GROTON -- Controversy grew over a plan to construct a gas main from Dracut through area towns, including Groton, during a meeting of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee Wednesday.
At the meeting, members voted to instruct the administration to keep them informed of any developments.
School Committee member Leslie Lathrop brought the issue up after she learned that a portion of the pipeline would likely run through high-school property.
When asked if the administration had known about the proposal, interim Superintendent Anthony Bent said it had, but he did not think it was worthy of bringing to the committee's attention and apologized for not doing so.
The project is being promoted by Kinder-Morgan Energy Partners, which intends to run a new 36-inch high-pressure main from Dracut through Groton and beyond to supply area towns and other communities in central Massachusetts with natural gas.
In Groton, the proposed pipeline would run across portions of land owned by the Conservation Commission, Conservation Trust, beneath the Nashua River, over numerous private parcels, and Groton-Dunstable Regional High School.
Along the length of the buried pipeline, a 50-foot-wide corridor would be permanently clear-cut for access.
Although some residents in the affected towns have come out against the plan on grounds of damage to the environment due to laying of the pipeline or the gas produced by fracking, others feared for the sanctity of private property.
Similar concerns were raised by Lathrop, who asked for two votes requiring the administration to keep the School Committee informed about any future contact by Kinder-Morgan with the district, and to deny cooperation with any requests made by the company such as visiting school property or to do any surveying.
Although committee members acceded to the first vote, they stopped short of endorsing the second.
New Dunstable representative Stephanie Cronin said she was uncomfortable with a blanket denial of cooperation without knowing more about the project, while member Thomas Steinfeld suggested that a vote at a public meeting on the subject to be held the next day.
Cronin and Steinfeld were joined by newly elected Vice-Chairman John Giger, who said it would "not be wise" to vote on non-cooperation without more information.
Also, members heard from high school juniors Rebecca Roberts and Sage Mastakouras on a plan to introduce solar panels to the school's energy profile with the potential of saving the district thousands of dollars on electricity.
Roberts and Mastakouras, both of the high school's Environmental Club, said installing solar panels on the school's roof would be "good for the environment and economically efficient."
The students said that up to now, the club had contented itself with raising awareness about the environment, reminding teachers to turn lights off when leaving their classrooms, and picking up litter on campus.
Now, however, they said the club was ready to take on a more ambitious project and saw the installation of solar panels, something increasingly popular at schools around the country, as the ideal fit.
The students discovered a company called Solar City, which would install and maintain solar panels for the school for free, contenting itself with what money it could earn through tax credits and what it charged for electricity generated by the panels.
That electricity, said Roberts, would come to no more, but potentially less, than what is charged by standard providers.
Members encouraged the students to continue looking into the solar-energy option, recommending they check out other providers for the best deal and to talk with representatives at the Groton Electric Light Department about feasibility and comparative costs.
"Chase down the details," said Giger.
The School Committee also heard from Groton-Dunstable Education Association member Clare O'Neill, a fifth-grade teacher in the district.
O'Neill read to the committee from a prepared statement expressing the GDEA's displeasure with talk of privatizing cafeteria and maintenance duties in the district and eliminating the position of human resources director.
The changes would be made as part of the district's attempt to save money after an imbalance in its books that left the schools short by millions of dollars in fiscal 2015.
That situation was alleviated when Groton and Dunstable residents voted the increase in funding needed to make ends meet. But the district still needed to make cuts in spending to demonstrate that it was also making needed sacrifices.
In its statement, the GDEA characterized the cuts as "potentially damaging to the district," seeing them as "not working," and asking to be involved in any future discussions related to them.
"The GDEA is committed to the success of our district and strongly believe that problem solving and decision making works best when all invested parties are able to have their voices heard," concluded the statement.
The School Committee listened to the grievances but made no comment on them.