Vergennes City Council expected to accept pipeline petition this week

VERGENNES — Vergennes officials and a resident who is petitioning against the city council’s support of the proposed Vermont Gas Systems pipeline extension last week again mutually agreed to delay accepting his petition.
That delay is intended to make sure voting on the petition can occur on the same day as a planned Vergennes Union High School bond vote.
Balloting on both measures — the petition on whether residents should reverse aldermen’s pipeline endorsement and whether Addison Northwest Supervisory Union voters should back a $2.88 million bond to fund major repairs and upgrades at VUHS — is now planned for Dec. 10.
Aldermen and gas line petitioner Jeff Margolis, who have cooperated in the process in recent weeks on petition wording and timing, will meet at City Hall on Tuesday at 6 p.m. to allow the council to formally accept Margolis’ petition.
Because petitions impose strict timetables on towns once they are handed in, Margolis and city officials agreed to postpone a planned Oct. 29 meeting until this Tuesday. Accepting the petition this week will allow a vote on it on Dec. 10, city officials said.
Margolis’ petition, signed by about 100 residents, more than the 78 required minimum, reads: “Shall the voters support the City Council to encourage the Vermont Public Service Board to allow Vermont Gas Systems, Inc. to expand its transmission and distribution systems to serve the residents and businesses of Vergennes?”
At the Oct. 22 city council meeting Hawley said officials and Margolis agreed on neutral petition language that would be easily understood by voters.
“It’s clear,” Hawley said. “‘Yes’ means gas to Vergennes, and ‘No’ means no gas.”
Margolis first came before the council on Sept. 17 and told aldermen he opposes the natural gas pipeline extension on environmental grounds and favors alternative, renewable energy sources that he said could be shunted aside if the pipeline goes forward. 
The pipeline extension, according to Vermont Gas, could provide city residents as well as others in the county with a cheaper home heating alternative, and could save county businesses on energy costs.
Council support for the pipeline came in the form of a letter backing Vermont Gas’s application to the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) seeking to use a reserve fund to pay for its pipeline extension from Chittenden County. The PSB will ultimately rule on whether the extension will move forward.
The VUHS board was set to meet at 7:30 a.m. on Monday to sign a warning for a Dec. 10 vote on the $2.88 million bond.
That bond would pay for a complete rebuild of the school’s kitchen and cafeteria; a new heating and ventilation system for the auditorium, plus safer lighting, sound and rigging equipment and cleaning for that space that officials say will return it to functioning status; new middle school gym bleachers; and site work that will stop water from infiltrating the foundation, plus sidewalk repair, parking lot paving, new handicap and guest parking, and a safer traffic flow.
VUHS board members also decided last week to roll a $600,000 loan to pay for an ongoing roofing project into the bond, raising it from what had been around $2.28 million.
By doing so, they changed payments on that $600,000 loan to 20 years, rather than five years, and will obtain a lower interest rate.
Officials said the decision would save about $80,000 a year in the first five years, and the payments on and the tax impact of the larger bond would be less than the separate payments on the loan and a $2.28 million bond.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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