Middlebury fire bond leads ballot

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury officials at town meeting next week will present residents with a property tax-neutral municipal spending plan for 2012-2013, but they also will be asking residents to make some long-term investments in fire protection and economic development.
Middlebury town meeting will be held on Monday, March 5, at 7 p.m. in the municipal gym. Australian ballot voting will take place the following day in the same location, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Residents on Town Meeting Day will be asked to approve a 20-year, $4.625-million bond issue to allow the fire department to renovate and expand its Seymour Street headquarters and replace its East Middlebury station with a smaller and more energy-efficient structure.
The Seymour Street station was built in 1932 and expanded in 1978. It is currently not accessible to people with disabilities, has poorly configured interior space, has no fire suppression system, has overhead doors that barely accommodate fire trucks, has a garage floor that is under tremendous stress in supporting modern fire apparatus, and has an inadequate number of bays.
Plans call for these issues to be remedied by a two-story, 8,100-square-foot addition containing four large truck bays, installation of a sprinkler system and elevator, and completion of interior renovations and better insulation to optimize the building’s use and make it more energy efficient.
The project also calls for the deteriorating, 3,300-square-foot East Middlebury station to be replaced with a smaller, wood-framed, single-story structure that would feature two bays and some storage room. The new building would include a sprinkler system.
Middlebury residents last year approved $250,000 to further refine the final design and engineering for the project.
If passed, the bond would add an average of $90 to the annual property tax bill of the owner of a $200,000 home during the 20-year life of the bond, according to information supplied by the Middlebury Fire Department.
Residents will also be asked to add a penny to their property tax rate for each of the next five years to help sustain a “Middlebury Business Development Fund,” The new fund is being proposed to help local companies grow and help attract other enterprises considering Addison County’s shire town as a home. Organizers are proposing an annual budget of $180,000, to be divided amongst Middlebury College ($72,000), the penny on Middlebury’s tax rate ($72,000) and the business community ($36,000).
The fund would in part subsidize the salary of a business development director, who would work with Middlebury College alumni, outside companies and entrepreneurs in an effort to woo new companies, industries and good paying jobs to town. The director would also work with existing businesses to ensure their ongoing stability and prospects for expansion.
The fund would be overseen and controlled by the Middlebury selectboard, with input from a five-member advisory board that would include the town manager, members of the business community and Middlebury College.
A majority of the Middlebury selectboard and the entire executive board of the Better Middlebury Partnership have come out in support of the proposed fund. The plan has drawn some criticism from some residents who have argued that Addison County Economic Development Corp. could instead be fortified to take on such work.
Middlebury’s usually subdued election ballot will feature two races this year.
Five candidates are competing for two three-year terms on the Middlebury selectboard. The candidates are incumbent selectboard members Victor Nuovo and Susan Shashok, along with former Selectman Don Keeler, Eric Murray and Brian Bauer.
Nuovo, Charles A. Dana Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Middlebury College, will be seeking his third consecutive three-year term on the board.
Shashok lives in East Middlebury, where she manufactures a line of all-natural skin-care products under the brand “Caroline’s Dream.” She was appointed last year to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Selectwoman Janelle Ashley, who moved away. She has decided to run for a three-year term, rather than for the one-year balance Ashley’s term. Resident Gary Baker is unopposed in running for that spot.
Murray is owner of East Middlebury-based EJM Enterprises  — a company that specializes in heavy equipment and truck repairs, as well as towing. He most recently ran for the board last March, losing to incumbent Selectmen Craig Bingham and Dean George. He offered last fall to fill out Ashley’s term, but the selectboard instead picked Shashok.
Keeler, a longtime deputy with the Addison County Sheriff’s Department, is no stranger to the selectboard. He decided not to run for re-election in 2010 after a six-year stint on the board. But he said his schedule will now permit him to resume work as a town official.
Bauer is a retired Middlebury Union Middle School teacher who has served on several local boards, including the Addison County Regional Planning Commission and Middlebury Zoning Board.
He narrowly lost to current Selectman Travis Forbes in a write-in campaign in 2010.
Incumbent selectboard Chairman John Tenny is stepping down from the board after 17 years of continuous service. This year’s town report has been dedicated to Tenny in recognition of his contributions to the community.
Middlebury’s election ballot also features a race between Rebekah Irwin and David Weinstock for a five-year term on the Ilsley Library Board of Trustees.
Middlebury residents will join the six other Addison Central Supervisory Union towns in voting on a $1 million bond issue aimed at replacing the current, failing asphalt shingle roof with a standing seam metal room. The budget will also provide for some energy efficiency upgrades in the building.
If passed, the bond is expected to add an average of $10 annually to the tax bill of a $200,000 property in the ACSU during the 20-year life of the bond.
Residents will field a 2012-2013 municipal budget of $8,420,920, of which $5,819,322 is to be raised by taxes. The budget — which maintains current services and staffing — represents a 1.7-percent increase in spending that the selectboard has offset by applying $83,185 in fund balance.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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