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City eyes Falls Park maintenance

VERGENNES — The Vergennes City Council on Feb. 9 heard from Mike Winslow, the chairman of the city’s Otter Creek Basin Task Force, about its volunteer efforts to maintain Falls Park, which is on the west bank of the river.
Winslow sought a long-term commitment from the council to fund maintenance of the park, which he called a top task force priority.
“We identified Falls Park as the place we wanted to invest our energy,” Winslow said.
But after hours of volunteer work to clean out weeds and brush, he said task force members discovered the lasting effect was minimal.
“We thought we made the park look a lot better, but now nature is coming back at us,” Winslow said.
He suggested professional help is needed to level some of the terrain and remove rubble from islands of trees in the park, thus making weed control and other maintenance “more manageable on a long-term basis.”
Mayor Bill Benton agreed the park is “an integral part” of the larger master plan city officials and volunteers are working on as part of grant-funded Strong Communities, Better Connections process, and he said the council could consider boosting park maintenance funding while putting the next city budget together before June.
Alderman Renny Perry suggested businesses could also be involved in an “Adopt a Park” program. Council members agreed to ask a landscape architect on the task force and other committee members to think about the level of work needed and how natural the park should look, and asked the task force to return with some recommendations and cost estimates.
In other business this past Tuesday, the council:
•  Reached a preliminary consensus that it would be OK to extend a sidewalk about 60 feet into Waltham along South Maple Street to the former Gevry Trailer Park, which the Addison County Community Trust is hoping to renovate into affordable housing with new modular duplexes.
Council members said they didn’t mind city workers maintaining that small stretch of sidewalk, but wanted to talk to Waltham officials about an easement to allow the city’s sidewalk plow to turn around on public property.
•  Heard from City Manager Mel Hawley the public works budget is in good shape because of this winter’s lack of snow. Overtime and salt and sand expenses have all been low, he said.
•  Were told by Hawley that the 150-kilowatt solar array at and near the city’s sewer plant has not so far met power generation expectations. Hawley said the developer, Encore Redevelopment, has reached an agreement with Auto Creek Inc., to cut down trees on the auto firm’s property that company officials believe are excessively shading part of the installation.
The city had hoped for about a $4,200 a year offset on the sewer plant’s power bill, but Hawley said in the past year the savings were only about $3,400 as the plant generated 160 kilowatts instead of the projected 200 kilowatts.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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