Vermont Green Line: We’ll pay Ferrisburgh fees

FERRISBURGH — In emails this week to the Independent, the companies proposing the $650 million Vermont Green Line said they would pay the town of Ferrisburgh’s legal fees to review a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the companies and town for compensation for allowing work in town rights of way.
The emails said compensation — pegged at $40,000 for these preliminary costs alone — could also go toward the town’s other expenses researching the project.
At its April 5 meeting, the Ferrisburgh selectboard tabled discussion of Vermont Green Line (VGL) questions, both from the town’s VGL negotiating committee and residents, until the VGL companies — Massachusetts firms Anbaric Transmission and National Grid — put it in writing that they would fund the town’s costs.
“We’re not clear on what parts they’re willing to pay legal expenses. We’re not clear on whether they’re paying any or all of it,” said Selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence late last week. “We’re not going to spend the taxpayers’ money, an unknown amount, for a project we’re not clear about.”
On Tuesday, National Grid U.S. Business Development Director Joseph Rossignoli responded to an email inquiry from the Independent as to what the VGL firms’ plans were.
“We will pay up to $40k and have received a ruling from our ethics attorney that we can pay the legal costs of the Town to negotiate the road use agreement,” Rossignoli answered.
In response to a follow-up question about the town’s use of the $40,000, on Wednesday Rossignoli wrote, “We expect that to be the all-inclusive amount.” 
The town’s negotiating committee had also requested, according to April 5 minutes, “approval to engage Civil Engineering Associates to provide technical review and sign a project cost estimate, approval to engage Justus Devries (or other appraisal/taxation consultant) to provide tax revenue analysis, and approval to engage an electrical engineer, should one be needed, to provide technical review of potential impacts from the electromagnetic field caused by the proposed buried cable.”
Lawrence confirmed that town attorney James Carroll is reviewing an MOU with the larger terms of the agreement between the town and the VGL companies. That MOU will cover not only compensation, but also such items as details of how VGL will handle restoring roadsides after burying its power line, how it will deal with culverts, where lines will cross roads, easement language and construction techniques.
“Obviously we’re going to have the legal counsel at this point pursue the MOU, which is in the works,” Lawrence said. “We’ve authorized him to undertake the MOU.”
Details remain confidential, however.
“That’s not public right now,” Lawrence said.
At a November meeting in Ferrisburgh VGL representatives said they would pay the town at least $350,000 a year for 20 years on top of the estimated $150,000 a year in local property taxes the project would generate. They also left the door open for further negotiations.
At the April 5 meeting, the selectboard said they would talk about a town-wide vote on the project if there were enough public demand, although Lawrence said members have not had serious discussions on that question yet.
“We haven’t, but we wanted to let the townspeople know that’s certainly a consideration,” she said.
The developers of the 400-megawatt VGL hope to bring hydro and wind power from upstate New York by cable under Lake Champlain and into the New England power grid via a converter station in New Haven. (See related story on Page 1A.)
VGL officials have said that if the project can obtain its Certificate of Public Good and all other needed permits, construction could begin in late 2017 or early 2018 and be completed in about two years.
They plan to bring the power line on shore in Ferrisburgh and run it along several back roads to Route 7, and then from there down to New Haven.
In Ferrisburgh, the line would be buried in a two-foot-by-four-foot concrete box along Kingsland Bay, Sand, Little Chicago and Botsford roads and Tuppers Crossing on the way to Route 7 from Kingsland Bay, where it would surface after entering Lake Champlain near Beekmantown, N.Y.
Junction boxes with a footprint of about 120 square feet will be needed along the road about every 2,500 feet to hold line splices.
According to Ferrisburgh minutes, at a Feb. 25 meeting with town officials and project abutters, VGL pledged not to use eminent domain to take any property.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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