Thursday October 11, 2012

BRATTLEBORO - With the clock ticking down toward the $14 million vote on proposed renovations to the police and fire stations and for a proposed 1 percent sales tax to help pay for it, the town is looking to fill three open seats for Representative Town Meeting in time for the Oct. 20 vote.

District 2 has two vacancies and District 3 has one and Town Clerk Annette Cappy said it's important to have all of the seats filled with so much on the line.

"There are some big questions," Cappy said. "There is a lot at stake and a lot to consider."

District members will meet on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 6:15 p.m., in the Gibson Aiken Center to appoint members to fill the vacant seats.

The caucus will be held just before the 6:30 p.m. information meeting on the police-fire renovations and on the 1 percent sales tax.

Cappy said anyone who lives in the districts can come out to the caucus and make a case for representing the town at the Oct. 20 meeting, which is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. at Academy School.

The Town Meeting Representatives who show up to the 6:15 caucus Wednesday will vote on filling the open seats.

Cappy said it is up to the district chairmen to decide if the votes should be held by voice vote or by ballot

Anyone who is elected Wednesday night will only serve until the next election in March 2013, at which point they would be able to run again.

Town Meeting Representatives who are elected in an election serve for three years, though there are often shorter terms to fill when representatives have to resign for whatever reason.

Cappy said the proposals for both the facility renovations and for the 1 percent sales tax are complex and there are strong feelings on all sides of the issues.

Town Meeting Representatives have been picking up their information packets and she expects residents around town to start talking to their reps to ask questions and make their feelings heard.

"When the reps vote it is important that they do so to the best of their abilities, but they also should be representing their neighbors," she said. "It's easy to be a Town Meeting Representative. It is an important job."

"Most of us should be talking to our constituents to see how they feel. We have a responsibility to know how they feel," said District 2 Chairman Marshall Wheelock. "And we don't require attendance at the info meeting but we strongly support it."

Wheelock said he has not heard about many residents who are looking to serve, but he is hoping interested citizens show up Wednesday.

And District 3 Chairman Don Webster said the people he is speaking to largely support the renovations but there seems to be more of a split on the sales tax.

"Most people think we have to do this, but that means we have to raise the funds to do it," said Webster. "So now the question is, ‘What is the best way to do that?'"

Webster said he will probably hold the caucus vote by paper ballot.

Webster says there seems to be a little more opposition to the tax than there was when Town Meeting Representatives voted in favor of a 1 percent room and meals tax a few years ago.

"People can choose not to eat out, but I think people see that as a broader tax that affects everyone," Webster said. "I think there is a different level of concern."

There is a map on the town website of Brattleboro's three districts. There is also a listing of all of the town meeting representatives on the website.

Anyone looking for information on the caucus, or on the upcoming vote, can call Cappy at Town Hall at 251-8129.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.