Wolcott Fiber Optic Spur from Craftsbury Gets Green Light

by Gazette Staff

WOLCOTT – The select board’s October 5 agenda covered topics ranging from road crew equipment purchases to funding law enforcement services and the fiber optic network extension from Craftsbury.

The project manager report provided several updates on the town’s road maintenance fleet. The contract for the purchase of the new plow truck has been signed. Delivery is expected by October 20. The old truck that was used for trade-in will be towed away and a 10-ton trailer has been ordered. The estimated delivery time is 26 weeks, so it should be here by spring. No deposit was required. The 1-ton truck sander has been ordered. The anticipated delivery date is in two weeks. The sander will then be installed on the truck. Winter salt is available from Cargill, although the price is currently unknown.
The town was allocated grant-in-aid funds to purchase a stone screener. The total award is $5,900. There is a minimum town match of $1,180. The stone screener can be used to ditch roads and will save on gravel costs. This is equipment that cannot be rented. It is anticipated that it will pay for itself. The grant requires the equipment be delivered to the town before June 30, 2023.
Craftsbury has confirmed that it will be using ARPA funds when building out its fiber optic internet network. That will allow the Wolcott spur to go forward.
The litter committee is moving forward on getting textile collection bins delivered to the transfer station. The transfer station permit need not be modified for the bins.
A schedule has been developed for budget presentations to the select board. Town departments and committees have been notified of the date they are scheduled to present to the board.
A part-time handyman has been hired. A task list is posted in the town administrator office.

The board has been in discussions with Johnson and Hyde Park board members regarding hiring a shared assessor. The Johnson and Hyde Park select boards have each approved eight hours per week. Neither town currently has a lister. Other towns might join in, as well. The board discussed having the assessor work four hours per week for Wolcott. The cost would be approximately $200 to $240 per week, plus mileage. Board members are to review the matter prior to a vote at the October 19 meeting.
Next on the agenda was the sheriff’s budget. Select board chair Linda Martin and vice chair Kurt Klein represented Wolcott in a meeting with the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department, discussing the future cost for law enforcement services for Wolcott, Johnson, and Hyde Park. Board members reviewed a draft proposal. The proposal from the sheriff suggests that limiting town budgets to a 3% increase each year would cause a shortfall in the sheriff department’s budget of about $60,000. The sheriff would like the towns to make up the shortfall by using ARPA funds. The board had several questions regarding the proposal and would like to see some detailed budget numbers. Concern was expressed that use of ARPA funds to pay for the increase in the budget would create a balloon situation at the end of the three-year contract period, when ARPA funds are no longer available. Following discussion, the board agreed to let the sheriff know that Wolcott is not interested in using ARPA funds to offset the sheriff’s department’s budget, as that would create too much volatility for taxpayers. The next meeting with the sheriff will be during the last week of October.

Public comments at the meeting noted that small towns do not get the same Vermont State Police coverage as other areas, which is very inequitable. It was suggested Wolcott collaborate with other similarly situated towns for a louder voice. Board Chair Martin may write a letter following the November election to let legislators know how the board feels regarding equity in law enforcement services throughout the state.
Next, board members reviewed copies of the conceptual plans created for the School Street bridge. Board members are to review the plans and be prepared to discuss at the October 19 meeting. The town needs to comment on the plans by October 28. The board also discussed the need to start upgrading Flat Iron Road, since that will be used as a detour during the time the new bridge is being installed.
The box culvert on Brook Road has been completed, and the road is now open to traffic. Two issues remain: a newly discovered underground culvert runs into the new culvert and the underground culvert should be redirected. The second issue arises from the Jersey barriers that were placed along a section of the road. For pedestrian safety, a railing should also be installed. The cost to redirect the culvert would be approximately $8,000. The cost to add railing would be approximately $5,000. These costs will not be covered by FEMA and would be incurred by the town.
The board then discussed the need for a long-term spending plan for ARPA funds. A list of how other Vermont towns are spending ARPA funds is available from Vermont League of Cities & Towns. The select board has approved several projects for which the use of ARPA funds was discussed, but ARPA was not specifically included in the motion as the source of funding. The board approved a motion by Martin to clarify previous motions for the use of ARPA funds that the board approved, including prepping and painting the town hall and the town garage; the contract with CAI for $13,475.50; the zoning/scanning project; both phases of website maintenance; and purchase of the town forest for $25,000.