Created on Thursday, 05 June 2008 07:10
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 June 2008 07:10
By Brian Fleisher
The discussion on the water project reached the height of absurdity last week. Ginny Houston's letter claimed that she owned the land and the town had no rights to drill there. Totally false. The front page of that same issue of The Valley Reporter stated that the Vermont Supreme Court had confirmed that the town was completely within it rights to drill the well and Ginny Houston had no rights there. Now in recent years I may not have always agreed with Supreme Court decisions, but I have to go with the Vermont Supreme Court on this one. People say if the select board can claim a protection zone easement they're coming for your land next. That is blatant fear-mongering and has no place in town politics.
Why is it that suddenly people are upset that money has been spent on the water and wastewater project? This has been going on for 10 years! It didn't happen in some dark room. There wasn't some secret deal. There wasn't any hiding or chicanery or deception. Every single meeting was public.
And now much to our benefit most meetings are shown on channel 60. The town voted to secure the Munn site. The town passed the Town Plan. The town made numerous attempts to find a water source, and finally they found one and took the necessary steps to secure it. Where were the voices protesting this process? It has been plastered across the pages of The Valley Reporter
Where were the voices saying we should stop this course of action? Last March, after much effort, a complicated plan with too many variables was presented and the town wisely, in my opinion, voted it down. And suddenly there are people calling for the whole process to come to a screeching halt?
They say the select board stacked the water task force. Totally false. Every single person who put their name on the list to be on the task force was on the task force. How is that stacking? People say the select board is trying to jam it down the town's throat. How is that true after 10 years of planning?
We risk losing millions of dollars in grants if it is not approved by August 1 which is the main reason for the accelerated process. After the vote there were numerous public forums and discussions and emails from town residents and the task force responded to these issues.
This is the normal way public policy is created, through action and interaction. People say the vote is being held when people will be gone. Totally false. The earliest possible date was specifically chosen so that people would not be gone for the summer. There is no intention to hide, to have people miss the vote. Just the opposite is true.
Do people want to stop the sidewalk/bike lane project now that it is in the final stages of approval? That has been going on for 10 years as well. The water needs to go in under the sidewalk.
People objected to paying an annual fee for the fire protection system. The task force moved grant money so the whole town will now get a fire protection system with hydrants without it costing the town or any individual user any money. This system is for the use of the whole town, not just the people in the water district.
Is this the select board treating the town badly, because they want to provide additional fire protection at no cost? People said that the water and wastewater had to go together. Now they're being offered just the water system. People say putting the water in is just the first step for the wastewater, that it's some kind of trick.
This proposal takes most of the money away from the wastewater system which means that new funding sources will have to be found before we could even consider a wastewater system. There is no trickery here; there is no deception. People worry about the costs of billing and maintaining the system, worry that it will get out of hand and create more layers of bureaucracy in town.
This cost has been built into the system based on other water systems in central Vermont and would be contracted out, not requiring new layers of administration in town. People say we should wait, that it's too expensive. What do you think the effects of fuel prices will be even a year from now on the cost of all goods and services?
Is this the best system we can get? I don't know. Is it a good system? Most definitely. Although expensive, it is a reasonable price, and for what we are getting with the grants and loans it is an excellent deal. The capacity is large enough to service twice the number of current potential users with clean water, sprinkler systems and hydrants. It will serve The Valley for many years to come.
If you support the water system, I strongly encourage you to make your voice heard and vote yes. Absentee voting is available through the town clerk. If you support the growth of business in town I encourage you to vote yes. If you are opposed to the water system be sure it is on the merits of the case and you have the correct facts. Please don't vote against the water system because you are mad at government. This is not the time to punish the people who need clean ample water for what has happened in the past. Give the residents and businesses in town that need water the choice to have it.
This letter represents my personal views as a private citizen and not as a member of any board.
Fleisher lives in Waitsfield and is a member of the Waitsfield Planning Commission.