Confluence Park, which would connect downtown Montpelier with the Winooski River and the West Branch River, barely survived a City Council vote Wednesday after one councilor moved to shut down the $2.9 million project.
“I move that we discontinue the project,” said District 3 Councilor Tim Heney. “Just discontinue it and no longer continue on as a project in the works.”
With one member not present and one abstention, the remaining councilors were deadlocked, 2-2. Mayor Jack McCullough had the right to cast a tie-breaking vote but chose to not break the tie, allowing the project to move forward.
Much of the money already raised comes from a $600,000 bond approved by voters. Kassia Randzio, development and operations director for the Vermont River Conservancy, updated the the council Wednesday on its fundraising efforts.
“As we speak today, 35% of the funds have been raised to move the project from 30-year design and vision toward implementation,” Randzio.
State grants — from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Clean Water Fund, the Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s Downtown Transportation Fund and the Agency of Natural Resources’ Land & Water Conservation Fund — will also be available.
Montpelier resident Joe Castellano said July’s devastating floods may have made the park project an impractical expense.
“It’s going to cost us $5 million to just get City Hall back up and running,” he said. “Certainly, the flood has impacted the city’s finances. As much as I may be in favor of this park — as a citizen, I just can’t see it being fiscally prudent at this point.”
However, District 3 Councilor Cary Brown noted councilors voted in February to have the Vermont River Conservancy and the city parks department report back to them in 18 months, at which point the council would then decide whether to move ahead with construction.
“And that still seems like a good plan to me,” Brown said.