At the close of the meeting, selectboard chair Tom Fitzgerald asked board member John Gannon, participating by phone from Montpelier, whether the Hermitage Club had paid their outstanding sewer bill with Coldbrook Fire District.
“The Hermitage did not make their payment by the January 2 deadline, and Coldbrook is going to shut them off tomorrow (Thursday, January 4) at 9 am,” Gannon said.
Responding to a question from Fitzgerald, town manager Scott Tucker said the Hermitage had also failed to pay their property taxes. Fitzgerald expressed concern. “We’re not getting great news from up there,” he said. “The Hermitage is really on the ropes.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Tucker introduced the town’s new fire chief, Scott Moore, a veteran Wilmington firefighter and longtime officer in the department. Moore thanked Tucker, former interim Town Manager Gretchen Havreluk, and selectboard members for their attention to the department’s needs.
The board also handed Moore a “hot potato” for his first assignment as chief – to recommend a site for the town’s emergency shelter. Tucker said that, according to emails from a Red Cross representative last summer, there were three possible locations for a Red Cross emergency shelter in the area, including Twin Valley Middle High School, Twin Valley Elementary School, and Snow Lake Lodge in West Dover.
“OSEC has also asked us to consider their site, at $60,000 per year,” said Fitzgerald. “So we’re reluctant to entertain that. So the question is, is the elementary school valid at this point?”
Moore indicated that there’s no connection for a generator at TVES, and Tucker said OSEC’s building wasn’t identified by the Red Cross because of “fire code issues.”
OSEC member Meg Streeter objected to Fitzgerald’s recollection of OSEC’s proposal for town funding. “Yes, we’ve asked for money, but not $60,000 for a shelter. It was one of many uses, including summer recreation and other town uses, and the emergency shelter was on the list. To say that we asked for $60,000 to make an emergency shelter is incorrect.”
Fitzgerald recalled that OSEC had submitted a $60,000 budget, but Streeter said it had been withdrawn. “And it wasn’t just for emergency use,” added OSEC member Janet Boyd.
“It makes it sound like we’re trying to profit by making the building available,” Streeter continued. “We’re doing this to make a community center out of a building that would otherwise be derelict. And we’re excited about it. What I don’t understand is, is the Red Cross in charge of designating an emergency shelter, or does the town do that?”
Moore said he needed to study emergency shelter site selection criteria before offering an opinion. “I’d like to investigate exactly what’s needed and what they’re looking for, if you can give me a little time.”
In a related matter, the board also heard a funding request from Joanne Bourbeau and Dan Hollister, of WinDART, the Windham Disaster Animal Response Team. The group, which covers Windham County towns, is asking for $250 from towns to help fund the volunteer organization. Bourbeau said that various regional groups formed to rescue animals after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and were active in Vermont after Tropical Storm Irene. WinDART was established two years ago, she said. The group works with towns on emergency planning and response, and provides shelter for animals during a disaster. “After Irene, people were coming to shelters with their animals, but they can’t take pets at a Red Cross shelter, so we run a pet shelter and are responsible for caring for pets, and emergency officials can concentrate on the pet owners.”
Hollister said WinDART can respond to emergencies throughout Windham County with a trailer that contains their supplies and equipment. Board members agreed to include an article asking voters to approve $250 for the organization on the warning for the annual Town Meeting.
The board also gave economic development consultant Gretchen Havreluk and Jack Widness, of the Lake Raponda Association, the go-ahead to apply for a grant to fund their greeter program for the second year. The “greeters” meet boaters and provide information about preventing the spread of invasive species. The greeters perform a voluntary inspection of watercraft with permission of boat owners. “Last year there were 814 watercraft checked,” Havreluk said, “and they found three that had questionable plant material. We can’t say for sure whether there was any invasive species found.”
Havreluk said state officials considered Wilmington’s Raponda program to have been very successful, and recommended that they apply for a $25,000 grant this year. This year’s program budget also includes a line item for improved signage at Green Mountain Beach and a kiosk with signs about invasive species.