BELLOWS FALLS -- The Rockingham Selectboard voted unanimously Tuesday to accept a state grant that will equip the town with necessary tools in the event it is infested with an invasive species of beetle known as Emerald Ash Borer.
Jim Esden, a forester with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources' Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, and Rockingham volunteer Alma Beals addressed Selectboard members Tuesday and advocated for the $500 grant that will be used to develop an EAB Preparedness Plan. There is no required match for the grant.
Esden said the EAB is an invasive pest that is native to Russia and Asia and was first discovered in North America 12 years ago. It has recently been found in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Quebec, and Esden said it is only a matter of time before it rears its head in Windham County and starts attacking ash trees here.
"All the experts agree, it's not a matter of if, it's when. And they say it's an extremely grim prognosis -- it may be the worst invasive species we've seen in decades," Esden said. "It is difficult to detect. Oftentimes, towns don't know they're infested until trees start dying. It attacks all species of ash trees. We stand to lose the many values that we get from trees."
The grant will be implemented to pay for a student intern from Antioch University to write the preparedness plan.
Esden explained the EAB spreads because it has the ability to fly and it hides in firewood that is transported long distances. Local residents might be familiar with the purple boxes hung in wooded areas last year to attract and trap EABs.
Later in the meeting, Selectboard members voted unanimously to adopt a plan crafted by engineering firm DuBois & King, Inc. for the local Safe Routes to Schools project. Safe Routes to School is a national initiative to design safe pedestrian pathways to and from institutions of learning and the local project aims to construct a 1,200-foot sidewalk within Saxtons River to the village's elementary school.
The design, which consists of a semi-oval in front of the school, is expected to make it less dangerous for students walking to school.
In other business:
-- During his manager's report, Municipal Manager Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II said heavy rain is expected in the next day or two and advised everyone to be careful on the area's roads made muddy by the precipitation.
-- He also said he received a letter from the Vermont Department of Transportation on April 8. He said the letter stated that both sides of Route 103 will get rumble strips, which alert drivers to upcoming potential hazards, as a safety precaution.
-- Stearns also said hydrant flushing will begin this week and continue for a few weeks. He said some residents may see some discoloration in their water.
"Let it run for a while and it should clear up," he said.
-- Stearns also said the town will hold tax sales on five properties Thursday morning. He said most have no mortgages or liens tied to them.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. Follow Domenic on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.