Sandy dustup: Londonderry moves a pile after VTrans skirmish

Editor’s Note: It was erroneously reported that a meeting to be held regarding the petition to reconsider the feasibility study for purchasing land voted at town meeting would take place at Flood Brook School. It will be held at Town Hall. See below for details.

By Christopher Biddle
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Londonderry town garage with 2300 yards of recently moved sand in the foreground to the right

The Londonderry town garage with 2300 yards of recently moved sand in the foreground to the right

With five trucks working Tuesday and three working on Wednesday, Town of Londonderry and VTrans crews moved 2,300 yards of sand from the state garage on Derry Woods Road to the town garage to meet a state request to clear out substantially ahead of a deadline at the end of  July this year. The state earlier had moved up an earlier deadline of July 31, 2017 to make way for surplus salt that it needed to store under shelter.

During its Monday, April 4 meeting, the Londonderry Select Board voted to move the town’s sand stockpile located on the VTrans lot on Route 11 east of Route 100 to a lot by the town garage, but not without a good deal of tension before the vote.

At its March 21 meeting, the board, responding to a request by VTrans to find new storage for the town’s sand by June 1, voted to apply for permits for a sand and salt storage shed at the Prouty property off Route 100. But remaining unclear was a final decision as to what to do with the sand until that application went through.

Until Wednesday, Londonderry stored sand in the large shed on the right. Now it is nearly full of surplus salt

Until Wednesday, Londonderry stored sand in the large shed on the right. Now the shed is nearly full of surplus salt

The board then decided it would likely use a lot by the town garage, and have road foreman Duane Hart move the sand. A vote on the matter wasn’t taken, however.

But on April 4, board member Steve Prouty announced that VTrans had already moved Londonderry’s sand from inside the VTrans’ storage shed to immediately outside the shed.

Board member Paul Gordon asked why VTrans had done so without the board’s formal approval and months before the its deadline. Prouty said that VTrans found that it needed the shed before its original deadline. He again said that he believed the town should do what was asked of them by VTrans and move the sand to town property.

“If we keep acting like we’ve been acting toward their sand issue, we’re going to be asked to move our salt as well … So do we want to fight them?” Prouty asked.

“It’s not a point of fighting,” said board Chair Jim Ameden. “It’s a point of being able to take them at their word.”

Duane Hart directed the board to a clause in the 2001 shared facility contract with the state that said all decisions made had to be in writing. He stated that he’d never seen anything in writing but had, however, received a phone call from Marc Pickering in which the VTrans project manager told Hart that he wasn’t to use state equipment nor speak with any District 2 employees.

Prouty said that he’d since spoken with Pickering, who admitted to that  “being part of a temper rant,” and added that using state equipment would be fine from here on out.

Gordon made a motion to accept an offer from the state to transport the town’s sand to the new storage lot behind the town garage, and the board voted in favor.

In other news:

  • The board met with representatives from Marble Valley Engineering to kick off the renovation of the Town Office Building. Since Town Administrator Stephanie Thompson, who had been the primary contact for Marble Valley, was unable to attend the meeting, the board decided to wait until she’d spoken with each member before signing the contract.
  • The board will hold a special meeting in response to a petition that asks town voters to reconsider a $10,000 expenditure on feasibility studies for the purchase of land adjacent to the town transfer station. The meeting will be held at the Flood Brook School Town Hall, 139 Middletown Road  at 7 p.m. Monday, May 23. Gordon said that he’d spoken with the current landowners, who were moving forward with a Phase 1 study and agreed to share those results with the town. Also, Planning Board member Dick Dale, who was in attendance that night to meet with Marble Valley Engineering, said that since much of the community was embroiled in the issue of the appraised value being far less than what the town is prepared to pay for the property, the board should consider addressing that issue at the meeting. The property is appraised at $90,000, which does not include the potential value of sand and gravel deposits.
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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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