Londonderry Select Board presents new argument for land purchase

By Christopher Biddle
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With a petition to reconsider a Town Meeting Day vote still on the horizon and a request from Vtrans that the town find new sand storage by June 1, the Londonderry Select Board could use another mallet in the Whack-a-Mole game that is the purchase of 20 acres on Route 100 south of the town’s transfer station.

From left select board member Paul Gordon, Town Administrator Stephanie Thompson, select board chair James Ameden, board members Steven Prouty, Will Reed and Wayne Blanchard

From left select board member Paul Gordon, town administrator Stephanie Thompson, select board chair James Ameden, board members Steven Prouty, Will Reed and Wayne Blanchard

While it moved toward negotiating a contract with landowners  Jeff and Linda Yrsha, the board reiterated a secondary argument for owning the land. Board member Steve Prouty brought up the idea that owning the land could be a buffer against lawsuits down the road if the landfill that preceded the current transfer station has indeed contaminated that parcel. But as time has gone by, the prospects of completing the land purchase, seem to have dwindled. When asked what time frame the Yrshas had given before they would pull the plug on the deal, board member Paul Gordon replied, “Yesterday.”

A petition that calls for the re-consideration of a Town Meeting Article 11, that budgeted $10,000 for testing and feasibility studies on the property, has net yet been filed with Town Hall but remains expected. Nevertheless, all of the members of the board, except newly elected member Will Reed, said they still wanted the purchase to go through. Reed, in his first meeting as a Board member, said that like others in the town, he wanted more information before moving forward.

Furthering the anxiety over the purchase was news that Vtrans, which is currently under contract to store the town’s salt and sand through May of 2017, has asked the town to find a new home for its sand by June of this year. Vtrans has agreed to hold on to the town’s salt storage through the end of the contract.

The Prouty property, on Route 100 between Londonderry and South Londonderry, was once intended for new salt and sand storage sheds, and the town had even gone as far as to design a facility for that location.

CORRECTION: With few other options than to use the Prouty Property, the board moved to pursue permitting for salt and sand storage at that location. In the mean time, the board instructed road foreman Duane Hart to store the majority of the sand behind the Town Garage, where there had once been a pile of contaminated soil that the town had properly contained and disposed of.

TEXT IN ERROR: However, the town was required to contain contaminated soil there by covering it with plastic. Now that the possible contamination period has expired, and with few other options, the Board moved to pursue permits for that property, with some anxiety that the project wouldn’t be completed before the Vtrans deadline.

With some discussion as to the proper method of storage – covered or not, south-facing to avoid freezing – the board said it will continue to work toward a solution.

“The timing of this was worse than awful,” said board member Paul Gordon, with regard to the request from Vtrans. Gordon and the rest of the board agreed, however, that it was best not to “bite the hand that feeds us,” and that an interim solution could be achieved.

In other news:

Road foreman Hart gave good news in the form of two budget surpluses. First, Hart estimated a surplus of $37,203 in the budget for salt and sand due to the mild winter weather. He also said that since bids for the paving project on Winhall Station came in under budget, there would be enough leftover to include paving a portion of Main Street in South Londonderry for this summer instead of next. Hart said that since the contractor already had equipment and material on site, the town could save money by piggy-backing the Main Street project on to this summer’s list.

Gordon relayed the first report from the Vermont State Police under the new contract. From March 7 to 13, VSP reports making a total of 36 vehicle stops, issuing 34 warnings, and six citations, including one speeding ticket in the amount of $105. They also reported “community contact” at the Flood Brook school, Lowell Lake and Pingree Parks, Magic Mountain, and the IGA shopping plaza.

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About the Author: Christopher Biddle is a journalist, radio DJ and lifelong Vermonter. He hosts the 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday Rewind show on 102.7 WEQX. In addition to The Chester Telegraph and The Mountain Times he has written for other local publications. His audio work includes stories for VPR and Slate Magazine's podcast network. He collects VHS tapes and knows how to use a chainsaw.

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