Rutland town discusses railyard proposal in advance of vote

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(Host) Rutland Town and Rutland City have been working for several years on a $100 million plan to move the city’s congested railyards to a larger parcel of land in Rutland Town. Residents of the two communities will have their first chance to weigh in on the project on Tuesday in separate ballot items.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, the issue dominated the discussion at last night’s Rutland Town meeting.

(Keck) When Rutland Town’s Select Board Chairman Stan Rhodes asked if anyone had questions about any ballot items, he looked almost stunned when none of the sixty-some people in the room raised their hand.

(Rhodes) “There’s got to be questions about the railyard, right? I’ll get things started. While I think the railyard is a good project, I want to make sure it’s in the right place.”

(Keck) The 77-acre site that’s been earmarked for the new railyard contains wetlands as well as an underground aquifer that the town has invested heavily in. Rutland Town Select Board member Linda Gallipo says a railyard could destroy those resources.

(Gallipo) “I’ve got a lot of concerns about the wetlands. I’ve got concerns over the agricultural land at that end of the town. I’ve got concerns about the noise, the hazardous waste. I sometimes feel we’re just moving it from the city to the town to free up space for the city.”

(Keck) When Linda Gallipo admitted she would vote to stop discussions on the project, Frank Smead spoke up.

(Smead) “My understanding was that a ‘no’ vote kills the discussion and I think we need to keep the discussions open till we answer questions like the water issue and so forth. Right now, I think the water issue is like a $100,000 investment and if you’re worried about that and you kill a $100 million project. That doesn’t make sense – a hundred thousand versus a hundred million.”

(Keck) A number of residents were skeptical about Rutland City’s motives and voiced concerns over collaborating with them on such a large project. But after several such comments Town resident Mike Shahan stood up.

(Shahan) “I think this ‘us-them’ mentality – that is, the city versus the town – has got to go. This is the Rutland region. It’s not the city and it’s not the town. We gotta work together.”

(Keck) Shahan says that’s the best way to get the answers they need to make an informed choice on the railyard.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck.

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