BRATTLEBORO -- With all of the seats for Representative Town Meeting now full the town is ready to move ahead with a vote on a new 1 percent local option tax and a proposed $14 million upgrade to the police and fire stations.
During a special town meeting caucus Wednesday night the members of Districts 2 and 3 voted in three new members in anticipation of Saturday's vote.
Because people did not run for the open seats during the March election, District 2 had two open seats. There were five people interested in the two open seats. Robert Clements, who owns Zephyr Designs on Main Street, and Walter Schwarz, who is retired, were elected during Wednesday's caucus.
District 3, which had a single open seat to fill Wednesday, did not receive any interested candidates, though Town Meeting Reps could caucus Saturday before the meeting if someone steps forward.
The appointments were held at the Gibson-Aiken Center before the second public information session which the Selectboard hosted to bring the Town Meeting Representatives, and the public, up to date on the plan.
The appointments Wednesday bring the total number of Town Meeting Representatives to 144 who are eligible to vote on Saturday.
The Selectboard has endorsed a plan to invest about $14 million into the police station and the town's two fire stations.
The board is also asking Town Meeting Representatives to approve a new 1 percent local option tax on Brattleboro
Town officials say the tax could cover between 60 and 70 percent of the payments on the 20-year bond, which ultimately will cost about $20 million in interest and principal.
And while Brattleboro officials have been working toward the proposed renovations to the police and fire facilities for more than 20 years, Saturday's meeting might not be the final word on the plan.
Brattleboro resident Kurt Daims says he is part of a citizens' group that has formed that wants to overturn the construction project, and the local option tax, if Town Meeting Representatives approve either, or both, questions Saturday.
According to the Brattleboro Town Charter the group would have 10 days after Saturday's meeting to request a townwide vote.
Once a petition is handed in to the town clerk, the Selectboard would have up to 14 days to schedule a special meeting to set a date for the townwide vote.
That vote would have to be held within 10 days of the Selectboard meeting.
The vote would be binding, and could overturn the Representative Town Meeting vote, Town Clerk Annette Cappy said.
"I'm not surprised people are talking about this," Cappy said. "I expected there would be a townwide vote. It is a controversial issue and people think the town's people should have a chance to vote on it."
Cappy said the vote could possibly be held on Nov. 6 during the Presidential election, though a lot would have to happen between now and then to get the referendum ballot together.
Having the referendum vote on Nov. 6 would save the town money, and probably increase the turnout, as opposed to paying staff to run a special election later in the month.
Daims said he started to talk to other residents, and to downtown merchants, over the past few weeks and there appears to be questions about both the local option tax and the construction projects.
Daims said opponents plan to be at Saturday's meeting to talk the Town Meeting Reps into rejecting both questions.
But if either question passes, he says the group is ready to call for the referendum.
The group is already gathering the 433 signatures needed to call for the special vote, Daims said.
The town changed the charter last year, which included changing the number of votes needed to call for a referendum from 250 to 5 percent of the registered voters.
A petition with the signatures of at least 50 Town Meeting Representatives can also force a townwide vote. "We support the police and the fire departments, but $14 million is a lot of money and we can support the police and fire departments in other ways," Daims said. "People think the board is ramming this through. The Selectboard has been exaggerating the necessity and we think the whole town should vote on this."
Saturday's meeting will start at 8:30 a.m. at Academy School.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.