Solstice party may live again

MANCHESTER - Last Friday's Solstice Party was so successful, that a second one is being considered for Aug. 9.

The Select Board met on Tuesday night to discuss a variety of topics, one of which involved the recent StreetFest and whether there is a possibility of it happening again.

"I heard nothing but good things," said chairman Ivan Beattie, "absolutely no negative comments. It felt like a community event."

"The DPW did a great job cleaning up after," said Town Manager John O'Keefe. "I spoke with [Police Chief] Mike Hall and he said there were no concerns... the vendors were very pleased and the restaurants had one of their best nights."

O'Keefe said that they made a poll on the town's Facebook page about how residents felt the event went, and if they would consider attending another event like it. At the time of writing, as the poll is still active on their page, 63 people have voted to have it again, once a month, while seven voted to have it again, but only once per summer, and one respondant voted to never have it again.

Tricia Hayes, the town's public information officer, also provided feedback to the select board about the event. She proposed holding another, similar event in August. The proposed date of Aug. 9 would coincide with the town's annual Sidewalk Sales weekend.

The board took time to discuss some specific concerns about the event that would potentially be altered for the second street fair. Several businesses expressed that they would prefer to be open 6 - 10 p.m., rather than until 9 p.m., and concerns that there was too much packed into such a small area, Hayes said.

The select board felt that the size was workable, and it was good that the sidewalks remained passable. Beattie suggested that more physical space between the activiries might make it even more beneficial.

The board expressed concern as to who would be taking over the duty of planning the events now that they are no longer tied to the roundabout project.

"If you can prove that it can be self-sustaining, it would be much easier to give to someone else," said Beattie.

After additional discussion, the board authorized the closing of Main Street on Aug. 9, from 5 to 10 p.m. Hayes and O'Keefe said that they would return to the board to keep them updated with the amount of responses they received from vendors, and if they did not receive enough then they would reapproach the situation.

Businesses that are interested in sponsoring the event, as well as entertainers who are looking to perform, can contact Hayes at

Also on the agenda was a discussion of the Manchester property reassessment and update of the Grand List. Joyce Scribner, Pauline Moore, and Perry Green were all at the meeting to present their information to the board.

The Grand List from 2012 valued Manchester properties at $1,295,634113; the Grand List from 2013 was valued at $1,214,398,637. The difference was a decline by $81,235,476, or 6.3 percent.

They did not include condominiums or commercial spaces in the reappraisal, which was one of the contributing factors to the decline. Moore explained that not all properties declined; the properties at the top remained static in their assessment.

"If the state accepts these numbers...the school tax may go down," said Beattie, "and we may see a reduction in property tax." He cautioned, however, that this all does depend on the state when they set their tax rates in early July.

The final two items on the agenda involved the Junction Fund and what to do with the remaining $10,000 in the fund. O'Keefe proposed putting it towards the Town Green, which would be considered an acceptable use due to its proximity to the roundabout. The proposed usage of the money, which would only use about half of the remaining funds, would involve extending the electrical service on the green and building a permanent stage which could eventually be turned into a gazebo or bandstand.

"It will encourage walking downtown," said O'Keefe, "as well as using the Town Green. It would be a great asset."

The board approved the proposal to make the improvements on the Town Green, using aproximately $5,500 of the remaining junction fund.

In other business, the board heard from town Zoning Administrator Lee Krohn who proposed two separate items to which he was requesting approval. The first request was to apply for a $30,000 scoping grant for making safer routes for children to get to school in the town. The grant would look into the feasability of placing a sidewalk on School Street, and adding crosswalks to Bonnet Street and Main Street. Krohn explained that approving this grant would not bind the town to building anything, just to study the feasability of adding such things. The board approved his request to apply for the grant.

His second request was to work with O'Keefe on posting Request For Proposals (RFP) regarding small solar power projects in Manchester. Earlier in the year, EOS Ventures, an energy company based in Hancock, Mass., was interested in building a solar power project off Route 7. They placed a bid with the SPEED Program (Sustainably Priced Energy Development) of Vermont for access to megawatts to potentially be generated by a solar energy project, but did not win the bid.

Krohn said that since then, there has been interest by other parties in building a variety of solar projects, small and large, around Manchester. The RFPs would not generate any upfront cost to the town. The board approved the proposal.


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