More Fall Town Meeting Spending: • $716 K for Land on Chicopee Row • $100K for New Fitch's Bridge • Septic System for Squanacook Hall
Groton Conservation Commission has their eyes on some land on Chicopee Row that was once the proposed site for the new Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, but was eliminated when the finding of the endangered blue spotted salamander along with multiple vernal pools on the parcel scrapped the deal.
In fact there are two parcels of adjacent land on Chicopee Row; one containing 59-plus acres and the second containing 49 plus acres that have been for sale for a while. They are located across the street from Williams Barn and Sørhaug Woods, and contiguous to the town-owned McLains's Woods, and Watson Way conservation areas.
At Fall Town Meeting Oct. 15, the ConCom will ask for approval to purchase these two parcels for $716K, according to ComCon member Bruce Easom. He advised Selectmen that the ConCom will also ask voters to approve $25K from the Community Preservation Fund to add to their monies for land acquisition. According to Easom, a state grant will reimburse 60 percent of the cost of purchase, but that the funds need to be spent first in order to get the return. While this purchase will virtually deplete the amount in ConCom's Land Acquisition Fund, state reimbursement will return more than half the expenditure.
Selectman Josh Degen noted that the high school planners couldn't fit a building on the site with all the endangered species, wildlife and wetland areas, and asked about the property's development potential. Easom said that the ConCom relies on the professional appraiser's advice regarding the highest and best use of the property.
He added with the environmental constraints on the land that any building would have to go through many state agencies for approvals. Easom stressed that this purchase would "protect the town's water supply at Unkety Brook (located farther north on Chicopee Row), provide for more passive recreation and possible timber harvesting."
Groton Greenway Committee member Marion Stoddart commented, "Ninety eight percent of that land has endangered species on it."
Fitch's Bridge Future
Voters will be asked to approve $100K that will be spent on engineering design, a survey, and permitting for a new bridge to replace the closed steel structure that spans Nashua River at the end of Fitch's Bridge Road connecting to Pepperell Road in West Groton.
Fran Stanley of the Groton Greenway Committee told Selectmen that the 115-year old bridge would be removed and replaced with a prefabricated structure that would be used only for pedestrians, equestrians, and bicyclists. It will not accommodate automobiles. Cost for removal of the steel bridge and scrap value of the steel are yet to be determined.
Selectman Degen noted that the town has already spent monies to evaluate the bridge for replacement, and "now there is a request for another $100K to put a prefab over it. Is this the right time to do this?"
Stanley advised that there is state money available for bridges that are crumbling, but these are for bridges that transport automobiles. Estimate for the prefabricated bridge is between $650K and $850K. This will be brought forward to voters to act on in the 'near future'.
"We can't find other people to pay for it. It's a great value to equestrians. People will decide in October if they want a bridge," Stanley said.
Finance Committee Chairman Jay Prager commented, "Is it worth $650-$850K for pedestrians, equestrians and bicyclists. It is a limited use."
Squannacook Hall Septic
Engineer Dan Wolfe of David Ross Associates advised Selectmen that there is room in front of Squannacook Hall to install a septic system, following results of a test hole assessment and perc rate. This will require a front retaining wall in the area currently used for parking.
Selectmen will ask voters to approve installation of a system, which will be necessary whether the historic building is sold or rented. Actual price has yet to be determined.
Wolfe described use of a Presby System which is lower in cost and environmentally responsible alternative to a conventional leach field system. "It is cleansing and can be installed two feet above ground water. It does fit into the front yard of Squannacook Hall, can accommodate 528 gallons per day; can accommodate 176 people using the hall. This system can handle the equivalent of a four-bedroom house," Wolfe said.