Derry Transfer Station food-scrap intake doubles

The Londonderry Select Board meets by Zoom on Monday night.

By Cherise Madigan
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Recycling Coordinator Esther Fishman told the Londonderry Select Board at its Monday, Oct. 5 meeting that the amount of food scraps being brought to the Transfer Station has increased by nearly 10,000 pounds per month since a state composting mandate went into effect this summer.

Food scraps totaled approximately 6,700 pounds in both June and July, Fishman said, but jumped to more than 16,600 pounds in August. Now, the storage totes previously used by the Transfer Station have become too heavy for Casella to transport, requiring smaller containers and more frequent service.

At the same time, the region has seen an influx of new residents and new second-homeowners that real estate agents attribute to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fishman says that state infrastructure funds may soon be available to help towns accommodate increasing food scrap collections, and the board agreed to review storage options as well as potential funding at a future meeting.

The board went on to pass a motion authorizing Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe to seek funding for Transfer Station workers through the VT Agency of Human Services’ Front-Line Employee Hazard Pay grant program. That program provides additional income for essential workers who were not included in related stimulus programs.

Covid cases rise in New England; Main St. paving to end for season

Emergency Management Director Kevin Beattie said that Covid-19 cases have begun to rise throughout New England, particularly in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Travel restrictions have tightened accordingly, as more surrounding counties are reaching the case threshold that requires travelers to quarantine. While Covid cases in Vermont remain low, Beattie noted that surrounding areas appear to be entering a second wave of the pandemic and urged caution.

Board chair George Mora gives an update on Main Street paving, which will end for the season soon.

Board Chair George Mora said that Londonderry’s Main Street paving project is close to wrapping up for the season as all main line paving has been completed. All aprons at the entrances to businesses along Main Street should be paved this week, she said, and a catch-swail that will direct water into the drainage basin near the Vermont Butcher Shop should also be finished soon.

Road lines and stop bars are scheduled to be completed next week, as is a safety build-out where Edge Hill Road and Middletown Road intersect with Main Street. In the spring, paving crews will return for a final wear-course that will entail lifting the drains one last time and re-painting lines.

Board member Taylor Prouty conveyed questions he has received regarding the transition onto the northeast end of Thompsonburg Road, and Recycling Coordinator Esther Fishman also expressed concern about a storm drain near the Thrifty Attic that does not appear to be functioning properly. Mora agreed to address both issues in her final meeting with road crews for the season, scheduled for later this month.

Mora also noted that paving will not be taking place over the holiday weekend, as road crews will complete work at noon on Friday and will not be working on Monday, which is Indigenous People’s Day in Vermont and Columbus Day federally.

Town Clerk Kelly Pajala announced that ballots have been sent to all Londonderry residents and should be dropped in the mail by Oct. 24 to ensure they are received by Election Day on Nov. 3. Any voters who have not received a ballot should reach out to the town office to update their address or voter registration, and completed ballots can also be returned to the polling station in person. Find more information on casting your ballot here.

State revokes Cobble Ridge farm determination

The Farm Operation Determination issued on Sept. 9 for Cobble Ridge resident West McDonough, whose dog’s alleged barking recently drew complaints from neighbors, has been revoked by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

According to a letter issued by the agency, which was also forwarded to the town, McDonough initially claimed that her operation was conducting the “Required Agricultural Practices” identified by the state, including “preparing, tilling, fertilizing, planting, protecting, irrigating and harvesting crops for sale on a farm that is no less than 4.0 acres.” At the Aug. 31 meeting of the Select Board, McDonough addressed the issue and asserted her rights as a small, family farm.

On Sept. 18, however, McDonough allegedly informed the agency via email that she does not actually conduct the activities listed under the RAP. The operation on Cobble Ridge is therefore not considered a Small Farm Operation, and is thus subject to the town’s dog ordinance regulating barking. While it was not clear if the barking continues to be an issue, the board agreed to follow up with Animal Control Officer Pat Salo.

Londonderry 5th for PP Loans in Windham County

Alexander Beck, a workforce and education specialist with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., presented the organization’s request for continued municipal funding in 2021. As it does every year, the BDCC is requesting a total appropriation of $5,307 from the town of Londonderry, to be voted on at Town Meeting.

