At one of the longest town meetings in recent memory, about 250 Middlebury residents spent 4 hours and 20 minutes deliberating a number of issues, starting with the proposed budget, which took the better part of two hours. It passed on a voice vote, with numerous questions from the audience but no final opposition.
But the hot issue of the evening was an article calling for a penny on the tax rate over the next five years to fund the Middlebury Business Development Fund. After a 10 minute presentation by Better Middlebury Partnership President Donna Donahue, more than 15 people stood up to comment with about an equal number opposing and supporting the issue. Applause after particular comments was the only gauge of support on the measure and that was split fairly equally on both sides of the issue.
The discussion went back and forth for an hour with Gov. Jim Douglas moderating, and selectman John Tenny taking the floor at one point to correct some comments and explain his support for the measure.
After about an hour of discussion, a motion was called to cease discussion and take a vote; which passed, then the question was called. The voice vote appeared to be in favor of the amendment to approve the fund, but it was close, so Douglas suggested a count by standing up. But a quick request from the floor called for a vote by ballot, and that was easily approved.
When the votes were counted, Douglas announced that the article passed by roughly a 2-1 margin; the funding in the following article passed as well. We’ll have the full report later Tuesday morning with vote totals and more of the details; along with discussion on the fire department bond project. It’s almost 1 a.m. and time to get to bed.