Selectboard briefing

Holiday shoppers help sales tax revenue exceed expectations

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The town enjoyed record-setting revenue from the local option sales tax during the final quarter of 2004, reaping the benefits of a busy holiday shopping season in Williston.

The tax yielded $791,371 for the town during the period of October, November and December — traditionally the year’s biggest retail sales period. The previous high was $738,838 for the same quarter in 2003.

“We beat it by a fair amount,” McGuire said. “That’s really good news.”

Williston had several new retailers in place this holiday season, including the Christmas Tree Shopd in Maple Tree Place. The sharp increase in revenue over the previous year marked a departure from the previous two quarters, which showed returns in line with the 2003 revenues.

Also, the local option rooms and meals tax produced $54,120 for the town in October, November and December. Combined, the local option taxes have produced more than $1.56 million so far in the 2004-05 fiscal year, which ends July 1. The Selectboard budgeted for $2.7 million in revenues from the local option taxes for the fiscal year.

The revenue from the local option taxes is projected to lower the municipal property tax rate from 39 cents to 12 cents for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1.

Public safety building

A town committee directing the $6.8 million public safety facilities building has settled on a project manager.

Tom Barden will handle the responsibilities. Barden operates Barden Inspecting and Consulting Services in Hinesburg. He has been involved in the $18.4 million expansion project now underway at Champlain Valley Union High School. His letter of qualifications also mentioned work on the previous CVU construction project as well as on the new fire station in Ripton, an office addition at S.T.Griswold in Williston and the Higher Ground renovation in South Burlington.

The project manager will serve as the town’s advocate in the construction process, starting to work with the town as early as this month.

The building committee’s contract with Barden is for an amount not to exceed $74,000. The committee had budgeted $75,000 for the position.

The committee is currently reviewing the qualifications of 10 architectural firms that officially notified the town of their interest in the project last week. Among the interested architects is Kaestle Boos, the Connecticut firm that produced the conceptual designs used to formulate the project’s $6.8 million price tag.

The committee hopes to have the architect selection process completed by early next month.

Workers in Wood

The Selectboard approved a lease agreement for the former Workers in Wood building in Williston Village.

The lease will be set up in three-month increments and include a rent of $600 per month plus utilities. The tenant is Leslie Trifilio, who plans to sell paintings, crafts and other artwork. McGuire said the incremental aspect of the lease will provide flexibility for both the town and the tenant.

Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs said he had concerns about a retail use for the building and the traffic it might produce, but McGuire said he did not expect Trifilio’s business to attract so much traffic as to cause problems.

The Development Review Board has approved the use for the building.

The Selectboard vote to approve the lease was 3-1. Selectboard member Andy Mikell opposed the lease because he believes the funds to raze the building should be in the municipal budget for the upcoming year.

The town agreed to tear down the building years ago and use the vacant space to expand the Town Green. The School Board later signed off on an expansion of the library with the understanding the Workers in Wood building would be razed.

McGuire said a decision to keep the building and not demolish it would likely require a town meeting vote, as well as the approval of the Williston School Board. Some Selectboard members have expressed a willingness to have a public discussion of whether the building should still be razed.

Town service officer

The Selectboard reappointed Dawn Philibert to the position of town service officer. The town service officer is expected to assist individuals who require emergency food, fuel or shelter assistance. Typically, the service officer is called upon during evenings and weekends when the Vermont Department of Social Welfare is closed.

Philibert has served the past two years in the position.

“I can honestly say I can’t think of anyone better qualified to do this job,” Fehrs said.