By Curt Peterson
On Aug. 11, 654 Hartland voters approved funding redesign and construction of the Three Corners intersection of Quechee Road, Route 5 and Route 12 to the tune of $1,425,000. There were 385 votes against the bond.
The new intersection will be a simple four-way stop, and the Route 5 “bypass” will cease to exist.
The original project was approved in 2014 at a cost of $812,077 in a floor vote at Town Meeting. The Select Board since proposed eliminating utility poles and burying lines to improve both safety and aesthetics at what was once called Jessar’s Corner and is now “BG’s Plaza” after the market by the same name.
The original, construction portion of the project is estimated to cost about $425,000.
According to selectman Curtis Atkisson, repayment for that portion will added about $50 to residential taxes annually over five years on a home assessed at $250,000.
The original project plus the burial of the utility lines, now passed, will be financed by a 20-year bond for $1,062,000, net of grants. Atkisson said additional taxes will approximate $36 a year for 20 years, on that same house.
There have been rumbles since the 2014, but there were significantly more since the suggestion of doubling the cost of the project.
The Hartland listserve is an arena for arguments and animated discussions on topics ranging from politics to out-of-state drivers. The Three Corners intersection project lit up the switchboard.
At least 20 individuals participated. Nine were in favor of the bond issue, eight against, and two were undecided. Most shared their opinions multiple times, particularly those opposed either to the bond or to the entire project.
One writer claimed it’s “obvious” the majority of the town opposes the project, and the Select Board was denying democracy by refusing an Australian ballot revote.
The No. 1 complaint among six participants was taxes. Intersection costs, one writer said, would tax people who were born in Hartland out of their homes.
But as one pundit put it, “A dozen vocal people on the Listserve do not a majority make.”
The primary goal of the project was improved safety.
According to Noah Jacobson-Goodhue, his family campaigned for improved safety after one of their children was almost hit by a truck while crossing the intersection in 2012. This change has been a long time coming for the family.
Vermont’s pandemic-damaged finances won’t affect funding for the project, Ormiston wrote, including the ability to bond the $1,062,000 estimated net cost.
“The economic conditions could somehow affect the interest rate on the bond,” he added.
If voters had failed to approve the bond, the original plan would have gone out for bids in the spring of 2021, Ormiston wrote. He hopes that might still be doable for the larger project, but it might have to wait until summer 2022.