Addison faces spending decisions

ADDISON — On Town Meeting Day, in addition to weighing in on town budgets and casting ballots for uncontested elections, Addison residents will face articles on their warning that either request major spending or could have major implications for the future.
The larger spending request — one that, like all Addison decisions on Town Meeting Day, will be voted upon by Australian ballot — is straightforward: The selectboard is asking residents to approve a five-year, $300,000 loan to replace a failed culvert on Townline Road.
According to the board’s recent highway report, the loan made more sense than a bond because it saved Addison $30,000 in fees. The project is also being supported by a $175,000 Agency of Transportation grant.
The smaller financial question, along with a related advisory article, could have longer-term fiscal implications.
Article 5 asks voters if they support “taking ownership and responsibility of the Town Hall and the land it sits on from the church by an agreement to supply the church a connection to the waste water system for the Town Hall? (Taking ownership enables the town to apply for grants toward the restoration of the building into Town Offices and meeting space.)”
The related Article 6 asks if the selectboard can borrow up to $55,380 to fund a septic study that could allow Town Hall’s restoration.
In late 2013, Addison Town Hall Committee chairman John Spencer told the Independent a preliminary study showed a site to the west of Addison Central School showed promise for a community septic system that could also serve the town’s fire station, town hall and the adjacent Addison Community Baptist Church. That is the church that now holds title to Addison’s long-vacant town hall.
Addison’s 140-year-old town hall has never had running water or septic, and Spencer said the fire station and the current clerk’s office have questionable individual systems. Church leaders have agreed to deed the building back to Addison in exchange for septic service.
According to Spencer, septic system construction, engineering, permitting and purchase of an easement for the site are estimated at $675,000, but he is optimistic the state will pick up 35 percent of the tab, or $236,000, by awarding Addison a Pollution Abatement Grant.
The Town Hall Committee also has plans drawn up for a $1 million renovation of Addison Town Hall as a replacement for what Spencer and others call an increasingly inadequate town clerk’s office, which has little storage, office and meeting space and a nearly full vault.
Experts have determined town hall’s structure is sound, Spencer said, and he also believes grants would probably help defray town hall restoration costs.
Spencer has emphasized the first step of evaluating the possibilities must start with pinning down the septic capabilities of the land in question. Its owner has agreed to sell an easement to the town, he said.
There is one other significant financial decision to make outside of the budget: Among the charitable contributions residents will see on the Addison ballot is $25,967 for the Bixby Library in Vergennes. The selectboard opted to take the Bixby out of the budget and let voters decide whether Addison should support the library.
The selectboard has also proposed a $307,781 general fund budget that is about $17,000 lower than current spending. But because sheriffs’ patrols brought in less revenue this year than anticipated, there will be a modest increase of about $7,500 in the tax levy needed to support the budget.
According to the board’s report, the “patrolling revenue was way down” because “half our patrols were assigned to crime patrol” due to the wave of home break-ins in 2013.
Proposed highway spending, and revenue, is essentially level. The board is requesting $651,110, down $589 from the current budget.
There will be no contested races on the ballot. Selectboard members Lisa Davis and Rob Hunt are running unopposed for their seats, as are Addison Central School board members Michele Kelly and Alison Martin.
No one filed a petition for Addison’s vacant seat on the Vergennes Union High School board, but according to Town Clerk Marilla Webb, former ACS school board member Laurie Childers was considering a write-in campaign for that job.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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