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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(4/11) The month of March saw a full schedule at both meetings, although, admittedly, some items were carried from one meeting to the next.

An outdoor ‘watering’ ban from 9am through 6pm, year round, was approved on March 7. Historically, the Board has enacted seasonal bans on ALL outdoor water use from municipal sources as water resources declined later in the summer. I believe the new ordinance is seen as a better way to be pro-active in managing those resources. In deciding to vote against the proposal, I was concerned about establishing more punitive regulation that no one could prove would lead to any benefit.

While there is an assumption that the seasonal bans resulted in some impact, none has ever been proven and levels always continued to decline. Also, no one has ever outlined just when our ability to supply water would be threatened. We don’t need more unenforceable "feel good" regulation. In the end, people pay for the water they choose to use. If you decide to water your lawn, you actually pay for sewer access you never use. A surcharge on usage above a certain threshold would be a more effective (and enforceable) method to drive conservation. But I don’t see anybody voting for that one…

A proposal from the Citizens Advisory Committee to establish a Community Garden was approved and a location selected south of the tennis courts in Community Park. A similar proposal was made by at least two town residents a few years ago but never gained any traction at the Board or staff levels. I think our commitment to supporting grass roots proposals developed through the Committee helped this time around. There was not 100% satisfaction on the location, but a decision was made to proceed on the site and re-evaluate at the end of the season. If you are interested in participating, please contact the Town Office for details.

The Board agreed to a proposal from Homes for America requesting the town to submit a Community Development Block Grant application seeking funds for their project to establish low income Senior Housing at the Provincial House. This application would constitute the municipality’s ‘contribution’ to the project – instead of fee reductions or property tax credits. This is a good deal for the town and the developer since it maintains standard growth related requirements but potentially provides a high dollar funding prospect. As I said at the meeting, "An eighty percent chance for a $500,000 grant is probably a better bet than the $10,000 in ‘contributions’ the town might make directly…"

The Board also heard a request from another potential developer to modify the Conservation/Recreation zone definition. The change would better reflect the Board’s original intent: the designation was meant as a ‘holding zone’ for undeveloped, private properties where infrastructure resources are not available in the short or medium term. The Board requested that staff propose language more directly addressing the town’s willingness to re-assess the zoning should those resources become available.

Commissioner O’Donnell was authorized to conduct a ‘Pedestrian Audit’ of the town in order to identify areas for future improvement related to walking and biking access throughout town. A well done audit may allow for grant financing of potential projects. He will work with town and county staff to pull an effective audit together.

After some division of opinion, the Board approved continued funding for the recently vacated full time Receptionist position. We need a town employee in that position handling day to day administrative duties, scheduling, and answering the phones. This is a better choice than having other employees periodically cover the tasks - distracting them from their regular duties and resulting in a less positive experience for the public. Continued outsourcing of the position through a temp agency was not yielding any savings @ $18.75/hr and still resulted in disruptions. I recommended that we wait till budget time to discuss structural costs such as staffing levels.

Finally, the Board has been pursuing the installation of a "splash park" (softer surface with water fountain-like equipment) to replace the traditional baby pool that is in constant need of repair or total replacement. Last year, a decision was made to continue full funding of the walking trails in Community Park instead of reducing that scope and reallocating grant funds to the splash park. These types of projects are typically funded with a seventy five percent contribution from state/county Project Open Space grants. Due to state budget cuts, the grant monies are not available this year as anticipated – requiring us to wait for the funding OR fully fund the $60,000 project ourselves. The Board has agreed to tentatively pursue full town funding – potentially taking the money from the ‘rainy day’ fund and adding the project to this year’s budget. I disagree and feel we should wait until grant funding is available.

Thanks for your time and have a great month – Chris Staiger

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