Vergennes to get new salt shed thanks to state grant

VERGENNES — Vergennes will get a new $331,000 salt and sand shed this summer, thanks largely to a $267,000 grant that Vergennes City Manager Matt Chabot announced at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Update: After publication of this story, Chabot contacted the Independent and said construction remains on “the fast track,” but that he had since heard from the Vermont Agency of Transportation that funding will not be forthcoming in time for the work to be completed this summer. 
Chabot said the funding came from the Agency of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Program, which according to VTrans are awarded to “municipalities for environmental mitigation projects relating to stormwater and highways, including eligible salt and sand shed projects.”
The existing shed, on East Street near the city’s recycling center and Otter Creek, is in poor condition, and salt washes into the river when it rains or during heavy snow melt, Chabot said.
“It’s leaching salt water into Otter Creek,” he told council members.
Most of the city’s $64,281 share of the project cost will come from an unusual source. More than 15 years ago the city chose not to wait for VTrans to repave the Otter Creek bridge and a portion of West Main Street. In order to earn state approval for the project, Vergennes had to set aside $62,500 for 15 years as insurance if paving proved not to be up to snuff.
The paving project turned out to be durable, and now VTrans plans to repave all of Main Street in 2020. Thus Vergennes is free to use the $62,500 toward another project, and the council agreed with Chabot’s recommendation to put it toward a new shed.
Chabot said the money had been waiting for “a rainy day for a need,” and now “that need has surfaced.”
The remaining $2,000-plus can be found in the highway department’s 2018-2019 budget, he said, allowing work to begin soon and completed this summer.
The new larger shed will also allow Vergennes to buy salt and sand in bulk earlier in the year and save money, Chabot said.
In other business at a meeting at which the council also agreed to back formally a truck route through northern Vergennes (see story), the council also:
•Authorized Chabot to negotiate with T-Mobile to install broadcast equipment on the city’ former water tower behind city hall. Chabot said tentatively the company has agreed to pay $2,000 a month for the first year of a five-year deal, with built-in annual increases. Verizon and AT&T already have equipment on the tower, and their payments feed the city’s Water Tower Fund, which the council uses to help pay for infrastructure improvements.
•Heard from Chabot the long-discussed joint project with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to widen and improve the sidewalk along Park Street will begin in early May. Workers will also replace the existing concrete retaining wall along the lawn the church owns with Panton stone and build steps up to the lawn. Church members say they want to invite the public to use their property, which will have as a backdrop restored stained-glass windows.
Shared finances remain to be worked out, but Chabot said the latest estimates “are significantly lower” than those originally put forward by church members. Work should also be complete before the farmers’ market returns to the green on June 13, he said.
•Made it official that future council meetings will be held back in the newly restored conference room in Vergennes City Hall, beginning on April 23. Meetings have for many years been held in the basement of the city’s Green Street fire station. Meetings will also now be live-streamed at retn.org as well as broadcast on RETN’s cable access channel.
•Discussed long-range goals. Members mentioned improving the city’s long-term economic health, coming up with a plan to solve the sewer system’s overflow problem, creating a committee to study whether to put in place a local option tax to help fund infrastructure and other projects, evaluating whether Northlands Job Corps was the best use for the state-owned property on Macdonough Drive, and creating more recreation opportunities for adults as well as youths,
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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