So, I bought this building last year, and it’s far from what I’d call a “fixer-upper.” Despite this, it still needed a bunch of work. For starters, the oil tank was buried. For some reason, this is deemed a Bad Thing by lenders and insurance agencies, although the folks at the State didn’t seem to think so.
So, for starters, I had to remove the oil tank, and that required putting it inside, which necessitated putting up a firewall in the furnace room so the tank could be there. Furthermore, we remodeled the upstairs to convert it to an apartment. Halfway through the remodeling, we were informed that I’d need to pay for a building-wide sprinkler system or a full set of stairs from the third floor off the back of the building. Either way, this is not a cheap venture. So, instead, we’re moving. On average, I paid about $4,000 a month for rent for the time I called this place home. Swell.
To add insult to injury – that’s one of my favorite sayings… think “Hey, you in the cast! Nice tie!” – I got the property tax bill today. Apparently since we decide to live here, our town Listers, following the rules of Act 68, set a homestead value of $100,000 on the apartment. Wow. We redid some floors, added a tub, a washer, dryer, and kitchen full of appliances, and BAM! $100k of higher taxes. Awesome. My average monthly rent just went up.
The (very, very faint) light at the end of the tunnel is that I should be able to drop the homestead property tax rates on my other house in town as (unless things have changed) I can only be “living” in one place at a time. Yes, that’s right – because I’m not living there, my taxes will be lower. Right – folks who live here have the privilege of paying higher taxes than folks who don’t. Thanks, Montpelier. That makes a hell of a lot of sense.
So today, we’re having some work done in the alley, having the dirt dug away from the building. Over time, dirt has built up along the side of the building, causing water to seep through the bricks in to the building. Furthermore, when there are heavy rains, water leaks in under the door, ruining the nice new floor we had put in last year (to make up for this very problem…).
While digging, our digger hit the line coming from the water main. Awesome! Fortunately, Bobby Hyde and Bruce Newell of our town road crew were on site very quickly and remedied the problem within a couple of hours. Thanks, guys! I appreciate the prompt response.
I attended this evening’s meeting of the Bethel selectboard. I’m sure Chris Constanzo will write up everything in the Herald this week, so I will only focus on the specific issue that I raised.
Once again, the condition of the roads was raised. Toward the beginning of the discussion, Chair Neal Fox said he was happy that he had observed improvements in the road since our last meeting.
Town Manager Del Cloud got noticably irritated at the discussion, and I’d say selectman Rick Benson was as well. I have to say, I don’t blame them! I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of constant criticism either. However, if this is what it takes to get some results, then maybe it is the only way.
Later in the discussion, the selex and the Town Manager pointed out that lack of money was the cause of the problems. The point of clarification I requested was here. If the roads have gotten better, that seems to contradict the theory that the lack of manpower and money is the cause of the issues we have with the roads. It cannot be both ways.
So the question remains – is the condition of our roads caused by a lack of manpower and equipment, or is it something that is easily remedied by some other means which the selex could not elaborate on this evening.
So again, I put the question out to the people of Bethel. Have you noticed an improvement in the condition of the roads in Bethel over the last couple of months? Are they better? Worse? No change? Check back here soon for a survey on this topic.
For the fourth time in less than a year, my building downtown, which houses my business, as well as several others, has been vandalized. Not counting when a drunk driver crashed his truck into the front of my building after having too much to drink at the Bethel Depot (a fact that I am sure they would dispute, claiming he was drunk before he arrived), the building has, on three other occasions, had balusters kicked out by someone who obviously has too few IQ points to be allowed to wander the streets without a chaperone.
I am offering $250 for information which leads to the identification of the individual or individuals responsible for this or any other significant destruction of private or public property in downtown Bethel.
Because of these acts, I have installed security cameras all around the building. So, next time you think of being naughty in downtown Bethel, remember to smile first.
After being elected moderator of last night’s school budget meeting, I have newfound respect for Carroll Ketchum and other town meeting moderators who have served before him.
Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure are thorough, and at first, quite confusing, but once you get an understanding of them, they actually start to make sense. However, when put to the test, under pressure in front of two hundred or so voters, I lost track of some of the basics which seemed so self-evident just a few minutes before.
Further confusing was the helpful but sometimes conflicting advice offered to me by the town elders. Recommendations, which at first made perfect sense when given by one person, suddenly seemed absurd when contradicted by another in a different light. I would like to thank the constructive input I received from Neal Fox, Barbara Wood, Chris Constanzo, David Allen, and others, who gave me their insights and experience from past meetings to help me muddle through the process.
Obviously, I will be examining Robert’s Rules in more detail if it looks like I’ll be called upon to moderate again in the future. Despite the fact that I felt fairly inept at the podium, I was told repeatedly that I did a good job. I have to think that some of the praise was simply people being nice to me, but maybe there’s hope.
Fortunately, the townspeople were tolerant as we went along, and did eventually vote for an amended budget that passed by a significant majority.
Also, I’d like to thank Carroll Ketchum for his phone call this morning. Carroll, rest assured that, as far as I’m concerned, the position of moderator will be yours for as long as you want it.
On April 10, 2006 I attended the meeting of the local selectboard to complain about the sad state of the roads in Bethel. I supported the presentation given by Michael Manning, who outlined, in graphic detail, just how poor the roads in Bethel have become. Chris Costanzo covered the story in an article in that week’s copy of the Herald of Randolph.
The following week, Michael McPhetres wrote a letter to the editor, which was published under the heading of ?Drive a mile in their tracks.?
I would like to thank our road foreman’s cousin for sending in his opinion from Brookfield. Given that he does not live in Bethel, I’m sure he has limited understanding of the sad condition of our roads, and lacks the first-hand experience which drove me to the meeting in the first place. Knowing that, I suppose I can see why he would stand up for our road foreman as he has.
I have lived on a back road in Bethel for close to thirty years, and the condition of the roads has never been as bad as it is now. However, to prove that this is not just a fluke this season, the photos that I presented to the selectboard were from last year.
While the selectboard seems compelled to try to sweep this issue under the rug, or blame it on the fact that the town has not properly funded the road budget for a long time, the truth of the matter is that no amount of money will fix the problem if the road crew is not properly trained, and then follows through with proper execution of their duties.
I do not need to be a civil engineer to know that the roads in Bethel are pathetic, and that all one has to do is cross the border to any neighboring town to see an immediate improvement in their condition. This is not a factor of the weather, unless Bethel is subject to some strange environmental phenomenon which causes excessive wetness in the area, but is kind enough to stop at the Bethel’s borders so as not to inconvenience neighboring towns.
I have spoken with several Bethel residents who have informed me of their encounters with the road foreman, and his unwillingness to accept any sort of input or criticism on the job, even from other exerienced heavy equipment operators and civil engineers.
Mr. McPhetres, like the selectboard, suggests that the town should spend more on maintaining the roads, implying that they all believe the poor quality of our roads is due to poor materials. Michael Manning’s photo presentation clearly demonstrated that the town used good materials on the road in the past. So, what’s the problem? The problem is that all of the heavy materials put on the road have been graded off and now line the roads where we should have ditches! Why should the town appropriate more money to spend on better materials for the roads if it will just be graded right off?
What do you think of the condition of our roads in Bethel? Is it really not that bad? Is it a lack of proper funding? A lack of training? Or just a lack of know-how on the part of certain town employees? Please post your own comments below.
I have been very active in the local community lately. I am currently the Vice Chair of the Bethel Business Association, working with Kirk White to extend the reach of the BBA, combining its efforts with those of the Bethel Revitalization Initiative.
Here is a copy of a letter I wrote to the Town Manager today.
Town of Bethel
134 South Main St.
Bethel, VT 05032
I am writing to express mild frustration in the fact that, with one exception, every time I have called the town offices in the last three years, I have been greeted with a busy signal on my first attempt, and normally on subsequent attempts.
It would be a service to the community if your office had voicemail and multiple telephone lines so that we did not need to repeatedly call and get busy signals when we have questions or concerns that need to be addressed to your office.
Peter C. Nikolaidis