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Hartland Traffic Project Approved

Hartland — Amid the traffic jam of questions about the $450,000 plan to realign the town’s main intersection at Route 5, Route 12 and Quechee Road, Derek Levin couldn’t resist asking one that didn’t involve money or safety or aesthetics.

“What are we going to call that place?” Levin asked at Town Meeting on Tuesday. “It won’t be (Hartland) Three Corners anymore.” (Hartland Four Corners belongs to another intersection a couple of miles west on Vermont Route 12.)

Whatever the name, the project will go forward, after a 75-minute debate that ended with voters approving by a vote of 91-39, the Selectboard’s proposal to borrow the money from the capital reserve fund and repay it over five years.

After more than two years of study, the Selectboard placed on the warning a plan that would reduce the number of stop signs at the intersection from seven to five by making all four main roads meet at roughly 90-degree angles.

Realigning Quechee Road near Damon Hall will allow the creation of six parking places for the municipal and community building. And where now the only marked crosswalk, connecting Damon Hall with the plaza containing the town’s post office, sits back from the intersection and behind the eastbound stop line, pedestrians will find crosswalks going all four ways in front of each of the four stop lines, and in front of the stop line for the lane of traffic on Route 5 north bearing right toward North Hartland and White River Junction.

“There just is no easy way to get from one side to the other right now,” Selectboard Chairman Gordon Richardson said.

After numerous suggestions for tweaking or overhauling the design — ranging from rearrangement of curb cuts to a full traffic light — engineer David Saladino, from the consulting firm Resource Systems Group, said he was taking notes and would incorporate some of the ideas — though probably not the traffic light.

“There certainly is a lot of fine-tuning that needs to happen,” Saladino said.

Town Manager Bob Stacey said the town expects to spend the coming year working with the Vermont Agency of Transportation, which is not contributing money to the project, and to begin construction in earnest in spring 2015. Town officials estimate that interest payments will add about 2 cents to the municipal property tax rate, or about $50 a year on a $250,000 home during the repayment period.

Several voters urged the town to continue pressing the transportation agency to shoulder a share of the cost, given that the intersection involves two state highways.

“We’re all a little concerned about taking on the burden of this project,” David Courtney said. “It has the possibility to escalate beyond” the estimate of $450,000.

Stacey and members of the Selectboard said decades of effort to put the intersection on the state’s long-term transportation plan have been to no avail.

“This is not very high on the state’s radar screen at all,” Stacey said. “The state isn’t going to help us, so let’s do it. … I’m not hearing a lot of, ‘Here you go, guys.’ ”

About a third of the gathering dispersed after the intersection vote, at which point the proposed budget of $2,273,100 — of which property taxpayers will shoulder $1,873,020 — passed without debate.

Along with six separate articles on the warning, the total package of spending will lead to about $38 more in property taxes on a home valued at $250,000.

∎ The warning articles include:

∎ $61,000 for the volunteer fire department.

∎ $16,500 for the rescue squad.

∎ $1,697 for membership in the Green Mountain Economic Development Corp.

∎ $2,500 for the Hartland Community Nurse Program

∎ $500 for Cover Home Repair weatherization work for low-income residents.

∎ A combined $31,340 for a range of social service agencies that apply for annual support.

At the end of the meeting, the remaining voters approved by voice vote — with one nay — a request from resident Karyn Stack and her daughter Gretta for voters to approve a resolution opposing “the transport of tar sand oils through Vermont, and to call upon the Vermont Legislature and U.S. Congress to ensure thorough environmental impact reviews of any tar sands oil pipeline proposals.”

In Australian balloting that went on throughout the day, voters re-elected 28-year-veteran Selectman Thomas White, 307-242, to a two-year term, following a challenge from former Hartland Elementary School teacher and co-principal Scott Gray.

They also approved , 461-130, an article to acquire a combined fire/rescue truck for up to $450,000, to be financed over no more than 10 years.

On the school district ballot, voters approved a school budget of a little more than $8 million, 371-218. While that total is nearly $200,000 less than the district is spending this year, it will push the school tax rate up about 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation — resulting in an increase of about $75 on a house valued at $250,000.

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and at 603-727-3304.

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