SHAFTSBURY -- The Shaftsbury select board met Monday night to discuss the discontinuance of a public road and their goals for the coming year.
Chairman Tim Scoggins collected a list of goals from the rest of the board, and presented every goal that at least two board members had brought up -- building a new town garage, resolving the District One issue, improvements to Cole Hall, and improving design and upkeep on the town website.
For the discussion on the garage, Scoggins requested that board member Ken Harrington, who owns property adjacent to the proposed site, recuse himself from the board for the duration of the discussion. Scoggins noted that late last year citizens had raised concerns about Harrington's possible conflict of interest. Harrington had publicly stated the he was against the garage that was on the ballot in November, but has said that he has no problems with the proposed site. "I sat with you on all the garage committee meetings, and you never indicated that you wanted the garage anywhere else," said Scoggins, "But I believe that, in the eye of the public, that there might be a perception there might be a conflict of interest."
"Well, I'm going to have to disagree with you there," said Harrington, who said that he has spoken with a real estate agent who informed him that his property value would not be affected by the construction of a garage. Harrington continued to maintain that there was no conflict of interest and that he should be allowed to participate in the discussion. However, when the discussion began, and Scoggins asked him again to recuse himself, Harrington left his spot on the table and took a seat in the audience. Before leaving the table, however, Harrington expressed that he did believe the garage issue should be looked at again.
"The site was a little problematic because people didn't understand that the water had been approved," said new board member Art Whitman, referring to claims that the groundwater at the proposed site had been contaminated, "However, I think the biggest issue was the overall expense."
Scoggins, who had been on the garage committee, said that in the original garage proposal, which was defeated last March, "The idea was to have a garage we could use for 75 years, something we could grow into." However, after voters deemed the cost for that project was to high, it was scaled back, to just under $1 million from an initial price of $1.55 million. The modified proposal was voted down in November 319-350.
"I think it would be worth it to get the committee back together and brainstorm," said new board member Tony Krulikowski. "I don't think it's a matter of yes or no, it's a matter of when. People agree that we need [a new garage] eventually, and it isn't getting any cheaper." The board agreed that the garage committee should be re-formed.
The debate over the discontinuance of Don Greene Road, which is just off of Airport Road, stemmed from complaints from the road crew that the road was effectively a private driveway, and was very difficult to plow. The road indeed only provides access to one residence, although two other properties abut the road. To open the discussion, town administrator Margy Becker read from statute that, "Whether or not a town should continue to own or maintain a road can be considered at any time."
One of the abutting residents, Elizabeth Elwell, spoke before the board, asking, "If this road is no longer maintained by the Town of Shaftsbury, does this mean the culverts will no longer be maintained?" Elwell was concerned with a culvert underneath the road that beavers have dammed in the past, which she said can affect her water supply. Becker said that if the road was discontinued by the town, the culvert would no longer be maintained, and it would be up to the property owner to clear out the beavers.
Becker said that typically when roads like this are discontinued, abutting property owners split ownership down the middle. However, she said, that is out of the hands of the select board. After lengthy discussion, the board agreed to continue the hearing at the next meeting, after they could speak with a lawyer and get better answers for concerned landowners about the specific effects of discontinuence. Becker also brought up the possibility of reclassifying the road so that the town was no longer responsible for plowing, but would continue to maintain the culvert.
The board's next meeting will be on May 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Cole Hall.