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Article Title: City Advances Improvement ProjectsEdition: May 2001
Category: Montpelier City Page
Author: William Fraser, City Manager
On behalf of the City Council, I'd like to thank the voters for supporting the city's budget and bond proposals. I will try to report on the status of some of our major projects.
Biosolids Composting Facility:Our biggest news this month is that on April 18, the City Council authorized the signing of a comprehensive agreement with Casella Waste Management, Incorporated for the management of biosolids, septage and landfill leachate. The agreement is effective on July 1, 2001 for 10 years with a subsequent 10 year renewal option.
Under the terms of this agreement, the city will receive and process septage and landfill leachate from Casella at the city's wastewater treatment plant and will collect revenues for this service. Casella will collect, transport and dispose of biosolids from the city's wastewater plant for which the city will pay a direct fee.
The finalization of this arrangement means that the city will not construct a Biosolids (or "Sludge") Composting Facility in the Packard Industrial Park in East Montpelier as has been planned for several years. The city emphasizes that this decision was not based on any concerns for the composting process or facility. We remain confident that the composting alternative is a very safe and appropriate means of processing biosolids, a conclusion borne out by overwhelming approvals at all levels of permitting review despite very intense scrutiny and opposition. It was the right decision at the time for the city.
In an effort to maximize available resources, however, the city and Casella have created a partnership which will provide for improved disposal of septage within the region and continue providing safe landfill leachate treatment while returning the residual biosolids to Casella owned composting and landfill facilities.
This agreement, developed over the last 16 months, provides excellent operational and financial benefits to both entities. The city is greatly appreciative of Casella's willingness to explore all options and work cooperatively to address these issues.
The city would also like to extend its deepest appreciation to Ellery and Jennifer Packard who have been outstanding business partners throughout the compost project proposal. The Packards were subjected to inappropriate treatment from fellow residents on many occasions but stood firm in their support of the project. The city also thanks the State of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources staff, the Barre City Council and staff and the East Montpelier Select Board for their time and efforts related to the compost project.
In the end, the city has some mixed feelings about abandoning a project with regional benefit that required such considerable effort to obtain final approval. This agreement, however, will result in a direct biosolids management cost that is $90,000 per year lower than the composting option. With septage and leachate revenues factored in, the city will realize a net financial advantage of nearly $180,000 per year or $1.8 million over the course of the 10 year agreement. The city will also be relieved of all operational and management obligations associated with running a composting facility (additional employees, equipment, etc.). Ultimately, the city is excited about a great partnership with Casella, a leader in the Waste handling business, to deliver waste management services to the city and region for the next decade.
Pioneer Street Bridge:The new Pioneer Street Bridge construction project has been moving forward with anticipation that work would begin in May or June. This schedule has fallen into question, however, due to a lawsuit filed by a group calling themselves "Friends of the Pioneer Street Bridge, Incorporated." The suit was filed against the State of Vermont Agency of Transportation (A.O.T.) and the Federal Highway Administration (F.H.W.A.). Among the key allegations are that these agencies did not provide the City Council proper information to correctly make a decision about the bridge, that there was insufficient public process in the decision making and that increased traffic from the new bridge will have a detrimental effect on the Barre Street neighborhood.
Let's examine some of these issues. The "Friends'" action may create a real problem for the community because of the very poor present condition of the bridge. Based on prior inspection reports, it is likely that the bridge will need to be closed, possibly as early as May. If the construction project were to begin promptly, then no unnecessary time would be lost. If, however, court proceedings delay the start of the project than the community will suffer additional travel inconvenience due to the closed bridge. Although efforts have been made to expedite court proceedings there are no guarantees. Additional delays (i.e. extended decision time from the judge, continued proceedings, additional appeals) may also, of course, have huge negative impacts on the businesses located in that area.
There are some inherent contradictions in the arguments put forth by the "Friends". Since 1995, this citizen's group has repeatedly emphasized to the City Council that a rehabilitated truss bridge would meet all state and federal transportation standards and could properly handle all present and future projected weight loads and traffic volume for that part of town. This is, in fact, one of the items about which A.O.T. And F.H.W.A. are alleged to have improperly informed the city. If that is true than the argument that a new bridge will create more traffic is puzzling. If the rehabbed old bridge can handle all the projected traffic demand as argued, why would a new bridge generate any more traffic than the old one? Unless, of course, the old bridge actually cannot handle the needs. Which is it?
