By Lisa Loomis
The Waitsfield Select Board deadlocked over whether or not the town needs to do more to fix the parking lot at Bridge Street Marketplace.
The select board, at its October 27 meeting, met with the town's road foreman Rodney Jones as well as Jim Despres, a spokesperson for Kingsbury Construction, the company that twice worked for the town after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
At issue is whether or not the town fulfilled its obligation to the property owners in the marketplace, which some of the property owners, including select board member Chris Pierson, feel did not happen.
After Tropical Storm Irene, Kingsbury Construction removed gravel from the river along Bridge Street Marketplace. In 2013, hired Kingsbury Construction riprapped the banks of the Mad River along the marketplace.
In October 2011, the select board said that the parking lot would be returned to its original condition or made better when the town's work in the river was done.
This summer property owners in the marketplace raised the issue again and the select board voted to have gravel dumped and spread. That work was not to the satisfaction of property owners and the issue came back before the select board at its October 13 meeting. A vote to do more work on the parking lot failed when it received two yes votes to one no vote. Pierson abstained and the chair Paul Hartshorn was not present.
At this week's meeting, Despres recapped the work that Kingsbury Construction was hired to do, noting that "we were not hired to do a parking lot."
"We were hired to do the gravel extraction in 2011 and last year, the riverbank armoring. Subsequently, we repaired the parking lot," Despres said.
"We regraded the parking lot so that it was suitable for use. We were there to do a riverbank restoration. The parking lot was a cleanup like we'd clean up any job. I don't have info on whether we installed gravel. Perhaps the town sent some gravel down there and we installed it. The equipment we had down there at the time would have been suitable for installing gravel," Despres said.
"In 2011 we did provide gravel. We put crushed gravel between the blue building and the alley and put gravel in the parking lot in question. We brought some material into that parking lot and put staymat in the alleyway," said Jones.
"I believe we met the specs of the town and that I had your satisfaction as well Chris," Despres said.
"You absolutely did, but that's not was we're debating here. We're debating what was supposed to happen after Irene," Pierson said.
"Jim put 80 yards in it and the town put 85 yards into it recently and prior to that we might have put in another two tandem loads at 14 yards apiece into it. Were they expecting it to be the equivalent of asphalt? Was it supposed to be better than before Irene?" Jones asked.
Pierson presented a slide show of the parking lot the morning after Irene as well as in subsequent days when he had the lot cleaned. He had pictures of the gravel extraction and also played video clips from Mad River Valley Television of 2011 select board meetings where the board discussed returning the parking lot to its previous or improved condition.
"The parking lot is in no better condition than it ever was and it has only continued to degrade. The parking lot is not draining. The last work that was done installed a ditch that tries to funnel the water to the back of the property. Parking lots are not supposed to have ditches," Pierson said.
'You want the parking lot rebuilt. You want the town to dig it down and rebuild it. Kingsbury brought in 80 yards and we brought in over 80 yards. How much more do you want," Jones asked.
"You never graded it," Pierson said.
Hartshorn ended the discussion by stating, "It looks to me like we have done our obligations to that parking lot. The flood did a lot of damage that we're not responsible for."
Prior to any motions being made, Spinosa asked Pierson if he was abstaining from any votes and Pierson said he only had to abstain if he stood to benefit financially.
"I'm saying you can't vote, Chris," Hartshorn said.
"I'm saying I can, it does not affect my property," Pierson said.
"I'm saying you don't vote. It's a joint parking lot," Hartshorn said.
Spinosa pointed out that Pierson had abstained from voting on these parking lot issues several times in the past and said that Pierson has a direct financial interest.
Select board member Cooke offered the motion he made two weeks ago to have three loads of town gravel dumped and for the town to hire a contractor to spread it. Hartshorn and Spinosa reiterated their position that the town had fulfilled its obligation.
"I've listened carefully tonight and looked at the pictures. Obviously that grading work we just did has not improved things, it had made it worse. I think we made a mess of it and we have to make it better. I second Logan's motion," board member Scott Kingsbury said.
Spinosa and Hartshorn voted against the motion and Cooke and Kingsbury voted for it, but it failed because it did not receive a majority of the votes from the entire board.
After the vote, Cooke said he was disappointed and now this issue would not go away. Adjoining property owner Gulisano said that it was disheartening.
"We as a community depend on you guys to make the right moves. It feels like you're stuck and you can't make the right moves. There are other issues in this room," Gulisano said.
"We had a lot of people who had a lot of Irene damage and we didn't help them in anyway at all," Hartshorn said.
Nicholas Harmon told the board that he was appalled by the board's last meeting and he called for Pierson to resign. Pierson told him that after the last meeting people thanked him for looking out for them.
The meeting devolved into a shouting match requiring Hartshorn to repeatedly bang his gavel and ultimately shout at those arguing to "take it outside."