BOOMING FAIRFAX SHOOTS DOWN STUDY LOAN, GRANT POSSIBLE
By Leon Thompson
Messenger Staff Writer
FAIRFAX - Voters here strongly told their selectmen Tuesday that they do not want the town to pursue a loan for a preliminary study regarding an upgrade or expansion of the sewer system.
The $42,000 bond vote failed, 464-151. Exactly 616 of the town's 2,328 registered voters cast ballots - 26 percent.
"For this type of article, that's outstanding," said Donna Meunier, Fairfax treasurer, who placed herself at the center of heated debate surrounding the study.
Fairfax, according to the most recent U.S. Census figures, is one of the fastest growing towns in the state and population boom leader in Franklin County. Booming growth over the past decade has caused pressures on local services and concerns locally about how the town will change in the future.
"There was more at issue here than the dollar figure," Meunier said. "You could tell from that meeting."
"That meeting: occurred Monday night, when more than 100 Fairfax residents gathered at Bellows Free Academy, Fairfax (BFA) and heard town officials explain why they want to conduct the study: So that the town can see how it might increase its sewer capacity in the designated growth center.
Most Fairfax residents opposed the study, saying they want either more controlled or no development in the village. Others said taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for landowners who have projects planned in the growth center, particularly John Workman, co-owner of Hayes-Rich Funeral Home on Main Street. He has proposed a huge, state-lauded housing development for 33 acres of land behind his business.
Workman was unavailable for comment this morning.
Fairfax Selectboard Chairman Ed Nuttall said today that he expected voters to nix the sewer study: "I wasn't surprised. That was a foregone conclusion after Monday's meeting. I didn't expect anything else but the results we got."
Nuttall and his fellow selectmen opted to let voters have their say after Meunier refused to sign documents allowing the selectboard to secure the state loan. She claimed taxpayers needed a voice in the matter.
Under state law, the selectmen could have obtained the loan from the Agency of Natural Resources without voters; consent, providing the study was tied to a project that required it.
On Monday, people attending the meeting gave Meunier a standing ovation for what they called "doing her job." Today, she said she does not seek attention, but that she appreciated her community's support.
This morning, Nuttall said he still believes Meunier blocked the selectboard, and that the finger-pointing and accusations that flew at BFA Monday disturbed him. He also said any presumptions that the selectboard showed favoritism toward Workman and others are false.
Still, he said, the vote was the right choice: "I'm always happy to know where the public's comming from."
The idea for studying a possible sewer expansion is not dead, Nuttall stressed. The town may seek grants for the study through community and rural development programs, but it is too soon to tell where those avenues might lead, he said.
"Yes, there are options that we can consider, but I'm not going to discuss them, because we haven't pursued them," Nuttall said, "I suppose we could say, 'We're defeated. Let's go home.' But that's not going to happen.
"People don't put you in office to have you crawl into a hole once you're bruised and defeated. I'm certainly not one of those people."
Contact Leon Thompson at 524-9771 ext. 112 or via e-mail: