Grafton ponders speed limit change on Route 121; unhappy with notifications from wind developer

By Gloria Dufield
© 2015 Telegraph Publishing

Reto Pieth addresses the Grafton Select Board about speeding on Route 121 East. Photos by Gloria Dufield.

Reto Pieth addresses the Grafton Select Board about speeding on Route 121 East. Photos by Gloria Dufield.

Although the weather was sunny and mild, a dozen residents and all five members of the Grafton Select Board were in attendance at the Monday, May 18 meeting, where discussion continued on topics from past sessions including a proposed wind project and the sale of the old town garage. Among the new topics were a request for a reduction of the speed limit on Route 121 East and a proposal for a round table discussion on drug addiction.

In a letter to the board, resident Reto Pieth addressed the question of speed limits on Route 121 East.  He said that there are 13  houses and 19 driveways on that section of road and neighbors would like the town to return the speed limit to 25 mph from the current limits of 35 and 40. Pieth noted that locals and visitors alike exceed that higher limit and that other roads coming into Grafton were posted at 25 mph limit.

Select Board member Ron Pilette asked why the limit had been raised. No one at the meeting could recall the reasoning.  Both board chair Sam Battaglino and Joan Lake, who lives on Route 121 East, agreed with Pieth that the speed in that area was dangerous. Town administrator Rachel Williams said she believed that a speed survey had to be done before the town could change the limit and that she would research the question and provide information at a future meeting.

Town sees information vacuum with wind project

Battaglino told the meeting that wind project developers Meadowsend Timberland and Iberdrola Renewables, both of New Hampshire, had not been forthcoming with information and expressed displeasure that the board learned that it recently filed a request with ISO New England to connect to its regional power grid through a website and print media rather than getting advance notice from the company.

Resident David Acker said it was Meadowsend Timberland’s responsibility to share information with the town to establish a “good working relationship.”

Melissa Belcher of Meadowsend Timberland said newspapers are a great source for providing information and her office also does quarterly mailings.  Noting that she attends every select board meeting and that her office is open, Belcher asked the board what she could do differently. Board member Noralee Hall suggested putting Belcher on the agenda each month to provide updates to the community. Pilette said a short report at the next board meeting in June with bullet points and concrete information would be a good start.

The Select Board is hoping to get community input on an appropriate price to ask for the old town garage. Williams confirmed that the property was on the grand list at $119,000 from 2008, but that an appraisal earlier this year valued the property at $110,000. The town would like to sell the garage as quickly and profitably as possible and has been advised the simplest and most cost effective way is through a closed bid sale.

Although some in attendance thought the Select Board should decide on a price and let community members give feedback, Battaglino wanted feedback prior to making a decision. Board member Gus Plummer suggested setting a selling price that was 10 percent lower than the appraisal. Alan Sands asked if anyone had considered turning the property into green space for the town. The board decided to post a request for public feedback on the Grafton News Facebook page. Taxpayers could respond by attending the next board meeting or by emailing or calling Rachel Williams at the Select Board office at 802-843-2552.

The Grafton Select Board

The Grafton Select Board, from left: Ron Pilette, Noralee Hall, Skip Lisle, Sam Battaglino and Gus Plummer.

IN OTHER ACTION: Town administrator Williams presented a copy of the Town of Grafton Policy for Domestic Animal Impoundment for the board to read and adopt at the next meeting. The Emergency Management Ordinance was adopted, with the addition of social media as an avenue for getting out information in an emergency.

Battaglino is working with the state and Greater Falls Connection on a drug addiction round table discussion for late June that would be open to surrounding communities. He said that drug addictions are “as varied as the trees” however, the main emphasis would be on marijuana since it is possible that it will be legal in the state in the next few years.

And at the start of the meeting, Don Dougall asked for a clarification on the process for reporting a conflict of interest. Battaglino said that alleged violations can be submitted to Rachel Williams or to the Select Board but it was not advisable to submit directly to the town attorney since she is hired by the board and her time is billed to the town. Other board members agreed that the current written process should be updated to reflect this. Dougall said it was his “citizen’s right to follow up” but Battaglino said that as far as the board was concerned, the alleged conflict of interest involving Skip Lisle has been addressed.

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About the Author: Gloria Dufield is a Green Mountain Union High School and University of Vermont graduate. She has more than 15 years of experience working in higher education libraries. Her most recent writing includes marketing projects for a Vermont GIS company as well as articles for a weekly publication.

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