2013 Year in Review
After perhaps more letters to the editor and opinion pieces ever seen in The Valley Reporter in this decade, Waitsfield voters approved a bond vote to build new town offices at the Farm Stand site by a vote of 342-142 (71 percent to 29 percent) in an October 22 election.
This was the second time voters cast ballots on the exact same item, which called for borrowing up to $650,000 to build new town offices. The town's voters approved the same article on July 30 by a vote of 309 yes and 209 no.
Residents petitioned for a reconsideration of the July 30 vote, which was held in October. By law, a reconsideration petition means that voters must be asked to reconsider the exact same article.
The total projected cost of building the new town offices including purchasing the land is estimated at $1,203,787. With the $750,000 Community Development Block Grant and a recent gift of $100,000 earmarked for the purchase of the Farm Stand, the taxpayer cost of building new town offices could be as low as $353,787.
In September, Waitsfield was offered and accepted a gift of $100,000 to purchase the land for the town offices. The terms of the anonymous gift require that the money be used to buy the Farm Stand parcel and that the town must retain ownership of the parcel for at least 10 years.
With the bond vote reaffirmed the town continued its work to meet the terms of the Community Development Block Grant, including environmental studies. Because of the petition for reconsideration the town already had to request an extension on completing that work. The town had until October 15 to meet the terms of the agreement, but the bond vote reconsideration could not be scheduled until October 22. The extension was granted.
At Town Meeting 2013, voters rejected a more expensive version of the proposed town office bond. That article asked for $1.6 million to build town offices at the Farm Stand. That article was rejected 351 no to 229 yes. Waitsfield has 1,448 registered voters; 588 voted at Town Meeting, 518 voted on July 30 and 484 voted on October 22.
At Town Meeting, the town had not yet applied for or received the grant. After that no vote, the Town Office Task Force and select board pared down the project. The town applied for the grant for both the Farmstand site and also to rehabilitate the former Methodist Church in Waitsfield Village. The grant application was due in April and in May the town received word that the grant would be awarded.
Between Town Meeting and the awarding of the grant, the town also received a petition asking for a two-part vote on the town office question, which would ask voters to vote yes or no on building new town offices in Waitsfield Village and then, if they choose yes, cast a ballot for either the Farm Stand or the Methodist Church. Ultimately, at the advice of counsel, the town did not bring that vote forward because of the legal, logistical and statistical issues of asking for a yes or no vote, followed by "if yes, then A or B" vote.