FAIRFAX – An engineering plan designed to address stormwater management in the Town of Fairfax was brought before the Fairfax selectboard during their last regular meeting, carrying with it three recommended erosion-stymying projects the town could pursue.
The selectboard also revisited the question of Fairfax Rescue’s finances after a previous meeting saw the board confront the nonprofit emergency service providers over reports of financial mismanagement.
The need for a stormwater engineering plan was originally brought to the town’s attention by the Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) as a branch of the larger Lamoille Tactical Basin Plan, a state-drafted water management plan tracing the whole of the Lamoille River’s watershed.
The current stormwater plan, contracted to Burlington-based Watershed Consulting Associates and paid for through grant funding, identified three major stormwater projects for the town: two near Bellows Free Academy – Fairfax and a third near the town’s offices.
“The plan we prepared is a non-regulatory plan and it’s for the community to cue up the projects that are most valuable for the town,” said Watershed Consulting’s Andres Torizzo.
According to Torizzo, the projects identified in their stormwater plan would likely be required in the future as the state pushed forward on some of its water management goals. The projects situated near BFA-Fairfax in particular would likely be prioritized in state legislation, Torizzo said, due to the size of the school’s property and how much of that property is identified as an “impervious surface.”
“We really wanted to get ahead of that,” Torizzo said.
An impervious surface refers to a landscape where, due to development, water can’t be absorbed into the soil and is left to wash off the surface. That runoff might wash pollutants from the road into the watershed and can lead to erosion in nearby waterways.
The projects at BFA-Fairfax were identified by Torizzo as the most expensive.
One project, called “BFA-West” in the plan, would install stormwater management infrastructure under the school’s bus depot for $742,000. That project, Torizzo said, could have an enormous impact on stymying the flow of runoff into a nearby stream.
A second project at BFA-Fairfax, which Torizzo called “BFA-East,” would construct stormwater infrastructure beneath a greenspace near the old town hall at the corner of School Street and Hunt Street.
That infrastructure was pushed underground in order to preserve that greenspace, which both the town and the school use for outdoor events.
The BFA-East project would cost $382,000.
A third project would include the improvement of a catch basin near the town offices, where a layer of sand would be added under the surface to hold and filter the water before perforated pipes would carry that water to a nearby ditch.
The stormwater plan estimated that the town office project would cost $145,000.
Amanda Holland, the NRPC representative who initially brought the need for a stormwater management plan to the board, said that NRPC would assist the town in hunting for grant funds.
The two stormwater projects suggested for BFA-Fairfax would require collaboration with the school, Torizzo and Holland both said.
Town manager Brad Docheff asked that the town discuss its response to Fairfax Rescue’s bookkeeping during his standard managerial updates for the town.
Members of Fairfax Rescue’s board of directors previously met with the selectboard to discuss rumors that they had failed to properly track Fairfax Rescue’s spending since at least 2016. During that meeting, the nonprofit’s board confirmed that, while they were trying to get a handle on their bookkeeping, some expenditures during that time period couldn’t be tracked.
Fairfax Rescue is a nonprofit emergency service provider that operates independently of the town. The Towns of Fairfax, Fletcher and Westford do contribute annual funding to Fairfax Rescue, however, with Fairfax contributing nearly a third of the nonprofit’s annual budget.
“I didn’t want it to become a meeting we had that fluttered away and died without any discussion,” Docheff said. “I wanted to know what we’d be doing going forward.”
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