Derry to mull fund to tackle emerald ash borer

Tree Warden Kevin Beattie speaks about the emerald ash borer infestation in the area. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

By Bruce Frauman
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

After considerable discussion, the Londonderry Select Board agreed on Monday, Oct. 21 to consider both an annual budget allocation and a fund that can accumulate from year to year to cope with the emerald ash borer beetle that was identified in the town in early October.

The beetle has been decimating ash trees from Michigan to Maine.

Tree Warden Kevin Beattie said he will consider how much he should recommend for the fund and speak with Road Foreman Josh Dryden about what he believes his crew can handle.

Beattie said now that the beetle has been identified in the area, new rules will apply for moving wood within a 5-mile reach.  But, he added, the town is closer to taking down a lot of ash trees. Beattie said at this point any tree in a utility right of way will not count as a town tree. He said he estimates the town has about 1,600 ash trees in its right of way.

Planning Commission looks for new town projects

From left, Mimi Lines and Sharon Crossman of the Planning Commission.

Sharon Crossman and Mimi Lines of the Planning Commission told the board that they would like to receive “blessings” from the board to reach out to town residents to identify five to 10 projects to focus on in the next few years. They plan to distribute poster boards in public places that ask for ideas as well as seek feedback in the Londonderry Monthly and perhaps the Londonderry Community Forum on Facebook.

Once the information has been gathered, they plan to sponsor a potluck and establish a committee of leaders in the town. Board members George Mora and Taylor Prouty offered their support. Crossman said the PC last reached out for guidance three years ago.

The board agreed to authorize Select Board chair Jim Ameden to sign a letter of support for the Windham Regional Commission’s grant proposal for a regional broadband study. Mora said she and Town Clerk Kelly Pajala had attended a meeting where they learned that big companies will not go to the ends of rural roads. Instead the state is recommending local and regional plans to achieve this goal. Pajala called this prospect “daunting” and that the WRC will conduct a feasibility study for the entire region and create a Communications Union District. This will help towns with technical assistance and funding.

Road crew getting ready for winter

Board chair Jim Ameden gives a rundown on the road crew.

Ameden said the road crew is cleaning up brush from the last storm and that all trucks are set for the winter. He said one truck frame was “twisted,” but has been temporarily fixed and the truck should go to a frame shop in the spring. Ameden expressed concern that this problem was not brought to his attention earlier and took steps to ensure such a lapse would not be repeated. He said the new truck should be delivered in about two weeks.

The board agreed to increase Road Foreman Josh Dryden’s rate of pay to $24.50 per hour from his current $23.50. Ameden said Dryden is “doing the job I had hoped” he would do.

Ameden said he would like to board to develop a cap for each position that takes into consideration both hourly pay rates and benefit compensation.  Mora said there is a limit to how much an increase in insurance the board can absorb.

The board agreed to authorize the town to purchase a used chipper from Brown Enterprises for $16,000. Mora said the money will come out of the Highway Equipment Fund. Town Treasurer Tina Labeau said the chipper will allow the road crew to “get more done with their time.”

Board member Tom Cavanagh updates the board on the Transfer Station.

On the recommendation of Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe, the board agreed to a Declaration of Official Intent to reimburse payment to a bond consultant out of a potential bond for Phase 2 of the Town Office Planning Project. O’Keefe has said the renovation may include “some expensive features such as a new basement slab, an ADA lift between floors, and new plumbing, walls and electricity work.” He told the potential consultants “I imagine we are looking at $300,000, but I could easily be way off.” O’Keefe said he expects the bond package to be ready for a vote at the next Town Meeting in March.

Before the town can ask for an increase in a FEMA grant through Vermont Emergency Management for the Platt Elevation Project, the board needs confirmation that the use of the land owner as a contractor conforms to the town’s procurement policy.  At the previous board meeting, the board agreed accepted Tom Platt’s proposal to complete the project for the sum of $122,632, a considerable increase from the original estimate made in 2013.

O’Keefe said that Gail Mann has resigned from the Planning Commission and encourages those interested in replacing her to fill out an application available at the Town Office building. The commission will review the applications, conduct interviews and make a recommendation to the board. Crossman said Mann will continue to be involved with the water/waste water project.

Board member Tom Cavanagh, who is the board liaison for the Transfer Station, said he and Solid Waste Administrator Esther Fishman  met with electrician Gary Barton about upgrades needed at the Transfer Station. A total of $1,500 is needed for a new circuit box and post as well as running an underground conduit to another building. Treasurer Tina Labeau said the Transfer Station budget is $15,000 so no action is needed from the board to authorize this expenditure.

Finally, Pajala said Transfer Station Annual Stickers will be available for sale starting Nov. 1.

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