SHAFTSBURY - The residents of Shaftsbury have voted down a proposal that would have allowed the town to take out a $995,000 bond to fund the construction of a new town garage facility.
The vote, which was announced Tuesday night by Town Clerk Judith Stratton, was 319 in favor to 350 opposed. Earlier in the day, Stratton had described the turnout as being good for a special election, describing it as steady throughout the day.
Mitch Race and Tim Scoggins, both of whom were running unopposed for select board seats they were appointed to earlier in the year, were reelected. Race was appointed to his seat when Billy Obenauer resigned from the board in April, and Scoggins was appointed when Craig Bruder resigned at the end of September.
Much closer than first vote
The vote was much closer than the original $1.55 million bond proposal that was put before the town in March, a measure that failed by a margin of almost 2-1. In the aftermath of that vote, the town created a Garage Committee, which was made up of members of the Facilities Committee that proposed the $1.55 million garage and citizens who opposed it. The committee met twice a month from April until November, attempting to drive the cost of the project down.
Over the course of the year, committee members toured various garages in both Vermont and New York, to determine designs that had worked for other towns. The committee eventually decided to base their plans off of a design by Peter H. Cross of Cross Consulting Engineers of St. Albans, which was used in for new garage in Swanton.
The impact on the average taxpayer (defined as a resident with a home value of $200,000), according to information released by the garage committee, would have been about 70 cents per week. The town would have been responsible for an average of $72,000 over the next 20 years.
Terry Stacey, the town's road crew foreman, described some of the issues with the current 45-year-old garage, which was only designed to last for 20 years, during a public hearing on Monday. In addition to several leaks in the roof, Stacey said, "The roof is thin. There's no heat that stays in the building. We eat where we work, with all the fumes and everything." He also claimed the current garage is not sufficient to meet the space needs of the road crew, saying, "We're just out of space here."
It is unclear where the town will go from here, as Select Board Chairwoman Karen Mellinger said during a public hearing on the garage bond on Monday that the town didn't really have a backup plan should the bond proposal be voted down. Selectman Ken Harrington has suggested starting a fund to pay for a new garage in the future.
Mellinger could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night. Many of those who had expressed a lack of support for the project acknowledged that the town needs a new garage, but the price and location were matters of strong contention.
According to Mike Gardner, a financial advisor and member of the garage committee, interest rates are projected to rise considerably going forward, meaning that any future bonds will come with considerably higher price tags. Since the first vote in March, interest rates rose over 1 percent.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB