Derry to undertake water/waste system study Local option tax, Williams Dam future also discussed

By Bruce Frauman
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Londonderry Select Board has agreed to move forward with a water and wastewater management study.

Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe assures the board that the water study is strictly for information. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

At its Monday, Dec. 16 meeting, the board also agreed to authorize Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe to sign a contract for the study with a consultant recommended by the water/wastewater committee.

O’Keefe assured board member Taylor Prouty that this will be purely an informational process and no “policing” actions would occur if violations were found. O’Keefe said the goal is to allow for business growth in the town by solving the problem of water supply and septic fields being on the same small property.

In other action, Treasurer Tina Labeau and O’Keefe will draft a warning to be presented to the Town Meeting in March that would authorize the town to implement a 1 percent local option tax ostensibly to reduce local property taxes. The board will vote on this issue at its next meeting.

Labeau said she estimated a local option tax on sales, meals, rooms and rentals could generate about $110,000 annually. Londonderry has fewer than 10 alcohol licensees. A Vermont Department of Taxes flyer says that each eligible town can choose any or all of a local option sales taxes: on meals, alcoholic beverages and rooms. The rooms tax does include Airbnb’s according to O’Keefe, who said the state collects the tax and sends the town a check.

Ash trees and dam problems

Tree Warden Kevin Beattie said there will be a public meeting about the emerald ash borer on Thursday, Jan. 9 at Town Hall. He said the Conservation Commission, which is sponsoring the event, will have state forestry  representatives providing information about how to deal with this invasive beetle.

Beattie also said he estimates there are about 400 ash trees that “are going to come down” within the town’s right of way. He said he has inventoried about half the town’s roads and has mapped and prioritized about 200 ash trees so far. Beattie did not discuss the estimated cost for the removal of the 400 trees.

From left, board members Bob Forbes and George Mora discuss the future and the past of the Williams Dam.

Board member George Mora, who attended a workshop presented by the Agency of Natural Resources on dam safety, said her biggest concern is that if the state finds a dam to be of significant danger, the owner could be ordered to perform repairs or remove the dam. Mora said new Department of Environmental Conservation rules could see the Williams Dam reclassified from a low hazard to a higher hazard dam. Beattie said the state can order a dam owner to do an engineering study or even drain a dam. As Emergency Management director, he is also mandated to write an emergency action plan regarding the dam.

Board member Bob Forbes said he helped install the gateway and remembers drilling into ledge for pins to keep it secure. He said there may not be that much dam, that a lot of what is there is ledge. Board member Taylor Prouty said that even if the dam is removed, there will still be a slight waterfall.

The board chose to wait before doing an engineering study and Labeau and O’Keefe will look for an existing engineering studies in the town’s files.

Individual budget requests for Town Meeting Day

The total appropriations requests of $83,802 approved for the Town Meeting warning by the board is less than half that of last year’s total due to the fact that last year, Phoenix Fire Company received $80,000 for a new truck and is not making a request in 2020.

Board chair Jim Ameden says the town road crew is using a lot of salt thus far this winter.

West River Montessori School and Pingree Park also are not asking for funds in 2020, according to a list prepared by Labeau. Labeau said the only new request this year is from the Londonderry Historical Society, which is seeking $1,000. She said the Londonderry 4th of July group and Neighborhood Connections are each asking for an additional $500, up from $1,000 and $5,500 respectively.

Board chair and Road Commissioner Jim Ameden said the road crew is using a lot of salt this winter. Part of the problem, he said, is that they are all getting used to a new truck and getting it calibrated. In a brief meeting on Dec. 2, the Board agreed to hire Jarrett Sanderson to fill the road crew position. Ameden said he started working on Dec. 9.

Ameden added that a town truck damaged a brand new pic up truck owned by Randy Foster in an accident. He said, “they both thought there was enough room (at an intersection) and there wasn’t.”

O’Keefe said he will send a request to the state to close out the former septic field north of the Transfer Station on Route 100 by the end of the year. Eamon Twohig from the VTDEC Residuals Management Program sent O’Keefe an email denying a request to delay testing of the fields for PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — beyond the end of February. The department, O’Keefe said,  is gathering “information for the approaching legislative session.” He added he will get cost estimates and get back to the Select Board in January.

O’Keefe also said he has approached the Energy Committee about using the fields for a solar farm. Bruce Frauman, of the Energy Committee, said the committee is nterested in this idea and will be talking with solar contractors for pricing, payment and leasing options.

Private improvements on Under the Mountain Road

Jared Lindahl and Willoughby Britton are building a small house and cabin on Under the Mountain Road in Jamaica.

The board agreed to allow Jared Lindahl and Willoughby Britton to improve a section of Under the Mountain Road in Londonderry and a town trail with a final agreement to come in January after consulting with the town attorney.

The couple wants to rebuild the road and trail with soil stabilization fabric, gravel, fill, ditches and culverts to allow ”necessary work for the installation of utilities, the transportation of construction vehicles, and winter snow removal,” all at their own expense. Lindhal and Britton intend to build a small cabin and a small house on clearings in Jamaica and make the house their primary residence.

Finally, Mora and and O’Keefe will attend the initial meeting of the Windham Broadband Project on Jan. 16, 2020. Mora said the Windham Regional Commission had basically agreed to form a small utility with towns’ participation to provide better broadband service in the area.

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