Look back and learn

I’m glad the town finally decided to end the battle against Vermont Railway. Now, I ask they look back and learn from the mistakes that cost us $516,000. Reflection may improve the operation of the select board, which may help regain the trust of taxpayers and business owners.

I opposed the ordinance from the beginning based on 25 years of professional experience in the hazardous material profession. I have confidence in the state and federal regulations that already protect human health and the environment from hazardous materials. Multiple attempts to offer my services for free were ignored because of my opposition to the ordinance. Perhaps our elected officials may consider listening to your neighbors, we can respectfully disagree and learn from one another at the same time.

I brought it to their attention that the town was actually in violation of the ordinance they proposed. The diesel fuel tank at the highway department exceeded the tank size allowance. They changed the ordinance and the town was no longer in violation. How convenient.

When local industry owners expressed their concerns, and the fact that their facilities were reliant on bulk fuel storage, the board exempted these facilities. I was happy to see the adjustments to accommodate our neighbors.

It became clear to me that this was not about hazardous material and protecting our natural resources, it was about the salt sheds. Shelburne became the first town to have a hazardous material regulation more stringent than that of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. It was also the only town to “classify” road salt as hazardous. The judges were able to see right through this, and the legal decisions against our town began.

The strategy to justify the ordinance started to morph into an uncontrollable mess. Dramatic video of a train accident was part of the legal team’s justification. Pediatric burn unit capacity concerns were discussed. Our drinking water source was threatened.

It became clear to me that those who created the ordinance would not let this go. Was it driven by ego, and not concerns for safety? Meetings became uncivil, rude and divisive. Many questions from the public were never answered.

If Shelburne wants to restore the Route 7 business corridor, we have some work to do. The black eye our town sustained from this foolish lawsuit likely causes business owners to reconsider investing in Shelburne. Our officials need to learn from this costly mistake.

Thomas Murphy

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