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The news that the septic system at the Joslin Library and Waitsfield town offices failed is distressing but not a total surprise. The system has been in trouble for almost a decade and has only functioned by pumping the 1,000-gallon tank regularly.
First the tank was pumped every quarter, but then more often, and two weeks ago it was pumped and filled up (and backed up) in seven days. The ground is sodden with spring melt and the leach field (of dubious heritage) is backing up into the tank.
Needing a solution, the Waitsfield Select Board approved leasing a port-o-let and placing it in the park adjacent to the library and town offices amid several veterans’ memorials.
Needless to say, the idea of a port-o-let in that place did not generate a great deal of enthusiasm, and rightly so. That’s not the best visual or aesthetic way to welcome people to Waitsfield’s historic village or historic Bridge Street (where voters spent an hour at Town Meeting last week discussing the pros and cons of burying the power lines and poles).
It’s not a very respectful way to honor the sacrifice of veterans and it’s no way to treat library and town employees for the short or long term.
Thankfully, Susan Klein, director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, approached the Waitsfield United Church of Christ to ask for and receive permission for town and library employees to use the bathroom at the church.
That solves the immediate problem of restroom facilities for the people who use the building. The long-term solution to the septic issue is unclear and it is likely to be at least two years out during the second phase of Waitsfield’s decentralized wastewater loan project.
But the failure of the system underscores the need for the town to address the town office issue.
Despite the failure of the bond vote to build new town offices, the town needs to get back on the planning horse and lead the way to a solution. Ideally, the path forward would be determined in time for the town to seek a $750,000 grant that helps towns move municipal buildings away from flood-prone areas.
There is really no time to lose.