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To The Editor:
While the town officials have made excellent and innovative use of the space they have, only so much can be done to accommodate the needed services there.
One of the primary purposes of the municipal office is to maintain and protect the land records necessary for the research of property titles. This is essential to the conveyance and financing of real estate. Based upon thousands of hours spent in dozens of towns, the inescapable conclusion is that, while the service in Waitsfield is excellent, the facility is barely adequate.
The vault where the record books are kept is small. Many books are difficult to remove and replace and many are up so high that the 30-pound books can only be reached on a stepstool. Some of the important records still are not fire or flood protected (as was made evident by Irene).
Handicapped access to the town office is difficult at best and there is no handicapped access to the land records in the vault. There may be different rules to be met for handicapped access depending upon whether you build a new or rehab an existing building, but consideration must be given to whether what is being done merely meets legal requirements or genuinely renders the building handicapped accessible.
Waitsfield does not have a town hall. As a result of that, and of the limited space in the present town clerk’s office, there is no separate meeting space. When town committees meet, they do so in the work area where land record research is also conducted. This arrangement is inconvenient to the conduct of an effective meeting (not to mention concerns related to privacy) and makes it difficult to do research.
When it comes to a decision of whether to construct a new municipal facility, financing certainly must be front and center. No office is more aware of complaints related to property taxes than is a transaction real estate law office.
There comes a time when a town can no longer postpone or delay and must accept the burden of providing adequate facilities where basic and vital services can be conducted. In Waitsfield, time’s up.
Alice N. Olenick