Alexander Beck of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp explains the benefits that his organization offers to towns such as Londonderry.

Beck said that BDCC staff members were able to shift their focus to direct business outreach when the Covid-19 pandemic began and, since then, Windham County has received a higher percentage of stimulus funds compared to surrounding areas. Londonderry has received the fifth most Paycheck Protection Program loans in Windham County, Beck said.

He said that it is municipal funding that allows the BDCC to operate with such flexibility during emergency situations, as the organization has done since Tropical Storm Irene. Helping businesses survive the pandemic is currently a priority for BDCC, as is a spate of accelerated retirements likely due to the pandemic. More employees are exiting the workforce early due to concerns about the age-related risks of Covid-19, Beck said, while others are doing so because of childcare constraints.

“SeVEDS (the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies, coordinated by BDCC) started in the wake of Hurricane Irene and the loss of Vermont Yankee,” Beck said. “We wish our moment to shine was not during emergencies, but I do think that the ability to act as a region and utilize some of these resources helps us weather the storm.”

Delayed salt bill, unnecessary conduit present potential problems

The board later moved to enter into a contract with Apalachee Salt for this winter at a rate of $70.15 per ton. Though a lower bid of $70 per ton was received from American Rock Salt, Road Foreman Josh Dryden expressed some concerns about quality and storage methods based on conversations with surrounding towns. The board also received an additional bid from Cargill at a rate of $70.25 per ton.

Treasurer Tina Labeau updates the board on funds available for salt.

While the town had budgeted $80,000 for salt this year, approximately $27,000 has already been used to pay a delayed bill for the 2019 season invoiced by Apalachee this summer. With $52,000 remaining in the fund, and about 800 tons of salt needed for the season, according to Town Treasurer Tina Labeau, board members could not be certain that the amount of salt needed at the price quoted by Apalachee would remain within the budget.

However, nearly 600 tons of salt is left over from last year in the town’s shed, said Labeau,  adding that the town has purchased more salt in the past as the storage shed only went into use two years ago. Unlike this year, there was no surplus of salt to work with in 2019.

The effort to install a generator for town facilities has presented a potential waste of funds, O’Keefe said, since money spent on permitting and constructing a buried conduit between the Town Office and Town Garage may have been unnecessary.

Though the town had hoped to utilize the conduit to share a single generator between the two buildings, it became clear during a meeting with the state electric inspector last Friday that doing so would not be possible without additional infrastructure that could cost upward of $5,000. That’s because the two buildings are fed from different circuits by Green Mountain Power, creating the potential for one building to have power while the other does not and necessitating additional equipment to link them.

Both the state inspector and the project’s contractor, Lawrence & Lober Electric, recommended installing a separate generator at the town garage, O’Keefe said. While this option had been discussed by the board, it was passed over out of concern about the potential damage from low usage that has allegedly impacted the Town Office generator. O’Keefe noted that Lawrence & Lober did not believe running the generator at lower power had “any significant impact” on it, and said that the town was hearing two separate stories regarding the potential damage.

“This project is still in motion, but it may be that the money we put into permitting and sinking those conduits may have gone to waste, frankly,” O’Keefe said. “If we do ever end up with fiber optic, though, we can run it through there, which is a saving grace.”

Mora added that the Town Office will also be renovated in the future, at which point the building will be using more electricity — especially with the addition of an elevator — potentially mitigating the alleged issues caused by running the generator under insufficient loads. O’Keefe also noted that the Town Buildings Reserve Fund, which is paying for the project, is in good shape and could likely handle the expenditure if a second generator is purchased this year.

Ultimately, the board agreed to wait for recommendations from Lawrence & Lober before proceeding with the project.

In other action, O’Keefe added that an outdoor burning ordinance instated on Sept. 4 is still in effect, and that the Town Highway Department is currently hiring. Fishman also announced that a hazardous waste collection event would be taking place at Flood Brook School between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17.

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About the Author: Journalist and photographer Cherise Madigan specializes in writing about outdoor recreation, the environment and travel. She has roots in Manchester and a history of reporting throughout Southern Vermont. Madigan is a graduate of Nazareth College of Rochester, earning her degree in Political Science summa cum laude in 2015.

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