Unanswered Questions: Takeover Of Fire District Sidewalks

Sidewalks need repair and maintenance and that takes money. The Selectboard might acquire all of sidewalks owned by the Norwich Fire District, at its special meeting for November 15,  The proposal to takeover all of the sidewalks “as is” is a distinct break from the policy of prior Selectboards of accepting only when the Fire District had repaired the sidewalks to meet Town standards. Before incurring this liability, the Selectboard needs better information than contained in the Selectboard packet. 

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Before listing the unanswered questions, some background is in order. The Norwich Fire District is a separate municipality, with the authority to tax and incur debt. Today, the District’s principle purpose is to supply potable water to approximately 310 homes and 20 commercial businesses in the Village. That was not always the case;  presumably it was once responsible for fire protection and sometime after 1917 (when first authorized by state law), the NFD voters decided to build and maintain sidewalks.

Here is a list of questions for the Selectboard to consider:
  • What circumstances justify the proposed change in Selectboard policy to accept the sidewalks “as is”? The past policy of the Selectboard, reaffirmed on July 29, 2015, is to takeover sidewalks ONLY after brought up to Town standards at the expense of the NFD.  
  • What is the total cost that will be incurred by the Town to repair and upgrade the NFD sidewalks? For example, repair of NFD Main Street sidewalk from Hazen Street to Koch Road was estimated to cost over $25,000 in materials, according to information in the Selectboard packet for the July 29, 2015 meeting. 
  • Should the DPW inspect the sidewalks before the Selectboard undertakes this obligation? The Selectboard is being asked to rely on a "windshield tour" from 2012.
  • Why does the Town pay over $11,000 per year to the Fire District to “rent” fire hydrants? Should eliminating this rental obligation going forward be the minimal quid pro quo for taking over the sidewalks. 
  • Why can’t the Norwich Fire District pay the cost to repair the sidewalks, other then it would prefer not to? It reserved $10,000 per year in the recent past, but stopped.  What about using the money it hopes to receive from the solar farm on its property? 
Inquiring minds want to know. 
A history of Fire Districts in Vermont is discussed at the website of the Colchester Fire District. https://www.cfd1.org/what-is-fire-district

The pertinent materials from the July 29, 2015 Selectboard packet are available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5p_pfaeTTstNzkzUXgyWDVSWlU/view

Minutes of the July 29, 2015 Selectboard meeting are here: http://norwich.vt.us/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/FinalMinutes072915.pdf
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