Montpelier and Berlin are negotiating over access to the pond that supplies the area's drinking water.
This May, the state supreme court threw out an ordinance banning recreational access to the water. The city and town of met again Monday night, as they try to come to terms on how to proceed following that ruling.
Scenic Berlin Pond provides all of Montpelier's drinking water, and most of the town of Berlin's. It's long been a favorite site for walkers and joggers. Now, boaters also turnout following the Vermont Supreme Court's May decision.
Montpelier owns all but 0.25 percent of the property surrounding the pond. The city's council-members say they can prevent use of the water by the public, if Montpelier and Berlin enforce no trespassing restrictions on the lands surrounding the pond.
"We're very curious what you're going to do with that 85 feet," said Montpelier councilman Andrew Hooper as he addressed his Berlin counterparts and their plans for town owned property.
"I really wouldn't want to to put access just anywhere because I can," A Berlin selectman responded, "I'd want to put access in the best place for everybody on that pond."
Berlin select board members, unlike Montpelier's officials, say they're hesitant to wiggle around the Supreme Court's decision granting access. The board is considering a range of options for their small parcel like a pay-to-park site.
Montpelier could rent the land and ban access; the state could lease the property and install a boat ramp.
As the officials discussed the latter, Select Board Chairman Brad Towne asked about how light-recreational use would affect water quality. "What is the filtration capacity of the (water treatment) plant," he asked, "what contaminants will it take out?"
"I think it will take out a lot, it's a fairly sophisticated plant, but there are many that it wouldn't," said Montpelier Mayor John Hollar, "I don't think we have an answer, a complete answer for all the risk that might result."
Those in attendance voiced opinions as divided as the board's and council's.
"It is easy to restrict access to non-motorized use and I think most of the people who have been accessing the pond would support that," said Williamstown resident Michael Covey, "I think you'd find very few who don't support that."
"There are enough other ponds around this state to use boats, kayaks," said Montpelier resident Barbara White, "I think risking the security and the safety of drinking water is big."
If the debate remains so contentious, the matter may land back in front of a judge again soon. According to the state website of the Water Supply Division, Vermont began protecting public water sources the late 1970s.
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