Select Board Reviews Town’s ARPA Spending
by Gazette Staff
WOLCOTT – At its February 1 regular meeting, the Wolcott Select Board addressed agenda items including the transfer station, the opening of the Rail Trail, and the current state of spending the town’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
The first topic of the meeting was correspondence. Notice was received that the monthly cost for a porta-let has risen to $190 per month. Inquiries will be made to determine if there is a lower price available. A copy of the Lamoille County budget was received. The cost for Wolcott decreased because of a drop in population.
Also, Black Dirt Farms informed the town that one of the totes was contaminated, resulting in a $20 charge. Plastic bags are not to be thrown in with the compost. The project manager will check on the availability of one-gallon compost buckets for folks to purchase and use at home.
ComCast complied with the request to submit a permit for work done on Richard Woolcutt Road.
Finally, notice was received that Hardwick Electric has filed for a rate increase. The proposed start date is March 1, 2023.
Vice chair Kurt Klein then gave his project manager report. Klein reported that the road foreman approved the permit and map submitted by ComCast for work done on Richard Woolcutt Road and Walnut Lane. In the spring, the highway department will need to check the exact location of the trench work and record that in the highway book. ComCast has no other projects planned in town.
The Lamoille County Planning Commission (LCPC) is working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on conducting a brownfield study of the property along Vt. Rte 15. The parcel, owned by Champlain Oil, has been offered to the town for purchase.
Bids will go out for the mowing of town properties. The board discussed how best to maintain the ballfields in North Wolcott. The fields have not been used for a couple of years. Instead of regular mowing, the board agreed to clear the North Wolcott ball fields in the fall. If in the future there are plans to use the fields again, they can be mowed in the spring.
The Helpsy bins at the transfer station are emptied each week. The bins will be monitored to confirm that weekly pickup is an appropriate schedule. Regarding compost, only one compost tote is to be open at a time. When that is full, the second tote will be opened. Repair work was needed on the gate to the
Of the properties listed for tax sale, two owners have applied for tax assistance with the state. The town cannot move forward with the sale of those properties until the applications have been approved or denied by the state.
The town has requested assistance from their legislators to determine the process for reclassifying the North Wolcott Road so that maintenance costs do not fall to the town to the extent they do now. The initial response received from VTrans was unfavorable. The town will continue with plans for a road
study to be conducted in the spring. Board chair Linda Martin has been in communication with Craftsbury regarding plans for their section of the road. The board will consider next steps.
The Municipal Energy Resilience Program (MERP) helps towns become more energy resilient. Klein has been in contact with VLCT regarding a grant for interior lighting. The town needs to convert long-tube fluorescent lights to LED by 2024 to be in compliance with state law.
The board then discussed updates regarding the Rail Trail. The trail will be open through Wolcott for an upcoming dog sled race, but then close for additional bridge repair work. The official opening of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail has been postponed to March. The board discussed future parking issues and possible signage. A parking plan will be needed, particularly if a café opens in the old schoolhouse.
Next, Martin reviewed a document outlining what ARPA funds have been committed so far, and what funds have been spent. The town received $504,706.09 and has a current balance of $314,241.02. Projects committed to by the select board include 911 signs and posts ($30,000); schoolhouse engineering study ($6,500); NEK Broadband ($52,917); purchase land for Town Forest ($25,000); scanning of surveys ($4,000). Funds already spent include website/maintenance ($15,947.45); hybrid meeting technology/equipment ($13,795.34); and building improvements ($12,308.28). ARPA funds could be used to purchase the parcel of land offered for sale by Champlain Oil. The board took comments from the public. Although ARPA spending decisions are up to the select board, townspeople have been asked several times to weigh in on how the funds can best be spent. A form for comments will be available at town meeting next month. Funds must be obligated by December 2024.
The next agenda item was town meeting planning. Town meeting will be held Tuesday, March 7, at the Wolcott Elementary School gym, starting at 9 a.m. The town report is still being printed. Voting for town officers and the school budget will be by Australian ballot. Votes may be cast between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. or an absentee ballot can be requested. The meeting will be recorded and can be viewed live, but it will not be interactive, meaning there is no opportunity to be heard. It is anticipated that coffee, soda, and some food items will be available for purchase. Girl Scout cookies will be available for sale.
Martin reported that she has had a conversation with one of the property abutters about possibly purchasing the parcel on East Hill. She has also been in communication with the Fish & Wildlife Department to see if the state is interested in buying the land.
Regarding the shared assessor agreement, Martin reported that she has been meeting with LCPC and the towns of Johnson and Hyde Park regarding sharing an assessor. LCPC placed an ad for the position but received no response. One individual has expressed an interest, but has no experience. If hired, the salary would be less, but the individual would require training. Johnson and Hyde Park may wish to hire this individual because they do not have any listers or an assessor. Following discussion, the board determined that Wolcott is in a different position. The board does not see the shared assessor agreement working for Wolcott at this time, with this applicant. The board would like to withdraw from the plan.
The next regularly scheduled select board meeting is scheduled for February 15.