There was good news for USCellular customers in town. The board approved an application by USCellular to install a temporary cell tower on Carl Boyd’s property on Boyd Hill Road. According to their coverage maps, the tower would improve coverage in the village and surrounding areas, particularly along Route 9 in the village, Route 100 North, and in Chimney Hill.
Bob Gashlin, of USCellular, explained that the temporary tower would provide improved coverage while they wait for Grain Industries, a cell tower operator, to build a permanent facility nearby, also on Boyd’s property. “USCellular currently has service in the area, but there are some service problems here (in the village) and Route 100 North,” Gashlin said. “We’re looking for a site to cover these areas.”
Gashlin said the biggest problem area for coverage was around the traffic light in the village. “It’s a highly traveled route, and coverage is very important.”
Verizon would also have an antenna on Grain Industries’ permanent facility, but they haven’t approached the board regarding a temporary tower.
Responding to a question from selectboard chair Tom Consolino, Gashlin said he couldn’t predict when the permanent tower would come on line. “Once the state zoning process starts, you really don’t know if that’s something that’s going to be a straightforward process,” he said. “The Boyd property is a pretty nice place for a telecommunications facility on a couple of levels. The property is large enough that the site can be located off the road in the trees, and the Grain Industries site is not that tall, about 130 feet, and it’s not going to be near a lot of neighbors. But I’m not here to pitch Grain’s application.”
Board members asked how long it would take for USCellular to have the temporary site operational. Gashlin said the antenna itself would go up quickly, but “In terms of getting the guys ready to go and getting all the equipment loaded onto a flatbed, it might take 10 days to get the site operational.”
Board members approved the application, but were unsure whether there was a statutory appeal period for the temporary permit. Board members recommended Gashlin contact zoning administrator Alice Herrick for more information.
In other matters, the board gave their stamp of approval to a banner that will be displayed around the village. The banners will hang on existing hardware on utility poles. Although the Wilmington board managed to discuss the matter without controversy, the chamber-led effort ran into a brick wall at Tuesday evening’s Dover Selectboard meeting. Dover Selectboard members failed to choose any variant of the design after a lengthy and sometimes acrimonious discussion that included the recusal of two of their board members. Dover board members’ discussion centered on the image of a MOOver bus that had been added to one variant of the banner. Board member Tom Baltrus, a MOOver employee, recused himself from the discussion. Board member William “Buzzy” Buswell also recused himself from the board, and argued against approval of the banner with the MOOver image. A vote on a banner failed when the remaining board members voted 2 to 1 on the motion.
Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Adam Grinold said he hoped the issue would be revisited at an upcoming Dover meeting. “If I had known what I was getting myself into,” said Grinold. “Lesson learned.”
Perhaps ironically, the banners were created to express the notion of a unified valley, Grinold said. The banner approved by the Wilmington board includes images of Mount Snow, Haystack, Harriman Reservoir, the Deerfield River, West Dover Village, East Dover Village, and Wilmington Village.
The Wilmington Selectboard has committed $1,600 dollars to the banner program. The design was submitted by local artist Skip Morrow.
In a related matter, the board voted to sign a letter of support for a grant the chamber is seeking for a study. Consolino said the study would focus on eight vacant buildings, occupied by businesses before Tropical Storm Irene, and how they can be marketed to new businesses. “It’s a terrific proposal,” Consolino said. “The chamber is seeking a grant of $25,000 and hoping the Wilmington Fund VT will match it.”
One of the goals of the Wilmington Fund VT has been to rehabilitate Irene-damaged properties and attract new businesses to them.
In financial discussions, board members got a glimpse of the town’s short-term financial help, and they weren’t pleased with the news. After discussing the town’s storm-related expenses as well as the revenue from FEMA, insurance, and donations, they concluded that there’s a revenue gap from $113,000 to $278,000. “That’s the worst case scenario,” noted board member Diane Chapman. “What’s the best case scenario?”
“Very similar to that, actually,” said board member Meg Streeter.
Financial director Christine Richter said there was no way to project what the final funding gap will be at this point. She said more FEMA money is expected for various projects, but the town won’t know how much they’ll get until it’s received.
Expecting more austerity for the next budget cycle, board member Susan Haughwout noted that department heads were urged to cut budgets last year with the understanding that it would be a one-year cut. “I’m wondering how we should disseminate this to department heads so they’re not expecting to restore what they cut last year,” she said. “Because it doesn’t look like we can.” Streeter noted that despite last year’s cuts, taxpayers still received bigger tax bills.
Richter objected that the increase was on the school tax, not the municipal tax. “I hope taxpayers aren’t anticipating that we’re going to keep the tax rate this low,” said Richter. “We’ve done a lot to keep expenses down, and this is an unforeseen circumstance. There are some things you just can’t say you’re not going to do next year because you’re going to keep this unrealistic tax rate.”
In other financial matters, the board gave town manager Scott Murphy the go-ahead to hire a grant writer to assist with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) applications. After further discussion, the board agreed to start the grant writer on an application for a grant to study moving town services out of the flood zone, and a grant for a study and plan to digitize town records.