Selectboard discusses Vermont Rail Plan

Also approves live streaming local meetings

By John Hammer | The Charlotte News

The Selectboard meeting of August 24 was reasonably quiet with the bulk of its time being consumed by a presentation from Lydia Clemmons, the head of Citizens for Responsible Railroads. She opened an almost hour-long discussion on the draft Vermont Rail Plan by saying she was “not an anti-rail fanatic.” Charlotte Fire Chief Chris Davis joined her in calling for heightened concern over safety and environmental issues within the plan.

The plan, which has a public comment deadline of September 15, is a 187-page document outlining an expanded Vermont rail network calling for four times more trains carrying double the current freight. Of the seven goals within the plan, the seventh, according to Clemmons, deals in safety and is virtually silent on significant elements such as public and private crossings and speed. Some lines will be rated for speeds as high as 79 mph.

The highest priority for upgrades is the Western Rail Corridor from Rutland to Burlington, passing through Charlotte. CFR presented a 14-page set of comments and recommendations presenting its concerns. The intent is to get these concerns before the Vermont Agency of Transportation before they are set in stone.

In the words of Chief Davis, “This plan is missing some big pieces. Let’s be prudent to get state people to focus on what’s missing.”

The State of Vermont owns the land and track along the Western Rail Corridor and once a plan is approved, according to Clemmons, the rules for its use and regulations then are passed to the National Railways Administration that has proved in the past to be too far removed from the public to be responsive to their concerns. Therefore, Clemmons stated that the time for change is now—the “power is in the planning,” she said.

The Selectboard voted to authorize a committee to finalize a letter on the Draft Rail Plan for approval and submittal to the appropriate parties on September 4. The letter will be based on the basic CFR document which can be found at bit.ly/1NFXE2Q.

Further information is available at CFR website at bit.ly/1V618O6.

Streaming meetings

The executive director of VCAM, Seth Mobley, appeared before the Selectboard to brief them on their mission, which is “to promote free speech, civic engagement, government transparency, and public dialog by enabling easy access to the expanding world of media.”

In essence VCAM offers live cable and Internet streaming of local meetings. The service was offered last March and was turned down by the Selectboard (4-1 with Spell voting in favor). There did not appear any interest at the time. However, after this presentation, the offer was supported by 3-2 with Spear and Tegatz against. The service may start as early as the meeting on September 14 and costs nothing to the town. More information on the services provided may be found at bit.ly/1V62EzN.

Other business

There followed a number of lesser items including approval for the shift of a driveway at a newly permitted lot at 1007 Lake Road. A change order was approved for the contract that will lead to the completion of the project to drain and grade the Town Green. The project will provide curtain drains for the library and Town Hall and fill will be added to create a slope draining the green in the direction of the ditch alongside the entrance drive to the west. The change order was approved for $5,500 to Vermont Roads and Fields, a Charlotte company.

Vermont Roads and Fields was also the recipient of a contract worth $8,750 to repair a serious washout on the co-housing segment of the Town Link Trail. Selectmen Tegatz and Spear voted nay, stating that they would rather have seen the project bid in accordance with the new purchasing policy. There was some question as to whether this repair was subject to emergency approval procedures allowed by the policy.

In another contract action, Lincoln Applied Geology, Inc. was approved for a contract not to exceed $6,190 to monitor test wells surrounding the Plouffe Lane landfill. The monitoring action is mandated by the state for old town landfills.

Stuart Bennett was appointed to fill the vacant seat on the Zoning Board of Adjustment with a term ending in April 2018.

The next regular Selectboard meeting is scheduled for September 14.

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