By Lani Duke
Here is a roundup of changes by town:
BENSON—Benson’s public floor meeting presented the best possible illustration of the value of the Vermont election process. Speakers explored the issue of public versus individual responsibility as they debated whether the town should give $1,500 to the Benson Youth League or leave funding to the participants. Also under consideration was whether the town should give $730 to Rutland Mental Health Services, especially questioned because the organization had sent no representative to the meeting. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the vigorous discussions, Benson voters approved all presented expenditures on the ballot. There were no contested races for town or school board offices.
CASTLETON—On Monday, March 2, Castleton voters met their new police chief, Peter Mantello, in a floor meeting. He stressed the importance of leadership for the budget-minded, saying that both he and new town manager Mark Shea bring their own “brown bag” lunches to work.
Whether to condense budget items from over 30 to six was a hot topic. The proposal had called for altering the 2016 ballot by presenting the budget in six sections: public safety, public work, general government, library, recreation, and cemetery. Defending the long form, former Select Board member Charlie Brown said that Town Meeting is the only time in the year when voters have a say on each line item. Select Board chair Joseph Bruno spoke in favor of condensing the ballot because it gives the Select Board flexibility to meet an emergency, whether natural or manmade. The town has no contingency fund to meet those needs, he said. Castleton’s voters rejected the measure by Australian ballot on Tuesday, 259 to 447.
Castleton voters also narrowly rejected building a new police station by a vote of 365 to 353; an appropriation to add security cameras and alarms to the fire station, 371 to 344; and the purchase of land on which to build new town offices. They approved all the individual budget items, for a total budget of $2.9 million.
Elected to the Select Board were incumbent Robert “Bob” Spaulding (496 votes) and former Select Board member Jim Leamy (422 votes). First-time candidate Zack S. Holzworth received 277 votes. Voters also approved Nedra A. Boutwell as their new town clerk, with nearly 600 votes; her predecessor Katy Thornblade had declined to seek re-election.
FAIR HAVEN—Voters gave Richard “Dick” J. Frazier 298 votes and Sean A. Galvin 288 for the two vacant one-year seats on the Select Board. Mary McNeil was close behind, receiving 275. Incumbent Robert J. Richards retained his three-year seat with 377 votes compared to challenger William Schaumloffel, who received 229. Voters approved both the $1,887,534 town budget and the $5,314,410 town school district budget.
HUBBARDTON—Like voters in many other Rutland County towns, voters returned incumbents to their seats in local government, re-electing selectwoman Janet Morey, giving her 127 votes. Incumbents Dwayne Gibbs and Richard Grabowski both returned to one-year positions, with vote counts of 132 and 110, respectively. Assembled Hubbardton voters approved the $1,077,247 town budget and $544,495 school budget in a Monday voice vote. They rejected an article that would have changed the positions of road commissioner and constable from appointed to elected.
MIDDLETOWN SPRINGS—There were no contested races in Middletown Springs. Voters approved the $257,228 general fund; the $363,917 highway fund; and the $2,380,730 school budget in a close vote. Middletown Springs turned down a Rutland County sheriff’s department contract; a $20,000 external audit of town and highway finances for 2014-2015; and a vote-tabulating machine request that would have ended ballot-counting by hand.
PAWLET—Pawlet voters chose incumbent Sarah Ludlam and newcomer Edgar Cleveland for two one-year seats on the Select Board. Longtime Selectman Clarence Decker was not reelected. Voters approved all budgetary items, including a general fund of $374,235, a highway fund of $427,050, and a school budget of $1,679,653.
POULTNEY—Ed Lewis and Corey Davenport both took one-year seats on Poultney’s Select Board, beating out Thomas “Bear” Beatty, Caryl Morash and Roger C. Hitchcock. Expanding and renovating the Poultney Public Library received strong voter approval in favor of bonding up to $498,000, the anticipated project cost. Voters also approved a $1,115,271 municipal budget, a $684,588 budget, and a $7,456,645 school budget. Judging by the vote count, the highway budget had the greatest percentage of voter support, and the municipal budget was also fairly strong, but the school budget was a squeaker, receiving 54 percent approval. Voters had turned down last year’s school budget twice before finally approving it in a third go-round last May.
TINMOUTH—In Tinmouth’s two contested races, voters elected Matt Patry to a three-year Select Board term over Andy Gilmore, and Hollis Squier to a three-year road commissioner term over Kevin Ruane. Forty percent of voters turned out for the Tuesday balloting, while 20 percent came to the Saturday gathering—a high turnout compared to the average of 11 percent of residents that turn out for their town meetings statewide, according to a recent report on VPR.
During the Saturday assembly, voters passed general and highway budgets for the town and approved the creation of a highway paving and road reconstruction fund. They also approved the Select Board’s appointing of a committee to consider purchasing the Tinmouth Pond pavilion. The town constable is to be held to non-law enforcement duties, and the office of second constable will be continued.
WELLS—Voters elected Paul Woodruff Jr., to a vacant seat on the Select Board, over Ward Cyr. Carol Duquette joins the board of listers, chosen over appointee Mary Haskins. Elected to the three seats open on the planning commission are Edgar Corey, Felix Reed, and Paul Woodruff; trailing a distant fourth was Timothy Makepeace. Wells voters rejected expanding the Select Board from its current three seats to five, 136 to 88. They passed all financial questions.
WEST HAVEN—With no contested races, West Haven voters enjoyed a non-contentious Town Meeting, decisively approving a $94,050 town budget, a $149,115 highway budget, and a $401,215 town school budget.