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ABOUT TOWN: Town Meeting Says Yes to Purchase of Glen Echo

Welcome to "About Town with Mark Snyder," a column that will keep you up to the minute with what's what, who's who and what's going on around town. If you see or hear something we could use here, let us know by sending an e-mail to pmpco@aol.com.

ONE MORE NIGHT: Town Meeting Buys Glen Echo Property: For those who would like to see Stoughton go back in time and reclaim some of the prestige from long ago, last night's Town Meeting could be a decisive moment. Members voted 93-30 to authorize the town to borrow up to 1.5 million dollars to cover the 1.25 million dollar purchase price, and ancillary costs of obtaining the highly-coveted , the #1 target on the Open Space Committee's plan. 

John Morton, Chairman of the Community Preservation Committee and the Open Space Committee, worked through Memorial Day weekend meeting with representatives of Glen Echo property owner Eugenia Gibson to agree on a price (1.25 million) and a closing time (November of 2011).

Of couse, the town nearly got this property for nothing, as Algonquin Gas was spending over two million dollars for it to secure easements for their gas pipeline route, and were then going to convey the property to the town at no cost. But that fell in the proverbial dumper along with the economy. 

Then, the Trust for Public Land, with the blessing of the Board of Selectmen, had negotiated an agreement for the town to purchase the property for two million dollars. But, an appraisal came in for 1.1 million dollars, and the town could not borrow to purchase the property without paperwork proving its worth. So, Morton and the CPC ordered another appraisal for $2,500, and the newer appraisal came in at 1.25 million. That was the eventual sale price.

Selectman Chairman John Stagnone was in support of the purchase of Glen Echo, but was concerned that Morton was acting on his own to purchase the land, without the authorization of the Board of Selectmen. He felt that the Board of Selectmen was "out of the loop" during the entire proceedings.

Town Manager Frank Crimmins was more blunt: "I don't see what the rush is. We're looking for open space. This will never be built on. There's problems with the title, and it's wetlands. Why would we buy wetlands? This will remain open space, without us having to buy it. The Board of Selectmen has seen nothing on this purchase. This could also affect other department budgets negatively."

I had concerns myself, despite my strong support for the purchase of this property, since it's utilizing Community Preservation Act Funds, and a possible state grant. But, my concerns remain with police, DPW, recreation, and insurance costs, which can't be paid for using CPC funds. The upside is that this is a beautiful property, with hiking trails, a pond (with clean, swimmable water from a fresh-fed spring), access and parking.

Hopefully, it will be ready for resident use this winter, for snowshoeing and walks through the woods. (Maybe skating?). Recreation Director John Denison said, "It's a really special place." David Asack, Chairman of the Conservation Commission, added, "We work to protect wetlands. Ownership is the only way we can be assured of saving this jewel. We set aside these funds to buy open space and protect it."

Attorney and Town Meeting member Barry Crimmins pointed out that part of the property--that was promoted as being for 'active recreation' was actually zoned for general business. "The zoning will need to be changed at a future town meeting, if we want to allow active recreation there, like a ball field," he said, adding, "I would hope that our children and their children would be able to use this, and not just buy it for open space."

Town meeting also passed the Community Preservation Distribution Budget, with total allotted CPA funds for Fiscal Year 2012 at $1,164,891.

Town Meeting approved $10,000, using Community Preservation funds for Automatic Doors for the Rose Forte Elderly and non-Elderly Disabled Housing Development, located at 4 Capen Street.

They also approved $15,000 to add a three bedroom furnished basement apartment at 4 Capen Street to house a displaced family in the case of a natural disaster or unforseen hardship.

They approved $9,000 from the CPC for repairs to the Lucius Clapp Memorial for replacement of the rear stairs, and $65,000 for various repairs to Town Hall.

Town meeting also approved $200,000 to fund the , include railings, ramps, and cut outs at many of Stoughton's schools. They voted unanimously to restore the surface of the Stoughton High School track (a large embarrassment, since the Hockomock League wouldn't allow a home meet there due to deplorable conditions) for $100,000; and another $200,000 to increase the Jones School electric from 400 to 1000 amps.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marguerite Rizzi said that many times teachers had to be cognizant of the electric usage in each section of the building, in determining where to plug electrical devices in.

An article to spend $50,000 to re-sod the Anthony M. Sarno, Jr. football field at Stoughton High School passed 69-21, with Barry Crimmins and FinCom Chair Holly Boykin pointing out safety issues for football players there. For those of us who have had children playing football there, we know what the dangers of the field in its present state presents.

That was the final article Monday night. Wednesday (session #10) should be the final night.

The 9th night of Town Meeting was dedicated to the memory of Louise Packard, a 40 year member of Town Meeting, who passed away on June 6, 2010.

Check back later today for the Afternoon Edition of About Town with Mark Snyder.

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