BELLOWS FALLS -- The so-called tire wall on Golden Hill Road has been filled with sawdust and dirt, but some residents and Rockingham Selectboard members are still angry with the state for creating the issue in the first place.
Golden Hill Road resident Sheila Quelch received a permit from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources more than a year ago to build a retaining wall of whole tires and soon developed a stack of 1,200 of them. As far back as November, several residents, including Tim Knight, started complaining to the town about the wall's unsightliness and the potential health hazards it posed. This started an effort from town level officials to resolve the health issue or remove the tires and figure out how Quelch was allowed to collect them.
At least 450 tires have been removed since July and Rockingham issued Quelch a permit to fill and partially cover the remaining ones with leftover town-owned ditching material from its garage on Blake Street. Rockingham Health Officer Ellen Howard told the Selectboard on Tuesday that she visited Quelch's property earlier in the day and she is pleased with what she saw.
"Some of them are still visible but she's made good progress with filling them in on the inside," Howard said, adding that she has spoken with Dennis Fekert, in the Vermont Waste Management and Prevention Division's solid waste program, who is happy with the progress being made.
Howard said the tires don't necessarily have to be completely covered, but must at least be filled in with dirt and sawdust to prevent them from being a breeding ground for bugs and bacteria.
But Knight and a few other residents who attended Tuesday's Selectboard are not satisfied.
"In my opinion, for what it's worth, this is a situation that is going to be on-going. I mean, you have hay, horse manure, you name it (in and around the tires) ... this is going to be a constant maintenance issue," Knight said. "So, this is not a done deal. This is not a permanent fix. It's fixed for maybe right now, according to state standards or health concerns, but come next spring, the horse manure rots, the hay rots ... and this is going to be a constant maintenance issue.
"This is a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. This is not a situation that's resolved," he added. "My concern is, who's going to take responsibility for that? Because right now the only one that appears to have taken responsibility is the town of Rockingham (by providing the fill)."
Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee said he is angry that the state did not notify the town about the permit it had issued to Quelch and that ANR has not vowed to fix the problem.
"I am galled that the state gave authorization, didn't tell us, and now they expect us to handle it and the people up there have to look at this junk," he said. "It's not right."
Howard mentioned Quelch is now in compliance and she no longer sees a health issue as long as the tires remain filled. Municipal Manager Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II said the wall of tires is like any other piece of property and must be well-maintained by the owner.
Rockingham Development Director Francis "Dutch" Walsh told the Reformer the tire wall is now on the Selectboard's task list so the issue can be revisited.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.