Archive for the ‘Tri-Town Committee’ Category

Tri-Town Committee Hosts Dam Meeting

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

About 50 people turned out on a fine Saturday afternoon to hear the latest plans for the repair of the Lake Fairlee dam.   Members of the Tri-Town Committee  spoke on a panel for about 45 minutes, then answered questions and heard discussion for about the same period.  Although the meeting had been publicized on the three towns’ listservs most of the attendees seemed to be residents from around the lake and other friends of the Lake Fairlee Association.  Three additional meetings will be held in the fall, one in each of the three towns, which will cover the same material and hopefully attract a wider audience.

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  Jay Barrett, Fairlee Selectboard member, spoke about the importance of the lake to the community, mentioning some intangible and less easily quantified benefits.  The lake attracts visitors who support local businesses.  The lake is a source of recreation and relaxation for local residents.  He explained how the three towns had come together around their shared interest in preserving the lake, and had formed the Tri-Town Committee.  He gave an overview of the committee’s process to date, and the committee’s decision to complete the planning and bidding process before bringing a finished proposal  to the voters at Town Meeting next March.

Shawn Patenaude spoke next. He is an engineer working for Dubois & King, a consulting firm which has been engaged to examine the condition of the dam and develop plans for its repair.  He related his firm’s involvement, and described some of the testing and analysis they had done.  He brought drawings of the planned “replacement in place” of the dam, and explained how this method of repair would involve less permitting.  He explained how the State of Vermont would likely not allow replacement of a failed dam if the permit applications had not been filed by the time the dam breached.  He spoke about the “Phase II” planning which is beginning now that will result in completed plans which can be part of a request for bids.

Donn Downey, a member of Thetford’s Selectboard, gave a thorough analysis of the comparative costs to the towns of allowing the dam to fail, on the one hand, versus passing a bond issue to repair the dam.  If the dam fails, the value of lakeshore properties will drop, as will the property tax income of the towns from those properties.  This decrease in tax revenue will have to be made up by increasing the tax rate of all the properties in the towns.  He used a cost figure of $750,000 for the completed project, and assumed that the towns might issue bonds to be repaid at 4% interest over 20 years.  Based on what he believes are conservative estimates, it will be less expensive for the towns, and for their taxpayers, to fix the dam now before it fails than allowing it to fail and then suffering the shortfall.

final slide

One slide from Downey’s presentation showing annual tax increases

Skip Brown, the Chairman of the committee, spoke briefly about some  legal considerations.  It is proposed that the towns will enter into a so-called interlocal agreement, by which they will agree to cooperate in the rebuilding and subsequent care of the dam.  This agreement will include the creation of a Tri-Town Commission, an appointive municipal board that will oversee the process.  The three towns will acquire an ownership interest in the dam prior to any work being done.

The floor was then open to questions.  They were many and varied.  A few offered suggestions of alternative locations for the dam, or innovative construction methods.  Most of these had already been explored by the committee. Several questions involved the problem of private benefit from public funds.  In order to rebuild the dam, the camp that sits over it will have to be raised up before the work and then lowered back down afterwards.  Through its permitting process the State will require us to return the camp to a sturdier foundation than the one it now sits on.  This will confer a benefit on the landowner at public cost.  Brown explained that the committee had explored various alternatives, and that the one proposed seems to be the most efficient and cost effective.  There were also several comments about the thoroughness of the committee’s presentation and gratitude for its work.

