Editor’s note: these questions have been collected and submitted to the Mountain Times on behalf of some members of the Killington community, who wish to remain anonymous. We have asked experts on each topic to answer their questions:
On the 1 percent option tax:
Many Killington citizens/voters in town want to know why the 1 percent Option Tax question is not on the Town of Killington March 2019 ballot? The town of Killington currently has significant debt. Additionally, we need more funds for highway repair, public safety needs, swimming pool repair/rebuild, funds for golf course maintenance and other town needs. The Killington citizens should decide this issue – not the Killington Select Board.
Select Board member Jim Haff explains:
First off, the one percent option tax is three parts. Two parts (rooms/meals and alcohol) are currently being taxed and used for funding all of the above that you mention. The town of Killington, just some 11 months ago, had a vote to remove the sales tax portion of the option tax. This was done with a compromise/contract with Killington Resort, that by removing the sales option tax the resort would fund the summer events and marketing for the community. Taxpayers should’ve been taking care of highway repair, public safety needs, swimming pool, etc. (and I leave out the golf course only because I believe you will see the golf course funding its own maintenance going forward from today).
I mentioned during the budgeting period that I always felt that the taxpayers should fund the above capital replacement and maintenance programs, that’s why we have a general fund tax rate.
I also mention that if some new projects were to come in front of us we should possibly look at bringing back the sales option tax for that limited purpose and timeline. The board had in front of it some additional projects, such as complete reconfiguration of Killington Road, sidewalks, lights etc. but we felt that at this time we did not have enough information to move forward with those projects. So what we’ve done is allocate $125,000 toward getting a complete proposal, including plans for these projects. Once we have that, I’m sure the funding mechanism, including the sales option tax will be up for discussion again. Until then, my belief is that we are doing the right thing by funding with all taxpayers across the board for our capital replacement and maintenance items.
Your last sentence, about citizens deciding the issue not the board: you always have the decision, it’s called a vote. If you’re not happy that it’s not included then vote the budget down. If the budget is voted down, I would hope that all our anonymous questioners would finally voice their opinions so we on the board can know how many feel your way and you can help us come to solutions together.
On public safety
Why do we need a new firehouse now? Shouldn’t we wait until we see a new village plan? What is the relationship with regional fire departments? How much do we pay Rutland to back us up for Fire Department/Ambulance already? (If we wanted a contract with Rutland how much would it cost if we got rid of our fire department completely?) Considering the town is facing such massive debt should we consider other options?
Select Board Chair Steve Finneron explains:
First: why now? About four years ago, Dore & Whittier Architects came in to evaluate doing repairs on the current building to bring it up to code. What we learned from them, is that the need was so extensive, that it pretty much made it not-feasible in the current location – definitely not a wide investment as the current property has only 0.7 acres, which forces people to park on Killington Market’s land. The property line is within within 20 feet of doors, so just getting in and out on of the firehouse requires use of other property or blocking the town road.
So that’s where it started.
Currently there is no actual plan to build a village. Yes, a plan for a development has been submitted to state and gotten through act 250, yes, it’s further than it’s ever been, but still there’s no new village plan. And we’re not look at building the public safety building for the new village. It’s for our current needs. But the site and building do wisely allow for expansion should either the Bear Mountain or Village expansion happen in the future. If those project get done, they will also raise the Grand List total value and that alone could help pay for a new apparatus, if needed to serve additional needs. It could have a neutral effect on the tax rate.
With regards to contracting with other towns departments, Rutland currently backs us up for free. It’s a mutual aid agreement. We are in mutual aid with Rutland and Woodstock, meaning we back up each other. There is no fee.
One thing very few people realize is that, if there was not a fire department in town, the insurance on every singe piece of property would go through the roof! It makes sense, do you want someone to be there in 5 minutes or 25 minutes, if your building is burning down that can make a HUGE difference. Rutland also has to make it over the pass, and if there’s a storm, it could be even longer.
Yes, the town is looking to rid itself of its past debts that have been there for eight years, this year. The public safety building is not going to be paid for this year. From the beginning, costs for this project were planned to not begin until other bonds have retired, thus, not affecting the tax rate. This would take the place of other payments.
The Select Board has carefully crafted a sustainable budget where money is put aside for the town’s known capital needs now and pro-actively for the future.
There really isn’t anything we’re facing that will just go away.
We can face it this year or next year, but it will cost more money the longer we wait.
On golf irrigation
Is 100 percent of the irrigation system broken? Is there a way to fix what is broken rather than replace the entire system? What needs to be fixed on irrigation system, specifically?
Select Board member Jim Haff explains:
No, 100 percent is not broken. In fact, currently, there is nothing known to be broken on the irrigation system. The system was built about 28 years ago and the life expectancy is about 25-30 years, so this board is being pro-active and asking the management company to evaluate the system. Below you can see an explanation from Justin Stezin of Brown Golf, our management company.
Once again, there’s nothing broken at this time, but things do break during the year. And just like the snowmaking system up the hill at Killington – if you keep on replacing some pipes it puts more pressure on pipes down the system, which helps them fail. Please read the GMNGC overview from Justin Stezin of this system. In his letter he states that “water regulation is key to the system success and growth.”
Please note Brown Golf will be reaching out to Toro for a complete due diligence audit on our existing system to better outline a timeline.
Justin Stezin, GMNGC regional manager, provided a “Green Mountain National Irrigation System Replacement Overview” in writing on Friday, Feb. 1. It is published here in full:
“The golf course irrigation system is the means by which water is distributed to the grounds by way of an underground piping system. Without an irrigation system it would be near impossible to operate a golf course, as water supply is the driving force for turf health. Water regulation is vital to course success, and growth. There are several facets to an irrigations system, and these systems typically start to fail anywhere between 20-25 years.
1. The pump house. The pump house is where the irrigation system has access to an organic water source, or well, to be able to pump the water through the piping system. The pump mechanisms are expensive and when begin to fail to produce enough water supply need to be replaced. These pumps can be as expensive as $350,000 to replace.
2. The piping. The piping is the distribution system for water to certain areas of the golf course. These pipes are underground, and are expensive to replace because they need to be dug up with the proper machinery. Once the excavation is complete, the labor can be done to physically remove the piping system as it begins to fail. Over time the piping begins to corrode, and fail altogether.
3. The sprinkler heads. The sprinklers are the units that actually deliver the water to the playing surface. They are positioned all throughout the golf course and can be manually operated or put on a timer system to water the turf when necessary.
4. The software/satellites. The software are the computers that are used to talk to the irrigation system and tell it when to water what part of the golf course. Once software begins to be outdated, and unusable, a new computer must be purchased. These systems are quite costly.
All said, a total irrigation system replace can range from $750,000 upwards to $2,500,000 for more advanced systems, depending on the digging terrain. If the excavation team encounters rock, or other impediments, the cost will surely rise. Another cost factor is how advanced the operating system selected for replacement. Modern irrigation operating systems are very expensive.
The Green Mountain National’s irrigation system is nearing its life expectancy, and we will work with our partners from Toro (golf and agriculture experts) to design a replacement/improvement strategy to present to the town so we can be prepared when the time comes. Toro and Brown Golf will complete a due diligence audit on the existing system and outline a firm replacement quote, and a timeline of when to do so.”