by Doug McClure
WOLCOTT – At the April 21 Wolcott select board meeting the board had to choose which bid to accept before deciding whether it would pay the state to keep the town’s sand pile where it currently sits.
Bids for sand came in from Wolcott’s Gravel Construction, H.A. Manosh Corporation of Morrisville, and Salvas Paving of Stowe. The bids were based on different metrics, with Gravel and Salvas based on cubic yards, and Manosh’s based on tonnage.
Roads Forman Dillan Cafferky said the sand left in the pile amounted to roughly a thousand cubic yards. He estimated that the town might need another 5,000 cubic yards to cover the next winter. Gravel bid $6.75/cubic yard, Salvas $7.41/cubic yard, and Manosh/$7.55 per ton, but the sand would have to be trucked from Eden.
The board felt Gravel’s bid would be best regardless of how many cubic yards were ordered, and asked Cafferky to investigate if the bid could be interpreted as per-cubic-yard and not a lump sum until the fate of the sandpile was decided.
The problem with the town sandpile is that it currently sits in the right-of-way for the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT). In addition, a separate sand pile for public use, the diesel pump used by both the road crew and fire crew, and the area where employees from those two departments park are also in the right-of-way. To continue to use the site, the town would need to pay VTrans to lease 25 feet of the right-of-way at a cost of $250 per year. A $300 fee would be incurred for writing up the necessary documents.
The board accepted that moving any of the items would be complicated, and vice chair Kurt Klein said he thought the sand pile was in an “ideal location.” He said “with the ledge behind it… I’m assuming you can get [the pile] up so high because you go up on the ledge?” Cafferky confirmed that was the case.
The board decided that the only option was to lease the 25-foot right-of-way. Some board members expressed concern about motorized vehicles on the rail trail endangering pedestrians in the right-of-way, but vehicles are not allowed on the LVRT.
The board also looked to a new phase in the campaign against COVID-19 as increasing numbers of residents are vaccinated. Chair Linda Martin, Kurt Billings, and Richard Lee said they were looking forward to returning to in-person board meetings.
Town administrator Randall Szott said whether the state would allow in-person meetings depended on “what the board determines the word ‘necessary’ means.” State guidelines say that select boards should meet in person only when “necessary.” The board is looking to June 2 as “the most practical date” to attempt an in-person meeting. Martin clarified that restrictions about distancing, face coverings, “and other things” would in no way be relaxed.
The board heard that a grant for a planning design for the transfer station was not what it appeared to be. The confusion stemmed from an inadvertent reversal of the town’s match and the state’s contribution, with Wolcott paying $1,800 and the state $2,700, instead of the other way around. Szott said that even with that miscommunication, $1,800 from the state was still significant.
Another issue is that the state will only pay its share of the planning study if the project is built.
“We only get reimbursed for the study money after construction begins,” said Szott. “Since we were doing planning, there wasn’t necessarily construction happening.” If the study comes back with a cost estimate that exceeds what the select board is willing to fund, he said, the town would have to pay the entire cost of the design.
Klein said “I don’t like that. It seems like an opportunity to lose some money.”
Szott said the explanation given to him by Josh Kelly of the Department of Environmental Conservation was that in the 1990s the state funded “hundreds of thousands [of dollars]” of projects that did not result in actual construction.
Martin said the transfer station was already “running in the red” and “I don’t think we have the money to pay for the grant at this point.” She added, “we need someone with some experience to come in and help us figure out the format up there.”
Board member Richard Lee said, “It’s quite a gamble as far as I’m concerned.” The board decided to reject the grant opportunity.