Town Official states that abutters should pay for Pond Cleanup

Is Ayer a Community? Or are we divided?

In a recent letter to the editor of The Public Spirit, Ayer Planning Board Member Jeremy Callahan stated, “I agree the weeds should be treated on Flanagan Pond. However, Flanagan Pond property owners enjoy most of the gain in value resulting from this investment, and they should be asked to contribute a greater share of the total cost.”

When I first read this I was rather disturbed that a fellow townsperson would suggest such a divisive approach to the funding of services or stewardship usually provided out of the tax revenues raised by the Town of Ayer.  However, the more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me, assuming that we are permitted to apply that same logic to all expenditures in the Town.

Let’s examine what the single largest expense is in the Town.  Oh, it’s education!  Well the good news for me is I do not have any children in the school.  So, since I do not “enjoy most of the gain in value resulting from this investment”, I should get a pass on paying for everyone else’s kids schooling.  As a matter of fact, though I have lived in Ayer for all of my sixty years and never spent a single day in the Ayer school system, I suggest that maybe I am due a refund.

Continuing with Mr Callahan’s logic, the Annual Town Meeting agreed to fund a nice Pocket Park at the site of the old Pleasant Street School.  I voted to support this $100K project. What I fool I must be, I will not “enjoy most of the gain in value resulting from this investment,” that’s on the other side of Town.  Though it sounds like  wonderful asset to the Town, particularly to that neighborhood, why would I go across town to sit on a bench in a garden?

As a community, we choose to spend money on many goods and services that provide an overall benefit to our citizens.  By God’s grace, I have not had a house fire, but I certainly would not suggest I should not fund the Fire Department because I do not “enjoy most of the gain in value resulting from this investment”.

For some unknown reason, there appears to be a resentment towards any maintenance of Flannagan Pond. Excuses abound. Blame is shifted. Eyes are closed. In regards to the acquisition of Conservation Land, this Town has made substantial progress over the past 20 years, but as a whole, it has grossly neglected one of it’s most precious Open Space environments, it’s ponds.  And Flannagan Pond, my friend, is the poster child of neglect.



About saveourpond

I am a lifelong resident of Ayer who lives on Flanagan's Pond.
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10 Responses to Town Official states that abutters should pay for Pond Cleanup

  1. Jeremy Callahan says:

    Hi Chuck:
    Thanks for the publicity! Concerning your logic above, I disagree. If my mother’s house catches on fire, the fire department will come and put it out. We all benefit equally from the services the fire department offers. If I want to swim, boat or fish, I am limited in my access to Flanagan (Fletcher) Pond, because it is surrounded almost entirely by privately owned property and public access is very limited. We are not all equally able to enjoy Flanagan Pond. As I have said, we need to treat the weeds on Flanagan Pond. However, I hope that we can fully consider all options in paying for the weed control in order to be fair to all taxpayers in Ayer.


    • saveourpond says:

      Jeremy, my continued frustration with this issue stems from the perpetuation of a logic that is filled with double-standards when it comes to the care of Flannagan Pond.

      Limited access is a case in point. Sandy Pond is also “surrounded almost entirely by privately owned property and public access is very limited”. There is no boat landing on Sandy Pond for the public. At the Town Beach there is a locked gate at the very far left of the property. Try to back a trailer in there to launch a boat and let me know how you make out. On Sandy Pond, a canoe or kayak can be dropped in along the causeway on Snake Hill Road. Everywhere else is private property.
      Conversely on Flannagan Pond, in addition to the causeway, you can drop a kayak in off Central Avenue behind the pump station (if the Dept of Homeland Security isn’t in the neighborhood) and across the street from the moving company and on Oak Ridge Drive near the pump station. So there are actually more places to put in on Flannagan Pond, than Sandy Pond.

      Of course when Flannagan Pond is not in its current state of being a floating compost heap, there are many who paddle from Sandy Pond under the culvert.

      Under your plan of asking abutters to share a greater burden of the cost, does this also apply to Sandy Pond, Pine Meadow, Grove Pond, Long Pond, etc?

      BTW Jeremy – I appreciate your overview of how property valuations and tax rates are set in determining calculating tax bills.

      And thanks for subscribing to the Blog. Though I feel like I am beating a dead horse sometimes, I am pleased that this issue is finally being discussed.


      • Jeremy Callahan says:

        Hi Chuck:

        Regarding your specific question about the costs incurred for other ponds, I will simply reiterate my position relative to Flanagan Pond costs. In any situation where public money is being spent that benefits certain property owners far more than other property owners, it is the responsibility of our elected officials to make sure all options for funding this expense are fully considered. People do not like paying taxes. They like them even less if they believe they don’t share in their benefit.



