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Middlebury board OKs grants to aid downtown

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard at its July 24 meeting formally OK’d a grant agreement with the Vermont Agency of Transportation for $228,750 to be used to help downtown businesses during the downtown rail bridges construction in 2019 and 2020.
This grant money can’t be used as direct payments to merchants for losses they might incur as a result of construction disruption. Rather, the grants will  be used for such things as creating a regional marketing campaign for downtown Middlebury as a shopping/tourism destination, providing ongoing funding for the “Bundle” pop-up event space at 60 Main St., and hosting special events to draw folks to the core village area.
The citizens group Neighbors Together and the Better Middlebury Partnership will both play key roles in planning and allocating grant funding to downtown programs during construction.
In other action on Tuesday, the Middlebury selectboard:
• Agreed to designate The Mad Taco as food vendor for an upcoming Aug. 15 downtown “block party” to create community spirit and attract shoppers during the aforementioned construction. Officials also confirmed The Mad Taco — a Mexican restaurant with locations in Waitsfield, Essex Junction and Montpelier — will become a tenant in the historic Stone Mill building in Middlebury’s Frog Hollow. The Independent will provide more details about The Mad Taco tenancy in its Aug. 1 edition as part of a broader story about renovations to the Stone Mill building, which is owned by Community Barn Ventures.
• Tabled a proposal to install 1,460 square feet of used guardrail to divert traffic away from 10 spots on Creek Road where pavement edges have dropped away from the rest of the road. This plan, recommended as a safety measure by Middlebury Public Works Operations Director Bill Kernan and Police Chief Tom Hanley, would create single-lane sections along portions of Creek Road — which has already been closed to through-traffic for the past two years due to flood-related damage.
Creek Road is currently gated at approximately 2 miles north of its intersection with Route 7 South. It serves four homes and gives three farms access to their respective crop fields.
These proposed single-lane sections on Creek Road would be relatively short and thus would not need to be signalized, according to Kernan. A map showing the proposed single-lane locations can be found at tinyurl.com/y58du6xr.
But local resident Mo Rheaume and some selectboard members voiced concerns about investing $21,381 to buy and install guardrail, given the town is exploring a more comprehensive solution for Creek Road’s perennial flood damage. The board will consider alternative, short-term solutions — such as shifting the current gate location, thus closing off more of the road — at its next meeting on Aug. 13.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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