AYER -- Following the resignation of Zoning Board of Appeals member Jim Lucchesi, selectmen appointed Michael Gibbons to the board, on a seat that expires in 2015.

The new appointment -- which has a quorum of three but needs four votes for certain cases -- keeps it out of high waters if any three cannot make a meeting.

Lucchesi resigned at Town Meeting last week after voters approved to eliminate the budget for the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. He remains an elected official on the Planning Board.

Former Selectman Pauline Conley had also submitted a letter expressing an interest to serve on the selectmen-appointed board. There is also another opening on the board for a term expiring June 30.

Selectman Christopher Hillman said he understood Conley was also looking to be on the Finance Committee, and wondered if a person could sit on two boards.

Selectman Gary Luca said a person could, but he had his own misgivings about the appointment. Hillman made a motion to appoint Conley to the second ZBA seat, but Luca did not second it.

After the meeting, Luca said he did not second it because of an ethics violation former Selectman Jim Fay filed with the state regarding documents she allegedly took from Town Hall.

"She still has an outstanding ethic violation and I didn't feel as though she'd add anything to that board," he said.

If the state responds to the claim, he said, he may rethink his position.


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Selectmen also heard an update on a public petition regarding public access to the commuter rail.

The public has expressed frustration since private landowner Phil Berry erected a fence, blocking off public access through his property near the commuter rail and re-directing commuters around it. Berry has since taken a portion of the fence down, and the MBTA is in negotiations with Berry over the matter.

The Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, which is designing the project, told selectmen at its last meeting that Berry is supposed to provide a passenger building in accordance with his deed.

This week, a group of residents sent a petition to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, urging the MBTA to make the landowner comply with the deed requirements.

Kathleen O'Connor, a member of the group that began the petition, said legislators involved have been very responsive, as well as people who ride the train.

"I think we're making a little bit of noise and now everyone's focused on the issue," she said.

Resident Harry Zane argued against the notion that the train station exists so that people can buy things in Ayer.

"If you really believe that that's why people think we need a train station in Ayer, you haven't been listening or you're just delusional," he said. "No one has ever said, among the people I know that support this, that that's the reason why we need a train station."

Zane said Ayer has the train station because it is a community asset, built so that people can get into town easily.

"Those are just silly arguments and I just wish that we would put them to bed," he said. "We don't have the train so that people can jump off and buy something."

Ellen FitzPatrick said when she took the train in West Concord for 17 years, she felt it was an extension of her community because she often got off and bought items or went to the bank.

It's a totally different atmosphere in Ayer, she said.

"You are in survival mode when you are using that train station, in part because in the winter when I get off the train, I'm praying I'm going to make it to my car without getting killed," she said, pointing out the chance of falling on ice or getting hit by a car.

She said she's hoping authorities will take this opportunity to change things and make everything better and safer for residents. 

Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand said representatives from legislators will meet with the town Friday to ensure that everyone is "on the same page" and assured that the MBTA and Berry will meet its 30-day negotiation deadline of May 29.

Selectmen also went over an improvement plan for Old Groton Road, which has problems with draining and erosion. In the winter, the road has also had problems with snow plowing.

Pontbriand said the major issue with the road is the snow plowing. But this summer, he said, can include a focus on the drainage and erosion problems.

"This summer and the fall is the time to make these drainage improvements, address the erosions," he said.

That work will get done, he said, and then the town will continue to address the snow issue.

Selectmen seemed to agree over the need for a full-time building inspector. Town Meeting approved funding for the full-time position.

The town previously advertised an assistant building-inspector position, but no one applied because the salary was too low based on what was needed, Pontbriand said. There will be a meeting with the appropriate union officials on the issue, since the inspector is a union position.