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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673
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Town passes "necessity resolution" for municipal water supply, attorneys object

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02/14/2008

By Mary Alice Bisbee, correspondent

"I guess I will see you in court," said Virginia Houston's attorney, Paul Gillies, following a "necessity hearing" this week for the taking by eminent domain of land that provides the wellhead protection shield near a well Waitsfield has drilled for a municipal water system. There are two landowners whose property is included in the wellhead protection shield near the Reed Road property that contains the drilled well for Waitsfield's water supply.

Town attorney Paul Guiliani carefully laid out the reasons for the "taking" in his preliminary remarks, noting that exhaustive studies over a period of several years could find no other answer to the town's pressing need for a safe and reliable water source to serve the Bridge Street and Irasville sections of the town of Waitsfield.  

Guiliani and Gillies, along with the select board and public, participated in a "necessity hearing" on February 11, one of the legal steps a town must follow to take land.

The two adjoining landowners, Virginia Houston and Toby Richards and his daughter Jean Damon, have been offered just compensation determined by appraisal reports of Michael Bryan, which are part of the public record. The "taking" will only restrict the use of the adjoining properties for a circumference around the Town well of 250 square feet. Houston is offered $4,000 for her .423 acres that will be affected and Richards, $3,500 for his .422 acres.  

Both offers have been rejected by the attorneys present, while Gillies stated that he rejects the entire process including the notice and the agreement as well, citing concerns about drilling a well in a road right of way. Select board chair Elwin Neill Jr. noted that Virginia Houston had already filed a 200-foot protective easement that encompassed part of the Richard's property several years ago. No other public testimony was given.

The necessity resolution was unanimously agreed upon by all select board members except for Sal Spinosa, who was not present due to recent surgery. An executive session with the Town of Fayston and all attorneys was held prior to the public necessity hearing to discuss pending litigation.

In other business, the board renewed the license for the Kingsbury Recreation District with an increase from $2,000 to $3,000 for maintenance. No dogs will be allowed on the field. A contract to Phelps Engineering for approximately $24,788 was also approved to design a plan for extracting gravel at the Howard Gravel Pit and permission was given for the August 16 "100 on 100 Relay Race" to pass through town.

Select board member Charlie Hosford brought up concerns about how much insulation and thermal barriers should be approved from the Wait House Improvement Fund to help make that building more energy efficient. Any decision must pass muster with Historic Preservation. New England Air Systems is the suggested contractor.

A brief meeting of the Board of Abatement was called, which included members of the Board of Civil Authority and listers, and agreement was reached to not only abate the $14 of individual underpayments of taxes, of less than $5 each, but also to give authority for Town Treasurer Jennifer Peterson to make such abatements in the future, prior to January 15 of each year.

Roy Hadden gave an extensive report on his work with the Water and Wastewater Task Force and noted his concerns that with only 33 signups for wastewater disposal so far, the cost of the project will only be sustainable if The Valley business community supports its efforts. There are 150 signups for the water system, so far, which makes it financially feasible. All expressed the hope that, with the upcoming public hearings later this month and the third installment of the informational brochure due out next week giving the cost projections, more properties will sign up for the wastewater hook-ups, thus making the project more economical.  

It was noted that money for the Phase 2 enhancements will not be needed for quite some time, but that the infrastructure for the lines running along Route 100 should be added now, during the window that VTRANS has given the town before sidewalks are added and Route 100 is repaved through the village. It was noted by Hadden that another window of opportunity to dig up the streets would most likely not occur for another 15 or 20 years.

Paul Hartshorn brought up concerns he has heard from Valley residents who are not in the village district, who want to know what they will be getting from this project, except an increase of at least 1.5 cents on the tax rate. There is general agreement that voter feedback is needed to discuss a possible revolving loan fund for failed systems being rebuilt and possibly voluntary contracts at reduced rates for those who want more technical advice and are not located within the wastewater district. The select board is hoping for a large turnout at their three scheduled public hearings to know the voters wishes before making any strong personal recommendations for the Town Meeting vote.

Town administrator Valerie Capels reported that the access of an easement for the water tank has been accepted and drafts of the Town Report were distributed for proofing.

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