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

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Task force recommends a revote on Waitsfield water system


By Lisa Loomis

Waitsfield voters will be asked to cast ballots on a revised proposal to create a municipal water system for the town.

The vote will be held at a special meeting on June 10. At Town Meeting this year, voters turned down a bond vote request for $17 million for municipal septic and water systems. The proposal to bond for a municipal water system failed, 442 to 398.

An article to create a first phase of a municipal wastewater system for 18,000 gallons a day failed, 484 to 336. And an article to create the second phase of that wastewater system for treating up to 91,000 gallons a day received 297 yes votes to 254 no votes. That third article required phase one to have passed.  


After Town Meeting, the select board solicited input from the public on reasons for the no votes, and appointed a new task force to sort through the public input and determine whether the town should revise the projects, bring them back for a revote or abandon them. The town has been planning, engineering and working on municipal septic and water systems for 10 years and has spent $1.2 million doing so.

At the select board's April 28 meeting, select board member and task force leader Kate Williams presented the task force's recommendation that water only be brought back and explained how this proposal is different from the one voted on at Town Meeting.

"What we're bringing back is a proposal that will have no Grand List implications," Williams said, explaining that the task force recommended shifting grant money that had been previously allocated to the proposed septic system to the water project so that its net cost was reduced by $1.5 million.


Other proposed changes include having grant money cover the fire protection fees that individual residents were asked to pay in the first go around. That fee would have required everyone within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant (to be installed as part of the water project) to pay $500 a year.

Finally, the task force proposed officially extending the service area to include Old County Road and Tremblay Road. As originally proposed, the water system service area was to be Waitsfield Village and Irasville. Prior to the Town Meeting vote, at the request of the town fire department, the select board agreed to work to extend the service area to include Old County Road and Tremblay Road.

The total cost of the proposed water system is $7,590,000, the same amount requested for the first vote, but this time the grant moneys that will be used to offset that cost will be $3,660,000.


The board discussed the proposal and ultimately okayed warning it for a vote. Part of the discussion included a consideration of how much of the $1.2 million in engineering costs could be wrapped into the water project funding. Project manager John Kiernan from Phelps Engineering, who has been working with the town on these projects, said that the town could recoup half of the engineering fees if the water project passes.

Kiernan said that by reallocating some of the grant money to fund the fire protection fees and provide for capital for the project, the user fees could also be lowered.

"My only area of contention is that the voters turned it down and we're bringing it back," said select board member Paul Hartshorn.

"Well, Paul, the subdivision regulations were turned down and we took input from the voters and changed them and brought them back for a revote and they passed by 70 percent," said planning commissioner Brian Fleisher, a member of the task force.

"This project failed. We took voter input, modified it and we're bringing it back," he added.

The board's vote to bring the water project back for the June vote was unanimous.


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