Waterbury back to drawing board after bond defeat
By Gayle Hanson
STAFF WRITER | July 03,2013
WATERBURY — The “We Believe” and “We Care” signs are gone from the lawns. Instead residents are digging in for the long haul as they look to find compromise in creating a plan for new municipal offices, the town library, a police station and the local historical society.
Although residents soundly defeated a $5 million bond proposal less than a week ago, there was renewed determination to come up with a plan that will pass muster with voters at Monday’s inaugural meeting of what’s being called the tri-board, consisting of the members of the village, town and library boards.
“I think we need to get the public more involved,” said Karen Miller, a Select Board member from the village who opposed the bond. Miller proposed a Waterbury Resilience Committee, to be made up of the 13 members of the “tri-board” as well as four representatives from the public.
“The purpose of this committee is to identify the various options and get a rough idea about how much they will cost,” Miller said.
She also said it was important that the Select Board ultimately present a unified front.
“If we aren’t all on board for the project it’s not going to work,” said Miller.
The run-up to last week’s bond vote found the board split into two camps. This time around, the new committee representing the various constituencies will labor until there is a plan that everyone can live with.
While the defeated bond proposal called for a municipal complex to be housed at the Stanley and Wasson halls site at the flood-damaged state office complex, the new committee will explore a variety of options — including the use of several different sites for the various offices.
Chris Viens, a Select Board member and local contractor who also opposed the bond, expressed concern that the town could easily be taken advantage of in the process of coming up with a plan. Rather than hire outside help, he argued that the town should draw on residents’ expertise in developing the project.
“We should do what we did with the fire station,” he said. “We don’t want to get hosed.”
Among the topics of discussion were what kinds of grant money might become available for the project. The hope for new money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was dimmed when Barbara Farr, who has guided the town through its recovery process since Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont, told the gathering Monday evening that it would not be eligible for further FEMA assistance.
She urged the boards to explore other grant opportunities that could help in the construction of one or several new buildings, including other federal money. But, she added, Waterbury has already received a lot of grant money and competition for funding is tight.
Select Board Chairman John Grenier urged the committee to bring in an expert to help it formulate a plan for what members want. “We need as a committee to have advice from a design professional comparing multiple sites. I don’t think that we can do that on our own.”
For now the boards are going to solicit membership for the new Resilience Committee and begin looking at potential building locations in addition to the Stanley and Wasson halls site. The committee will also take another look at the state site but with an eye toward using it in ways not yet imagined.
The committee will also explore other options that might include housing the police and municipal offices in one building and the library and historical society in another.
“People need to know that this is going to be a working committee,” said Grenier.