Monday October 29, 2012

NEWFANE -- Convening Tuesday's special town meeting will be a two-step process.

Due to logistical concerns, Newfane Selectboard -- which is seeking voters' permission to spend up to $190,000 to buy a property left isolated by Tropical Storm Irene -- has moved the 6 p.m. meeting to the NewBrook fire station.

But in order to avoid any public-notice delays associated with relocating the session, officials still will initially convene the meeting at Williamsville Hall before quickly moving to NewBrook.

"We'll start the meeting and then immediately adjourn to the fire house," said Jon Mack, Newfane Selectboard chairman.

Mack said he does not anticipate any significant delay in starting meeting discussions due to the procedural move. The NewBrook station on Route 30 is just a few miles from Williamsville Hall, and no discussion will take place before reconvening at the firehouse.

Heating requirements are one reason the Selectboard decided to move the meeting from the historic hall to the more-modern fire station.

"It's just a better location," Mack said. "We don't have to heat it in advance."

However, the board already had posted notice that the meeting would happen at Williamsville Hall. "Officially" moving it would have meant canceling the session, posting the new location and waiting another 30 days, Mack said.

That's a problem, since the potential property purchase is part of a complex effort to redirect FEMA money that had been earmarked to replace an Irene-damaged bridge.

"It's not like the federal government is going to wait forever," Mack said. "If we're going to go forward, we have to get this vote done."

Mack added that officials consulted with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to ensure that the scheduling procedure was legal and proper.

At issue is the former Lynch Bridge, which had served just one property before it was washed out by Irene's floodwaters in August 2011. Replacing it would cost an estimated $562,000.

But Selectboard members would prefer to buy the affected property at 14 Lynch Bridge Road. Then, rather than rebuilding the bridge, officials could use up to $455,220 in available FEMA funding on other town improvements.

Town officials have been negotiating a purchase price with the property owner. The special-meeting notice says the price won't exceed $190,000.

"We're asking for permission to negotiate up to $190,000," Mack said. "We hope to pay less if we can."

A town vote is necessary because, while money is available for the purchase, it was not a previously budgeted expense.

The property buyout is just one part of the process. The town also has applied for FEMA permission for alternate uses for the bridge funding.

Potential projects include replacing a Mack truck, rehabilitating several roads and renovating the town office and Williamsville Hall. Mack reiterated that Tuesday's vote is not about those projects.

"We are not voting on that package (of alternate projects)," he said. "Though clearly, they will be a topic of discussion."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.

Monday afternoon UPDATE:

A special Newfane town meeting that had been scheduled for Tuesday night has been postponed due to the approach of Hurricane Sandy.

The meeting now is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at NewBrook fire station on Route 30.

Selectboard Chairman Jon Mack said the decision was made Monday morning to delay the vote.

The Selectboard is asking voters for permission to spend up to $190,000 to purchase a property left isolated when Tropical Storm Irene washed out the Lynch Bridge in August 2011.