Dear Colchester Residents:
On behalf of the Selectboard, Town Manager Aaron Frank and Town Staff, we would like to extend a sincere thanks and gratitude to you for supporting and passing the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.
The Selectboard worked closely with staff to prepare a budget that balanced services while showing fiscal restraint for the benefit of all taxpayers. We remain focused on keeping spending contained, diversifying our revenue sources and we continually review efficiencies town-wide in the delivery of services.
We would also like to thank you for considering the Malletts Bay Sewer Project. This proposal was put forward for a public vote because it was the most viable method to address the human waste pollution from the failed systems on lots that are too small, to close to bedrock and/or lacking adequate soils. We value the Bay and will continue to evaluate options to maintain and improve our water quality. We will also continue the overall Malletts Bay initiative which includes improvements to land use planning and stormwater management to reduce other pollutants caused by stormwater runoff.
We are proud of the work the Town has accomplished with input and help from our residents, businesses, boards and commission members, volunteers and employees. The Selectboard and I look forward to continued efforts that will ensure our quality of life, economic prosperity, recreational opportunities, and environmental stewardship both now and for future generations.
Once again, thank you to all of the residents who participated in Town meeting and voted.
Chair, Colchester Selectboard
Weatherization key for climate, health
Across the U.S., climate change is driving weather patterns which severely affect the health and welfare of both people and animals. As a veterinarian, I find the images of dead and injured cattle, horses and wildlife from the devastating wildfires in Oklahoma, Texas and California to be heart-rending. Here in Vermont, the heat wave of 2018 also caused a record spike in heat related illness and emergency room visits in human patients, particularly children, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses. These problems will only become worse as global temperatures increase.
Vermont is a small state, but by prioritizing our actions, we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and improve health outcomes. Weatherization of buildings has many benefits: 1) reduces fuel expenditures and greenhouse gas emissions; 2) improves the health of people living or working in the buildings by reducing exposure to mold and mildew. The VT Department of Health estimates that properly winterizing homes reduces health-related costs by about $275 per household-year; 3) weatherization programs generate economic activity that keeps dollars in Vermont as opposed to sending that money out of state in the form of fuel expenditures.
Please write, email or call your legislators and ask them to support increased funding for weatherization programs, particularly those that help households which need financial assistance in this effort.
Bay project rare lapse in preparation
To those surprised and disappointed by the defeat of the sewer project, here is one resident’s view of what happened. True, some will oppose any expenditure whatsoever, and some others will vote for anything that mentions our beloved Lake or other noble cause. Most of us, however, try to honestly evaluate the cost-benefit of a proposed project over the next best alternative. With all due respect to our generally competent and hardworking town administration, the case for the sewer was uncharacteristically and stunningly ill-prepared.
The arguments in favor fell into roughly three buckets: (1) professionals spent much time and money to study the issue and concluded in favor of the sewer; (2) building this sewer now would cost less than building it at a later time; and (3) every little bit helps our Bay. The third argument would get my sympathetic nod at an elementary school fundraiser; however, a $14-plus million dollar project should demonstrate a concrete benefit. In the lead-up to the vote, opponents of the sewer generously shared their figures on sources of E. coli in the Bay, whereas the town seemed to shy away from hard numbers other than dollars. The second argument is a reasonable call to action, but only so long as building the sewer is justified at all. Which brings me to the Town’s first argument – trust the professionals. I am willing to trust the conclusions that pose and address the right questions. Namely, I’d like to know which alternatives those professionals had considered and what they found to be the difference in terms of the relative cost, traffic disruption, and improvement to the Bay. Basic stuff, folks. We’d go through the same kind of reasoning when shopping for a set of new tires, let alone embarking on a long-term, multimillion dollar endeavor. (Again, this isn’t intergalactic travel; alternative approaches to a municipal project always exist. If none seem apparent, that is the first sign that the issue requires further study.)
On Monday night, I came to the Colchester town meeting (along with my two youngest kids, who both enjoy frolicking in the Bay) as an undecided voter on the sewer issue and posed this very question about the alternatives at the open mike. Here was an opportunity for the administration to show off its years of preparation with facts and figures on how the sewer is quantifiably better and/or cheaper than other paths. The administration’s answer: “We don’t know what the alternatives would be.” Duly noted. In that case, please look into it and come back to us when ready.