Select Board Voted to use ARPA Funds to Accelerate Broadband Deployment

by Gazette Staff

WOLCOTT – At its recent regular meeting, the Wolcott Select Board covered topics ranging from discussion of the speed limit on Gulf Road to investing ARPA funds to accelerate the deployment of broadband in several parts of town.

The first agenda item was a discussion of a broadband investment opportunity involving Wolcott and Craftsbury. Christa Shute, the executive director of NEK Broadband, addressed board members’ questions regarding the broadband opportunity that was initially discussed at the August 17 meeting. Wolcott has an opportunity to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, and receive two matches, to have fiber installed in certain areas of town.

Fiber that will be installed in Craftsbury can be extended in Wolcott to 1.3 miles of upper Town Hill Road with 26 premises; 1.3 miles of upper East Hill Road with 12 premises; and 0.65 mile of Manley Road with seven premises. Of the 45 premises covered, the State of Vermont has identified 14 as being high priority based on criteria including students, those working from home, and those needing medical care.

Extending the Craftsbury network in this fashion would greatly expedite service to these areas. The deadline to take advantage of the opportunity is September 15, 2022. Shute reviewed several maps to explain the NEK broadband structure, and to respond to board questions.
Eight towns have voted in favor of using ARPA funds to supplement the NEK broadband backbone to extend the network’s reach. There are four or five more towns that have yet to vote, including Craftsbury.

The board voted to use $52,917 in Wolcott ARPA and receive matching funds for fiber to be extended to portions of Town Hill Road, East Hill Road, and Manley Road, contingent upon
Craftsbury extending a spur to Wolcott. 

In the project manager report, it was noted that Champlain Oil has offered to sell to the town a 0.63-acre parcel of land that abuts town land along Vt. Rte. 15. A gas station had been there some years ago. Although the underground tanks were removed,
the soil was supposed to be tested each year. A brownfield test will be ordered through Lamoille County Planning Commission (LCPC) at no cost to the town. If purchased, the land could possibly be used as a parking area or to house electric charging stations.
Separately, there is an electrical line around the town office that extends to the well head that needs to be buried underground. The company that started the project does not currently have a trencher. 

Other items of note included that the town is seeking the services of a handyman. An ad will be placed for plowing and shoveling at the town office and town hall. Also, research is being conducted on purchasing a sander that would be used with the town’s
one-ton truck.
The litter committee is working with Helpsy to have two bins installed at the transfer station for the collection of textiles. Accepted items will include clothing, linens, footwear, and more. There would be no charge to those making donations. Board member Richard Lee noted that customers are not permitted to enter the metals bin at the transfer station.
It was noted that the cost to the town to run ads in the News & Citizen has increased considerably. The increased cost may require the fee for certain permits to be raised.
Next, the select board voted to appoint Roger LaChance to the Town Forest Stewardship Committee and to appoint Andrew Ross as Wolcott’s representative on the Lamoille FiberNet Communications Union District (CUD).

The discussion then turned to Gulf Road. A Gulf Road resident questioned the 35 mph speed limit on a portion of Gulf Road,
suggesting it is too high. Through the curves by the transfer station, the speed limit is posted at 25 mph. Board chair Linda Martin shared with the board that a speed study would cost between $1,500 and $2,000 and that, according to Vermont Local Roads, a speed study could, in fact, result in a higher speed limit. The board declined to pursue a speed study based on several factors: low number of complaints, the expense to taxpayers for
a speed study; geography and layout of the road; accident history being very, very low; and, from observation, most drivers go the speed they feel is comfortable.
It was announced that the town office will be closed on Friday,
September 23 to allow for cleaning and organizing.