WILMINGTON- Selectboard members announced the appointment of a new town manager, approved funding from the local option tax fund, and heard an update on Hermitage plans at their regular meeting Wednesday evening.
Scott Tucker, a former Rutland City police officer, will take over the town manager’s position on Monday, August 28. According to a written release from the selectboard, Tucker is a Vermont native with a BA in criminal justice from the University of Southern Maine. He served in various roles over his 37 years with the Rutland City Police Department. In 2014, he was appointed as commander of the department’s Community Outreach Division, and was the first executive director of a community-based initiative to reduce crime, revive neighborhoods, and improve the overall health and quality of life for residents.
In the release, Tucker said “Wilmington is a beautiful, vibrant community. I look forward to working with the selectboard, town staff, and its many volunteers to continue to make Wilmington a healthy, safe, and thriving community (in which) to live work and play.”
Tucker and board members signed his contract with the town at the meeting. The five-year contract includes annual compensation starting at $93,000 per year, a six-month probationary period ending February 28, 2018, vacation starting at eight weeks per year and rising to 10 weeks per year by year three, and up to three month’s severance pay for early termination after the probationary period.
Following the announcement, Wilmington resident Nicki Steel thanked interim town manager Gretchen Havreluk for her service to the town during the selectboard’s town manager search. “I’d like to thank her for all of her hard work,” Steel said. “I think she did a wonderful job.” The room erupted in applause.
Later in the meeting, board member John Gannon also thanked Havreluk for her efforts. “She came in and picked up a lot of the the pieces that had gone missing,” Gannon said. “They were the small pieces that make the town run smoothly, and she took up a lot of those things in a short time.”
“And she established a rapport with all departments, better than we’ve had in a long time,” added selectboard chair Tom Fitzgerald.
In other matters, the board took uncharacteristically swift and unexpected action on a request for funding from Deerfield Valley Rescue. Heidi Taylor, along with other members of Deerfield Valley Rescue, asked the board for $30,000 in 1% local option tax money as part of a broader effort to raise money for a down payment on a new Deerfield Valley Rescue building. Taylor had made the same pitch in Dover the night before, leaving with a commitment for $30,000 from Dover’s 1% fund.
Taylor noted that the ambulance service has not asked Wilmington for funding since 1974, when they asked for a $2,000 appropriation at their inception. But she told board members Deerfield Valley Rescue is seeking new quarters in Wilmington (see RESCUE, page 1). “We cover seven towns,” Taylor said, “and we need to stay centrally located in the downtown Wilmington area.”
Taylor said DVR has signed an agreement with Frank Sprague to purchase his welding shop building on 2 Adams Drive, giving them 60 days to come up with a down payment. Taylor said that although the ambulance service would qualify for full mortgage on the nearly $625,000 purchase and renovation price, the payments would not be sustainable. As a result, DVR members planned to bring the cost of mortgage payments down by raising $200,000 for the down payment. “Right now, we have commitments for $110,000,” she said. “Your ($30,000) contribution would bring us up to $140,000.”
“Well, I would love to see Deerfield Valley Rescue stay here in Wilmington,” said Gannon.
Fitzgerald agreed. “Is $30,000 enough?” he asked. “I think we all want Deerfield Valley Rescue to stay in town. I think we should probably increase it to $50,000.”
Board members agreed, and voted to donate $50,000 in 1% local option tax to Deerfield Valley Rescue’s down payment fund. “We appreciate your support,” said Taylor.
Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes gave board members a 10-minute presentation on the private resort’s current status and plans, which he said he hoped would provide facts to counter “the rumors that seem to happen if I’m not in the room.”
According to Barnes, the club is rebuilding its momentum after suffering setbacks from a stalled regulatory process and poor winter weather. He cited recent real estate sales of $2.6 million and expected sales of $2.5 million in September, as well as an increase in membership sales. Membership initiation fees at the club are currently $85,000.
In reference to debts owed to businesses and contractors in the area, Barnes said the club was “continuing to work out payment plans with vendors, eating away at an old problem.” Regarding tax payment with the town, Barnes said it was vital for them to continue through a difficult time. “We wouldn’t ask for relief unless we needed it,” he said. “We had a tough time the last couple of months, but we’ll never give up.”
With permits in place, Barnes said the Hermitage plans to move forward with the construction of an additional 93 units at $110 million. “And 36 of those alone are lots that we can sell right away, and that will help a lot.”
Barnes said the club plans to raise additional capital through a $15 million “rights offering” to club members, other offers to members, and taking on as much as $60 million in new debt. He said the club would also be announcing a new governance structure. He will still be the majority owner, but governance responsibility would be shared with eight other club members.
At the end of the presentation, only board member Ann Manwaring asked a question. “When you talk about the vision, where does the vitality of the village fit into it?”
Barnes said Wilmington village has been vital to the Hermitage Club’s plans. “A vibrant downtown is very important to us,” he said.