Pound foolish

  • Published in Editorials

As the Waitsfield Select Board continues its consideration of whether or not to reclassify Dana Hill Road from a Class 4 road to a legal trail, it becomes increasingly obvious that such a plan is a bad idea.

The town initially expressed concern that bringing that road into compliance with new state standards that are part of Vermont’s Clean Water regulations, would be extremely expensive. It turns out that the board was wrong about that. It will not be extremely expensive. It will be less than $20,000 and the town is likely to qualify for grant funding of up to 80 percent of the cost.

But the real issue here – beyond whether residents who bought property on a town road have a right to expect it to remain a town road – is the question of what is sustainable and economical over the long run. The town will always be responsible for maintaining the short Class 3 section of Dana Hill Road to state standards. And those standards are more stringent than Class 4 road standards.

If the town downgrades the Class 4 section of the road to a legal trail there will be nothing to stop that road from continuing to erode and run down the hill onto the Class 3 section, eroding that section and running into the Mill Brook. The town will have no ability to protect its investment in the Class 3 section of the road and no ability to protect the Mill Brook.

And, by the way, road residents who bought property on the road do have a right to expect it to remain a town road. They do have a right to have propane delivered and have their septic tanks pumped. The waters of the town and state will not be well served by a bunch of high-elevation septic system failures.

It is reasonable for road residents to ask the town to use some of the tax dollars they pay to maintain their road. It’s as reasonable for all taxpayers to pay for that road as it is Waitsfield Common Road. These are shared responsibilities.

The select board’s initial concern was that it would be extremely expensive to maintain the road as a Class 4 road and now board members know that it is not. Hence they should abandon the pennywise pound-foolish plan to downgrade Dana Hill Road.