READSBORO – Although not at all pleased with Wilmington’s recent appeal of the US Forest Service’s approval of 15 wind turbines on National Forest land in Readsboro and Searsburg, there doesn’t seem much that Readsboro Selectboard members can legally do about it.
Selectboard member Ted Hopkins said, “I think it’s pretty trivial that the town of Wilmington is worried about hydrology and rain showers.” However, he added that other than drafting a letter to the media, there isn’t much else that Readsboro can do, because they are not part of the appeal process.
Selectboard chair Ray Eilers said, “In my opinion, it’s kind of too bad that one town is denying, or trying to deny, another town some tax base. I don’t think they took that into consideration. I think we ought to reply to that somehow.” Eilers added, “I guess they’re doing it in their best interest. But I don’t know if there’s some agenda up there or what.”
According to Hopkins, Readsboro could expect to receive $11,000 for each megawatt produced. With seven windmills, each expected to produce two megawatts, the total would be approximately $154,000 each year. Searsburg would also receive a similar amount.
Regarding the new water meters that the selectboard decided were needed to replace older, possibly inaccurate meters, town administrator Mark Shea suggested that an interdepartmental loan from the sewer department to the water department, rather than an outside conventional loan, be pursued. He said, “There is no law prohibiting our water fund from borrowing from the sewer fund.” After looking into a lease option for 3.97% interest from Styles Company Inc., and loan options from Citizen’s and People’s banks, which gave a 3.25% interest rate, Shea suggested that it would be a better deal for the town to pursue the interdepartmental loan. He added that a policy be instituted for such loans “with specific payment terms such as a regular bond is structured.” His suggestion was for a 60-month, $31,000 loan (the cost for 135 meters) to be paid back at two points below the prime rate, which is currently 3.25%.
Rod Salamone asked, “The sewer has a considerable amount in checking right now? Rather than pay anything, can you borrow from the sewer with no interest and automatically pay it back?”
Hopkins said, “The sewer is already getting some interest, so if you don’t give any interest, you’re taking it away.”
At this point, the question remains whether an interdepartmental loan will require a bond vote from residents, which would unquestionably be needed if a conventional loan were pursued.
At last week’s selectboard meeting, there was much discussion regarding the sewer abatement requests from School Street homeowners Holly and Rodney Caruso, and Mary and Richard LeMaire. It was eventually decided, although Hopkins was opposed, to forgive sewer and water charges back to December 1, 2011, when the homes were deemed uninhabitable.
Hopkins said that in the past, and after reading sewer ordinances, the procedure has been to stop the sewer charge when the structure is gone. He said he would agree with the water charge abatement, but remained opposed to the sewer charge abatement.
Mary LeMaire said that when she spoke with VLCT about the issue, she was told that each homeowner has the legal right to go through abatement for sewer charges.
Eilers, who made the initial motion to approve the abatement, said that the examples that Hopkins referred to in his research were sites that were usable lots, and the lots in question this time were deemed uninhabitable. The money that will be forgiven will be for the monthly base rates of $34 for water and $27 for sewer.