Selectboard discusses Vail Bridge, hears from RATS and LAS

Discussion continued on Vail Bridge at the July 11 meeting, as well as focusing on a proposal by the Reading All Terrain Sportsman Club and a review of Ludlow Ambulance Service. Photo provided

LUDLOW, Vt. – The Ludlow Selectboard meeting on Monday, July 11, 2022, was well attended, with several members of the public coming to weigh in on a proposal by Stevan Laskevich, Vice President of the Reading All Terrain Sportsman Club, that would allow ATV’s on select dirt roads in Ludlow during the riding season of May 15 to Oct. 15. The selectboard also discussed their plans for the detour around Vail Bridge, and heard a review of the Ludlow Ambulance Service, whose director, Stephanie Grover, was present and able to answer questions.

While the meeting began with an overview of how the town plans to reroute traffic around Vail Bridge in the upcoming weeks, compared to the contentious meeting on June 6, there was little discussion. The selectboard explained that they plan to set up yield signs and redirect traffic up High Street and Dug Road, where there will be two temporary stop lights set up. Each stop light will cost $5,000 a month, so that with set up costs, the town will be paying around $11,000 a month on the detour. While it is still unclear when construction on the bridge will begin, the bridge is slated to be closed for no longer than 21 days, with promises that work on and around the bridge will not continue past Oct. 28, 2022.

The majority of the meeting revolved around Laskevich’s proposal for a town ordinance allowing ATV’s on North Hill, Predom Hill to Chapman Road, and on the Okemo side of Ludlow beyond the Ford Farm on East Hill. The proposal would allow for increased trail use by ATV’s in and around Ludlow, and Laskevich assured the board that while a few “cowboys” can ruin it for everyone, the majority of ATV riders are respectful and have quiet machines. As he continued, he described how this ordinance could be a “stepping stone” towards allowing ATV’s on all Ludlow roads, something that could bring increased revenue to the town. While the board seemed initially supportive of Laskevich’s proposal, even alluding to towns like Newport, Vt. which have allowed ATV’s on all city roads, several members of the public in attendance seemed less than enthused by the idea.

A number of Ludlow residents described “disrespectful” ATV drivers who have gone by their houses at “over 50 miles an hour,” and one resident pointed to other towns in Vermont that have not experienced the same success of Newport, such as Morristown, Vt., which rejected the ordinance to allow ATV’s on town roads in 2021. This resident, holding a list of ways in which this proposal could go sideways, stated, “The peace and quiet for people on those roads is gonna change.” Selectboard chair Bruce Schmidt assured the public that no decision would be made without the interests of residents in mind. “Whether we look at the whole town, we look at specific roads, or what… well, we gotta decide that,” he said.

The selectboard heard and approved a few less controversial motions, such as the demolition of a “dangerous” building on Brooks Road, before listening to a review of the Ludlow Ambulance Service (LAS) by Municipal Manager Scott Murphy. After reading some statistics for the year, Murphy commended LAS, adding, “This is the first time we’ve gotten this department basically in the black.”

Director of LAS Stephanie Grover was on hand to quell concerns that the service was using the ambulance in inappropriate ways, stating that they only ever use the truck when needed. She said that LAS has had “five or six” new people join since July 1, and that sometimes those people need to drive the ambulance around town to familiarize themselves with the geography, which might explain why there was a complaint that LAS was using the vehicle for non-ambulance related activities.

The discussion evolved into concerns about the winter season, specifically whether Okemo was doing their part in paying for the amount of people who were injuring themselves on the mountain and, thus, needing LAS for rides. Murphy said that there were plans to talk to Okemo about this, and that he was “confident” an arrangement could be made. While Grover and the selectboard seemed in agreement that things with Okemo were under control, board member Justin Hyjek noting that only 16% of ambulance calls came from Okemo last year, Grover did admit that they were seeking grant funding to support the number of calls coming in. “We cannot go another winter with only one ambulance,” said Grover.

The last twenty minutes of the meeting focused on surplus money that has been saved in the budget for the fiscal year. Murphy advised keeping the extra $450,000 in the budget as a safety net, pointing to rising fuel prices and other possible variables, however the board ultimately decided to follow board chair Schmidt’s suggestion that they keep some of the funds in the budget, but return the rest to the taxpayers. The selectboard plans to take $155,000 out of the surplus funds and invest them in the tax rate for residents. This means that this coming year, the tax rate will go down one cent per resident, to a total of $0.3194 per $100.

The next Ludlow Selectboard meeting will take place on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022 at 6 p.m. in the Ludlow Town Hall.

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