Weston board rehashes land survey decision, no change

By Cherise Madigan
2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Weston Select Board celebrated the delivery of a generator donated to The Little School at its Nov. 10 meeting, while continuing debate over a survey of the town-owned property on which the school and Weston Town Offices are located.

Weston Select Board chair Denis Benson returns to a discussion on spending on a land survey although the issue was decided two weeks ago.

While the board voted to proceed with the land survey at its last meeting, utilizing funds previously earmarked for the purchase of a new generator, the decision was not unanimous. Board Chair Denis Benson voted ‘nay,’ depicting the survey as a “serious waste of money.”

On Tuesday, Vice Chair Jim Linville and board member Anne Fuji’i argued that additional funds were now available because a generator had been donated, and that a survey would provide some much-needed guidance on where to place the generator permanently considering flood risks and elevation changes.

“Why do we need to pay an outrageous price when we can probably figure out the elevations from the two starting points we have, The Little School and the Town Office?” Benson asked, questioning whether the amount of taxpayer money being spent by the town was appropriate.

“For me the biggest reason is the 100-year flood elevation keeps getting lower and lower as you go downstream,” Linville countered. “In any case, in order to get a permit for installing [the generator] permanently, I think we’re going to need a certified survey of the elevation.”

Fuji’i argued that it’s best for the town to have a certified survey to avoid unexpected issues — including the recent monthslong discussion over where to safely place a generator — in the future. She also questioned why the topic was being re-hashed as it had already been voted on.

Select Board member Anne Fuj’i says the survey will prevent future issues.

“I was just trying to talk some common sense into people about spending $10,000 needlessly,” Benson said. Linville countered that the current estimate for the project is between $4,500 and $7,000. Ultimately, Benson accepted that the issue had already been decided and that the town would proceed with the survey.

Until a safe location is determined, the 20kw generator — donated by Greg and Michelle Bettman of Weston — will remain on a trailer against the southern wall of The Little School. In case of flooding, the generator’s wires can be unplugged and coiled onto the trailer, which could then be moved to higher ground.

The board authorized hiring Mike Savage of Savage Electric to hook up the generator in its temporary configuration, with the understanding that the materials and labor for the work will not exceed $3,000 — an amount that would require the town to pursue bids for the project. Savage, who helped coordinate the donation, has also offered to assist with the permanent installation next year.

Road Foreman Almon Crandall updated the board on a Better Roads Grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, which Weston has applied for through the Windham Regional Regional Commission. The decades-old grant program supports projects on municipal roads that “improve water quality and result in maintenance cost savings” and has funded Weston projects on Lawrence Hill, Johnson Hill and Holden Hill roads.

In 2021, stone installation projects will be done on Landgrove Road and Greendale Road, and Crandall questioned if funding could also be approved for culvert projects. While that remains to be seen, Crandall said that he’s stockpiling stone though the paperwork and funding for the project won’t be complete until spring.

The board quickly moved through its remaining agenda items, approving the town’s $916,385 payment due to the state Education Fund and reviewing Weston’s delinquent tax report.

According to Town Clerk Kim Seymour, both the Education Fund payment and delinquent tax report were fairly consistent with past years. Under “new business,” the board discussed potential spaces for their upcoming budget discussions — beginning in early January 2021 — which would allow for social distancing. While meeting spaces at both Walker Farm and the Weston Playhouse living room were discussed, a final decision will be made in the coming weeks.

The Weston Select Board will meet next on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

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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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