SHAFTSBURY -- Moving ever closer to the vote that will determine whether all their efforts have been for naught, the Shaftsbury Town Garage Committee will now focus on their final goal: community education.
Part of that campaign will involve a question and answer piece in the Banner. If you have a question or concern and would like the committee to hear it, please e-mail it to me, Derek Carson. My e-mail address can be found at the bottom of the article.
The Garage Committee was formed after the last town garage proposal, based on a design by engineer James R. Secor of MSK Engineering of Shaftsbury, was voted down in March by an almost 2-1 margin. The town had asked for a $1.55 million bond to pay for the project. When the select board asked concerned citizens why they had voted down the bond, the overwhelming answer was that it was just too expensive. So, the Town Garage Committee was formed. Made up of town officials and concerned citizens, the committee's one goal was to lower the price of the project.
In that they have succeeded. The current bond vote, which is scheduled for Dec. 3, will ask voters for the right to borrow $995,000, a 36-percent decrease in cost from the original project. Instead of having an engineer draw up new plans, the committee looked at a number of new garages in New York and Vermont that matched the size needs of Shaftsbury very closely. They settled on basing their new proposed garage off of a design by Peter H. Cross of Cross Consulting Engineers of St. Albans, which is currently being used in Swanton.
"This committee has worked really hard for months to get to [the ballot]," said Select Board Chairwoman Karen Mellinger, at the committee's bi-monthly meeting on Wednesday. With the select board scheduled to vote on the ballot wording in a special meeting on Monday Oct. 28, the focus of the Garage Committee has now shifted from coming up with a design to educating the public on their decision making process.
Members of the committee, including Mellinger, will be at the Shaftsbury transfer station for Hazardous Waste Disposal Day on Saturday from 9 a. m. to noon, handing out informational sheets about the proposed garage, which, if approved, will be located right next to the transfer station. Once the ballot is approved by the select board, the committee will also set up a community forum to address questions from concerned residents.
One such resident sent a letter to Mellinger, which she read aloud to the committee during the meeting. The resident asserted that the committee was "trying to pull the wool over the town's eyes" regarding the location of the garage. That citizen has long been a proponent of the town purchasing a piece of property next to the garage, owned by a Peter Cross (a different person than the engineer), and building the garage there, according to the committee.
Mellinger pointed out that the town had tried to purchase that property for around $150,000 several years ago, only to be told that it wasn't for sale. More recently the town began negotiating with Cross again, only to have him not respond to their offer or return their calls. Furthermore, it was going to cost the town $99,000 to do site work on that land just to get it to the point where the site on North Road is today, said Mellinger.
"I still don't believe this is the best place for the garage, in the center of town, surrounded by residential property," said Mellinger. Tim Scoggins agreed. "If you look at it, I think [North Road] is a better location than right here."
Mellinger put the goal of the committee in simple terms towards the end of the meeting, saying, "Our job is to say, these are the facts, we've done a lot of hard work, here's what we have." The committee can only hope that will be enough.
Derek Carson can be reached for comments and with questions for the Garage Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB