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Ferrisburgh nears deal with power line developer

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard on Tuesday approved a $40,000 deal with the firms proposing the Vermont Green Line that calls for those companies to pay for the town’s costs of legal and expert review of the underground power line that will run along town roads on its way to Route 7 and New Haven.
The developers of the $650 million, 400-megawatt VGL, Massachusetts companies Anbaric Transmission and National Grid, will place $40,000 in an escrow account.
That money will be used to pay, according to the agreement, “town-selected experts for engineering, plan review, survey, real property valuation and legal support to negotiate the terms of a Host Town Agreement and assess the proposed preliminary design and permitting by local regional and state authorities.”
Ferrisburgh Selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence noted the agreement states “up to a cap of $40,000 in 2016.” That phrasing leaves room for the companies, collectively known as Vermont Green Line Devco LLC, or VGLD, to pay more if necessary.
“It expires Dec. 31,” Lawrence said. “At the end of the year if we find we need more money, we’ll have to renegotiate.” 
The agreement also states it was reached “in the interests of establishing a mutually beneficial long-term relationship between the town and VGLD.”
The selectboard on Tuesday also discussed behind closed doors a proposed memorandum of understanding, or MOU, that would define that long-term relationship.
The MOU would detail, among other things, how VGLD would compensate Ferrisburgh for hosting the power line in its road rights of way, as well as design details that will include how the work will deal with culverts and where the line would cross town roads. Other items to be negotiated include construction techniques, restoration of affected land, and easement language.
But the sides have yet to strike a deal, Lawrence said.
“We’re still negotiating. There’s work to be done,” she said.
Negotiations are not public, and neither town nor company officials have any obligation to disclose details.
Lawrence fielded several general questions, including whether the sides had reached agreement on some points, but not others.
“I guess that’s a fair statement,” she said.
Officials in New Haven, which would host a large above-ground converter station, last week agreed with VGLD on a deal that includes $1.4 million a year for 40 years, plus $4 million toward a new fire station and town garage.
At a November meeting in Ferrisburgh, VGLD 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, and left the door open for further talks.
Lawrence was also asked about the pace of and timetable for negotiations in Ferrisburgh.
“Reaching an agreement is going at a slower pace than we had hoped,” she said.
Lawrence was asked if that pace was because the agreement is complex, or because the VGL firms were not offering exactly what town officials had hoped for.
“I think it’s a combination of probably both,” she said. “It is a complex set of negotiations, very complex. But I think these documents (approved on Tuesday) are a good start.”
The pace has not discouraged Lawrence from believing a deal will be reached.
“Yes, I’m very optimistic,” she said.
VGLD plans to bring hydro and wind power from upstate New York by cable under Lake Champlain and into the New England power grid via the converter station in New Haven.
They plan to bring the line in Lake Champlain from Beekmantown, N.Y., to Ferrisburgh at Kingsland Bay. From there it would run underground 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. Junction boxes, about 120 square feet, will be needed along the road about every 2,500 feet to hold line splices.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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