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Waitsfield Select Board wants to repair town pond

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07/03/2008

 By Lisa Loomis

After members of the public voiced strong support for repairing the Waitsfield town pond, the select board is moving forward to do so.

Board members were not immediately unanimous in their support for fixing the pond. At a June 23 meeting, board members discussed how to proceed and board member Paul Hartshorn suggested the board should just leave the pond as it is permanently.

"We should never have had that pond because it's a liability and now we can get out of that liability if we just leave it alone permanently. It's a nice pond, it was a nice pond, but people can't afford the extra taxes to fix it," Hartshorn said.

POSTED MUD AREA?

"It that truly an option to have it stay as a posted mud area?" asked board member Kate Williams.

"I'd like to say no. Right now it's neither a pond or a wetland. To make it a true wetland we'd need to take it down to a lower level and create a natural flow through there," said board chair Charlie Hosford.

"That's going to take money," said board member Bill Parker who reminded the board that they had received cost estimates ranging from $30,000 to $70,000 for returning the pond to a wetland, returning it to its previous state, or reducing the size of the pond.

OUTTAKE PIPE

The earthen dam at the north end of the town pond on Route 100 in Irasville came close to failure this spring and an outtake pipe that runs from the pond under the dam split and caused earth to erode above it. That led to a sinkhole on the top of the earthen dam at the north end of the pond. When the town took action to reduce water levels in the dam without state permission, the town was cited by the Agency of Natural Resources for discharging water into a state wetland -- the land downstream from the earthen dam. The state required the town to hire an engineer to develop a plan for remediating the wetland and dealing with the pond/dam issue.

"It's my understanding that the public expressed an interest in having the pond remain a pond at the public hearing," Williams said.

"It was universal," Parker acknowledged.

"Only among those who were there," countered Hartshorn.

RESTORING THE POND

"We tend to get people who are naysayers showing up at these things because they don't like the plans, or they don't want the money to be spent, or they don't want a project in their backyard. Every single person who showed up at that meeting was in favor of the town restoring the pond and spending the money to do so. I don't want to discount those people because they want to spend money any more than I'd want to discount people who show up at meetings and don't want to spend money," Parker said.

"To do nothing is not going to satisfy people who want to do something. That's the thing about democracy. They've all got a voice and they should all be heard. We've got a number who want something done and to ignore them is no more fair than to ignore the others. I think the question becomes, how do we find another mechanism to finance it?" Parker asked.

SELL IT

"We should sell it," Hartshorn said.

"I don't think the board can sell town property without input from the townspeople," Parker counted.

Town Administrator Valerie Capels explained that the cost of the project could be spread over several years, could be borrowed, could be phased, or could be paid for through a reserve fund.

The board will cost out options for various levels of fixing the pond and will then determine how to undertake the project. The board may review its options and costs and have the work done as a matter of maintenance of town property and assets, or it may bring the costs and options to voters at Town Meeting for discussion as an agenda article.

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