Streetlights take center stage at Selectboard meeting again

By Heather McKim

The Oct. 9 meeting of the Selectboard saw a large community turnout as the issue of streetlights took center stage. Some came with specific appeals, others wanted to voice their concerns, and one—Jim Dudley of Longmeadow Road—gave a full-length presentation requesting the return of five recently removed streetlights to his neighborhood.

“You kind of integrate your lifestyle with the light,” Dudley said. He noted that the removal of the lights runs counter to the desire for a walk-able community.

Dudley urged the Selectboard to, “discard premise that all neighborhoods must conform to the same streetlight policy…Continue to recognize that power contracting and billing systems for Town infrastructure is a responsibility of the Town.”

After Dudley finished his presentation, Chair Bill Smith noted that the meeting was the eighth one that dealt with the issue of street lights. He admitted that there have been flaws in the process and said there have been many people who have been unhappy as a result. Both those who have gained streetlights and those who have lost them have expressed dismay at the changes.

“We’ve heard a lot from folks: ‘We want lights. We don’t want lights. It’s a safety issue. It’s a comfort issue,’” Smith said.

“[The] appeal process is after the impact,” Board member Gary von Stange said. “The problem I have with the light policy is the notification.”

Board member Al Gobeille also agreed that advance notification has failed.

“We have certainly learned a lot about expectations. We did not meet the town’s expectations [with this policy],” Smith said.

“We went into this thinking we were forming a policy that treated everyone the same. That was obviously a huge misstep,” Board member Bob Roesler said.

“This started with the right intentions,” Board member Tim Pudvar said, noting that the Board had failed in terms of notifying the community. “We failed there, and we failed time and time again.”

Town residents shared their views regarding the situation with streetlights—both the addition and subtraction of the lights—in the town. One described the light that used to be on his street as a “useful thing” and noted that he would like to see “majority rule” when determining whether a light be removed or added.

Another resident noted that his concern was the amount of fuel used by the lights. He was happy to have lights removed.

“There is something to grandfathering,” Board member Al Gobeille said.

“Grandfathering goes both ways,” von Stange noted. It would apply not only to lights that are already in existence but also to areas in which there have not been lights.

The discussion of the policy to determine location of street lights will continue. No decisions regarding changes to the current policy were made at the Oct. 9 meeting.

The Board proceeded to consider an appeal of a decision by Town Manager Bohne denying a request by Terry Kennaugh and Bill Stuono to remove the street light from the corner of Harbor Road and Chateaugay Road. It was decided that the light would be removed.

The Board also considered an appeal of a decision of the Town Manager denying a request to remove the street light at the corner of Harbor and Ticonderoga Road. The Board decided that the light, which was widely opposed by residents of the neighborhood, would also be removed.

Several matters were raised during the Town Manager’s report, which came near the beginning of the meeting. Bohne informed the gathering that the town had applied for and received a grant that will afford Shelburne four new bike racks. He also noted Shelburne Police Department’s success in a drug take-back program that had recently been held.

Bohne also issued an important warning regarding Shelburne Pond. There is currently a blue-green algae bloom on the pond. The bloom can be dangerous to the health of pets, and residents are urged to avoid activities such as walking their dogs in that area until the bloom abates.

The Board also decided to authorize the Town Manager to sign a three-year contract with the Local 1343 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 93, AFL-CIO covering police, maintenance, water and wastewater employees.

The contract, Bohne said, is very little changed from the previous one. He added that, once signed, the contract should be available for viewing on the town’s website.

The Selectboard also approved a sewer allocation of 1723 gallons per day for the eight-lot Lilly Creek subdivision located at 1140 Webster Road and denied a request from Yitzak and Patricia Bezalel for relief from the penalty for the late payment of property taxes.

The meeting concluded with a consideration of a request from Heather and Kian Banks for relief from the 3 percent penalty for the late filing of their Homestead Declaration (HS-131). The penalty amount, Bohne noted, is set by the state, but the penalty itself comes to the town.

After hearing details pertaining to the issue from Heather Banks, the Board voted to waive the penalty.

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