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Norwich rejects energy proposal; Hartland approves Three Corners upgrades

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/12/2020 12:03:33 PM
Modified: 8/12/2020 12:15:24 PM

NORWICH — Voters in Norwich rejected a $2 million plan to fully eliminate Tracy Hall’s dependence on fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions at other municipal buildings during a Special Town Meeting vote on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Hartland voters agreed to spend an additional $510,000 to bury utility lines surrounding the Three Corners intersection as part of its planned reconfiguration.

Both votes were held alongside Vermont’s primary election.

Norwich residents voted, 1,041-608, to kill the proposal that sought to replace the town hall’s reliance on fuel oil with a geothermal heating and cooling system.

The plan also would have installed new ventilation systems in Tracy Hall and about $133,400 was dedicated to light and control upgrades at Norwich’s other town buildings.

Opponents said the effort, which would have cost at least $2.5 million throughout its 30-year life cycle, was too expensive, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Norwich residents want to fight the climate crisis in a balanced, more fiscally responsible manner, especially during a pandemic which has adversely impacted our economy,” Doug Wilberding, a leading opponent of the plan, said in an email on Wednesday.

“This election creates an opportunity for a do-over: a better, more cost-effective climate action plan for the town of Norwich, one that includes a long-term strategy,” he added.

Tuesday’s vote reverses a March Town Meeting decision that saw the same energy plan pass, 849-801. Supporters argued ahead of both votes that although the upgrades were expensive, other long-term solutions would contribute to climate change and could rack up higher maintenance bills.

“I’m of course disappointed because I thought this was a very good, affordable proposal,” Linda Gray, chairwoman of the Norwich Energy Committee, said Wednesday. “As to what happens next, it’s pretty much up to the Selectboard to figure out the next steps on what the town does to cut its fossil fuel use.”

In Hartland, residents voted, 654-385, to bury the utility lines that threatened to obstruct a future green space at the Three Corners.

The overall project, which includes reconfiguration of the intersection, is expected to cost $1.4 million. However, officials are expecting at least $363,000 in grants to help pay for construction.

Officials predict property owners with a $250,000 home would see a $36.50 increase on their tax bills, under a 20-year bond.

Voters in 2014 approved a $450,000 effort to build a four-way intersection at Three Corners, with stop signs for Route 5, Route 12 and Quechee Road.

But that work leaves a utility pole with wires going in different directions near the center of a new park created during construction. The additional money approved Tuesday would instead bury those lines to beautify the area.

Construction of the new intersection is expected to start next spring.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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