by Nat Frothingham
The Bridge: Can you comment on paving and sidewalk improvements?
Montpelier Mayor John Hollar: There have been some noticeable improvements this year, including the new sidewalk along East State Street that I used to walk here.Next year, we will see some substantial repaving, including all of Main Street and Route 12 to the city line, and all of State Street from Bailey to Main. A number of smaller streets will be paved as well.
The Bridge: And the bike path?
Hollar: We are close to acquiring the necessary easements for that project, with construction scheduled for next year.
The Bridge: What about redeveloping the block above Aubuchon’s?
Hollar: That project is almost certainly going to happen. We are waiting for a decision on a grant from the State of Vermont, and that is the last piece of major funding that Downstreet Housing needs to move forward. That organization has done tremendous work in putting this project together. It will be a great addition to downtown Montpelier.
The Bridge: I understand that a boat launch is to be built out onto Berlin Pond next spring. What’s the impact of that?
Hollar: The city engineers believe that recreational access to the pond could have an impact on the quality of city’s water supply. Those impacts could force us to make a sizeable investment to our water treatment infrastructure. A boat launch will increase those risks.
The Bridge: Are there actions the city can take?
Hollar: We’re still exploring options. There is a question as to whether the state has access to the right-of-way to build that boat ramp. We’re exploring that option, along with options related to our Source Water Protection Plan.
The Bridge: The city has created a local development corporation. How is it to be paid for?
Hollar: The new local development corporation will be charged with attracting new private sector investment in Montpelier to increase jobs and economic growth. We’ve committed $100,000 per year to support it. Those are fund that are dedicated from the new local options tax. We said at the outset that those funds would be used for roads and sidewalks, housing and economic development.
We often have outstanding applications for the city’s boards and commissions. In the case of the new local development corporation, I’m particularly impressed by the quality of the individuals who applied and were appointed to sit on that board.
The Bridge: In the long-term, we need to rebuild our water and sewer systems. How will we do that?
Hollar: We do have a plan for that. It will require some modest increase in sewer and water rates over the years. It’s a 50-year plan. But it will address our aging infrastructure.
The Bridge: Zoning changes, it strikes me we have made large compromises. How do you feel about the proposed zoning changes?
Hollar: In terms of the overall product, I am going to withhold judgment until I see what the planning commission gives us.
The Bridge: I’m aware that the city is thinking about a new Community Services Department to include recreation, the senior center, parks and trees, and the cemetery. Will this new department add employees?
Hollar: No, this will not add employees. These departments provide services that often overlap. By consolidating those department, we can hopefully deliver those services more effectively at the same or lower cost. The cemetery commission, which is a separately chartered entity, has opted not to be included in these plans.
The Bridge: How are you feeling about Montpelier these days?
Hollar: We have a lot of work to do, but there are some good projects in the works and some exciting potential investment in Montpelier that I hope I can talk about soon. I’m very bullish.