Friday, November 24, 2006
Planning continues for Town Common improvements
The Reverend Tim Jensen of the Town Common Committee (TCC) appeared before the Selectmen on November 14 to answer questions and agree on the next steps in implementing the plan for upgrading the Common. He also defended the committee's decision to go in the direction of "maintaining the current look and feel."
Jensen said that "gazebo and gazebo-ish" ideas were not considered, as those "would be very different from what's there now." He defined the committee's purview as "preserve and maintain, not innovate and change."
Larry Bearfield, co-proprietor of Ferns, wondered about the results of a survey conducted a year ago and questioned the committee's assumption that the town only wants minimal change. "You asked for suggestions and input . . . and you have no interest in doing anything further than what's there." He suggested the Common should represent what the community wants, not the committee.
Results of public survey varied
The results of the survey were located. Only 30 responses were received and of these, 16 wanted benches, 18 wanted the utility wires buried, seven wanted a gazebo, and eight wanted nothing changed. One wanted sheep to graze. No information had been solicited as to what the responders would be willing to pay for these amenities.
Stevenson said the TCC could move forward with two relatively uncontroversial areas — improvements to the Honor Roll war memorial and flattening of the area around the flagpole. The TCC had previously proposed a plan to move the Honor Roll back from the street to make room for ceremonial events to take place in front of it. Stevenson suggested the committee pursue CPA funds and work with the DPW to determine if some of the work could be done in-house.
Discussion ensued as to who should give input on the war memorial. There is no veterans' group in town but, coincidentally, two veterans are members of the current TCC. It was agreed that the Historical Commission and a liaison from the Board of Selectmen should also weigh in. Doug Stevenson volunteered to be the Selectmen liaison.
How high is cost of burying wires?
The Selectmen's smiles froze a bit as Jensen proposed an engineering study be done to give a cost estimate on burying the utility wires around the Common. Jensen said that an initial $2.5 million estimate for the work was "not all that accurate" and "we've found out everything we can find out, for free." Tim Hult cautioned that with the other expenses the town faces, "in my opinion, it is highly unlikely you will see a capital expenditure of any size to this project." Jensen suggested part of the cost could be recouped through a surcharge on utility bills. But with only 1,800 households over which to spread the costs, it was not clear how a limited surcharge could amass millions of dollars in a reasonable time period.
"We don't want to get tied up in wires," said Stevenson. He suggested the committee move ahead with the war memorial and regrading with the intention of bringing a proposal to Spring Town Meeting.
© 2006 The