Wind: 7 mph
Waitsfield voters will reconsider a July 30 vote to build new town offices at the Farm Stand site next Tuesday, October 22.
Voters will cast ballots at Waitsfield Elementary School and the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be a public hearing to discuss the bond vote and a proposal to reauthorize the town's agricultural property tax stabilization plan on Monday, October 21, at Waitsfield Elementary School at 7 p.m.
The town office reconsideration vote is required because the town received a petition calling for reconsideration and must, by law, present the exact article that voters considered in the first vote, which passed 309-209.
To overturn the affirmative vote would require no votes of at least two-thirds of the 309 July 30 yes votes when voters head to the polls next month.
Next week's vote will ask voters to authorize the town to spend up to $650,000 to construct new town offices to be used in conjunction with a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant the town received.
Last month, Waitsfield received and accepted a gift of $100,000 to purchase the Farm Stand land for the town offices. Both sums of money are expected to reduce taxpayer dollars required for the project.
The board reviewed the offer of the anonymous donation at its September 23 meeting and voted unanimously to accept it. The terms of the anonymous gift require that the money be used to buy the Farm Stand parcel and that the town must retain ownership of the parcel for at least 10 years.
Without the $100,000 donation, taxpayer costs were expected to be about $450,000 but now could be lower still. However the town's October 22 bond vote wording (and request for $650,000) must be identical to the previous vote.
If the vote is reaffirmed the town will continue its work to meet the terms of the Community Development Block Grant, which include environmental studies and a positive bond vote. Because of the petition for reconsideration, the town has already had to request an extension on completing that work. The town had until October 15 to meet the terms of the agreement, but the bond vote reconsideration could not be scheduled until October 22.
Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the town is going to go forward with exercising its option to purchase the Farm Stand parcel for $100,000 given the receipt of the donation. The Waitsfield Select Board, at its October 14 meeting, voted to exercise its option to purchase that parcel and to begin that exercise by having a title search conducted.
At the meeting, board member Logan Cooke spoke up to publicly to take issue with the sentiments expressed in letters to the editor in The Valley Reporter that were critical of the board for accepting the donation.
"We considered all options before accepting the gift," Cooke said.
"We were aware that this land might not become the new town offices, but thought there were good points about the gift and the opportunities that it presented the town," he added.
"Right, if the town does not build on it, it could be leased, or built as something else or after 10 years, it could be sold."
There is a strong contingent of people in Waitsfield who have favored rehabilitating the former Methodist Church versus building a new building and some have questioned why the select board accepted an anonymous donation of $100,000.