25-Year-Old Flood Bubbles to Surface

by Doug McClure

WOLCOTT – The Wolcott Select Board met with a dense agenda and much of the time was spent on topics related to roads and the road crew. This included discussions of the bedeviled Truck 13, which continued to live up to its unlucky number.

The issue of damage to Brook Road from the Halloween 2019 storm has yet to be resolved. In the past year, residents have expressed frustration with the state of their road, complaining that with access to North Wolcott road blocked, the only available detours are complex and time consuming.

Resident David Carter attended the meeting to express “concerns about this being a long-term problem.” Carter noted that it is “quite an inconvenience to have to go around to Morey Hill” and said he hoped “we can find a solution sooner rather than later.”

A permanent fix would involve a $300,000-400,000 structure, according to Roads Commissioner Lucien Gravel. Gravel and Vice Chair Linda Martin have worked for months to meet FEMA’s requests so the town can be reimbursed under federal programs, as an expense of that magnitude would require approval. With winter fast approaching, the town decided to obtain a temporary solution and put it out to bid. It is uncertain how long the temporary solution would be necessary. Bidders who responded include G. W. Tatro Construction Inc., of Jeffersonville, for $54,000; Blow & Cote Inc., of Morristown, $31,5000; J. A. McDonald, Inc., of Lyndonville; and a fourth company that declined to bid. The board opted to accept Blow & Cote’s offer, which is an eight-month rental agreement for a temporary structure.

Gravel explained that the concern for spring was the sheer size of the box culvert meant “they only make so many” and “until FEMA approves us, we can’t order” one. He said just two suppliers existed in Vermont and some in New York.

The damage to the Town Hill Road culvert, which resulted in a sinkhole on that road, was also discussed. Gravel said an engineer was assessing the situation for a $250 fee for project review and another $650 to “go explore and see what’s wrong with it.” The concern is that this situation could become an emergency. Resident Monica Cross brought up the fatal August 1995 flood in that same area.

“When the water does rise and the road fills, what is the plan for blocking that [road] off?” she asked.

Board member Kurt Billings disputed that link and said Wolcott Pond overflowed in 1995, bringing water with it and causing a chain reaction.

“The 1995 flood was due to Wolcott Pond,” he said. “It was more like a 101-year flood, and now that we’ve fixed this, are you going to go to the state and say ‘what do we do about Wolcott Pond?’ I just think it should be documented it was a 100-year occurrence.”

An August 9, 1995, Gazette article attributed the damage to Tamarack Brook, which is not connected to Wolcott Pond. “The most sorrowful destruction saw Tamarack Brook cut a gaping ditch twenty feet deep across the road” and resulted in the loss of Ellen Redstone’s life, the Gazette reported. The article mentions separately that “the dam holding runoff back from the Wolcott Reservoir simply washed away, leaving a 50-foot gaping hole,” but placed the blame on the “usually tame” Tamarack Brook. Topographically, the Tamarack Brook is uphill from the Wolcott Pond. The Gazette also noted that the damage in 1995 was more likely a 200-year flood.

In other road crew events, issues regarding Truck 13 were again on the agenda. Road foreman Dillan Cafferky reported that “problems continue” with the truck, and while the “body and everything is working great, right at the end of the day it blew a serpentine valve, so we had to call a mechanic.”

Cafferky said the grader is en route from Brazil and he expects it to arrive by the end of the year. Bernard Earle agreed to plow the town office parking lots, the depot, and town hall for the winter, at a cost of $60 per plow, with salt spreading as needed, and an additional $30 for a re-clear at the end of the day should a snow event last all day.

Question arose about community organization appropriations. Typically, organizations seeking appropriations during town meeting obtain signatures, but doing so has become hazardous because of the pandemic. While the state says towns can require signatures, Wolcott’s policy has been informal. Martin recommended formalizing the process in the future. Due to safety issues related to the pandemic, the board waived the petition requirement for the upcoming budget. Also discussed was moving Hardwick Rescue from an appropriation to a budgeted line item.

Wolcott received a letter of interest from resident James Olsen for the position of Wolcott’s representative on the law enforcement study group. Kurt Klein motioned to accept the offer and the board unanimously concurred.