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Planning commission working on loan program for wastewater
By the members of the Waitsfield Planning Commission.
On Wednesday, February 29, at 7 p.m., at the Big Picture Theater, a public meeting will be held to discuss the first phase of a decentralized wastewater loan program and a supporting Town Meeting Day ballot article.
For nearly two years, the Waitsfield Planning Commission's wastewater committee has been evaluating both the needs and the options for decentralized wastewater systems in our community, with the goal of addressing emerging environmental issues, land-use restrictions, and aging septic systems within Waitsfield Village and Irasville.
This process started more than 18 months after voters turned down a centralized wastewater proposal in the spring of 2008, but a few of the realities from that project have carried over into the current conversation.
Specifically, the town remains burdened with significant debt from the work done on the failed centralized wastewater project ($672,000) which must be repaid starting in 2013; there are still pockets of critical wastewater needs throughout the area; and a vast majority of surveyed residents and landowners (90-plus percent) are dissatisfied with current wastewater options.
To directly address these issues, the wastewater committee has worked with local, state and federal officials to craft a creative financing program, the first phase of which will be on the Town Meeting Day ballot.
To be known as the Waitsfield Community Wastewater Loan Program, this voluntary program for local property owners would provide 20-year fixed-rate low-interest loans for shared wastewater projects that meet specific town criteria. The program would use the resulting loan payments to leverage the federal grant of $906,000 the town received for the failed centralized project to pay down the debt from that project.
The Waitsfield Community Wastewater Loan Program would be purely voluntary and would simply provide an alternative funding option for those with specific wastewater needs in the town center. At the same time, loan repayments coupled with available state and federal funding would provide funds to pay off existing wastewater debt without burdening local taxpayers.
The plan and the Town Meeting Day ballot article will be discussed during a public meeting on February 29 at 7 p.m. at the Big Picture Theater. Additional information regarding the plan and the meeting will be posted on the planning commission blog, www.planwithus.blogspot.com.