Weston board considers plan for ash beetle threat

Tree expert Raymond Mara talks to the Weston Select Board about the emerald ash borer beetle. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

By Bruce Frauman
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Weston Select Board on Tuesday, May 28 moved forward on several ongoing projects including addressing threats from the emerald ash borer beetle, and upgrade of the town website.

Tree Warden Raymond Mara distributed a packet of information and proposals from the state on how to deal with the beetle, which damages ash trees when the ash borer beetle lays its larvae and, unless treated with insecticide, kills the trees within five years.

According to an early May report in VT Digger, the beetle has been found in eight counties, including neighboring Windham but not yet in Windsor, where Weston is located. The others are Bennington, Caledonia, Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Orange and Washington.

One of the first requirements is an inventory of ash trees in the town’s rights of way. Select Board member Jim Linville said he rode his bike down Old County Road and counted 90 trees. Mara said he plans to work with Road Foreman Almon Crandall to count trees on Piper Hill Road, while also noting the size, location and condition of each tree. Linville said he will recount the trees on Old County Road.

Board chair Denis Benson said once these counts are done, the board can bring in other people to develop a plan.

Board member Ann Fuji’i suggested creating a steering committee consisting of one Select Board member, one Conservation Commission member, Mara, and perhaps former Conservation Commission chair Ken Hall, who could get together to help guide the town through the process of identifying ash trees and determining their fate.

Mara said the town should take the tree tally and develop a plan. He called it “doable,” adding, “I wouldn’t be too concerned.” Benson said the board will take up this project at one of its next two meetings.

Town website, sump pumps, razing the lower dam

Based on board discussion, Town Clerk Kim Seymour will renew for two years the domain name of the town government website as well as its email. It will also renew for one year its hosting site GoDaddy, while the town IT person simplifies the hosting system at a cost of about $500. Seymour said the hosting system is “sometimes more complicated” than she and Select Board administrator Cheryl Barker can handle. She said they may move to a host like WordPress or Square Space. Seymour said the town budgeted $100 for the website this year because she did not realize renewals were up on July 8.

Select Board member Annie Fuji’i discusses tearing down the lower dam.

Fuji’i said Ken Hall still owns the Conservation Commission website, so Seymour will look at adding that website as well and transferring the information from the existing site.

As the town continues to seek two more bids on sump pumps to reducing flooding in the basement of the Town Office Building, Linville said he was given one bid by Brian Kiniry of Northern Basement Systems. The board also looked at two other options: cutting in a curtain drain system around the interior perimeter and adding one sump pump. Linville said he and Barker will work on writing the specifications for the bid process.

While discussing budget matters, Fuji’i said that a Ecosystem Restoration Program grant from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation had been approved for the full $75,000 grant request to remove the lower dam in Cold Brook Spring Park owned by the Weston Community Association.

Fuji’i said it will cost the town “way below” the $55,000 allocated at the last town meeting. Fuji’i said the plan is still awaiting for the end of the time in which an appeal can be filed, but work is expected to begin when the water ebbs in early June and finish by Oct. 1. She said this is “very exciting, finally.”

Also, the board approved a permit to allow access to a back lot near the corner of Holden Hill Road and Hell’s Peak Road. Board administrator Barker said Crandall had no problems with the access request.

Fuji’i, Jim Linville and Bruce Downer put their heads together.

Minutes for the March 5 Town Meeting were approved by the Board. Since this will be published in the next town report, Linville suggested that absent board member Charles Goodwin also sign it “so it looks good.”

In other business

Purchase of a software update from CAI Technologies to help with mapping for the listers was approved by the board.

Board chair Denis Benson said the Zoning Board of Adjustment needs one full-time member. When no board members had any suggestions, Benson said they should think about it and take it up at the June 11 meeting.

Finally, in open session, the board voted to award Southern Vermont Signworks to provide a sign for the new outside bulletin board at a cost of $224.

The board made no decision after going into executive session to discuss town personnel to provide walkway shoveling.

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