Despite the threat of an injunction to close the LaPlatte Headwaters Town Forest trailhead parking lot, the Hinesburg Selectboard continues to wait for an outcome in the murder investigation of the shooting death there before increasing security.
David Auclair, 45, of Williston, was killed on July 11 after being shot multiple times in that parking lot on Gilman Road.
Craig Chevrier, who lives next to the parking lot, sent a letter to the selectboard on Aug. 1 saying that he was seeking an injunction to have the parking lot closed. An update on “trailhead safety concerns” was already an item on the agenda for the meeting that night.
This was the second of at least two letters that Chevrier has sent to the selectboard calling for changes to security at the lot. Until the selectboard enacts an ordinance enforcing security at all Hinesburg’s public spaces, Chevrier called on closing “all public parking lots to prevent such a crime from happening again,” he wrote in an earlier letter.
Selectboard chair Phil Pouech said that the homicide was “quite uncharacteristic for Hinesburg.” He had asked Police Chief Anthony Cambridge to the selectboard meeting to address the history of problems at the LaPlatte Headwaters trailhead parking lot.
Cambridge said the police department had searched their records back until 2006 and that the parking lot was installed in 2011. They didn’t find anything.
“I know that it was said that there’s a significant history there,” said Cambridge. “There just isn’t. Our cases don’t support that.”
Responding to guns even though not banned
Pouech noted that shooting guns on your property is not against the law: “People can do that, and they do do that. Occasionally there’s complaints.”
Cambridge said, “We respond to it, even though it’s not against the law. We just make sure that they’re shooting in a safe direction.”
“If there was a call about a vehicle in a lot, we would respond to it and create a case,” he added.
The only situation where he said that a case might not have been created was if there was a call about a suspicious vehicle that had left 30 minutes before, but the police would still check out the parking lot.
Chevrier said that his wife had called twice about the parking lot and got “a slow response and no response.”
Chevrier wrote that prevention measures are “the only things” that make sense and that installing a gate or a security camera is an inexpensive solution.
“Suggesting that all action is to be on my part, and that the town’s role should be status quo is simply Gileadean, narrow-minded, myopic, selfish thinking,” Chevrier said in his letter. “Which is what I’ve come to expect from so many town officials and townspeople in Hinesburg – which I thought was different from most other places in the U.S, but now I realize is no different at all.”
At the selectboard meeting, Pouech said that they might consider some rules about noise or how late people are allowed in the parking lots. Even though hunting is allowed in these areas, he said they might want to consider banning shooting guns within 100 feet of a parking lot.
Pouech and selectboard member Merrily Lovell discussed how placing a curfew on parking would ban people going night snowshoeing to see owls or the full moon.
Biggest project in town history on the horizon
Pouech gave an update on the new wastewater permit that has been issued by the state with new and significant reductions required for phosphorus and limits for ammonia, which hadn’t been limited previously.
Meeting both of these limits will require a new wastewater treatment plant, which will easily cost $10 million or more. “
So, it’s a significant cost,” Pouech said. “It would easily be the biggest project ever done by this town.”
He also said that, although Hinesburg’s wastewater consultant, Wayne Elliott from Aldrich + Elliott, has given them three different options for dealing with the stricter limits, any new system will require additional labor, possibly a full-time position.
He said the consultants are finalizing the cost estimates and looking for available funding.
The bond to pay for the new wastewater treatment plant could be done a couple of ways, Pouech said.
“It could be just the users pay or we could decide we’re going to ask the entire town to pay or something in between.”
If the whole town has to pay it means that even people who are on septic tanks will be taxed to help pay for the town’s wastewater system.
“Typically, these bonds pass when everyone gets to vote but everyone doesn’t have to pay,” Pouech said.
This will be a three-year process, he said, “So, get ready.”