By Chea Waters Evans, News editor
Update: This article was updated to correct the name of a participant in the conversation: her name is Ellen Fallon. It also reflects the correction that the TPLA is the Thompson’s Point Leaseholder’s Association.
The bulk of the July 13 Selectboard meeting was taken up with two issues: one a Highway Access Permit (HAP) request dispute that just won’t die and the other that has residents of Thompson’s Point chasing their tails. The board also approved a salary for a new position in town and talked about some beach improvements.
Will Bown and Meghan Browning applied for a highway access permit for their property on Morningside Drive off of Spear Street. The Selectboard made a site visit in June and discussed the HAP at length; the discussion proved to last just as long during this meeting. At issue are concerns brought up by the Morningside Cemetery Association (MCA), a group that maintains the 150-year-old cemetery that is adjacent to Bown and Browning’s property. The cemetery association maintains that the proposed access to the property could adversely affect water drainage in the area and cause damage to the burial ground.
Bown responded to these concerns with the assertion that the culvert he wants to install under the road would be an improvement to the current drainage situation. “We feel like we could actually improve water conditions,” he said. Nancy Richardson, who is on the cemetery association board, read from a prepared statement, saying that there are three reasons why she and her fellow board members object to the permit: location and function of the highway access point, design and implementation of drainage system, and some trees and vegetation that were destroyed prior to a permit being awarded. Those trees were cut down by Bown’s father; Bown said at the June 29 Selectboard meeting that it was done inadvertently and apologized.
Road Commissioner Jr. Lewis, who attended the site visit last month and reviewed the site plan, said he concurs that Bown and Browning’s plan could actually help the drainage, and then brought up another issue: “Just so everybody knows,” he said, “right now we are not maintaining this road at all, and have not for the past 40-odd years, so I’m not sure why we the town would want to start taking care of it.” Bown and Browning have offered to pay for road improvements and a culvert installation on their own, despite the road officially being a Class 3 town road, which means that the town is obligated to care for it. “If it’s a Class 3 road then it’s not Will’s culvert, it’s the town’s,” he said.
Peter Richardson, Nancy’s husband, who is also on the MCA, said he was not convinced that water wouldn’t be drenching the cemetery once Bown and Browning installed a culvert and graded the currently unkept dirt road. “We’ve got Junior saying no problem,” he said, “we’ve got Will saying, ‘We’ll make sure it works.’ Our position is, it ain’t gonna work. We dispute your conclusions, and we have sought to persuade everybody who’s got a hand in this thing that what ought to be brought in is a fresh professional examination of what’s going on here.”
He suggested that Bown and Browning hire an engineer to assess the situation; after much discussion it was settled that the Selectboard would approach a potential engineer to come to a site visit on July 27. Selectboard member Carrie Spear added, “These are two young people who are our future and will grow old together there…how incredibly lucky we are to have them as new neighbors, however it works.”
Leash law on Thompson’s Point
The Town of Charlotte does not have a leash law; the Thompson’s Point Leaseholder’s Association (TPLA) would like for the Selectboard to create one in their neighborhood. Some Thompson’s Point residents were at the meeting on Monday to discuss at length how unleashed dogs are wreaking havoc in the lakefront seasonal neighborhood, running into people’s lawns, aggressively approaching walkers or people relaxing on their own property, pooping willy-nilly, and running over freshly paved driveways.
TPLA opponents to a leash law say there are few tenable ways to enforce it—Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow pointing out that the town’s animal control officer does not have the bandwidth to patrol the area, and some pointing out that an ordinance in town already exists and should be enforced more rather than creating a whole new ordinance. Selectboard member Louise McCarren said, “We have an existing ordinance and we have reinforcement [guidelines] in that ordinance, so we should get the animal control officer involved and control what we’ve got.”
After much discussion the Selectboard decided to give the association time to address it again at their next meeting and then bring their opinions to the Selectboard meeting on August 10, despite frustration from TPLA board member Ellen Fallon. “It’s ludicrous,” she said. “We’re looking for a rule and everyone knows what the rule is: you need to have the dog on a leash.”
Assistant town clerk/treasurer pay raise
At the top of the agenda was a potential pay raise for whomever is hired as the new assistant town clerk/treasurer. The board decided, with input from the Town Clerk/Treasurer Mary Mead and current but departing assistant Christina Boohers, to raise the pay grade to $19–$22 an hour depending on experience, with Mead deciding the amount within that range for whomever is hired. For the past five years, the town has used the Palmer Method to assess and evaluate town positions; there has been some dissatisfaction with the method over the years, and McCarren said this pay raise decision is essentially changing the system.
“If we do this, then we are buying ourselves into a different way of doing pay raises, which is fine with me, but I don’t think we should delude ourselves,” she said, noting that the current system is “a dinosaur that has consistently caused problems.” Until the new person is hired and Boohers leaves, she will receive the new salary. Gallagher Flynn and Co., a consulting firm that the town has worked with on numerous occasions, will be consulted by the board to potentially evaluate the current system and recommend changes.
A range of bids for sitework at the library to finish up its construction project raised concern among Selectboard members; they wondered if the low bid of $31,570 from RJ Piche, as compared to the next lowest from Vermont Roads and Fields, which came in at $34,602, was encompassing all of the work that needed to be done.
The Selectboard and Library Director Margaret Woodruff discussed the possibility that Piche didn’t understand correctly the scope of work required and noted that Vermont Roads and Fields is a local company; it is owned by Charlotter Chris Mack.
After discussing the fact that predictably awarding work to local contractors would eventually deter others from bidding, the board decided to approach Piche to clarify that he knew what he was bidding on, and Town Administrator Dean Bloch said he would check references for both companies.
After a quick interview, Jacqueline DeMent was appointed to the energy committee for a term ending April 30, 2022.
Fog lines, the white lines on the side of a a roadway, will be installed in both villages. “If someone goes over the white line then state police will know someone has swerved,” Krasnow said. The lines are for traffic enforcement and safety.
Recreation Director Nicole Conley said she is testing the beach water regularly for blue green algae and E. coli bacteria, and that so far all is well. She said over 900 beach passes have been issued this summer. She is going to do further research on an ADA-compliant beach step and dock that will make the beachfront more accessible.