The "Friends" also argue that this increase in vehicles and, especially trucks, will cause great harm to the residential neighborhood on Barre Street. First, one must note that the present traffic volume in the area is artificially low since the current bridge has a posted weight limit and a one lane restriction. Any accurate comparison of traffic volume will need to be measured against pre-1994 traffic. Second, since the Granite Street Bridge cannot handle trucks, the only two available Barre Street truck routes to the existing industrial area surrounding Granite Street are from Pioneer Street or from Main Street. If the "Friends" do not want trucks entering from Pioneer Street than, presumably, their preferred truck route must be onto Barre Street from the Main Street bridge direction.
Take a look at Barre Street from both perspectives. A heavy truck entering and exiting via the "Friends'" preferred route from Main Street to Granite travels past 63 buildings which contain a total of 153 residential units. It passes an Elementary School and a Recreation Center. It passes Monsignor Crosby Avenue, Downing Street, Wilder Street, Hubbard Street, Nelson Street, Charles Street and Sibley Avenue -- all residential streets. On its return trip, it must execute a difficult left turn from Barre onto Main which ties up downtown traffic. The same heavy truck entering from Pioneer Street passes 17 buildings containing 35 residential units and no intersecting streets. Which route creates a greater impact on the primary residential neighborhood?
A related concern is that speeding caused by the new bridge will harm the residential neighborhood. One must first accept the theory that people will drive faster crossing the new bridge than they now accelerate after crossing the old bridge. For discussion purposes we'll accept that argument. Then we'll consider that it is exactly a half mile from Pioneer Street to Granite Street. Once a vehicle reaches the Granite Street/Sibley Avenue interchange (after going around the existing pronounced curve which already slows drivers) its speed is "regulated" by the turning motions of other cars, by cars parked on both sides of Barre Street and the amount of traffic present on that part of the road. Driving decisions in that location are not based on conditions faced when crossing a bridge a half a mile earlier. A good comparison is taking Main Street from the roundabout up the hill. A half a mile brings you to the Emmons Street/College Street area. Are you driving at a certain speed because of the roundabout a half mile earlier? Or are you responding to the conditions in front of you at the time? Try this exercise on any major artery. Northfield Street a half mile away from the Berlin Street intersection, Terrace Street a half mile from Bailey Avenue.
Finally, let's look at the arguments about a lack of public process or appropriate information before the council. As noted in previous publications, the City Council held duly warned public discussions on this topic on 17 different occasions over a 5 year period. All of the same arguments being put forth in this lawsuit were raised at these meetings. The council had all of the information referred to in the litigation available to them. In fact, members of the "Friends" group saw to it. There is a huge difference between not being heard and not being in agreement.
Bike Path:Although Berlin residents did not approve funding for the Berlin portion of the project, the city is moving ahead on the Montpelier end in light of the approval of the local bond. We are still on target for construction next summer (2002). This will include relocation of the current Pioneer Street Bridge to the bike path. The previously discussed delay in the bridge project could have negative repercussions for the bike path as well.
City Hall Plaza:With the melting snow, the engraving on the plaza has become visible and phone calls to City Hall have become frequent. The engraving will be corrected this summer. We are working with granite industry folks to determine the best course of action. Please be patient, we're diligently working on it.
Downtown Lighting:With the passage of the Lighting bond issue, we are beginning to put the project together with the hope of installing new street lights by fall. Toward this end, a public discussion on the project will be held on Tuesday May 8th in the evening at City Hall. The purpose will be to discuss the goals of the project and to review design alternatives with the hope of reaching consensus on a preferred design.
As always, I appreciate your interest in Montpelier. I can be reached with questions or comments about this article or any other local government matter at 223-9502 or at firstname.lastname@example.org (the email address spelled out is: w. f. r. a. s. e. r. at. montpelier. hyphen. v.t. dot. o.r.g.).
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