By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents on Tuesday voted 305 to 102 in favor of implementing a 1-percent local option tax on local sales, meals, rooms, and alcohol in order to raise revenue for a new in-town bridge.
Tuesday’s vote was the final public endorsement needed by selectmen for the $16 million project, the centerpiece of which will be a new bridge that will span the Otter Creek at Cross Street.
Town officials and bridge backers were ecstatic with the results of Tuesday’s vote.
“It’s certainly a very strong show of support by Middlebury voters and a reasonable turnout for an off-time election,” said Middlebury selectboard Chairman John Tenny. “We are grateful to Middlebury voters for their display of confidence and support here.”
Barring a reconsideration petition seeking to change Tuesday’s outcome, the local option taxes would take effect on Oct. 1 and would remain in effect for the next 30 years.
Middlebury officials are banking on the local option taxes to finance $7 million of the bridge project, with Middlebury College already having pledged to donate the remaining $9 million. The college’s donation will come in annual increments of $600,000 during the 30-year bonding period.
“We are very thankful to the college,” Tenny said. “The college made this effort possible.”
Officials are confident the local option taxes, coupled with the college donation, will be more than adequate to pay down the bridge bond.
A 1-percent local option tax on sales, meals, rooms and alcohol would’ve netted Middlebury a combined total of $725,319 in 2007, according to the Vermont Department of Taxes. That sum reflects what was left over for the town after it turns over 30 percent in local option tax revenues that Middlebury — and any other community implementing such taxes — must turn over to the state for its payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program.
Local voters, through town meeting and the municipal budgeting process, will be able to determine how to spend, bank or return to taxpayers any local option tax revenues that may exceed what is needed to pay debt service on the bond.
With bridge financing now firmly within their grasp, selectmen will turn their attention toward acquiring the remaining property needed within the bridge project right-of-way. They will also work on a contract with the project’s design-build team that consists of Kubricky Construction Corp., GeoDesign Inc., J.P. Carrara & Sons, and VHB Pioneer. All four firms have a presence in the region, with two of them headquartered in Addison County: Middlebury-based J.P. Carrara — which has a background in manufacturing pre-cast concrete bridges — and Vergennes-based VHB Pioneer.
Tenny said townspeople could begin to see work begin next spring on the project, which will include a roundabout intersection at Main Street/Cross Street.
Town officials and contractors will now get down to planning.
“It’ll all be moving at a great pace,” Tenny said.