This article first appeared in the June 12, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Michelle Fields, Standard Correspondent
The application for a potential $220,000 grant to build a snow dump off Maxham Meadow Way has been put on hold until a new public hearing on June 30 at 7 p.m.
At the Village Trustees’ meeting this week it was announced that the public hearing held on the subject last month (it was added to the agenda for the public hearing for the new five-year Town and Village Plan in order to speed up the application process) did not meet the legal requirements.
“The notice said the application would be here prior to the meeting. They were not ready yet, which was not in compliance with the law,” said Village Manager Phil Swanson noting that residents should have been able to review the grant application prior to the public hearing. Several residents had expressed concern at that meeting that they had only heard about the snow dump hearing by reading the agenda for the public hearing on the town plan.
“It would be important to hold this next public hearing as soon as possible because they want several weeks to read it and digest it,” said Mary MacVey of the East End Action Group that is working on the Community Development Block Grant Application. They had hoped to get the application in for consideration in June or July. The next meeting of the grant review committee is July 10.
The application is for part of $1.59 million in grant funds that remain (of an initial $4 million to the communities of Windsor, Washington, and Windham counties) from a fund to rebuild municipal infrastructure destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene.
Last month, MacVey explained that the loss of 400 feet of the riverbank at the site of the current snow dump intensified the need and environmental concerns after Irene. “Now the snow melt is even closer to the river,” she said. She noted that the grant application for $220,000 would cover the cost to construct the snow dump on land off Maxham Meadow Way as well as administrative costs, if approved. The land, to be purchased from the Woodstock Resort Corporation, would still be purchased separately.
The Trustees approved an amendment to the purchase option that is required by the Federal Grant. “The change here is that the Village will be allowed out of the purchase…if during the environmental review it is found not to be an appropriate site,” said Swanson. This also extended the purchase option until February, 2015 so there is time for all the appropriate testing. The Resort Corporation has indicated that they will approve the change, according to Swanson.
The Trustees also approved a 10-percent local match for the grant that would come primarily from funds raised by Sustainable Woodstock. In a letter to the Trustees, Sustainable Woodstock committed to providing $16,138 in matching funds for the snow dump, which they will raise in a capital campaign. An additional $2764 in in-kind funds for work done by Swanson and his assistant, would constitute the remainder of the match.
This newly revealed requirement brought concern from some. “Why didn’t we know about this local match before?” said resident Meriel Hall adding, “It is major and I wonder how many other things we don’t know.”
“We are trying to get this done the best way we can…we are not trying to hide anything,” said Sustainable Woodstock Board Member Joby Thompson.
Sustainable Woodstock Director Sally Miller noted that their initial plan was to include the land purchase in the application (that has since been removed) and the $32,500 that her organization had raised toward the purchase would have covered the ten-percent match.
Another grant that is on hold is the Safe Routes to School Grant. “That was almost two years ago but the engineers don’t have a contract yet with the state of Vermont…there is no way the Safe Routes to School Grant will happen this summer and the school does not want construction during the school year…hopefully next summer,” said Swanson. That grant will provide sidewalks, a pedestrian island, and other safety improvements near Woodstock Elementary School.
In other business, local business owner Jeff Zayas told Trustees he is concerned about the lack of street sweeping in the Village. “I would like to ask the Village to bring out the street sweeper once a week on Thursdays,” he said adding, “I watch people get hit with sand.”
Swanson noted that the streets would be swept before this Alumni Weekend. “I personally have not seen a need for weekly but I will monitor it,” he said.
One citizen brought both a request and a solution to the Trustees this week. Pointing out concerns about the elderly who cross Route 4 from Mac’s Market to their apartments (he noted he saw a man get hit by a car at dusk there a number of years ago) in the Mellishwood complex, Pat Bartlett created a PVC pipe flag holder that can be attached to poles along each side of the road so residents can carry an orange flag across the street with them to be more visible. The flag is then replaced in the holder on the other side for the next resident to use (there would be several flags on each side).
“I was in Florida and saw that and thought – I can whip that up pretty easily,” said Bartlett. He created several sets of this system that he will donate to the Village.
“It’s a great idea. You brought us the idea and you did it all,” said Trustee Chair Candace Coburn. Trustees agreed to give the new system a try.