BY ANGELO LYNN
BRANDON — In a short but packed meeting Monday night, the Brandon selectboard heard public comments on preliminary concerns for the upcoming reconstruction of the Union Street sidewalk, agreed to create a Unsung Heroes event to honor local residents, will look into the feasibility of creating a Brandon Community Fund and agreed to expand the town Energy Committee from five members to seven.
Before those items, the meeting kicked-off with Town Manager Dave Atherton outlining almost $2 million in upcoming projects facing the town with a request for board members to review the items and be ready to finalize or adjust how each would be funded at the next board meeting on April 9. This exercise is needed because of changes to the rules about how American Rescue Plan Act funding could be spent.
The projects and how they will currently be funded are:
• Union Street Sidewalk and Curb replacement, $594,811; $300,000 from VTrans and Vermont municipal assistance grants; $300,000 from local options tax, which is a town contribution; estimated start date, Spring 2024;
• Newton Road Pump Station, $400,000; ARPA, $360,000; $40,000 funded by town; start date, fall 2023;
• Arnold District Box Culvert, $400,000; $200,000 from VTrans Cass 2 Highway grant; $200,000 not yet funded; start date, fall 2022;
• New England Woodcraft Stormwater project, $292,000; 100% Vermont Agency of Natural Resources funding; start date, summer 2023;
• New salt shed at town Department of Public Works, $160,000; 100% funded by town; start date, summer of 2022;
• Town Farm Road rebuild Phase 1, $120,000; 100% funded by town; start date, summer of 2022.
Total project costs are $1,966,811. Total outside funding sources amount to $1,152,000 with the remaining costs of $814,811 being picked up by the town.
Atherton said one suggestion was to use the ARPA funds that are not going to be in the General Fund to cover remaining costs and not borrow any funds to complete the projects noted above. The selectboard will entertain that discussion at its next meeting.
Atherton also advised the board that the Brandon Fire District #1 and BFD#2 connection project went out to bid on March 21, and bid openings will be April 5; he hopes the bidding process for the Waste Water Treatment Plant upgrades goes out this month after a DRB hearing was held on March 23 with no opposition; and noted that an appraiser was chosen for the three new buyout properties on Newton Road, which he hopes will be appraised by mid-April.
In town rec news, Recreation Director Bill Moore noted that “Mom Prom” would be held April 9 from 8-11 at the Brandon Town Hall; Rusty DeWees comes “Down From the Mountain” with his comedy act on April 16 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall, and that the town’s summer recreation programs are heating up with a theater camp with Jeff Hull; swim lessons with Jake Jacobs; Joseph Sloma Trailblazers and more.
UNION STREET SIDEWALK
The selectboard heard a presentaton by Brian Breslend, a senior project engineer with contractor DuBois & King, on the proposed reconstruction of Union Street Sidewalk, then opened up the meeting to public comments or concerns about the project. Two local residents, Shirely Markland and Ruth Walker spoke up about their specific properties with concerns the sidewalk might be even closer to their homes in one case, and in another that a steep grade made for treacherous walking when it was icy.
In both cases, Breslend and Atherton assured the residents that the purpose of the reconstruction project was to make the sidewalk compliant with ADA standards and improve the overall safety for pedestrians. Plans are for the sidewalk to essentially be rebuilt on its existing footprint and any revisions to driveways or other individual property would be temporary as the project is being built and would be reinstated to its original state once completed.
The project is likely to start either next spring (2023) or the following year, Breslend said.
An idea by resident Lyn Des Marais was brought to the selectboard to start an Unsung Heroes Day or event, perhaps sometime in late summer or early fall. The idea, Des Marais wrote, is to recognize folks who have gone out of their way to help others. The event, she wrote, would “celebrate community…. For all the best reasons, and have some good food and drink at our restaurants and breweries and wander our shops.”
The selectboard deferred the item to Town Recreation Director Bill Moore, who said he thought it sounded like a “great idea” and would organize a committee of volunteers to work on the details. Des Marais, he said, would certainly be one of the first to join the effort.
In another idea, Town Clerk/Treasurer Sue Gage was considering how to invest certain temporary town funds and found interest rates were so low it made little sense, and thought of creating a Brandon Community Fund that could help area residents in housing or other concerns.
The selectboard liked the idea, with Tim Guiles saying he could see many situations in which it would be a “win-win” for the town and area residents. The board agreed to pursue the idea and approved a motion to appoint Guiles and Mike Markowski to serve on a study committee to research how such a fund might be established.
In other action, the board:
• Approved a motion to expand the town Energy Committee from five members to seven, then also appointed Jeff Haylon and Jeffrey Cohen to that board. The committee’s request initially was to expand to 10 members, but following a discussion about the difficulty of finding a quorum with larger boards, it was decided to just go up to seven members for now.
• Reduced .48 miles of Class 4 road (less than half a mile) to .48 miles of legal trail on a portion of Steinberg Road.
• Paused for a moment of silence to recognize the years of service Wayne Kingsley served as the town’s tree warden. Kingsley died earlier this month. His service will be April 4, 10 a.m. at the Forest Dale Christian Fellowship Church.