After much “brouhaha” about snow and sidewalks for much of the past year, Woodstock Village voters decided on Tuesday night to keep the current sidewalk snow removal system which requires sidewalk-abutting property owners to clear off the snow themselves.
Several proposals to change the current system were placed on Tuesday’s Annual Village Meeting Ballot. They included proposals to (a) hire a new village employee for $100,000 to clear the sidewalks – that sum including $30,000 for summer highway work; (b) hire a contractor just for the winter, for $45,000; and (c) add $23,000 to the Village budget in order to give stipends to sidewalk-abutting property owners for their hard work.
It’s no surprise that the long run of “snowy” articles on the Village Meeting agenda took up well over half of the three-hour meeting. Some who spoke said they thought the Village should take full responsibility for winter sidewalk maintenance. Others said shoveling the sidewalk is just part of Village living – if your land abuts a sidewalk or two.
And then there was discussion of the issue of taxes and the relationship of taxes to snow removal (or the lack thereof). Village resident Joan Sterner noted, “It’s like taxation without representation. There are streets like Lincoln Street that have no sidewalks, and we’re going to be paying for it.”
Others who do have sidewalk-abutting property expressed their additional frustration at having to clear the snow, ice and debris and then having to go “at it” twice since snow often gets dumped right back on their cleared sidewalk by the Village street plow trucks.
“In effect, I, as a property owner in the Village…am responsible for removing the snow from the street because it is tossed onto my property,” High Street Village resident Barbara Kennedy said.
However, all the new proposals to change up the current system were flatly rejected.
In a “divide the house” standing vote of 75-33 (indicating just over 100 Village Meeting people in attendance) voters chose to approve the article that will keeping things just as they are with the current shovel-your-sidewalk-or-get-fined system in place.
All other articles from Village Meeting passed. These include:
1.$25,000 expenditure for an engineering study of a possible new Village snow dump site, to determine whether the parcel could be used without contaminating nearby properties.
The possible new snow dump location is a two acre parcel owned by the Woodstock Resort Corp. The access would be from Maxham Meadow Way, and the parcel is located diagonally from Woodstock Recycling and Refuse Corp., adjacent to a parcel used by the annual Apple and Crafts Fair. Municipal Manager Phil Swanson noted that the potential snow dump’s new location, if eventually approved, would not interfere with that field area.
2. $40,000 of Village budget surplus to stabilize taxes.
3. The Village Budget of $1,364,240 – of which $533,465 will be raised by taxes.
(There was some talk about how much the Village parking validation program is costing the village in revenue. In the newly approved budget, parking fines and meter deposits are projected to go down by $15,000 and $25,000, respectively.
However, according to Woodstock Police Chief Robbie Blish, the lower numbers are due to the business and tourist-friendly parking validation program – which is reportedly working quite well for businesses – and the impact of Tropical Storm Irene.
In all Village money matters, it is helpful to know – as was stated at last night’s meeting – that $25,000 equates to 1 cent on the Village tax rate. That’s $10 for every $100,000 in property valuation.
Village Trustees Eric Nesbitt and Chris Miller were each reelected to the Village Board of Trustees, unopposed.