Cleanup would be expensive
By JEFF EPSTEIN
WINDSOR, Vt. — A favorite site for dog owners to run their dogs has apparently "gone to the dogs" because of contamination, which complicates efforts by an advocacy group to formalize the site as a town dog park. The group presented its case for a dog park to the select board Tuesday night. The board responded by asking Town Manager Tom Marsh to pursue the possibilities of the preferred site, which is an old National Guard armory.
Dog owners have informally used the land in back of the armory to run their dogs for the past six years, said the group's representative Kerry Clifford. "The armory has proved to be an excellent location," she said.
However, the old armory building that sits on the land is contaminated and under state restrictions, said Marsh. The town "thought we could acquire the armory back in the spring," he explained, but with the contamination issue now known, the National Guard, which still controls the property, has asked the dogs and owners to stay away.
Marsh, reporting the work of a consultant, said the issue is mostly in the building's old paint with PCBs found in a range from 12 - 15 parts per million (ppm). That level incurs usage restrictions under state regulations, he said. Some uses like storage might be allowed, but the issue is difficult. This was a new round of testing, he said, after testing in the 1990s found contamination but also controversy in the testing itself.
The dog owners don't actually need the building itself, but in the event the town takes over the site and accepts the conditions of the building, that contamination becomes the town's problem. Still, the transfer has not yet occurred, and the town can ask the National Guard to remediate the problem, which might be possible.
The only comparable case known, Marsh said, is a similar armory in Bennington, Vermont that required similar decontamination. About halfway through the project now, incurred costs are about $1.5 million, and the estimated final cost is around $3 million, he said.
The select board authorized Marsh to contact the National Guard and see if something can be worked out, while also helping Clifford and her friends search for a suitable alternate location. Clifford said other sites have been considered in the past, but none has proved suitable for a dog park.
In the meantime, some dog owners have reportedly been letting their dogs do their business near a local ball field without removing the waste. That problem has spurred interest in this case, and Marsh made it clear that any dog park would have to be a dedicated use, not sharable with something like student athletics, he said.