Politics

Town hall, swimming pool, major streetscaping project approved in St. Albans

Bob Farrar, right, and his daughter campaign outside of St. Albans City Hall on Town Meeting Day. Farrar, a former city attorney, successfully challenged incumbent city councilor Kate Laddison for a seat representing Ward 5. Photo by Michelle Monroe/VTDigger.

ST. ALBANS – Infrastructure won the day Tuesday, as voters in St. Albans Town approved a new town hall, and St. Albans City voters approved a year-round swimming pool and the final piece of the city’s streetscaping plan.

In St. Albans City, former city attorney Bob Farrar unseated Ward 5 City Councilor Kate Laddison, 107-89, while Ward 6 Councilor Chad Spooner ran unopposed.

There were no selectboard races in St. Albans Town, where Bryan DesLauriers was the only candidate for an open seat.

In fact, it was a good Election Day for the DesLauriers family. Bryan’s uncle, Peter DesLauriers, was the top vote-getter in a three-way race for two seats on the Maple Run school board representing St. Albans City: He received 1,709 votes, and incumbent Nilda Gonnella-French won the other seat with 1,536 ballots cast.

Reier Erickson, who would have been the school board’s first Black member, finished third with 917 votes.

Katie Messier, Peter DesLauriers’s daughter, won a school board seat representing St. Albans Town, beating Jennifer Williamson 1,610-892.

Both Erickson and Williamson were vocal critics of the placement of police officers in schools, while DesLauriers and Messier supported the school resource officer positions.

Susan Cassavant Magnan was unopposed for re-election to the Maple Run board, representing Fairfield.

New town hall

In St. Albans Town, voters approved the new town hall 1,251-598, and the town’s $5.2 million budget proposal also passed.

“We’re very excited,” said Brendan Deso, town selectboard chair. Together with a recently constructed town garage, “it really rectifies our municipal building needs,” he said. Construction on the 13,000-square-foot building is expected to begin this spring. 

The current town hall used to be a neighborhood school. Several offices are completely inaccessible to people with mobility challenges, and the town is nearly out of vault space for storing critical town records, including land transfers, births and deaths.

St. Albans City residents cast their Town Meeting Day ballots at St. Albans City Hall at lunchtime on Tuesday. Turnout was “slow but steady,” according to City Clerk Curry Galloway. Photo by Michelle Monroe/VTDigger

“We definitely need a new town hall,” said town clerk Anna Bourdon. “There is no room whatsoever.”

The new $4.5 million building will be in St. Albans Bay, not far from the current town hall, and will be funded with $2 million from impact fees and other cash on hand, plus a $2.5 million loan the town plans to repay with proceeds from its local option tax.

New swimming pool

The city will also tap local option tax revenues to pay for the new pool at the Hard’ack Recreation Area, which voters approved 516-308. The pool will be outdoors, but a dome can be placed over it in the winter months. 

Unlike the current city pool, which is more than 40 years old, the new pool is designed to allow multiple activities at once, such as swim team practice and public swimming. The design also contains a gently sloping entry in one section, allowing easy access for seniors, children and people with disabilities.

The $5 million project budget will also include a new building, improvements to the recreation area’s entrance and $250,000 for Houghton Park, located on the west side of the city, not far from the current pool. Yearly debt payments are expected to be $530,000, well under the city’s option-tax revenues of $700,000 annually, according to city manager Dominic Cloud.

Reier Erickson, left, and Jennifer Williamson, right, stand with supporters outside St. Albans City Hall on Tuesday. Both ran for seats on the Maple Run school board, but both finished out of the running. Photo by Michelle Monroe/VTDigger.

The town and city had previously proposed a joint project, which would have granted 50 percent ownership of Hard’ack to St. Albans Town, but town voters narrowly defeated it. The city went ahead on its own. 

“City voters have a record of being willing to pay for investments,” Cloud said. 

Hard’ack already has trails through a hillside forest, soccer fields, a skiing and sledding hill, and a warming shelter. “It’s going to be a four-season recreational campus owned by a municipality with a mission to build community,” Cloud said.

In his view, it is the kind of project that draws residents to the community. “Part of how we revitalize rural Vermont is giving people a reason to live here,” Cloud said.

Streetscaping continues

City voters approved the final portion of a downtown streetscaping project, 559-266. The project began with streetscaping along Main Street roughly a decade ago, then extended along Lake and Federal streets. Kingman Street is the final piece of a project that has included a new hotel, a state office building and a parking garage.

The latest $1.56 million project will bring new sidewalks, curbs, trees and other amenities to Kingman Street, while making underground improvements to the city’s water and sewer systems — including separating stormwater from the sewer system. Floods and heavy rains can overwhelm the sewage treatment plant; separating the systems will prevent sewer overflows that can send pollution downstream.

The Kingman Street project will be financed with $1 million from the city’s tax increment financing district, with the rest coming from water and sewer funds.

“With interest rates at historic lows, this should be the era of infrastructure,” said Cloud, who was pleased with the results, particularly the pool.

In other business:

  • Voters agreed 641-179 to spend $2.3 million on a new water storage tank. The costs include site acquisition and utility improvements as well as the site itself. State inspectors had previously told the city its water storage was inadequate.
  • Voters approved the city’s $9 million budget, 608-211.
  • The Maple Run school budget of $61.8 million passed, 1,672 to 1,147.

Correction: Earlier versions of this story included incorrect results for St. Albans’ Ward 5 city council race, misspelled Brendan Deso’s name and misstated the relationship between Peter and Bryan DesLauriers.

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