It's time for town meeting

Posted
WINDHAM COUNTY — The annual Town Meeting tradition in Vermont has residents getting ready to vote on budgets and other issues from the floor Tuesday.

Athens will consider spending no more than $115,000 for renovating the Town Office and borrowing up to $77,000 over three years for the project.

Other articles look to establish funds to cover emergency spending not covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ($5,000) and long-term highway projects ($2,000).

Brookline voters will be asked whether to change the annual Town Meeting Day to the Saturday preceding the first Tuesday in March. Vermont towns typically hold the annual meeting on the first Tuesday in March.

Dover residents will consider expanding prekindergarten to full day. The request, which comes from the teacher running the program and Dover School administrators, features a $30,000 price tag.

"We would like more time with the children," Principal Matt Martyn told the Reformer. "The morning only is proving to be too short a time to spend with kids to have the impact we want to have on them to get them ready for kindergarten. The full day would give us the full school day to work on those social skills, kindergarten-readiness skills, reading readiness, math readiness — those foundational skills we enjoy being provided in that pre-K room."

Dover voters also will be deciding whether to spend $25,000 on an additional bus to take students to Brattleboro Area Middle School and Brattleboro Union High School.

A parent brought up safety concerns about the existing services with the school board and administration.

The MOOver currently makes stops at Dover School, then locations along Route 100 and Route 9. Martyn expects 40 students from Dover will choose to go to Brattleboro next year, meaning eight more than this year.

Dummerston's warning features an article asking whether to buy a fire truck for no more than $326,000.

Jamaica voters will be asked to withdraw $51,000 from the elementary school's facilities fund to avoid penalties associated with exceeding the state's "excessive spending threshold."

Londonderry is looking at creating a reserve fund for maintaining, rehabilitating and replacing town buildings.

Marlboro residents will consider by ballot whether the town should adopt zoning regulations approved by the Select Board.

Putney voters will be asked if the town should borrow up to $43,000 to purchase a new rescue truck for the fire department.

Rockingham is looking at setting up reserve funds for road improvements ($50,000), and repairs and maintenance at the Rockingham Meeting House and Town Hall ($20,000 for each facility). Voters also will decide on contributing $25,000 toward a new pumper truck for the fire department. Grant funding will be used for the purchase.

Stratton's warning has an article asking if the town should buy a 4-acre parcel of land known as the Old Common from the school district. The purchase carries a $200,000 price tag.

Townshend residents will be asked whether the Select Board should hire a town manager and contract for law enforcement services. Financing will be included in both conversations.

During a meeting on Jan. 23, Select Board Chairwoman Kathy Hege said both articles would be "elephant[s] in the room."

Craig Hunt, assistant to the Select Board, said law enforcement budgeting was put into the general fund last year but a request was made to bring it back as a separate article to discuss police coverage.

"There are people rightfully concerned," he told the Reformer. "There's a lot going on in the world. It's a precarious place."

In the past, Townshend has used the Windham County Sheriff's Office or the Vermont State Police. Last year, the town contracted with the State Police.

At Town Meeting last year, the Select Board was given a directive from voters to establish a committee to look at the costs and logistics of hiring a town manager.

"We've been discussing this off and on since the 1990s," Hege previously told the Reformer. "It keeps coming up. We have said for many years we need help. We have a full-time administrative assistant who handles the phones and our scheduling, but he doesn't have the authority or the background to make decisions on the board's behalf."

Wilmington has articles that look at establishing a reserve fund so listers can perform a reappraisal of properties around town ($75,000), a capital fund to buy police equipment ($20,000), a transfer station capital fund ($5,000), and a fund to plan for and relocate town facilities out of the floodplain ($5,000). Another article asks whether the town should combine a playground capital reserve fund with those used for housing capital and school fields in order to create a fund to maintain town parks, forests, fields and fences within town.

Brattleboro will hold annual Representative Town Meeting on March 24. But residents will vote for town officers and school directors like other Vermont towns on March 6. They also will be asked by ballot whether to adopt an advisory resolution dealing with climate change.

Similar resolutions are up for vote in Dummerston, Guilford, Marlboro, Putney, Wardsboro and 30 other towns in Vermont.

"The three main principles of the resolution are to move Vermont towards meeting its goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050, no new fossil fuel infrastructure, and to have the transition be fair and equitable," states a press release from climate activist group 350 Vermont. "Small groups from each town drafted versions of the resolutions to meet the specific needs of the town before collecting the required signatures to get it on town warnings or ballots."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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