By Kara Herlihy
Candidates for two open positions on the Waitsfield Select Board shared their positions on wastewater, sidewalks and commercial growth at a candidate's forum held at the Big Picture Theater, Monday, February 18.
Bill Parker, Rich Rivers, Sal Spinosa and Kate Williams all weighed in on issues and critical challenges facing Waitsfield now and in the near future; all agreed that the wastewater/sewage project will be the most pressing in the coming years.
Select board candidate Rich Rivers noted the high cost of the project in terms of the local taxpayer's ability to afford it. Current select board member Sal Spinosa said that the systems in question for Irasville and Waitsfield "were enormously expensive."
The wastewater/sewage system would be paid for in three phases, according to Spinosa, and "would give taxpayers a choice," he said. Parker said that the "cost is extremely high" but also an investment. "If the town is going to grow, a wastewater system is necessary," he said.
Williams agreed that the project was an investment for the town and reiterated the importance of "an incremental approach. We need to balance the characteristics of The Valley," she said.
Candidates fielded questions from forum moderator Lisa Loomis of <MI>The Valley Reporter<D> and then took questions from the audience. The forum was filmed by MRVTV and will be broadcast on the local public access channel later this week.
Each candidate was asked to recite, according to their personal vision, the goals of The Valley community. Williams emphasized the importance of creating a self-sustaining community, supporting the localvore movement, and energy consciousness among others. Spinosa said keeping The Valley as "a place we feel comfortable living" and maintaining the attachment to its agricultural heritage.
The three candidates also discussed their position on the long drawn-out sidewalk initiative. Parker and Williams offered their total "commitment to pedestrian infrastructure" to make Irasville more "pedestrian friendly." Spinosa said that the select board had made progress in that last year and has the final design. Spinosa said he "supports sidewalks" and that they "plan to move forward regardless of the wastewater."
The proposed sidewalk project would create sidewalks from the Waitsfield Elementary School to the bottom of Bragg Hill. Rivers also supported the sidewalk initiative citing commercial growth and a commitment to Irasville pedestrian infrastructure.
When asked why they chose to run for select board, each candidate referenced their own unique perspective. Rivers and Williams are running for two-year positions, while Spinosa and Parker are running for three-year terms. Spinosa said that he is "amazed at how hard it is to do a good job." Rivers and Parker both cited their business experience as an asset, while Williams offered her "deep connection" to The Valley and willingness to listen to her neighbors and bring her passion and vision to the select board.
When discussing the zoning bylaws, subdivision regulations and the Town Plan, Williams said, "There is value in regulations, and they should always be debated." She spoke of the importance of balancing private rights with collective rights and noted that the first two paragraphs of the Vermont Constitution speak to private rights and public rights. Spinosa said that the "subdivision regulations mirror the Town Plan" and the "answer is in the subdivision process."
When asked about bike paths through several Valley towns, each candidate offered their support of a more "pedestrian friendly Valley." Rivers said he supported it because "it's good for people to get out and about" and it will be important for landowners to work with the town.
Spinosa said, as a member of the Mad River Valley Planning District and Steering Committee, he was in support of the bike lanes. Williams said that it was important to "keep the vision of The Valley a part of the dialogue" and that a "commitment to pedestrian travel is her top priority."
The two open positions on the Waitsfield Select Board will be voted on at Town Meeting, March 4. The four candidates are running for two seats on the board. Parker and Spinosa are running for a three-year seat. Spinosa currently serves on the board. Rivers and Williams are running for a two-year seat on the board.