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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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Water system petition not valid


By Ian Buchanan

There is a petition in the Village Grocery (and possibly elsewhere) asking the town to stop work on all water system projects now and in the future. The petition says that any municipal water systems would be paid for by everyone and yet would only benefit a few and therefore should not ever be considered again. I am fine with people opposing the systems for valid reasons, but this reasoning does not seem very valid. Some things to consider: 

Yes, the proposed systems would directly benefit only some of the town's residents. However, these direct beneficiaries (users) would have paid the vast majority of the system's costs. While the overall costs of the systems are substantial, there was little to no additional tax burden associated with approving the projects versus denying them (see below).

While many Valley residents have a few acres to put a leach field, a well, and planned back-up systems on (as required by the state), the residents and businesses on Route 100 often do not. The economic and environmental well-being of the Route 100 corridor directly benefits everyone in Waitsfield and impacts all of our taxes and public facilities.  

Voting the system down was effectively a vote to limit economic development along Route 100 in Waitsfield and Irasville and to accept the possibility of a higher tax rate in the future because of this. Core development areas are designed to keep sprawl out of the hills and this type of controlled development requires a municipal water system. If a system attracted just a few building improvements and new businesses, the increased tax revenue could actually reduce the per payer tax burden while simultaneously increasing the number of jobs in the area.  

Having a system would have allowed the town to be eligible for core development grants and loans from the state that we are not eligible for without a system. These grants could have potentially offset significant future tax burden for the town.  

The difference in tax burden between approving the system or not approving the system (and getting a loan to pay the engineering fees to date) are negligible at best. The additional Grand List burden is going to be about the same regardless of whether the town moved forward with the systems or not.  

If you oppose a municipal water system because you simply do not want to see any development in Irasville, I would encourage any petition to the Select Board to say as much. However, claiming that public water systems should never be considered again because they would only benefit a few and would be unreasonably burdensome to taxpayers is not the likely reality that such systems would bring to Waitsfield and should not be presented as such.  

Ian Buchanan lives in Waitsfield.

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