Weston firefighters seek new building; board appoints rep for Communications Union District

By Cherise Madigan
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Weston Volunteer Fire Department may be getting a new home following a preliminary presentation by Fire Chief Ryan Hart and Firefighter Jake Hart at the Oct. 13 meeting of the Weston Select Board.

The flooded Weston fire station in April 2019. Telegraph file photo

In their appeal, presented by Jake Hart, the fire company requested that, as a first step, an article be included in the 2021 Town Meeting Warning asking for a sum of money to be placed in a New Building Fund. The current fire house, at 734 Main St. next to the West River north of the Weston Playhouse, falls within a floodplain and has encountered issues with flooding for decades, according to Hart.

“It flooded with 4 feet of water during Hurricane Irene,” he said. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s, we had to move out several times because the water came up and covered the floor. It’s not a good situation when the fire department members should be helping the town recover from the emergency.” The building also flooded in April of 2019 during a rainstorm and melting snow that affected the entire region.

Ryan Hart, left, and Jake Hart speak to the Weston Select Board about a new fire house.

Much of the department’s heavy equipment can’t be moved in time, Hart continued, though in recent years, some damage has been covered by insurance. Despite these ongoing problems, he said that the fire department doesn’t expect the project to come to fruition for years — but would like to begin planning for it now since costs could run well into six figures.

Vice Chair Jim Linville and board member Anne Fuji’i requested that the department return to the board with more detailed information. Board Chair Denis Benson suggested that firefighters determine a “ballpark figure” for the project’s cost while also making a public request for land that could be sold or donated to the fire department.

“See what offers you get that way,” he said. “Maybe somebody would be charitable enough to donate an acre or two for a new fire house.”

The board also discussed how much land the facility would need, where it could be located since flooding tends to divide the town in two, and even if two facilities would be most effective. The fire department agreed to work on a proposal ahead of Town Meeting, specifically researching how much space would be needed and what the estimated cost would be.

Representative appointed for Deerfield Valley CUD

The board also discussed a number of internet connectivity options, including Weston’s membership in the Deerfield Valley Communications Union District, which aims to bring equitable, fiber optic internet to the region with no investment from taxpayers or town governments. Weston resident Rusty Davis was appointed as the town’s representative in the CUD, though Linville noted that both he and Davis question when high-speed internet would reach Weston through the volunteer-led initiative — if at all.

Vice Chair Jim Linville questions the pace of action for the CUD.

Last week, the Windham Regional Commission released its business plan for the CUD, which would phase in construction of fiber optic in their member towns over a number of years.

“That whole thing is going so slowly, and Rusty and I agree that we will be lucky as hell if they start putting up fiber optic in Weston,” Linville said. “It could be 10 years, and it could be never. This is kind of an ad-hoc thing, and I don’t have a lot of confidence in it right now.”

Nonetheless, Linville agreed that membership in the CUD was worthwhile since it bore no cost for the town. In the meantime, he said he has begun looking into other internet options to increase connectivity in Weston. Expanding internet access through Comcast would be expensive, Linville said while asking Town Clerk Kim Seymour to collect population data for the company.

Consolidated Communications, another internet service provider, has said that it may seek a grant to upgrade a relay station on Greendale Road in Weston. Linville said that upgrade could mean faster internet speeds for 88 homes, some of which house students. To pursue the grant, however, Consolidated asked the Town of Weston to invest $2,500 in seed money, which would be returned if the grant, amounting to $30,000 to  $60,000, was not awarded. If Consolidated did get the grant, the upgrade would be complete within a year of the deposit but the $2,500 would not be returned, according to Linville.

“When I think of these students, $2,500 doesn’t seem like a lot of money to me, even if another opportunity does come in a few years,” said board member Charles Goodwin, whose motion to pursue the grant with Consolidated passed unanimously.

Emerald ash borer, Trout Pond Rd. culvert work, Main St. walkway

The arrival of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer, which has been found throughout the region, prompted the board to revisit its plan for dealing with the problem. The beetle lays eggs in ash trees and the larvae feed on it, killing them within five years unless trees are treated with insecticide. Most often, the ash borer is spread through firewood.

Though the plan was put together more than a year ago, the board agreed its course of action — in which Road Foreman Almon Crandall cuts down impacted trees, and the town hires a professional to take down any trees that Crandall cannot — is still appropriate. Earlier, board members and other town officials conducted an inventory of ash trees in the town.

In other business, the town accepted a bid from engineer Everett Hammond for the replacement of a culvert on Trout Pond Road. Hammond’s bid for the project’s engineering work totaled $15,000 plus another $4,000 in legal and permitting fees. Though the bid exceeds the amount  that the board can authorize without a bid process, Linville noted that “professional services” including engineering are exempted.

An extension for the Pedestrian Scoping Study being conducted by engineering firm Dubois & King Inc., meant to improve pedestrian and bicycle traffic along Route 100, was also approved by the board. Public meetings required for the project have had to be delayed due to the pandemic, Linville said, and Dubois & King requested that their contract be extended through December 2021.

The Weston Select Board will meet next at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct, 27.

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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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