Still two Grotons

The latest argument between town and city officials in Groton over dividing taxpayer spoils misses the larger point as to why there is a need for a town and city at all.

Roughly 3-square-miles, the city was created as a subdivision within the town back at the start of the 20th century, motivated by businessmen who wanted to introduce electricity in the commercialized section of Groton along the water. Groton Utilities, providing electric and water service, remains the city's greatest asset. How to handle GU's ownership is a big impediment to any future merger with the town.

Groton city property owners pay a 4.95-mill tax rate to the city in addition to the 20.22 mills they pay the town. The city has its own police and fire department, municipal trash collection and recreational facilities, including a public beach. The largest taxpayers - Pfizer and Electric Boat - are located in the city.

Its relationship with the town is complex and sometimes contentious. The town has traditionally funded half of the city police budget under the rationale that money is saved because town police do not patrol that area. The town charter requires the town to fund the road maintenance portion of the city's public works budget; but what services should the town consider maintenance? Not snow clearing, suggested one town councilor this budget session.

Under growing fiscal pressure, the Town Council has sought to reduce the traditional contribution, voting to cut $476,549 from the city's $4.5 million request for police and highway funding. The budget next goes to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). City leaders cry foul, charging the proposed cuts are arbitrary and fail to meet the town's legal obligation. Both sides are talking about mediation.

Of course if there was one Groton, one police force, one public works - which for some reason makes sense to us - the dispute goes away.

City of Groton Mayor Marian Galbraith, elected Monday to a second four-year term, says that won't happen anytime soon. For the most part, she said, residents cherish the city's separate status and the quality of life it offers. They view any talk of merger "as a takeover, and people in the City of Groton don't want to be taken over."

Expect the fiscal arguments to continue.

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