Dam Meeting August 2nd

Monday, July 28th, 2014
The public is invited to attend a presentation by the Tri-Town Committee about plans to rebuild the Lake Fairlee dam in 2015.  The meeting will be held at Horizons Day Camp, on Route 244 at Middlebrook Road, at 4:30 pm on Saturday, August 2nd.
The Tri-Town Committee was created in 2012 by the selectboards of Fairlee, Thetford, and West Fairlee, to respond to the deteriorating condition of the Lake Fairlee dam.  Preliminary engineering studies have been completed, and plans for its reconstruction in place have been drawn.  The three towns have discussed how they might acquire joint ownership of the dam, and how they would work together in the future to manage it.  We have discussed how to apportion the cost and how to raise the funds required for this project.
The committee has determined to proceed with the next phase of planning, a process that will result in final building plans, after which we will request bids from qualified construction companies.  We hope to complete the bidding process by the end of 2014.
This meeting will be the first of four.  Other will be scheduled later in the fall, one in each of the three towns.
At this meeting we will discuss:
  • Why the towns should repair the dam: economic benefits and tax consequences
  • Engineering studies, design considerations, and proposed plans
  • Proposed timeline – planning, bidding, contract award, bond vote
  • Legal considerations:
    • What property interest the towns will obtain in the privately owned dam
    • The ‘interlocal agreement’ that will allow the towns joint ownership
    • The Tri-Town Commission that will manage the new dam in the future
  • Funding:
    • A brief summary of the costs to date
    • A proposal for how to allocate the costs among the three towns
    • The proposed bond issues in each town
There will be an opportunity for questions and discussion as time allows.

Towns to Vote to Raise Funds for Dam Study

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

The Tri-Town Committee wants to raise $50,000 to fund the initial engineering studies and legal work needed to determine just how to fix our dam.  It has raised $20,000 from Aloha, Billings, Lochearn, and the Lake Fairlee Association.  It is asking the towns of Fairlee, Thetford, and West Fairlee for the rest, allocated roughly in proportion to the tax revenue each derived from lakeshore properties.  Voters in each town will be asked to approve this funding on Town Meeting day in early March.

Charlotte Albright, the Upper Valley correspondent for Vermont Public Radio, interviewed Skip Brown and Ridge Satterthwaite for a recent local news feature.  HERE it is on their blog.  There is a button near the upper left that will allow you to listen to it.

Tri-Town Committee Makes Progress on the Dam

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

We have been concerned about the condition of Lake Fairlee’s dam for quite some time, and have written several posts about it.  (For example THIS POST summarizes a lot of the history of the dam)  About a year ago the Selectboards of Fairlee, Thetford, and West Fairlee met together for the first time to address the dam and other topics of mutual concern relating to the lake.  In early 2012 the Tri-Town Committee was formed, as a forum to pursue these discussions.  It was agreed that this committee would have no legislative authority, but might make recommendations for action by the towns.  See THIS PAGE for more about the committee.   The committee has been meeting monthly, and some progress has been made.

We made contact with the current owner, who gave us permission to proceed with an inspection by an independent engineering company.  In late September Bethann McCarthy, a Senior Water Resources Engineer from Gomez and Sullivan, spent about two hours with us at the dam.

The auxiliary spillway. Note the long horizontal crack below the waterline.

The water level in the lake was well below the height of the spillway.  Water was flowing through the crack (above) and pouring out from several locations on the downstream face.

Water pouring out of numerous places on the downstream side of the auxiliary spillway

Bethann climbed around and examined every visible face of the dam.

A portion of the dam is under the house.

She cautioned us that this inspection was just a first step, that planning and permitting for any significant repair or rebuild of a dam like this is a lengthy process.  Lake Fairlee’s dam is not unusual.  There are humdreds of small dams in Vermont, and many of them are in disrepair like ours.

IN late October we received their report.  For the most part it confirmed our expectations, that the dam is in poor condition and needs reconstruction or repair within a few years.  It outlines next steps, including additional studies that will be needed to obtain permits for whatever work is to be done.  Visit THIS PAGE for details about the report.

Next Steps

  • The committee is taking this in steps, not proceeding hastily.
  • We don’t have all the information yet.
  • We are gathering information to help us make reasoned and thoughtful decisions, including:
    • Engineering studies
    • Economic data about the value of the lake to the towns
    • Expert advice on how to organize a three-town response
  • It will take some time before we will be prepared to come before the towns with final recommendations.