WILLIAMSTOWN — Fox Woods Estates got a virtual thumbs up from the Select Board Monday night. Beaver baffles? Not so much.
On a night when board members agreed to explore alliances with neighboring police departments and were told the cost of fixing the fire department’s ladder truck far exceeded upper end estimates, they endorsed Larry Hebert’s latest development proposal and balked at a possible beaver reprieve.
The latter decision involved Protect Our Wildlife Vermont’s offer to install a “beaver deceiver” designed to prevent industrious beavers from clogging three large culverts that run under Industry Street.
One of the simple structures, which typically involve a few wooden posts and some sturdy wire fencing and a stretch of plastic culvert — would cover the three side-by-side culverts on Industry Street that beavers have made an issue in the past.
Town Manager Jackie Higgins told board members representatives of Protect Our Wildlife Vermont had scouted the site and the organization was prepared to invest up to $2,500 on building the structure they contend would keep the culverts from being clogged and water flowing freely.
An added upside — particular if you’re a beaver — is there would be no need to trap the animals just because they can be a nuisance.
The Select Board wasn’t sold.
Not because members objected to one of the structures being installed at no cost to the town, and not necessarily because the town would be on the hook to maintain them for the next 10 years.
The bigger concern — one expressed by Selectman Matthew Rouleau and echoed by others — involved a requirement the board sign a memorandum of understanding essentially waiving the town’s right to enlist the assistance of a trapper in the event the beavers aren’t baffled, or the baffles just don’t work.
“I don’t have any problem with them trying these baffles, I just don’t want to sign off that we can’t do anything about it if it fails,” Rouleau said.
Chairman Rodney Graham said he shared that concern.
“If we’re in a flooding situation and the baffles cause the water to back up enough so it actually floods somebody’s property, are we going to be liable for that?” he said.
Rouleau said he believed the answer to that question was “yes” and while he wasn’t opposed to experimenting with the ‘beaver deceiver” and was hopeful it might actually work, he wasn’t prepared to take trapping off the table.
Board members agreed to invite a representative of the nonprofit organization to its meeting next month to explore whether the memorandum of understanding could be adjusted to address their concerns about liability.
The board had no problem expressing its support for the 43-unit housing development — Fox Woods Estates — Hebert first floated just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit back in March.
Hebert has since refined the proposal and told board members he is readying to apply for an Act 250 land-use permit for the development he is planning on a significant portion of a 162-acre tract he owns off Fox Run Road.
Several of the lots would be at the base of the hill and the homes would connect to municipal water and sewer systems, while the balance of the proposed development would be served by wells and on-site septic systems, and would be built along a new road that would be gravel to start and eventually paved using money from a surcharge that would be built into the sale price.
Board members unanimously agreed to author a letter expressing the town’s support for the project and voted to require the road be paved by 2026 providing that 80% of the lots were sold.
In other business, board members asked Higgins to reach out to police departments in neighboring Northfield, Barre Town and possibly Berlin to explore an arrangement for police coverage. Currently the town contracts with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, but based on concerns about response times and availability, the board agreed it contact nearby departments about a possible arrangement.
The board held off on paying a $62,000 bill for repairs to the ladder truck based on Fire Chief William Graham’s concern that the price exceeded the $39,000 estimate he received before shipping the truck to Pennsylvania for repairs. Graham said the initial bill was $69,000, and he negotiated the price down to $62,000, but had not received an adequate explanation for the discrepancy.
The truck was repaired and returned in May and Graham said he called to dispute the bill at the time and didn’t hear back from anyone until August.
Absent an itemized bill Graham said he has requested but not received, he told the board he could explain some, but not all of the overage.
The board tabled action on paying the bill pending more information.