Spending questions on Groton ballot Nov. 5

Groton - Taxpayers will vote on two referendum questions during the upcoming municipal election: a $5.34 million upgrade to the town police station and a $9.9 million extension of utilities along Flanders Road.

Town officials who toured the police station said it needs improvement because it has significant problems. Officers can't see inside all parts of the prisoners' cells, for example. The portion of the station slated for work hasn't been touched since 1977.

Others have said the work should be done over time.

The utility extension is viewed as an economic development project, with opponents arguing the project is too expensive and supporters saying it's needed to draw business and give property taxpayers relief.

"If we want these industries to come in, then we have to do something to attract them," said Irma Streeter, a member of Representative Town Meeting.

Joan Steinford, also a member of the RTM, said if Groton hadn't extended utilities up Route 117, the town wouldn't have the Mystic Marriott. The hotel is Groton's third-largest taxpayer.

Steinford was also among the officials who toured the police station recently. She said the outside of the station gives a false impression that all is well. But inside, she said, cells have "blind spots" where officers may not see prisoners. Steinford also said police booking suspects must turn their backs to type information into a computer, which puts the officers at risk.

"Times are tough," she said. "I know that there's anguish every time we make a budget. But after touring (the station), I couldn't see keeping it in the condition that it is."

But Scott W. Aument Sr., an RTM member and chairman of the political action committee Groton Advocates for Tax Efficiency, said he has issues with both referendums. He said he believes the police station upgrade contains too many "extras," such as parking lot paving.

Aument said he agrees some improvements should be made, such as video monitoring of the cells and roof repair. But he said town revenues are down.

"So if revenues are going down, we're either going to have to raise taxes or reduce spending to meet our budget," Aument said.

He said he doesn't support extending utilities up Flanders Road, either. He said he doesn't believe the town will see a return on the investment for years to come, if ever.

"There are other areas that we can invest in that we can get a return on faster," he said, citing the area near the Mystic Marriott on Route 117 as an example.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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