SHAFTSBURY -- Despite two failed bond votes, Shaftsbury voters still appear to support a new garage for their highway department.
Selectman Tim Scoggins, who was elected chairman of the select board at their meeting on Monday, wrote and distributed a survey at Shaftsbury's town floor meeting on March 3 to gauge citizens' opinions on how the garage project should move forward. While only 44 residents of about 200 who received the survey completed and returned it, there were several notable trends in the data.
"The survey supported what most of us think: The town believes we need to do something about our garage," said Scoggins. "Only two out of 44 disagreed. What remains unclear is how to move forward. We need to continue the conversation and the survey was part of that. I have no doubt we'll figure it out."
The survey was apparently not entirely representative of the town's voter base, as 30 of the 44 either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I supported the $1 million bond." That bond was defeated by voters 319-350.
The respondents were clear in that they preferred the proposed transfer station site over building a new garage with 20 disagreeing and 10 agreeing that the "Garage should stay at Cole Hall site," and 24 agreeing and 9 disagreeing that the town should "build new garage at transfer station site." Eleven were neutral on each question.
The survey also asked respondents their biggest objections to the garage. While not everyone answered, 12 said the garage was too big, 12 responded that it would raise taxes excessively, and 13 said it was too much debt to take.
The survey also asked residents for comments. "We can't afford to be short-sighted," said one, "It will cost more if we keep postponing a decision on this."
"Hope you get this done," said another, "The present site should become a park with grass and gardens, and/or addition and more office space for town workers with full partitions for privacy."
Some of the comments addressed the location of the garage. "The [garage] should be built in an area that is logical for the needs of the work crew -- whether it stays near Cole Hall or moves near the transfer station," said one. "Cole Hall site only if Peter Cross property [adjacent to current garage] can be purchased. Transfer station if only [site] available," said another. "That's a tough site up there on North Road," said a third, "It's not as big as one imagines."
One comment called for more information. "Inadequate justification made," it read, "A report by a PE outlining deficiencies in the existing garage is necessary at minimum."
After the vote, then-chairwoman Karen Mellinger had discussed with the board the option of having an engineer evaluate the building. That decision will now be made by the new board.
Scoggins expressed at the select board meeting that he hadn't gotten the information he'd hoped for when he'd designed the survey, as many of the answers appear contradictory (for example, only 10 people answered that they did not support the bond, but at least 12 said that they didn't support the bond for various reasons). The select board will discuss their goals for the board in the next year, many of which will likely focus on the garage, at next month's meeting.
"All in all, I don't think I wasted anybody's time but my own, so I count that as a success," said Scoggins.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB