City hires help for Moon Brook case
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | January 28,2013
The city has enlisted a law firm and two environmental firms in the battle over stormwater going into Moon Brook.
The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize Mayor Christopher Louras to sign the contracts for professional services dealing with the city’s appeal of the MS4 permit, which contains regulations designed to restore Moon Brook as a trout habitat.
The city has argued that problems in the brook are due to temperature rather than stormwater and that the new regulations would put a massive financial burden on both the city and private landowners without fixing anything.
“For professional services, we don’t do a bidding process,” Louras said. “We do a request for qualifications. With something with short notice like this, it’s not unusual for us to put feelers out to firms.”
Louras said the city approached a number of in-state environmental consultants who said they were not interested in the job. However, he said a number of them recommended Normandeau Associates of Bedford, N.H.
Normandeau will tackle water quality and temperature issues on the city’s behalf.
Watershed Consulting Services of Waitsfield was already mapping water flow rates in the Moon Brook watershed for the town, and Louras said the city was able to get added to that effort.
For legal services, the city will bring in Stitzel, Page and Fletcher of Burlington.
“One lawyer in that firm has a great deal of experience with stormwater issues,” Louras said. “They have had some success in appeals and litigation with the state ... in the Chittenden County area.”
While Watershed Consulting’s contribution will come with an estimated $7,400 bill, Louras said there was no telling what the bottom line would be from the other two firms.
“Nobody has appealed an MS4 permit in Vermont before,” he said. “There is no standard for an estimate.”
The mayor also said there was no line item in the budget from which to make the payments.
“It will be not unlike the legal work that was done for the infamous water roof,” he said. “It’s one of those expenses that have been determined to be absolutely required. We are going to pay for it and make it happen.”
Louras said the money can be taken from the fund balance, as it was with the lawsuit over the water plant roof, or worked into a future budget.
He also said he hopes to get private landowners who would suffer under the permit to pick up some of the tab. While the city has yet to create a Moon Brook legal fund, Louras said he plans to reach out to some property owners who have previously indicated a willingness to contribute to such an effort.