October 22, 2007
By ANDY KIRKALDY
FERRISBURGH — The Vermont Electric Power Company has decided not to use a property in Ferrisburgh’s Route 7 village as staging area and storage site for more than 400 poles and other equipment for VELCO’s new transmission line from New Haven to South Burlington, VELCO spokesman Kerrick Johnson said on Friday.
Instead, VELCO has turned its attention at the last minute to a site in North Ferrisburgh that is owned by the state Department of Building and Grounds and is, at least in the long term, the planned home of a new Agency of Transportation weigh station and highway maintenance depot.
Johnson said earlier this summer AOT officials told VELCO that the agency was still considering developing that site within the next two years.
However, there may have been an internal misunderstanding in the agency. AOT director of communications John Zicconi told the Addison Independent this summer there are no immediate plans to further develop that site. Zicconi said the AOT had to devote limited funding to other needs for the foreseeable future.
“The project remains a project,” Zicconi said in July. “But there is no timetable for it at this time.”
Last week Johnson said VELCO approached the AOT again, asked more questions, and this time heard that the agency would be open to leasing the site for the two-year period VELCO said it needs the staging and storage area.
Johnson said when VELCO, Buildings and Grounds Department officials and AOT officials realized their needs were complimentary, that talks moved quickly. VELCO may start using the site, which is on the west side of Route 7 just south of Long Point Road, in a matter of days.
“If all goes well, we’re hoping to use that site by the end of next week,” Johnson said on Saturday.
As of the end of last week financial details remained to be worked out, but Johnson said the leasing template VELCO has established for other sites and landowners should be workable for the state as well.
“I’m pretty confident we’ll come to an agreement,” he said.
Johnson said VELCO changed course because of Ferrisburgh’s opposition to the company’s use of a 16-acre site near the town clerk’s office and across from the Little Otter General Store.
VELCO had filed information this summer that the company had believed was adequate for the Public Service Board, which has jurisdiction over VELCO’s plans, to make a ruling on the Ferrisburgh site. But Ferrisburgh selectmen voted against VELCO’s plan in August, saying they were concerned about traffic safety, noise, appearance and possible contamination by PCBs, a known carcinogen.
When the PSB then scheduled a hearing and requested more evidence from VELCO, Johnson said company officials had second thoughts.
“We thought we had a complete filing for the board to make a decision. Obviously, there was opposition to our utilization of that site … and the (Public Service) Board wanted some more process,” Johnson said. “Given the uncertainty around the timing and what that ultimate decision might be, we felt the need to look at other options.”
If negotiations with the state fail, Johnson said VELCO will use an existing work site at its new New Haven substation as the needed staging area. That site is not ideal geographically, he said, but can be used immediately because it is already fenced off and permitted.