haddad. The exact cost for the project will be presented at spring Town Meeting.
DPW Director Tom Delaney said he felt there was room to shave a little bit, such as not moving the sand shed. He added that until they got to this point, they weren’t sure what the costs would be.
Trustees of the Groton Public Library are requesting $60,000 for design and bidding plans in preparation for complete replacement of all roofs including the low slope roof and skylights, gutters, drainage systems, masonry and window repairs. The building is experiencing widespread failure of the synthetic slate and original slate roofing systems, associated slashing and gutters that have allowed moisture infiltration throughout the building.
The estimated total cost for repair is in the area of $1M according to Haddad.
The Select Board is proposing two increases from Free Cash to the Town Capital Stabilization for $508,000 and $58,000 to the Stabilization Fund. In addition, the Town Manager is proposing to add $450,000, also from Free Cash, as Groton’s share of the Groton Dunstable Regional School District’s long-range Capital Plan.
Haddad advised that he, Vice Chairman Alison Manugian and Finance Committee member Bud Robertson have been working with the Friends of Prescott on a lease for the Prescott School municipal building. With the goal of having the building self-sufficient in three years, the three are recommending adding $25,000 more to the already appropriated $32,000 to cover plowing, exterior maintenance, and to show that the town is making a commitment to the Friends of Prescott for the three years.
Robertson said that if the Friends of Prescott model is correct, they will not spend the $32,000, but this is to show that tenants will get a three-year lease and that it is supported by the town. The town will appropriate $60,000 for the next three years for this effort.
Select Board member John Giger said he was concerned about “taxpayer creep” and that it needs to me made clear that the Friends of Prescott are committed to pay the rent before they pour money into other things.” Haddad assured him that this is made clear in the lease.
Demolition Delay Bylaw
The Historical Commission is requesting the replacement of a section of the Town of Groton Code by removing the section that requires a six-month delay prior to demolition of a significant buildings that is located outside of the Historic District and inserting new code that requires an 18-month delay prior to demolition of such structures. This will allow the committee the needed time to perform the due diligence duties on any of the town’s historical architectural resources.