(This story was first published in the July 11, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
Though much of Hartland was relatively unscathed during Tropical Storm Irene, last week’s flash flood was a different story.
About 90 percent of Hartland’s roads were damaged last Tuesday, where inches of rain fell within hours. A large box culvert collapsed on Densmore Hill Road causing flooding and temporarily closing the road. Gilson Road sustained a significant washout where flood water caused destruction halfway into one lane. Mill Street and Rice Road were also damaged and nearly all class 3 roads took a beating.
“This might exceed the damage from Irene money-wise,” Town Manager Bob Stacey said.
Hartland received about $200,000 from FEMA after 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene and Stacey expects about the same amount of money will be needed this year. The damage comes while much of Windsor County is still recovering and paying FEMA loans from 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene. The rainwater that has fallen in Woodstock is nearly three times above the normal average for this time of year.
A FEMA representative has been assessing damage in the Windsor County. If damage exceeds $195,000, there is the possibility that FEMA money will be granted. Windsor sustained damaged roads and plugged culverts as did Weathersfield and West Windsor.
“It depends on the degree of damage,” Stacey said. “For something like this, it’s pretty localized.” Most roads in Hartland are scoured along the edges. The town is temporarily putting a plate over the culvert on Densmore Hill Road to repair it for light traffic. It will consider replacing the culvert, an $80,000 to $150,000 expense, after it hears from FEMA.
Stacey expects most roads will be repaired in the coming weeks.
In an unrelated issue on Densmore Hill Road, there have been three complaints over the past year about cars nearly colliding with each other at the Jenneville Road intersection. The Selectboard made a motion to install a stop sign at its meeting Monday.
In other meeting news, a number of commercial businesses and Hartland residents met on June 26 to discuss property management of Sumner Falls, a 55-acre parcel of land along the Connecticut River .
The town acquired the property from TransCanada Hydro Northeast in May 2011 and has been discussing how to improve it. At its meeting Monday, the Selectboard agreed to install a Porta-Potty, two trash cans, recycling bins and a “Drop Off Only” sign to prevent parking on the beach area.
Select woman Mary O’Brien objected to using town funds to pay for conveniences when commercial businesses are making a profit from the land.
“What do we get out of it?” O’Brien asked.
Stacey said management of the property is part of the town’ s responsibility.
“I view it as enhancing the park and enhancing visiting to the park. If it costs us a little bit, so what, it’s what we do,” Stacey said.
A Porta-Potty costs about $100 a month and would be cleaned twice a week. Trash cans and recycling bins would be emptied three times a week.
Chairman Gordon Richardson said the commercial user groups would be willing to contribute to a portion of the costs.
Long-term goals for Sumner Falls include getting a survey done and building hiking trails.
Stacey also announced at the meeting that Hartland’s homestead tax rate has increased about four cents. The nonresidential tax rate increased from 1.7740 to 1.8108 and the school tax rate, included in the homestead rate, increased about three cents.
In other meeting news, the Selectboard brought up concerns that hazardous materials could be on the property of Hartland landowner Fred Coley, who has been in violation of Hartland’s junk ordinance since 1986. Coley has dozens of decades-old vehicles and mobile trailers on his property.
Coley received his first municipal ticket in 2010 and has neglected to pay fines, which have accumulated to about $39,000.
Stacey went to court two months ago where a judge ordered the Coley to remove a mobile home and pay a number of fines.
There was a question about what to do with Coley’ s personal property in the event of foreclosure.
“If you take the property does the junk go with it, or is that considered personal property?” Stacey said the town’s lawyer asked.
A member of the Department of Environmental Conservation will assess the property for hazardous waste.
“I guess we’re not out of the woods yet,” Chairman Gordon Richardson said.
Foreclosing could be a yearlong process.
The Selectboard meets again July 22 at 7 p.m.
A sign warns drivers heading south on Densmore Hill Road in Hartland. The road was badly damaged during last week’s heavy rains.
Tony Marquis Photo
To subscribe to an electronic edition of the Vermont Standard and get your local news every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. click here. – Only $25/year