Brandon Selectboard talks recycling, wetlands change

By RUSSELL JONES

The Brandon Selectboard met on Monday, June 24, and appointed several people to positions in the town’s management systems. Tim Guiles also provided updates on two ongoing matters.

Guiles told the board that contract negotiations with Earth Metal and Waste, the operators of the transfer station, were ongoing.

“The cost of recycling continues to be a challenge,” Guiles said. “We’re moving toward reducing the rent as a way to subsidize the cost of recycling.”

The company raised their recycling fees in January and board members have previously expressed worry that if recycling costs as much or more than trash disposal, people won’t recycle.

“There is a solid middle ground that we seem to be coalescing around,” Guiles said. “This doesn’t seem to be a contentious issue.”

Board chairman Seth Hopkins reminded the board that the recycling market is a still-growing, ever-changing landscape, and Guiles noted that they were changing the contract to a yearly basis (rather than every other year), which would allow for more nimble negotiations.

“The world of recycling and waste management has changed really significantly in the very recent past,” Hopkins said. “It is an apt time to be renegotiating a contract with the operator of the transfer station.”

Guiles also briefed the board on the Otter Creek reclassification process that is still in the early stages. The reclassification effort is being led by a steering committee made up of conservation commission members from Cornwall and Salisbury. The board was presented with a slide show by district ecologists last month and has appointed Guiles as the board’s representative in the matter.

“The initiative is suggesting that we reclassify the swamp area from a Class II to a Class I,” Guiles said. Guiles noted that while landowners abutting the Otter Creek wetlands would be able to do most everything they could under the Class I classification as they could under the current Class II designation, “the only difference is it protects it from development a little bit more.” One specific change is that it expands the buffer for many uses from 50 feet to 100 feet, unless that use is currently exempt.

Recent meetings in Salisbury and Cornwall, however, has drawn heavy criticism from area landowners who have expressed anger over efforts to restrict use of their land and skepticism from assurances that the changes won’t negatively impact them.

Town Manager Dave Atherton also said he has heard from the public quite frequently about the topic.

“I have actually had more people come and see me in the past two weeks on this topic (than any other), more than Segment 6,” Atherton said. “I can tell you the folks who are coming in to see me are not happy.”

Atherton said the number one question he has been asked is if the town’s selectboard has the final say in this.

“There is really no body, locally, that has any authority over making the request to change the classification,” Guiles said. “Anyone in Vermont can make the request, then it goes into the process where there will be a time for public input. Ultimately, it will be our elected representatives that decide if the body of evidence says that we should reclassify or not.”

The original petition came from the three-person conservation commission in Salisbury, along with the Salisbury conservation commission.

“So if the selectboard decides to vote “no” they don’t want to change this, it does not stop this?” Atherton asked.

“Right. It certainly weighs in, it’s a voice in the public forum,” Guiles said.  “But there’s no authority to put the brakes on because it’s a public petition.”

Giles went on to say it would be balanced on the public and private interests. Guiles said the public interest could outweigh the interest of the private landowners.

“We already have those (public interests) in place through our river corridor and flood management,” Atherton said. “What I am hearing from folks is this is just one more thing from the state. I hope the legislative bodies involved listen to people.”

IN OTHER NEWS

• The selectboard made 13 appointments to various open positions in the town’s government (see inset on this page.)

• Markowski Excavating was the low bidder on the Union Street sidewalk project. The contract will be signed shortly and they expect work to begin in September.

• The town has been awarded a grant for electric car charging stations. The Reporter will have more details on this soon. • The July 22 selectboard meeting has been moved to July 29.

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