Good afternoon Janice,
Your email to the Selectboard will be on their agenda to receive on November 25, 2014.
I left you a voice mail yesterday and asked you to call me at 649-1419 x102. I would like to discuss your letter and the concerns you expressed, as I don't recall giving anyone the answers referred to in your email and they are inconsistent with what I am telling interested individuals on a regular basis. I look forward to your call.
Do you remember the date of our phone conversation? I keep a log of all my calls and would like to review my notes.
In the meantime, to respond directly about some issues you raised, the only sidewalk project currently planned is a sidewalk on Church Street from the Congregational Church to Carpenter Street. The preliminary design has been completed and we have applied for a permit to do the construction from the VT Agency of Transportation. After we receive the permit, we will need construction easements in order for the project to proceed. The plans are available for review if you are interested. Church Street is part of Route 5 North but Route 5 North as a local street name starts at the intersection of Church Street and River Road.
I have no knowledge of any sidewalks being proposed other than the Church Street Sidewalk. We do have a planning study looking at a joint use path that would connect with Hartford and Hanover to complete a loop. I would be glad to discuss the specifics if you are interested.
The replacement of the Pool Dam has been and still is a high priority. I feel strongly that having the pool in Norwich is a wonderful resource and tradition that should be kept. However, we first need a permit from the VT Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to rebuild the dam and they initially told us that they would not issue a permit for the reconstruction. The default position of the VT Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is part of ANR, is that there will be no new dams or reconstruction of existing dams that have failed. Since the time they told us no, we have been working with the Secretary of the Agency to determine what we need to do to get a permit and try to persuade them to change their minds. The state has been slow to respond. That's why, very unfortunately, there still is no pool. I haven't given up and am still trying to get the permit the Town needs to rebuild the dam for the pool.
As for the Town tax rate, it is made up of the municipal tax rate for municipal services, and the school tax rate. The school tax rate is the largest portion of the tax rate for the local tax bill. The budget I presented to the Selectboard for the next year (which is only for municipal, not school, services), which the Selectboard is now reviewing, projects a reduction in the municipal tax rate for FY16 which begins on July 1, 2015. The Selectboard actually decides what budget to present to the voters in March, but I have recommended one with a reduction. More details are available at http://norwich.vt.us/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/SBBudgetBinderFY16.pdf
You expressed concern about my health insurance and its expense. The amount of money I am paid for health insurance is exactly the same amount the Town would pay if I were on the Town's policy. When I was asked to become Town Manager, I decided to keep the insurance with Cigna that I already had, since that is where my insurance will come from when I again retire. I buy my own health insurance and the Town just reimburses me the same amount of money it would pay if I used the Town's policy. I also pay for my wife's health insurance, as my wife is self-employed and does not receive health insurance as a benefit. Doing it that way means I am paying for my health insurance with after-taxed dollars (making it more expensive for me), instead of it being an employee payroll deduction that is not taxed. So there are no additional dollars in my pocket as a result of the Town's reimbursement of my health insurance expense, and the Town is not paying more for my health insurance that in otherwise would either.
If you'd like more information about the budget and other town matters, you can go to the Town's website and to the town manager's webpage and review a document I prepared which answers frequently asked questions (FAQ) in town, including some you inquired about in your letter. I hope this is helpful.