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By Lisa Loomis
A recount of the ballots for and against Waitsfield's municipal water project yielded two more yes votes and two fewer no votes.
Town resident Jerry Miller asked for a recount on November 5, the day after the project passed on Election Day. The Election Day vote total was 593 yes votes, 560 no votes, and 27 blank votes.
Miller's request for a recount was received on November 5 and the votes were recounted by the town's Board of Civil Authority. The recount results showed 595 yes votes, 558 no votes, 24 blank votes and three spoiled ballots.
BCA members include Andreas Lehner, Charlie Goodman, Jim Leyton, Tom Mehuron, Bill Parker, Paul Hartshorn, Roy Hadden and Jon Jamieson.
Under Vermont law when the margin of a bond or candidate's passage is five percent or less, citizens or candidates can request a recount.
With the votes recounted and no possibility of more calls for revoting or reconsideration of this project, the town can move forward with construction plans for the water project. It will serve homes and businesses in Irasville and Waitsfield Village as well as provide fire protection for the entire service area.
Statutorily, there are no further impediments to the project, although the town is involved in litigation over easements near the water source. That litigation will not delay the project as it involves the amount of compensation paid for the easements.
RIGHT OF WAY
The water source for the project is a well drilled in the town's right of way off the Reed Road. To create a wellhead isolation zone for the well, the town took, by eminent domain, easements on two 0.4-acre parcels of land adjoining the well from Virginia Houston and Roland Richards. Both were paid $7,500 for the easement, approximately twice the appraised value of those easements. That sum is being challenged by Houston.
Last week's successful vote on the water project was the third vote. The project was originally brought before voters at Town Meeting (along with a bond vote for a municipal sewage project -- which failed), where it was voted down by 44 votes, 442 to 398.
The town modified the project to extend the service area, allocate more grant funding towards it and provide fire hydrants along the service route, then brought it back for a revote on June 13. Initial reports showed that vote passing by 20 votes, until town officials realized that not all votes cast were accounted for. A town-initiated recount revealed that the project failed by 13 votes, 219 to 206.
Citizens petitioned the select board for a vote to reconsider the project and that was the vote held in November.
The $7.5 million project will now undergo final engineering. The town has $3.6 million in grants towards the project and the bond and user costs will be paid for by users of the system.