A last-minute push to get people to pay for the engraved bricks they had pledged to buy, plus a boost by Fayston's own rock star Grace Potter on social media, led to 800 engraved bricks being sold.
Volunteers AnneMarie DeFreest and Barbra Gulisano, with help from Marta Marble and Jennifer Faillace, pitched the Bridge Street beautification project to the town, organized and together raised $64,000 in a little over a month.
The timing of their efforts was critical because the Bridge Street reconstruction project and the closure and repair of the covered bridge are on a very tight timetable. The bridge is expected to reopen in mid-September.
The grassroots beautification effort came out when DeFreest and Gulisano learned that the town would not be laying conduit for the streetlamps as part of this summer's massive covered bridge and Bridge Street reconstruction project. To lay conduit for streetlamps in the future would require tearing up the sidewalk.
Last week, on July 22, the volunteers had pledges for over 500 bricks but had received payment for 371. They left the website up for a few days after the deadline and orders continued to pour in, DeFreest told the select board at the board meeting on July 27. Waitsfield had agreed to be the purchaser of the bricks so that sales tax would be waived and people who purchase bricks and donate to the cause were making a tax-deductible contribution.
BENCHES FROM BRIDGE DECKING
Additionally, volunteer coordinators sold eight benches made from the decking of the covered bridge plus eight streetlights for Bridge Street. The engraved bricks will be used with plain bricks to accent the sidewalk on both sides of Bridge Street where currently a huge construction process is under way. The benches, which will be on Bridge Street and along the Mad River, were built with bridge decking donated by Kingsbury Construction, one of the project subcontractors, and volunteers Jack Simko, Jay Seekins and Sam Gulisano. Brackets for the benches were made by Fred Spencer.
DeFreest had specific questions for the board this week about what her group's share of some of the beautification work would total. She said she wanted to make sure she was able to provide complete transparency about the money that was raised in terms of how it is spent and what the volunteers' responsibility is. Town administrator Valerie Capels asked DeFreest for a list of questions about costs to clarify costs and expenses.
Select board member Scott Kingsbury asked DeFreest if it might be possible to have two more benches made so that benches with covered bridge decking could be at Waitsfield's new town office (currently under construction).
"It'd be very special to have a couple of those benches at our new town office. I'd like the town to buy them," Kingsbury said.
"I can't answer that question right now without further conversation with the bench builders and a better understanding of our resources," DeFreest said.
She asked the board further questions about how much work the volunteers could do in terms of landscaping and who to contact about root-bound trees at the library and about the process of selecting street trees for Bridge Street.
RESTORING LIGHTING IN BRIDGE
She talked to the board about the possibility of restoring the lighting that is in the covered bridge which features "beautiful fixtures that are wired with knob and tube." That would be dependent on whether the volunteers can afford to do that work, which is one reason DeFreest needed to know her final costs from the select board.
The board was OK with bridge relighting if it could be done to current code.
"We also want to powerwash the inside of the bridge. It's filthy in there," DeFreest told the board.
That idea may not be possible because it is illegal to discharge the water into the river.
"OK, we'll shop-vac the bridge," Gulisano said.
"Do you have any other questions for us?" DeFreest asked the board.
"Frankly, I think you're doing a fantastic job," board chair Paul Hartshorn said.
LIGHT OF OUR LIVES
Gulisano told the board that she had two women cyclists come into The Sweet Spot last week where they picked up a pledge form and wanted to know more about the beautification project.
"AnneMarie and I were working outside and they came to us and said, 'You know, our dad loved this town and loved to come here to go skiing. We'd like to buy a light because he lit up our lives.' And the plaque on their light will say 'To the light of our lives,'" Gulisano said.
"Orders came in from all over the place and I only had to veto one proposed brick engraving because it wasn't in keeping with the spirit of this project," DeFreest said.