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Controversy Persists In Mt. Holly Garage Project

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VPR/Nina Keck
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Mount Holly voters will consider bonding for a new town garage on Town Meeting Day.

On Town Meeting Day, voters in Mount Holly will consider a $600,000 bond vote to build a new town garage. Talk about a new town garage has been going on for years in Mount Holly. Last fall the select board faced allegations that too much of the planning was going on without adequate public notice.

Perhaps as a reaction to that, this month's Mount Holly Chit Chat, the town's online publication, is brimming with mentions of the project. The project is mentioned in the published select board minutes and school board minutes. There is also a letter to the editor on the subject and an un-attributed posting, as well as copies of the bond resolution, a declaration of intent to repay the bond, and the vote warning.

Although recent discussions about the project are quite public, there's still controversy. An excerpt from the Jan. 14 Select Board minutes show the board agreed to a complicated land deal with the school board that involves an exchange of money and a cooperative solar project for the parcel where the garage would be built:

Jim Heald reported that one Selectman and one townsperson were present at last week’s School Board meeting, where a proposal was made to sell the town the 5. 6 acres for the garage and the School Board had approved it. The proposal was for a cash payment of $15,000 and additionally the town would commit $35,000 for a joint solar system, to be completed within two years. The School Board would also have the right of first refusal to buy the land back for the original $15,000.

Minutes from the Jan. 8 school board meeting where that offer was unanimously approved also mention the existence of a petition being circulated regarding an offer to donate the town land to site the garage away from school property:

Ted Crawford asked if the Board was aware of a petition being circulated regarding the donation of land for the garage made by Carol Ballou. The Board stated they had heard about it, but have not seen the petition, and has [sic.] no firm knowledge regarding the offer. Ted stated he hoped that the land would be perked and have a subdivision permit at the owner’s expense before the town would consider accepting it. Jeff Teter noted that the property is not really appropriate for the garage, as it has wetlands and is also mostly hillside.

An un-attributed posting in the February edition of the Mount Holly Chit Chat says the land donation will also be a topic of discussion at Town Meeting:

A proposal will be offered to town voters on Town Meeting day to accept these 5 free acres and residents will have the opportunity to vote on this. A YES vote will reopen discussion and consideration of alternative sites for the highway department garage, safely away from the elementary school.

One thing's for certain, talk about the Mount Holly Town Garage project is likely to continue right up until the bond vote on March 4.