Board urged to be wary of airport plans
by Mike Eldred
Sep 20, 2012 | 3689 views | 1 1 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOVER- Tuesday evening’s selectboard meeting started off with an airport warning and a water district update – both from Don Albano.

Albano warned board members to stay involved in a plan by Haystack developer Jim Barnes to enlarge and improve Mount Snow Airport. “I’m worried that Dover and Wilmington are going to make a mistake in not getting ahead of the project,” he said. “And getting ahead of the project means putting together a small group of people including a couple of people who are for the expansion, a couple of people against it, and the beneficiaries – Jim (Barnes) and Mount Snow.”

Albano said there were already more people working on the airport expansion project than they may be aware of. “I contacted Vermont aviation officials and they had already heard about it,” he said. “Tomorrow I’m going to speak with the Federal Aviation Administration, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve already heard about it.”

Barnes presented his plan for a longer runway and improved airport facilities to board members two weeks ago, together with a request for a $600,000 low-interest loan for the project. At the time, Albano warned that a jetport would significantly change the character of the area. Tuesday evening Albano said that, since he had spoken out about the project at the previous meeting, he has received a number of emails asking him to lead an effort against Barnes’ proposal. “But I’m not against it,” he said. “I’m not for it, either. I’m just looking for you to be prepared. It could have a major impact on the valley, not necessarily businesswise.”

In aqueous discussions, Albano told board members there were a number of reasons to form a public water district. “I’ve been concerned about water since 1978, when they started drilling wells for the condominiums. Now we have major radon issues going on - don’t be frightened, it can be remediated - but it says the water system is in flux.” Albano said he approached some of the condominium associations about donating their wells, to be operated by a water district. “They looked at me like I was crazy and said ‘Are you kidding?’”

Albano said the exploratory group concluded that the town would have to purchase the wells. “We may come up with a value of $1 million, then we’ll pay them back over a 10-, 15-, or 20-year period of time. These wells will become assets to the town rather than something that’s donated.”

Albano said the condominium managers would likely be happy to pass on the responsibility. “They have to be bonded, and if anyone gets sick they can be held responsible. And they don’t get paid much for this bonding and responsibility, so they’ll be happy to get out of that business if someone takes it over. The question is, who is that somebody?” Albano said the answer could be the North Branch Fire District, the town, or a private water distribution company.

He said he’s talked to “two or three” condo managers, but one has ignored his phone calls. “He may find a crippled old man crawling into his office soon to talk to him,” Albano said.

Albano said the group planned to explore governance and financial options over the next six months, and asked the board to commit to $3,000 to $6,000 for a feasibility study. “By the end of the six months, we should have a governance plan and a financial plan to present to you, if you want to go ahead with this. You can say stop now.”

The proposed water district would include Mount Snow condominiums at the golf course, Tara, Dover Watch, and Sawmill Farms; Handle Road including Kingswood, Suntec, Snowtree, Snow Mountain Village, Seasons, Glen Run, and the Abbey Group land; and Timber Creek and Greensprings.

Board member William “Buzzy” Buswell cited a number of concerns. He noted that the bond for the water distribution project would be about $24 million. “That’s the figure that came to me,” agreed Albano, “but when you take everything into consideration, it could be less.”

“Whatever way you do it, you’re looking at about a $2,000 water user fee. It’s a big burden on taxpayers. Taxes in the town of Dover are up, and almost 35% of the properties in Dover are up for sale. The reason is taxes.”

Buswell also said the radon issue could be isolated. “Our community is clean as a bell,” he said, referring to Mount Snow Village. “We don’t have any radon problems.”

“Yet,” said Albano.

Buswell said he was also concerned about combining separate water sources into one system. “Every water system in Dover has little flaws in it, some type of bacteria, but it’s so minimal it passes state tests. What happens if we combine, what’s the impact going to be on water quality?” Buswell was also concerned about the town’s liability for bacteria in the water.

Albano finally said he didn’t question Buswell’s concerns, but his timing. He suggested the questions would be more appropriate later, if they haven’t adequately been addressed by the feasibility study.

“Personally, I don’t want to see the town of Dover to be held liable,” Buswell said. “I make a motion we end it here tonight and do not pursue anything. If these condo associations want to get together and pursue their own water association, that’s fine.” Buswell’s motion found no second and, after further discussion, board members asked Albano to return at a future meeting for approval of funds for the study.

Police chief Robert Edwards presented the board with a contract for services from the Windham County Sheriff’s Department to supply temporary police personnel. But he said the contract had an unusual clause that would require the town to pay the sheriff’s department for training costs if the Dover Police Department hires any of the deputies assigned to Dover within two years of the assignment. If Dover were to hire the deputy, they would pay about $12,000 to the department. “We were using Jeff (Hudon) that way when he came here,” Edwards explained.

“And now he’s gone to the state police,” said board member Vicki Capitani. “Are they going to pay us because he went there?”

“I think that’s a bad precedent, and I think it’s not legal,” said Buswell.

Board members struck the paragraph, and signed the contract in expectation that the sheriff would accept it. Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark received his initial police academy training as a Dover police officer.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
M Gilberg
September 22, 2012
Maybe Barnes needs a "regional" airport to attract the uber rich clientele that hios trying to maket to, but once he gets control of needed land to expand his runways, the Valley's Selectboards and residents will be at the mercy of him, the FAA and pilots who have the final determination on where to fly, when and how to land. We get the noise and the quality of the Valley gets totally changed.

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