Select Board Discusses Troubled Financial Situation of Town Transfer Station
by Gazette Staff
WOLCOTT – At its March 15 regular meeting, the Wolcott Select Board agenda included re-organizing the board after town meeting, and discussions about the town website and the transfer station financial situation.
The first order of business was the organization of the select board. Linda Martin was re-elected as the chair, Kurt Klein as the vice chair, and Richard Lee as the clerk. All votes were unanimous, with the candidate for each position abstaining.
Board members then reviewed the written Rules of Procedure the board had adopted last year and voted to keep the same rules as last year. All members present agreed to continue with the schedule, with meetings on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 6 p.m.
The News & Citizen was the designated newspaper for notices. Front Porch Forum and the town’s website are also utilized for posting notices. In compliance with State law, notices are also posted at the town office, the Wolcott Library, and the Wolcott Post Office.
Next, Kate Wanner, senior project manager at the Trust for Public Land (TPL), updated the board on the status of funding for the Bourne’s property that will be part of the Town Forest. TPL had been waiting to see if the state Water Infrastructure Sponsorship Program (WISPr) would be a funding source. Wanner said that although there was interest, no one is in place yet to run the program, so TPL does not advise waiting any longer. TPL recommends applying for a grant through the federal Community Forest Program (CFP). The CFP grant program provides financial assistance to local governments to acquire community forests. Wanner will draft the application for the board’s review. The grant application is due to the State of Vermont by March 31. The state will then forward the application to the U.S. Forest Service. A decision will be made in April or May.
Among the items of correspondence received by the board were some inquiries about green burials. The issue will be researched.
The Project Manager Report noted that Phase 1 of the brownfield study on the Champlain Oil parcel on Route 15 has been completed. Martin is working with Lamoille County Planning Commission (LCPC) to secure funding for Phase 2.
The town received information from the state regarding the Municipal Energy Resilience Program (MERP). The program can provide building energy resilience assessments, or towns can apply for grants for weatherization or improved heating systems to reduce energy use and operating costs. The town will work with LCPC on this.
Also, the town will seek quotes for pavement patching on North Wolcott Road.
The town is working on improving its website. Phase 1 involved improving security and installing updates. Mapping and listing information can now be accessed under Property Records. Phase 2 will involve the creation of interactive online forms and other features to improve the user experience. These improvements will be paid for from ARPA funds. A web designer has submitted a proposal for Phase 2 work for board review and consideration.
Bids are being sought for the mowing of town properties. Sealed bids are due by April 15. Bids will also be sought for brush-hogging the North Wolcott ball fields and the transfer station in the fall, and for plowing town properties next winter. A plan will need to be in place for snow removal next winter that takes rail trail traffic into consideration.
The cemetery commissioner position remains open. The board will post the open four-year position on the town’s website and bulletin board at the town office.
The next agenda item was a town meeting review. This year’s meeting was streamed live and was recorded for later access on YouTube. Dolan Patrick noted that seven people watched town meeting live, and to date there have been 76 views on YouTube. There was a little trouble with the audio at the beginning of the meeting, but generally the feedback has been favorable. Some residents said they appreciated having online access to the meeting.
Clegg noted that next year it may be preferable to hold Australian voting at the town office, where it is warmer, rather than the gym at the elementary school. There were 154 voters who cast their ballot out of 1,248 registered voters. The residents who attended town meeting asked a lot of questions. Participation and discussion are always encouraged.
Next, the board voted to re-appoint Bruce Wheeler as Wolcott’s representative to the NEK Broadband Communications Union District (CUD).
The town received a bid for guardrails for proposed sites on East Elmore Road, North Wolcott Road, School Street in front of the fire department, and East Hill Road by the cemetery, from Lafayette Highway Specialties in Essex Junction. The board had anticipated higher costs for guardrails when including $15,000 in the budget for next year, but the quote is for $30,000. It may be that money can come from other projects or installing some guardrails this year and the remainder the following year. The board will review highway department financials and discuss the options with the road foreman.
Clegg reported that the transfer station is losing money and is behind in paying its bills. The board discussed possible cost-cutting measures that can be taken. The special container that holds only cardboard was added at the beginning of the pandemic, when it was apparent that people were buying more items online. The cost for emptying the container is $196 each time. The special container can be eliminated, and cardboard can go in the regular recycling bin. Also, the big dumpsters may not need be emptied each week. It was noted that it is imperative that the transfer station attendant charge customers the correct amount for the trash, recycling, tires, and compost they bring in. Construction debris is not allowed. If the transfer station cannot break even, it may have to be shut down. Board members are to come up with their best solution to be discussed at the April 5 board meeting.