At the Special Town Meeting last night, we made an appropriation into our Declared Emergency Fund of $750,000 to address the emergency on Brook Road, in which the flood on 9/13 left six households without access to the outside world. The money will be spent on the emergency bridge currently in place at the north end of Brook Road ($120,000) and on the long term temporary bridge at the south (school) end ($630,000). The school bridge will replace the emergency bridge and be in place for three to four years, while the State DOT designs and contracts the replacements for both bridges. At no time will the six houses be without road access.
The $750,000 appropriation has reduced our capital funds--money available for long-term projects, including the renovation of Town Hall, replacement of outdated Fire Department equipment, and repairs to the firehouse--by 85%, effectively making those projects impossible to do in anything like the near future. Some of the appropriation also comes from our Undesignated Funds, which were reduced by approximately 25%. Undesignated funds are an important measure of our fiscal health, and reducing them affects our credit rating.
So the sooner we can replenish the funds, the better, as the projects they were intended for are very important and need to be done soon. To raise that amount in one year would require a 7-mill additional tax assessment. We already have one of the highest tax rates in the state, and most of our taxes are paid by owners of private residences. A 7-mill assessment on the average house in Scotland would cost approximately $1300. Scotland's per-capita income is among the lowest in the state, which means that an additional assessment of $1300 would have significant impact on a large number of people in town.
These expenses are the direct result of a natural disaster, and the situation on Brook Road is certainly an emergency, but for various technical reasons, we do not qualify for funds from FEMA. So our next best hope for outside relief is from the State Bond Commission, an agency that "approves project funding requests on an agenda submitted by the Governor." The Governor places requests on the agenda at the recommendation of his staff and of legislators, and in response to perceived public interest. The next meeting is scheduled for the end of October, but I hear rumors that it may convene earlier (and other rumors that the meeting will be canceled). While Gov. Lamont has been to the site of the disaster and has expressed his concern about the situation, it would not hurt to remind him of what we are up against as the agenda gets set.
This post is already too long, so I will put contact info and suggestions for what should be in the letter in another one.