Evanuk told the board she had spoken with Jim Matteau, of the WRC. Matteau, said Evanuk, made it clear that the planning commission and the selectboard must both hold public hearings, following the normal process for plan readoption rather than the abbreviated process the commission had hoped to use. “He suggested that we hold the Australian ballot (to approve the plan) right away instead of waiting until March,” Evanuk said. That would save the town from going many months without an approved plan.
“I spoke to (town clerk) Laura Sumner,” said Evanuk. Sumner told Evanuk that the vote could be held in the town office and would not cost more than $500. The vote would probably be held in September, with the public hearings in July and August.
Board member Mitchell Green said that earlier in the year he had pushed the planning commission to get a new plan done, “but then they had other stuff to do.”
“That’s one reason it would be advantageous (to separate the zoning board from the planning commission),” Evanuk said. If the two boards were not manned by the same people, planning commission work would not be interrupted whenever the ZBA is called upon to adjudicate a question.
If the plan is readopted, the planning commission would have time to prepare a thoughtful revision. Board members wondered whether a new plan could be ready for a vote in March. Evanuk felt that would be impossible, and that it would be a bad idea to try.
“They’re feeling so much pressure that they’re trying to rush,” said Evanuk. “They’re glossing over things that should be given more careful attention.” Among the items up for consideration are whether the town should create a commercial and/or industrial zone, where such a zone could be located, and what parameters should be set.
The town plan is more important than many realize. As Green himself pointed out to the planning commission last fall, the courts and the district environmental commission (Act 250) give a lot of weight to town plans in reaching their decisions. Both bodies regard the plan as embodying the considered thoughts and desires of town residents.
Nevertheless, Green said on Tuesday, “A lot of people don’t want to deal with the town plan.” They “don’t care about it. I’ve had people say that to me.”
Green said he would prefer to put the vote off until March. Special elections tend to draw a low turnout, he said, and it would be bad to have only 30 or so people decide for the whole town. Under the old system the decision was made by the three-member selectboard. Board chair John LaFlamme agreed that special vote turnouts are low, though his estimate (50) was higher than Green’s.
“You might be surprised,” said Evanuk. “If it’s well advertised, with the public hearings, more people might participate.”
The board decided to wait until their public hearing on the plan before making a decision on whether to hold the special balloting in September or wait until March. LaFlamme said he hoped to get some feedback on the issue from citizens attending the hearing.
Two bids for blacktopping were submitted to the town. Warner Bros. bid $85 per ton, and Lane Construction bid $75.45 per ton. The board voted to accept Lane’s bid.
Highway commissioner Bradley Rafus told the board that the bid was lower than he had expected, his estimates having been based on last year’s costs. That means that doing only the projected amount of blacktopping would leave an unexpected surplus in the town’s highway grant funds. This kicked off a discussion over whether to pave more miles of road or to spend some of the money on crushing rock for gravel. Rafus said that if the town crushes its own gravel, the cost would be $5 per ton, as opposed to buying gravel for $15 per ton.
The board was impressed by the substantial savings. Gravel is essential for the town’s dirt roads, which lose about an inch of surface material each year even in a year without washouts. No new pits are being opened, said Green, probably, he thought, because of Act 250. The cost of purchased gravel is going up steadily. Still, as Green pointed out, the town has been doing a lot of paving in recent years because “we tried to save money by cutting paving in the past.”
No decision on the matter will be made until the board has more detailed information at its disposal.
LaFlamme asked Rafus if he knew any more about the Reed Hill bridge project. Rafus said the present bridge, a wooden deck over I-beams, would be replaced by a floating deck of precast concrete, which will rest on the present abutments. The I-beams will be removed, as it is their integrity which triggered state concern. The project, which will be put out to bid, will take five days to complete, Rafus said.
Constable Andy Rice reported on two ongoing problems. One concerned “wandering cows” and their depredations on neighboring lawns. Rice will get an estimate on the costs of repairing the damage, and the cows’ owner will pay.
Rice said he has been working on the second problem with the state police. “Suspects have been seen casing places,” said Rice. There have been thefts as well. Copper tubing was stripped from two vacation houses, and a skidder’s chains were stolen. Apparently the thieves are not up to date on the plunging prices of scrap metal. Rice said he has bought a digital camera to photograph evidence at crime scenes.
LaFlamme asked Rice if he had any information on a nude motorcyclist who has triggered some complaints. According to the state police, said Rice, “as long as he’s wearing a helmet and not making any lascivious or suggestive motions, he’s not breaking the law.” If Rice encounters the man, he will try to have a talk with him.
This brought up the topic of stopping vehicles for defective equipment. Rice said he will have to start doing that regularly in order to establish a record of customary practice. Otherwise, he said, a defense lawyer in a DUI case stemming from an equipment stop can accuse the town of profiling.
In other business, the board will renew the current contract with the state police and return a signed contract to Rescue Inc.