Brandon OKs bond for police headquarters

BRANDON — Voters in Brandon overwhelmingly approved a $395,000 bond for a new police station, and they approved all other items on their Town Meeting Day warning, as well.
The town budget, the Neshobe School budget and 13 other articles on the ballot were all given the green light by the Brandon voting public.
Officials said 888 Brandon residents turned out to vote on Town Meeting Day, which is roughly 45 percent of those on the town checklist.
The vote was 581-288 in favor of the police station bond, which will cover the $270,000 purchase price, plus necessary renovations and upgrades to the former Holden Insurance building on Forest Dale Road. Brandon police have long used the cramped second floor of the town office building on the corner of Seminary Street and Route 7 and in downtown Brandon. The space is too small and there are structural and security issues for the department, which has improved and expanded in recent years.
Brandon Police Chief Chris Brickell, who was hired in 2007 after a rocky period for the department, said he was heartened by the vote.
“Coming to Brandon gave my law enforcement career a renewed sense of optimism that I needed,” Brickell said. “And now this vote, after appealing to the voters, has given me that same sense of renewed optimism.”
Brickell also acknowledged the 288 citizens who voted against the measure, saying he hopes they change their perspective.
“My hope is that for those who did not vote in favor of the bond issue that, in time, they see how badly this move was needed,” the chief said. “This vote will also boost the morale of all who have had to work in the limited conditions we have for some time.”
Selectmen Mitch Pearl was re-elected to a three-year term and Devon Fuller was elected to a one-year term despite some confusion on the ballot. Both men inadvertently submitted petitions for the same three-year seat and were listed as running against each other. Fuller put out the word that he would actually be a write-in candidate for a one-year seat, and he won that seat.
Selectboard Chair Bill Hatch was re-elected to the other one-year seat.
The $2,931,610 municipal budget passed by a narrower margin of 495-356. The spending plan amounted to a roughly 4.5 percent increase over the current budget. Selectmen explained that increases were due to citizens’ call for more economic development and a request for a part-time recreation director. The spending also reflected increases in medical insurance premiums (3 percent), unemployment insurance (39 percent), and property/casualty insurance rates (1.9 percent), as well as a 1.75 percent cost of living increase for unionized town employees.
The Neshobe School budget passed by a vote of 504-363. The $4,563,656 spending plan represents a 0.56 percent increase over the current budget.
Outgoing school board chair Jim Leary explained at Monday night’s public meeting that transportation and special education costs were up, while there are reductions in building repairs, nurse’s salary with the expected retirement of school nurse Jean Childers, and the possible outsourcing of the school lunch program.
The board members also looked for help from subsidiary funds to bolster the general school fund, and they got it. During Monday’s meeting, voters approved an article establishing a reserve fund for school facilities maintenance, repairs, renovations and construction using surplus funds at the end of each fiscal year.
Voters then approved articles authorizing the transfer of just over $10,000 from the tractor fund to the general fund, and an article transferring $11,800 from the school bus reserve fund to the general fund.
Rebecca Zelis and Andrew Carter were elected unopposed to the Neshobe School Board. Zelis, for a two-year term and Carter for a three-year term. Leary and board member Frances Martin are stepping down.
Instead, Martin will serve on the Otter Valley Union High School board, along with incumbent Christine Gahagan, who was elected to a three-year term. Martin will serve a three-year term, as well.
Brandon voters also approved an extra $10,000 appropriation to the Boys and Girls Club of Brandon, and $20,735 to the Brandon Rescue Squad.

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