BRATTLEBORO -- The Agricultural Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to talk about a Representative Town Meeting article that would repurpose the money in the town's Agricultural Land Protection Fund and use it for non-agricultural purposes.
The Selectboard is asking Town Meeting Representatives to consider using $50,000 in the agricultural fund to start an Energy Efficiency Fund, and the remaining accrued interest of about $45,000 to reduce the 2015 tax levy.
Town Meeting Representatives will consider the proposal at the March 22 meeting.
The Agricultural Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Planning Services Department office in the Municipal Center.
Agricultural Advisory Committee Chairman Jay Bailey said the committee has only briefly discussed the proposal. The committee might take a vote to make a recommendation to Town Meeting Representatives, though Bailey said he would not speculate on what might come out of Wednesday's meeting.
"We first heard about this in December and the committee wants a chance to discuss it," Bailey said Monday. "We'll be looking at the issues involved and talking about whatever appropriate decision we might want to make at that point."
The town started the Agricultural Land Protection Fund in 1985 with a $50,000 commitment that gave farmers a fund to borrow against for major land purchases. The fund has only been used twice in almost 30 years.
When the Selectboard was debating the proposal in December, Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said it might make sense in very tight economic times to use some of that money to establish an energy efficiency fund.
At the Dec. 3 Selectboard meeting, members of the agricultural community were mixed on the proposal and Bailey said this week that he was going to let the Agricultural Advisory Committee decide what it wanted to do about the Representative Town Meeting article.
Long-time farmer Charlie Robb said at the December meeting it might make sense to use the money for non-agricultural purposes, while Jesse Kayan of Wild Carrot Farm, who is much younger than Robb, said the money should remain available for farmers.
Bailey that night said that maybe the interest could be used for other purposes, but that the principal should remain for farmers.
"I don't want to muddy the water at this point until the committee talks about it," Bailey said Monday. "The problem is that once the money is gone, it is gone. We all have to eat, everyday."
The Agricultural Advisory Committee talked about using the money in the land fund for other agricultural purposes back in 2009.
Agricultural Advisory Committee members met with town attorney Bob Fisher to talk about using the loan fund for other purposes.
According to meeting notes the committee members at that time voted 5-2 to continue doing research, but not to bring the issue up before Town Meeting Representatives that year.
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