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Waitsfield (and Fayston) taxpayers might be surprised to hear that all of them may be required to help pay for some of the costs of Waitsfield’s municipal water project.
The water task force has recommended that the town bill all Waitsfield taxpayers for the costs associated with the increased fire protection that the water project brings.
The water project includes fire hydrants throughout the service area which are served by bigger water mains as well as a larger water storage tank. The hydrants benefit those who live within 1,000 feet of them but will also provide water for the fire department that serves everyone in Waitsfield and Fayston.
So it is not a huge leap to expect that because everyone benefits from the additional protection, everyone should pay. And it is not a huge amount of money at $8,000 a year.
But this is a very significant change in the town’s long-chanted mantra that only users would pay for the project. This has been repeated and reiterated since the inception and specifically when voters were casting ballots on whether to approve the bond vote for the debt.
If there is to be any cost sharing involved here – and perhaps there should be – it needs to be brought before voters at Town Meeting for a full discussion and approval.
If, as the task force points out, the fire protection added $1.3 million to the cost of the project, why weren’t taxpayers brought into the loop when those decisions were made?
Was added fire protection a part of the $7.5 million project that voters approved in 2006? Was added fire protection part of the project cost overruns that required additional funding this summer?
These are legitimate questions to which taxpayers deserve answers. To be asked to pay, after the fact, after the decisions have been made and money spent, is not fair.
It is not wrong to ask those who benefit from the additional fire protection to help cover its costs, but it needs to be done in an honest and open way and hence should be a separate article at Town Meeting, not a line item in a budget.