Lorre Adams, membership and accounting director of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, provided insight into the goals of the Vermont byways program, and encouraged the selectboard to draft a letter of approval, the first step in the nomination process. The byway program is seeking designation of the strip of Vermont Route 100 that runs through Readsboro as part of a Route 100 Scenic Byway. Since the project is still in preliminary stages, Adams explained the goals of the byway project would utilize “six chapters of the town plan,” and work in the town’s favor economically due to increase in traffic and national recognition as part of a byway system.
Town administrator Mark Shea found the project inviting, “This is a plus for Readsboro,” he explained, “It allows recognition through marketing.”
The project’s mission statement declares: “The program is about recognition, not regulation,” yet all three selectboard members expressed concerns about the impact the project will have on the town’s ability to develop economically. The main concern: construction of windmills and cell phone towers.
“My concern is that at some point someone can use this as a legal weapon against the town or something the town wants to do, and in this case it’s the windmills,” explained selectboard member Teddy Hopkins, “We cannot shoot ourselves in the foot. I’m against this recognition until I see those windmills start spinning in Readsboro, then I‘ll reconsider it.”
The National Scenic Byways Program seeks to “Identify, designate, and promote scenic byways and to protect and enhance the archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities of the areas through which these byways pass.”
Selectboard member Ray Eilers, as well as some residents, echoed the concern. “It would be a problem if someone wanted to challenge the windmills, and they could use this byway as a point in their case,” explained Eilers.
Hopkins also believes the annual revenue the town will gain from the 11 proposed windmills in Heartwellville, at least $154,000 annually, would outweigh any marketing the scenic byway project will include or develop. The board agreed support would only come with guarantees against economic infringement of any kind against the town.
The town is also at a standstill concerning the last construction project left on town roads as a result of Tropical Storm Irene. Shea recently attended a meeting in Newfane with FEMA officials, detailing FEMA’s prerequisites for hazard mitigation grants. The town is currently working on securing such a grant to fix a Ruby Road culvert damaged by the storm. FEMA will not accept Vermont State hydraulic assessments of sites like the one on Ruby Road, instead requiring towns to have this process done on their own dime, a service that costs upward of $3,000.
Once the assessments are performed, there’s no guarantee FEMA will provide a grant. The project must be completed within 18 months after September 2011, leaving approximately seven months for the project to be completed.
The selectboard also read Green Mountain Engineering’s proposal to reduce the budget of a plan to run new water piping from the Jarvis Hill Reservoir water tower, across the Route 100 bridge, and along Main Street to the School Street intersection. One plan calls for reducing the scope of the project down Main Street, while the second called for a new round of bidding for the project, and the third called for reducing subcomponents, and hiring local businesses to perform the majority of the work.
The cost of the piping also raised eyebrows, as the original plan using ductile cost $200 per foot of pipe, as oppose to $130 per foot to use plastic piping. The board decided to put off an official decision, citing more time needed to make a careful decision.
Superintendent of public works Barry Howes reported that paving had been completed on Branch Hill Road, as well as the new park and ride MOOver stop, across from the Readsboro General Store. Installation of a bike rack, posting proper signage, and creation of parking spots are the next priorities for the project.
The selectboard also asked Shea to draft a job posting for a new weekend sewer maintenance worker, to be posted in town and on the town’s website.