Cavendish talks road and how to spend ARPA funding

CAVENDISH, Vt. – Cavendish road issues and how to spend American Rescue Plan Act dollars were the main topics of the Cavendish Selectboard meeting Monday, Sept. 13.

According to Cavendish Town Manager Brendan McNamara, the Route 131 project is in the home stretch with final paving beginning at Downer’s Four Corners and then working their way west through the villages of Cavendish and Proctorsville. Pike Industries and VTrans will also be making sure that drainage, sidewalks, and curbing are completed along the route, after issues arose earlier due to elevation calculation errors that affected the height of storm drains, driveways, sidewalks, and their relationship to the roadway.

Concerns with ongoing drainage issues on Brook Road will be addressed at a special meeting Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 4:30 p.m. when the Selectboard will travel to the home of Joe Vullo on Brook Road to see the issues that have been caused by improper road pitch and elevation. This has caused drainage issues from the road onto Vullo’s property, which has been an ongoing problem since the road was hastily rebuilt following the damage from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Efforts to correct the issue with the town’s highway department have frustrated Vullo who said that to date there has been a “half-hearted effort” from the town’s crew when they’ve been to his home to address it.

McNamara discussed perhaps taking a cross section of road to see what base they were working with, which may require a member of the road crew to accompany them during their meeting. The board will make a recommendation on how to fix the drainage issue following the meeting.

McNamara began discussions on how the town might begin spending the ARPA funding they’ve received to date, totaling $210,742.86. The total amount of funding will be in excess of $400,000, which will all need to be spent by December 2024.

The money is restricted by the state to be used in certain categories including broadband, water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as Covid-related expenses. Some options discussed include updating two of the pump stations, all of which are fairly out of date according to McNamara. He said he will begin pulling together costs for that and other possible water-related upgrades and applicable projects for the board to consider.

During discussions later in the meeting, the topic turned to how short-term rentals throughout town were not reporting the proper water allocation needed for their properties to the Water Board, which may require they pay an additional base fee. This included homeowners who had renovated an existing single-family structure to include several rental or Airbnb units that were not paying additional water allocations for the increased water usage.

The board discussed reevaluating and possibly revising how the entire water system and water consumption is structured and billed. McNamara said there were several models to choose from statewide on how this could be done. During this discussion, Cavendish Town Bookkeeper Jenn Leak added that a concern with revising the system was that townwide about one-third of the water meters were broken – something that the ARPA funds might be used for.

Weathersfield State Representative John Arrison, who was participating in the audience, suggested there could be creative ways to use the money since funds could be for Covid-related issues. He said towns were coming up with imaginative ways to use the ARPA funds. He suggested that digitizing the land records and upgrades to ventilation in buildings could be considered under that category.

Broadband improvements were also discussed with Arrison praising town resident Margo Caulfield for being on top of the broadband options for Cavendish and the surrounding area. He also said that in addition to ARPA funds, there would be more money in Montpelier distributed for broadband but that the town would need to actively pursue those dollars.

McNamara also said that money for fitting the conference rooms with telecommunications upgrades for hybrid Zoom meetings might also be considered. He said he was working with Jason Rasmussen from Regional Planning and Okemo Valley TV’s Patrick Cody to put together a model of how that would work.

Arrison suggested that including the community in the discussion might also bring other suggestions.

The next Cavendish Selectboard meeting is tentatively scheduled for Monday, Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m.

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