SHAFTSBURY — The Shaftsbury Selectboard on Monday approved the ballot language for Town Meeting Day, which includes an article asking voters about the location for a potential new town garage.
The funding for the garage itself has not yet been approved by voters, and will have to be on a future ballot, but the March 1 vote should help to clarify a question that has plagued the board's attempts to build a garage: Were previous proposals voted down because of the price, or because of the location? The non-binding article is specifically worded, "Shall the Town locate the new Highway Department garage on Town owned property adjacent to the closed landfill on North Road?"
After the last vote on whether the town should build a new garage failed 319-350 in December 2013, disagreements arose as to why the townspeople had voted down the article. Board Chairman Tim Scoggins has said that he feels it was the cost of the project, just under $1 million, which would have been funded through a bond that would have been paid back over 20 years, while others have said it was the location, which, as the article notes, is adjacent to the North Road landfill. Some have said that the water at the site is contaminated, but Scoggins argued against that idea at a meeting last year, citing a 2010 report that said the water at the site exceeds state and federal drinking water standards, and that the engineer verified that, "if the water stopped being good, it would still be good enough for the industrial process that we want to do there, which largely requires washing trucks and flushing toilets.
Board members discussed at that same meeting their preference to wait until the November presidential election to pose the question of funding the garage to voters. Because of a garage reserve fund for which voters approved the creation of last year, and the lower projected cost of a new garage the board is looking at, the cost is expected to be around $500,000, or roughly a third of the initial amount that voters were asked to supply in March 2013.
The town's budget, which is approved on the floor of Town Meeting, this year is $1,809,657, which Scoggins said will allow tax rates to remain flat from last year, before taking the schools into account.
Also appearing on the ballot is the question, "Shall the Voters authorize the Town to borrow up to $30,000.00 over a period of 5 years or less to purchase the 0.23 acre real property at 510 North Road near the landfill?"
"There are two properties right off of North Road, adjacent to our landfill," explained Selectman Art Whitman, "We purchased one of them last year. The second one, which is just north of the entrance to the dump, is owned by Peter Sausville, and he has agreed to sell it to the town."
Town Meeting is on Feb. 29 this year, and begins at 7:30 p.m. at Shaftsbury Elementary School. The balloting will take place the next day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Fire House on Buck Hill Road.