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Gold Star Families Monument Approved for Northfield by Selectboard

Jul. 21, 2017 

Staff Report | The  Northfield News

The Vermont Gold Star Families Monument will be constructed at Center Park in Northfield following a vote by the Northfield Selectboard last week to allow the placement here. At a cost of over $100,000 which is being raised by the Hershel Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, the entire construction, installation and maintenance of the monument will be handled by the foundation at no cost to Northfield taxpayers.

The Northfield Selectboard decided last week to allow the placement of a Gold Star Families Memorial on municipal property. This decision came not without controversy.

Jane Bryant, who is a native of Northfield Center appeared at the meeting to oppose having the monument in Center Park where the board decided it should be placed.

She said that she doesn’t feel this is an appropriate location and wants Center Park to remain an open space for public use. She went on to state that the park had been rehabilitated for Vermont’s statehood bicentennial in 1992 and this has been “common ground” open to all Northfield residents since the 1800’s.

She also feels the limited parking in the area makes it an unsuitable monument site.

She went on to state that she does not opposed siting the monument in Northfield, just not at this location.

She submitted letters from Lauren D. Howard, Jeanne L. Cook and Mary Comiskey, all Center residents who she stated shared this opinion.

In her letter, Ms. Cooke suggested the Vermont Veterans Cemetery in Randolph would be a better location for the monument.

Selectman Nate Freeman said he favored the proposal when it was first brought up but now sees some residents have concerned about putting the monument at the Center Park site.

He said that he thought this area was largely used by Norwich students for recreation and posed questions over whether the municipality should retain the parcel or sell it to Norwich. He wanted any decision on the monument delayed so more people could voice their opinion.

Chairman Ken Goslant said that he doubts most members of the public even know that Center Park is municipal property. He said that since the monument would cost taxpayers nothing and would bring visitors to town, it would be a great honor and a boon to the community.

Dick Wobby said Governor Phil Scott tasked him with finding the best location in the state for this monument. He said the monument originally was destined for Colchester but he advocated for a more central location and suggested that Northfield would be best. He also noted that Center Park as it has fallen into some disrepair since the bicentennial refurbishment twenty-five years ago.

If the monument is placed there, the benches surrounding it would be upgraded, the grinding stone monument currently there would be put on a permanent granite base and the foundation sponsoring the Gold Star monument would not only pay for the installation but also to upgrade the park and maintain the monument on into the future.

He stressed that if the site is not available, other towns were itching to get it.

Selectman David Maxwell said he supports the monument being at Center Park but is concerned it may cause parking problems. He asked Mr. Wobby how many people are expected to visit it each year.

Mr. Wobby said a similar monument in Kentucky attracts 30,000 visitors each year but there is no way to accurately predict how many the Vermont monument might attract.

He said he expects there to be a good number of visitors following its installation but this should decline to about a dozen or so each week. There would be attendance spikes around the patriotic holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day and believes a few new parking spaces could be added adjacent to Center Park. He went on to note that there is a seventy-five space parking lot on the other side of Vermont Route 12 that could be used for high attendance days.

Chair Goslant said that he believes this monument would be good for the Northfield community and bring in a number of first-time visitors. The Selectboard approved the monument with the proviso that additional parking be added.

In other matters, the Selectboard discussed eliminating the sidewalk on the east side of Central Street.

Manager Schulz told the board that it is necessary to get rid of the sidewalk because replacing it will be too costly for the town to afford.

He said that a new concrete sidewalk was installed a couple years ago on the west side of the street as part of a water main replacement project. The asphalt sidewalks on the east of the street remain in very poor condition. The current proposal is for the Highway Department crew to remove the east side sidewalks with the freed up space reverting to the property owner for lawn extension. 

Chair Goslant confirmed the Central Street asphalt sidewalks are in very bad condition and dangerous to pedestrians. Because there just is not a lot of money in the municipal budget for sidewalks, he said, it would be better to focus resources on maintaining the new concrete sidewalk and demolish the asphalt sidewalk.

Albert Robitaille, who resides on the street and is a civil engineer, said he does not oppose the removal of sidewalk in front of his home since it is in very bad condition. Should the municipality does not install new curbing when the sidewalk is removed, he would be willing to pay for his own.

Robert Cruickshank agrees the sidewalk is in bad conditions but if it is removed, he said he would like curbing installed to separate his yard from the street. He likewise,would agree to contribute to the cost.

Laura Ranker said that she would like all project costs identified before the project is authorized.

Manager Schulz said the Highway Department would be performing the physical labor so this should keep costs down.

Action on the sidewalk was tabled until the next regular meeting. Chair Goslant would like the Highway Committee to meet before the next meeting to address the concerns raised tonight.

As he is planning to leave soon to take a teaching position in Alaska for the next two years, Selectman Freeman announced he will be resigning from the Select Board. He hopes a qualified person will be chosen as his successor.

Chair Goslant thanked Selectman Freeman for bringing his unique perspective to the Select Board and wished him well in his future endeavors.