Dummerston plans special meeting, weighs appeal


DUMMERSTON -- Officials are calling a special Town Meeting, but they don't expect it to last very long.

The Selectboard on Wednesday scheduled a special vote for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3 at Evening Star Grange to consider whether to grant tax-exempt status to West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department for the next five years.

It is a normally routine matter that, because it did not come up at Town Meeting in March, has become not so routine. The fire department's tax exemption expires this year.

"This would have been something that would generally have been done at Town Meeting," Selectboard Chairman Zeke Goodband said. "But time flies, and it was overlooked."

In addition to the normal budgetary business, voters at the March 4 Town Meeting granted tax-exempt status for one year to Evening Star Grange and Green Mountain Camp.

The fire department's exemption requests arrive in five-year cycles and must be reconsidered this year. Hence the Sept. 3 meeting in the upstairs of the grange hall.

Selectboard members already will be on hand, as they are scheduled to have their regular meeting at 6 p.m. that evening at the town office. They're not expecting heavy turnout or any heated debate for the special vote.

"I would guess it would be a pretty quick special Town Meeting," Goodband said.

In other Dummerston news:

-- It appears that the Selectboard likely will not appeal a court decision granting tax-exempt status to Southeast Vermont Learning Collaborative.

On June 16, Judge Katherine Hayes ruled in Windham Superior Court Civil Division that the Route 5-based nonprofit, which provides professional-development training to teachers in four counties, does not have to pay real-estate taxes. The decision capped a long-running dispute, as the town repeatedly had denied the collaborative's request for tax exemption.

The town has 30 days to appeal the decision. But the Selectboard has not voted to do so, and the board's next meeting is scheduled for July 23 -- outside of the appeal window.

While not committing the Selectboard to accepting the court's decision, Goodband on Wednesday put it this way: "The clock is winding down. We've taken no action toward making an appeal."

The town already has spent roughly $6,500 on the court case, so that may be a factor in not pursuing further legal action. But officials also hinted that they see the judge's ruling as sufficient to decide the matter.

"We tried to settle it (before the lawsuit), and we felt we had an agreement," Goodband said. "The state said we couldn't do it. The Selectboard didn't have the statutory authority to do that. And so the two parties had to take it to court to get a decision."

Officials said they still hope to negotiate a deal in which the Learning Collaborative would make an annual payment to the town in lieu of taxes. But no such agreement is in place.

-- The Selectboard has accepted the resignation of Steve Jarosak from the Dummerston Development Review Board. The vacancy, which is for an alternate position on the board, will be posted.

-- The Selectboard is scheduled to discuss Vermont's new open-meeting law with town boards and commissions on Aug. 6.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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