SHAFTSBURY >> A resident expressed disapproval with the Select Board's plan to place a question involving a new town garage at the transfer station on the ballot in March.
"I understand that the board is trying for the third time for a new garage up at the old dump site off North Road, without the site first being approved by the townspeople," said Shaftsbury resident Ed Corey, speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, "When people know where the site is, I think that's why it's been voted down twice."
The town has held two votes on a new garage in the past several years, once in March 2013, which was for a $1.55 million bond to fund the construction, and failed by a two-to-one margin, and again in early December of that year, which was for a $995,000 bond and was voted down 319-350.
Chairman Tim Scoggins asked Corey where he would like to see the garage built, if not at the North Road site.
"I know the town is currently leasing the land right next to this building, and the town could do a lease with an option to buy on it. It would be a possible site for the new garage, but it wouldn't have to be," said Corey.
Board member Art Whitman pointed out that, in the past, the proposal was to put the new garage down, away from the road, but that another possibility is being considered this time that would put it near where the transfer station is, which would save the town the expense of building a driveway to the garage.
Corey said his biggest concern was the contamination at the landfill site. "If I'm looking towards the future of Shaftsbury, I wouldn't want to see the garage there," he said.
"I feel strongly, and a lot of the board members do, that the garage, the road crew operations, is an industrial activity in our village center, just a stone's throw from the school," said Scoggins, "I am, and I think most of the board is, trying to get the garage out of our village center, I think it will make the village center a nicer place by moving the garage. We have looked at acquiring that property for other reasons. It's never been an opportunity we've wanted to move very hard on, for other reasons, but I don't believe the garage should stay there."
"Everybody's got an opinion," responded Corey, "but you will never get my vote to put the garage up at the old dump."
In 2014, Corey gathered signatures on a petition to have a ballot article compelling the town to purchase the property adjacent to the current garage, which is owned by Peter Cross, for $110,000. The board, after seeking legal counsel, determined that a ballot article cannot compel a municipality to purchase property, and voted to leave it off the ballot after a group of signees, including Whitman, who was not on the board at the time, expressed confusion about the petition's language. At the time, then-board member Carl Korman cited the appraised value of that land as $70,000, and that the town's highest offer for that property had been $95,000. As recently as January, Whitman reported that the town had been engaged in discussions to obtain that property through a land swap.
Later in the meeting, town administrator David Kiernan said that he had re-thought the board's decision from two weeks prior to budget $5,000 for a trailer that the road crew could use as a break room. "I took the trailer off, thinking that we could probably get by for another year and hopefully the garage will be approved, and by fiscal '18 we'll be looking at a new building," he said, "It might be an expense that might not sit well, it's something that maybe we should just move off and maintain the status quo. We do not have optimum facilities, I think everybody realizes that."
It was also announced that the town's annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony will take place on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29, at 4 p.m.