Vergennes lands major paving, culvert grants

VERGENNES — Vergennes recently received more than $200,000 of good financial news, City Manager Mel Hawley told city council members at their Aug. 18 meeting.
Most of that money came in the form of two grants, Hawley said, one of $144,000 to support paving projects on South Maple Street and Panton Road and one of $45,000 to pay most of the cost of a new culvert on South Maple Street.
Hawley also told the council that state officials had for the second time this summer revised upward the amount of money Vermont will give the city in Payment of Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) funding for state-owned buildings in Vergennes, namely those on the Northlands Job Corps campus and the National Guard armory on Monkton Road.
In June, the state raised its PILOT estimate from $62,000 to a little more than $77,000, Hawley said, and just recently that estimate was bumped up again to about $82,000.
Both grants came from the Agency of Transportation. The $144,000 award is a Class II Paving Grant for two projects that are estimated at $175,000, with Vergennes to provide the remaining $31,000.
Hawley said the work on Panton Road, from West Main Street to the Panton town line, and South Maple Street, from Victory Street to the Waltham line, will be done in the spring.
Hawley described the application process as competitive and said he was pleased with the award, not only for the work on those two roads but also for what else it will allow the city to do with its budgeted paving funds.
“It really loosens up money from our budget to do a chunk of Main Street and some Class III roads,” Hawley said. “This is a nice shot in the arm for us.”
Hawley said later in the week the city would next spring pick up Main Street paving where it left off this year, at the north end of the Ryan Block, not far from City Hall, and pave all the way to Monkton Road.
Hawley said he would consult with public works director Jim Larrow and decide which smaller side roads the city would focus on.
The $45,000 VTrans Structures Grant will pay almost all of the estimated $50,000 cost of replacing a South Maple Street culvert that runs under the road about 150 feet south of Victory Street, Hawley said.
Hawley also told the council the Vergennes sewer system had another overflow incident, this one on Aug. 4. On Thursday he confirmed that heavy rains had caused a spill of about 48,600 gallons that the city’s main Macdonough Drive pump station could not handle.
The city can now pin down the volume of spills because it has taken steps to comply with Department of Environmental Conservation 1272 orders to study the overflow problems, one of which was measuring the overflow.
A recent EPA report said that 2 percent of Lake Champlain’s phosphorus intake from the Otter Creek watershed could be traced to municipal wastewater treatment plants.
The council discussed the issue briefly last week, including the problem of older clay pipes — both city- and privately owned — that allow stormwater and groundwater to infiltrate the system, and the issue of many homeowners illegally tying their sump pumps into the system.
Hawley told the council “we have fulfilled whatever we are required to do” under the 1272 orders, and suggested members should study the orders and familiarize themselves with them.
Council members and Hawley agreed they should discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting, with the focus on what future orders might require of the city — at some point the state could require fixes, they said.  
Mayor Bill Benton said the council needs to know “where we’re headed, what we can expect, and what we can do to come up with solutions.”
In other business on Aug. 18, the council:
• Heard from Friends of the Opera House officials they would be happy to provide access through their first-floor space to the office behind it to the Vergennes Partnership, if the partnership and the city agreed the partnership should operate there.
Hawley also suggested those two smaller rooms might be better as one larger office space that could be created by removing the wall between them.
• Said it was still seeking a qualified city volunteer to sit on the Addison County Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation Advisory Committee, which officials said plays a crucial role in planning traffic, pedestrian, rail and cycling improvements around the county.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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