BELLOWS FALLS -- There will be a notable omission in the 2014 Town Warning, as the Rockingham Selectboard opted not to include an article that would have prohibited its members from taking any action regarding a Rockingham/Bellows Falls merger for another three years.
The Selectboard voted, 3-2, to ax Article 10 from the Town Warrant, upsetting several residents who have long voiced their opposition to the idea of a merger. Chairman Tom MacPhee and members Ann DiBernardo and Susan Hammond voted to exclude the article while Josh Hearne and Peter Golec voted against the motion (made by DiBernardo). The Selectboard then voted unanimously to sign the Town Warning.
Prior to the vote on Article 10, MacPhee re-read a letter from the Vermont Secretary of State's Office that stated the Selectboard is not obligated to put the article on the warrant because it was started by a non-binding petition and would concern a Selectboard that has not yet been elected. MacPhee then said Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda agreed with the Secretary of State's Office.
Town resident Joel Love said he though the Selectboard should respect the roughly 6 percent of registered voters who signed a petition to get Article 10 on to the Town Warrant in the first place. He said the "only transparent and rational thing to do" would be to leave it on. The petition garnered roughly 250 signatures.
Bellows Falls resident Deborah Wright urged the Selectboard to keep the article on because it was not frivolous and did not conflict with any articles. Judy Lidie said it was the duty of all elected officials to listen to the will of the voters.
"This is a slap to the face of the people," she said after the vote. "You insult them with your decision-making."
Articles approved by the Selectboard include one that would authorize the Selectboard and treasurer to borrow money from time to time in anticipation of tax collection, or payment of money due the town from Vermont for highway or other purposes or payment to the town from federal funds. Adoption of Article 4 would authorize the Selectboard to seek and/or accept funds available from non-property tax revenue sources and to spend those funds in appropriate ways after required public input.
Article 5 seeks to raise and appropriate $4,989,896 (with $3,966,995 to be raised by taxes) to pay the indebtedness of the town, repair and maintain highways and pay all other general and regular town expenses between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015.
Approval of Article 6 would raise and appropriate $364,270 (with $320,800 to be raised by taxes) for the operating expenses of the Rockingham Free Public Library.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow Domenic on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.