  2. Michele says:

    Perhaps I am politically naive, however, my impression of the purpose for the Board of Selectmen was to ensure matters of safety, maintenance, financing, etc. were administered appropriately. To date with a few quirks here and there I have been happy for the 13 years I have lived in Ayer. For such a little town, Ayer supplies many great public services to its residents and visitors and I have been proud to educate a majority of people exactly where Ayer is located, over the years it’s gaining popularity as people move “out this way” and discover the amenities Ayer offers the general public, not just town residents.

    I’ve always hated politics. At a minimum I’ve viewed it all as contentious and confrontational all while getting nothing resolved. It’s just never appealed to me. I was, however, pleasantly surprised and was hoping the progress by officials and residents alike regarding Flanagan Pond was on the path to proving me wrong on my view of such matters. I was proud to witness a community come together and present a problem to town officials and actually be heard.

    Sadly that elation didn’t last long as other commissions and residents thwarted any and all positive action taken to solve a problem. What I have witnessed to date has absolutely disgusted me.

    There’s a bottom line here I wish everyone would acknowledge sooner rather than later, because these debates of doing what is right is getting old real quick. The nonsense must come to an end before we have no pond to posture about.

    Ayer has a pond in which it and other governmental entities have acknowledged it is required to maintain. Ayer isn’t maintaining it. At one point Ayer incurred monetary penalties for not performing its duties appropriately and thus, a mandated plan was put in place. Ayer must cease the avoidance of its requirements and maintain the pond or continue to fail in this matter. Stop posturing, tell us what the plan is so we can move forward. I’ve always maintained that I’m not paying anything additional for pond maintenance just as I wouldn’t pay for the Town to repave my road. I already pay taxes…don’t you?

    I can tell you this, however, treating the pond will be cheaper if completed now than if we wait to have to pay for it with a monetary penalty attached. Think about it and get it together for the ALL the ponds sake.

  3. Jeremy Callahan says:

    One more thing… discussion does not equal division. Town Meeting approved of a plan to resolve the weed issue for a year. The BOS came up with funds for another year. We need to be discussing how we will pay for it in year three and thereafter.


  4. A Sportsman says:

    I am assessed a surcharge on my taxes for preserving open spaces (CPA). I request 100% of my CPA money be allocated to maintaining an open space namely Flannagans Pond since I don’t think I benefited from some previous expenditures. On my federal tax return I can check off if I want some of my money to fund presidential elections. Why can’t I do the same for my town taxes? I like this concept of assigning costs to those who benefit from a town resource.
    Although on the surface it seems logical to charge extra for those who benefit the most BUT it is no way to run a government.

  5. saveourpond says:

    Weren’t CPC funds approved to assist a private developer in the rehabilitation of the Fletcher Building on Main Street? I agree that is a wonderful thing to preserve such a classic edifice in our downtown; but that is 100% privately owned. There is absolutely no benefit to this taxpayer. This is an example of the double-standard to which I refer.


  6. Jeremy Callahan says:

    I’d prefer to pay for weed control using CPA money, as those taxes are collected specifically for preservation purposes. Likewise, the monies Town Meeting has approved for the Fletcher Building are intended specifically for economic development. Improving the Fletcher Building provides housing, new businesses on Main Street, construction jobs and new business for local companies.

    Who is being divisive now?

    • saveourpond says:


      I am not being divisive, I am simply challenging the way frequently do things inconsistently in Town.

      I have voted for every CPA project that has come before Town Meeting. I think the Pocket Park is a nice addition to the Pleasant Street neighborhood. I also voted in support of the Fletcher Building renovation. We do not disagree on these projects. However, in the same way that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, who perceives the most benefit from these projects is also a matter of opinion.

      My use of these as illustrations is not to criticize the projects or the use of CPA funds (another form of Ayer Tax Dollars) for those projects, but to point out the inconsistency in how “benefit” is being defined, and who defines it.

      I know you attended Town Meeting, so you know how long and hard we battled to prevail on Article 38. However, the FY2012 budget remains out of balance. I am trying to cooperate with various boards and committees (including CPC) to offset this before the tax rates need to be set. And every time I come before another committee, I often have to provide the back story of how we got here. That frequently involves challenging many age old perceptions or opinions regarding how we got to where we are. The reality is Article 38 passed at Town Meeting and I could sit at home and let the Selectmen, the Town Accountant, FinCom and ConCom figure it out, but instead I have been at the table trying to work with all parties for a viable resolution to the problem.

      Jeremy, I have no axe to grind. I have lived in Ayer my whole life. I have served this Town in many capacities over the years. I feel blessed that I have an opportunity to use my skills and influence to bring the Ayer Ponds to the front burner as an issue. It is an Open Space, Recreation and Economic issue. In so doing, I have ruffled a few feathers, but I assure you, the more I sit down with people in these meeting, even in passionate discussions, the more barriers come down and the more aligned we become is seeking to resolve the problem.

      I do not believe anyone is necessarily looking to be divisive in their recommendations, that is to say, I do not doubt that one motives are pure. However, the result of such actions may certainly be perceived so by those who are impacted.

      Thanks for jumping into the fray.


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