About 250 Waterbury residents passed through the gymnasium at Thatcher Brook Primary and stayed to listen for a little while during the four-and-a half hour town meeting. About 60 residents made it to the very end of the meeting.
Voters passed the $4.8 million municipal budget almost unanimously by voice vote; property taxes will supply $3.4 million of that total.
There was one amendment to the budget, a $37,500 addition to help pay for parking improvements.
Lack of parking is an issue downtown, and it’s soon to get worse, with Main Street reconstruction eliminating a lot of on-street parking during the next couple of years, and the sale of the TD Bank building eliminating convenient downtown parking.
The Select Board has been looking at ways to solve the problem, and put in a proposal in January to buy the former municipal offices at 51 S. Main St. from the village government to provide parking.
However, the village decided not to sell the building to the town government. Instead, it’s negotiating with local developer Chris Parsons, asking him to increase his $125,000 offer for the property, where he wants to build a multi-use residential, retail and restaurant space.
Neither the village nor Parsons budged during negotiations.
So, just days before Town Meeting Day, select board chair Chris Viens had an idea: What if the town helped Parsons buy the property?
Viens wanted to bridge the gap between Parsons’ offer and the village’s original asking price of $200,000. The magic number: $37,500, which he moved to add to the town budget.
“Chris Parsons has offered something not every developer would commit to — parking spaces,” Viens said.
In his “last-ditch effort to make this thing fly,” Viens got on the phone Monday night with Parsons, select board members and Skip Flanders, the village president, to talk over the plan.
The idea is still in its infancy, and needs to be negotiated among the three parties – the select board, Parsons and the village trustees.
Waterbury is entering a time where “certain private properties are going to have small windows” when they’re available to purchase, said select board member Mark Frier. That is going to affect downtown parking.
Everyone in the audience seemed to agree parking is an issue, though voters wanted some assurance as to what the $37,500 would get them. Would the deal last five years, or longer?
Karen Miller proposed an amendment to ensure that Waterbury would get parking for 99 years of parking access on the property. Miller’s amendment passed 50-42.
Viens asked Waterbury voters to “have enough faith we (the select board) are looking out for your best interest.”
Negotiations are continuing, and village trustees may have to present the idea to village voters, even though those voters have decided to dissolve the village government.
So, stand by.
The paving plan
This year’s highway plan includes paving Neil Road in Waterbury Center, tuning up two bridges on Guptil Hill Road, and paving parts of Loomis Hill Road, Armory Avenue, Shaw Mansion Road, Kneeland Flats Road and River Road.
Culverts will be repaired on Hubbard Farm Road, Perry Hill Road and Loomis Hill Road.
The town also received a grant to help pay to design sidewalks and crosswalks up Stowe Street and across Route 100.
With that many projects on the agenda, Town Manager Bill Shepeluk said the town “may have to shuffle the deck” depending on what work can be done. “We won’t spend more money than you authorize,” but “it’s fluid,” he said.
Voters were happy with higher spending on roads, though they’d like even more.
John Callan said he has to “keep replacing suspensions on my car” because of the road conditions on Loomis Hill and Sweet Road. He was happy to see something being done with Loomis Hill, though Shepeluk said the work this year won’t fix the worst part of the road. That would cost about $800,000, Shepeluk said, and the town would probaly have to finance that over several years.
Ripley Road was also asked about.
“Believe me, it’s going to be the last road that gets paved because I live on it,” Shepeluk said.
Moving the Culkin Fund
Every year, Waterbury votes on transferring money from the Culkin Fund — dedicated to assisting people in Waterbury — to the Community Action Team’s Good Neighbor Fund.
Voters decided Tuesday simply to give the estimated $11,000 to the Good Neighbor Fund.
The Good Neighbor Fund has about $183,000 invested and uses the income to “to support our mission,” said the Rev. Peter Plagge, the fund chairman. He said the Culkin Fund will be added to the other investments and used for anything from food to electricity, “whatever is needed.”
Voters approved donating $58,650 to service organizations. Here’s the list:
Central Vermont State Police Advisory Board, $100; Sexual Assault Crisis team, $200; OUR House of Central Vermont, $250; Good Beginnings of Central Vermont, Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Community Harvest of Central Vermont, and Everybody Wins, $500 each; Vermont Center for Independent Living, $600; Home Share Now, $700; Waterbury Community Band, $800.
Getting $1,000 each: Capstone Community Action, Family Center of Washington County, People’s Health and Wellness Clinic, Project Independence, and Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
Also, Central Vermont Council on Aging, $1,200; Circle, $1,375; Washington County Youth Services Bureau, $1,500; Good Samaritan Haven, $2,500; and Washington County Mental Health, $3,000.
The American Red Cross and Central Vermont Basic Adult Education each got $2,000.
Also, The Children’s Room, $4,000; Green Mountain Transit Agency, $7,325; and Waterbury Area Senior Association, $20,000.
Voter turnout for the Australian ballot votes in Waterbury was 13.6 percent — 569 of the town’s 4,186 registered voters.
Elected without opposition: Nathaniel Fish, Marc Metayer and Mark Frier, select board; Carla Lawrence, town clerk, town treasurer and town agent; Janice Gendreau, cemetery commission; Shannon DeSantis, library commissioner; Phillip Baker, lister; John Hamilton Woodruff IV, grand juror.
For Harwood Union, elected without opposition: Melissa Phillips for the one year remaining on Jim Casey’s term — Casey moved to Moretown. Waterbury residents Caitlin Hollister and Alexandra Thomsen were each re-elected for one-year terms.