GRAFTON -- A citizen unhappy with his fellow residents’ decision at a special meeting in December wants to start a petition to present to the town no later than Wednesday, Jan. 15.
Jay Karpin told the Reformer he is just one of several people upset because town voters opted to relocate the position of the town garage and construct a new one at an estimated cost not to exceed $1.2 million with interest. The vote was taken at a special meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 17, one day after electing to accept a block grant for the project. Residents voted 46-30 via Australian ballot to move forward on the project, which is subject to deduction from any available state and federal grants and other financial assistance or resources of the town.
The town garage was heavily damaged by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. Residents gave the nod to the project after voting 17-1 by floor vote Monday, Dec. 16, to accept a CDBG and commit to the grant-required 10 percent local match, which will partially or entirely be in-kind.
Town Clerk Kim Record previously told the Reformer the garage -- used to store trucks and other town equipment -- will be moved to a portion of 72 acres of town-owned land on Bell Road.
According to Karpin, it is possible petition a revote within 30 days of the previous vote. He said this is typically done by acquiring signatures from at least 5 percent of legal voters in town (25 people), but he has been told he needs 10 percent (50 people). Assistant Town Clerk Cynthia Gibbs told the Reformer this is because a bond bank is involved, but Karpin maintains that the word "bond" was never used in the special warrant article voted on in December.
The Reformer previously reported that residents at the 2012 Grafton Town Meeting "had voted to apply for bonds, notes and other obligations to finance the repairs of damages caused by Irene." Record told the Reformer at that time the town had already spent about $3.7 million on repairs around Grafton, and she was hoping the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state would eventually reimburse the town for 95 percent of that total.
Vermont Elections Director Will Senning said it is the opinion of the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office that Karpin needs to garner the signatures of only 5 percent of legal voters. Senning said the Office believes state statutes dictate a minimum of 10 percent on petitions only to get bond-issue articles onto a town warrant. He said the statutes state a reconsideration of all votes requires just 5 percent, even if they involve a bond.
Senning said this matter came up in a different Vermont town during the summer.
Gibbs cited V.S.A. Title 24, Section 1755, which states "On a petition signed by at least ten percent of the voters of a municipal corporation the proposition of incurring a bonded debt to pay for public improvements shall be submitted to the qualified voters thereof at any annual or special meeting to be held for that purpose ... it may order the submission of the proposition of incurring a bonded debt to pay for public improvements to the qualified voters of such municipal corporation at a meeting to be held for that purpose." This statute, however, says nothing of holding a public reconsideration for a bond vote already taken -- it simply states what percentage of legal voters must sign a petition to get a bond issue article onto a warrant.
Gibbs said the parties Record has consulted maintain that Karpin needs 10 percent of the town’s legal voters.
Karpin, a former Grafton Selectboard member of 21 years, told the Reformer he has not yet actively attempt to get any signatures. He said he has received a lot of flak from the current Selectboard, the Town Clerk’s Office and "just about everybody in town that wants (the new garage). There’s a certain amount of politics involved."
Karpin said he is opposed to vote taken at the special meeting for multiple reasons -- he does not like the way the town approached it, he thinks the price for the project is outrageous and he knows the site slated for construction was once a dump.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.