Thank you Sharron!
On Sept. 11, 2008 I hired Sharron Balaban as a part-time Assistant Clerk/Treasurer and a month later she became my full-time assistant when Marlene Mansfield passed away very suddenly. I was in the midst of struggling with that loss and having to move forward and train a brand new person with an upcoming Presidential Election and November tax collection right around the corner. But Sharron enthusiastically jumped right in, ready to go, luckily for me. She frequently stayed late to catch up on something we had gone over that day (and by the way, that extra time was never on her time sheets), trying to learn everything that was coming at her. This is not your typical “office job,” it’s never what you imagine it is until you’re in the midst of it all. She gives 150 percent (at the very least) and has always been extremely conscientious with a deep concern for the well-being of the Town of Charlotte and the people here. How often do you get a smart, honest, dedicated, workaholic with a cheerful disposition that’s willing to hang in there through thick and thin? Not too often, but I got that with Sharron — thank you I appreciated all of it — not to mention that we also managed to have fun together. That’s an important piece of the employee puzzle when there’s just two people taking care of all the aspects of town business that we are responsible for. A little fun is a bonus.
So Sharron thank you again and good luck in California! Your boys are there which makes this move a happy one for you.
Soon we will be welcoming a new Assistant Clerk and Treasurer. Christina Booher will start at the end of September and we are very glad to have her here. She lives in Charlotte, just down the street. She’ll be starting at a very busy time, just like Sharron did, election and taxes, that’s a good omen for the new girl!
Citizens continue to debate Town of Charlotte spending
In summer 2003, Vermont Electric Power Co. (VELCO) sub mitted its Northwest Vermont Reliability Project (NRP) to the Public Service Board (PSB). The project included the construction of a 345 kV transmission line between West Rutland and New Haven, a 115 kV line from New Haven to South Burlington, new substations, and other modifications. Needless to say, municipalities along the route were concerned about potential impacts in their communities.
Some Charlotte citizens supported the project, and others donated to efforts to challenge the need. The Town of Charlotte focused on assuring that the plan was consistent with values and goals stated in the Charlotte Town Plan, and protecting the investment of the town and others in land conservation and scenic preservation. Areas of concern were:
Town Line Road: view from Greenbush Road toward the Adirondacks across conserved land;
Thorp Brook: ecological impact;
Thompson’s Point Road: view from the road, proximity to a private residence;
Ferry Road and substation: proximity to existing residences, businesses, and school, compatibility with future village expansion envisioned in the Town Plan, investment in conservation of the Knowles Farm to the west ($10,000 from the Charlotte Conservation Fund and a $220,000 scenic easement grant from the State of Vermont), impact on Pringle Brook, and nearby wetland;
North Greenbush Road and town-owned Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge: investment in land conservation, scenic preservation, and public access. The town supported placement of the transmission corridor on the western edge of the park to distance it from residences on the west side of the railroad tracks.
Supported by language in the Town Plan, the town’s early testimony investigated the feasibility and cost of underground transmission, and advocated for longer sections of underground line. There was little support by VELCO or the State of Vermont for underground transmission. The town continued to see it as a solution for the Ferry Road area, where costs for rights-of-way, overhead line construction, and mitigation were high. Except for the Thorp Brook area, where wider spans minimized the impact on the wetland, the town asked for shorter poles to make the line less visible on the landscape.
Early attempts by the Selectboard to work with VELCO yielded unsatisfactory results and little cooperation. It was clear that participation in the PSB process was necessary. Before the PSB issued a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for the project in early 2005, the town spent over $141,000 on legal fees and consultants.
The CPG anticipated a project design phase that required further negotiation of unresolved issues. This was difficult and time-consuming. When VELCO submitted its preliminary line design in February 2006, pole heights were much higher than anticipated. The following is from a June 2006 letter from the Charlotte Selectboard to the PSB:
“When the Town of Charlotte received VELCO’s preliminary 115 kV Line Design and Aesthetic
Mitigation Plans in February of 2006, it was surprised and dismayed to find the line design shown on the plans very different in its details from what the town had anticipated based on information received during the three years since VELCO first submitted its petition for a CPG, and on the language of the Board’s January 2005 Order. The Town had assumed that VELCO’s preliminary plan would be consistent with the information provided by VELCO during the technical hearings, and that mitigation measures discussed in testimony, and commitments made during technical hearings, would be incorporated into the design…Unfortunately, even after more than four months of meetings, site visits and plan review, the design shown in the final plans still falls short of expectations developed on the basis of the CPG process. In many instances, VELCO has only offered minor modifications to the project design, which do not substantively address the town’s concerns.”
A July 2006 article in the Burlington Free Press stated that the PSB received dozens of letters from communities, government agencies, organizations, and individuals raising concerns and asking the Board to reject the VELCO plans. Later, the PSB required VELCO to pay Charlotte $2,212.50 to cover attorney’s fees required to revisit the pole height issue.
It was three more years before the project was completed and almost all issues addressed. Continuing work included:
Responding to several VELCO proposals for overhead line configuration in the Ferry Road area, until in 2007, the PSB ordered burial of the line in this “particularly difficult area to site the transmission line”
Negotiating details of the underground line (including the use of a town trail easement);
Working on an agreement for line design and mitigation near North Greenbush Road;
Reviewing the easement for the corridor in the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge, negotiating a right-of-way management agreement for park land;
Assessing landscaping plans and construction accesses;
Reviewing plans for removal of the old Green Mountain Power substation, and restoration of the substation site.
There was serious effort to keep legal costs down. Much work was done by town staff and Selectboard members, but the lawyer working for our town (and surrounding towns as well) was an important team member, and key to our success.
Speaking directly to Brady Toensing’s claims of conflict of interest, VELCO’s plan from the start used a corridor where Green Mountain Power maintained 46 and 35 kV lines. This corridor crossed the Michael Russell property. The Selectboard was not involved with right-of-way compensation negotiations between VELCO and individual property owners. It should also be mentioned that Walter Judge, most critical of the town’s actions, was a lawyer at the firm representing VELCO.
Jenny Cole, Charlotte Selectboard Member 2002-2011