(This story was first published in the April 11, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Michelle Fields
Despite approval by voters at the annual Village Meeting, the village will not be purchasing the land for a new snow dump — at least not this year. It turns out that $32,500 of the $70,000 needed for the purchase is coming from a fund that cannot be used for such purposes.
Village Manager Phil Swanson found that one of the three parking reserve funds, the income from village parking meters, could not be used for the land purchase.
“It is not eligible for anything but the parking program,” he said. “As a matter of law, the statute only tells you what you can do with the nickels, dimes and quarters from meters…it does not tell you what you can do with the money you put aside in your capital budget,” said Swanson. Besides parking meter income, the other two funds were capital reserve funds (one from the sale of the old fire house building) set aside by the trustees for future parking needs. These funds can still be used for the land purchase, but they cover just over one half of the $70,000 purchase price of the land off Maxham Meadow Way that the village planned to buy from the Woodstock Resort Corporation.
“There is no more tapping to be done,” said Coburn regarding whether there was another place in the budget to get the $32,500 that was to come from parking meter income. She said the retaining wall project on River Street was taking the only other non-committed funds available.
“There’s nothing to replace it with,” he said.
Trustees voted to seek a oneyear extension of the purchase option on the land (which will expire on May 8 of this year) to re-examine the possibilities for purchasing the land for the snow dump. They may wait until Village Meeting next year to either reallocate the remaining funds approved this year or to come up with another way to fund the purchase of the land.
In March, village voters approved using three different parking reserve funds for the purchase of the land, by a vote of 41 to 21. Trustee Chair Candace Coburn pointed out in the Annual Report, “The rationale in tapping these funds to purchase land is this: Without an area where the village can move the snow, we cannot clear the streets in the winter. If the streets are not cleared, cars cannot park. Therefore, having a snow dump is critical to winter parking,” Village resident Meriel Hall questioned this use of the funds in a recent letter to the Trustees noting that the funds were designated as “committed” to future parking needs and adding that she thought the use for the snow dump was a breach in the Trustees’ fiduciary duty.
“While it is true that ‘having a snow dump is critical to winter parking…’ it is not critical that we purchase land for a snow dump. We already have a snow dump. Using your manner of rationale, you can justify practically any use of the funds,” Hall said in her letter.
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