Weybridge decides on use for settlement

WEYBRIDGE — Around 150 Weybridge voters turned out at a special town meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25, to earmark $475,980 in embezzlement-related insurance settlement funds to a variety of municipal uses, with the lion’s share going to the creation of a “major equipment fund” for future substantial purchases. And residents declined the selectboard’s invitation to use $50,000 of the money as a property tax rebate.
The money in question came from the town’s insurance carrier following prosecution of former Weybridge Town Clerk Karen Brisson on embezzlement charges. It was on July 18 that U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss sentenced Brisson to two years in jail, along with paying restitution, following her guilty plea to having embezzled funds from the town’s coffers over a period of at least six years.
The selectboard prepared a menu of potential uses for the settlement funds for townspeople to consider — as well as offer suggestions of their own — at the Sept. 25 gathering. After three hours of discussion, residents endorsed most of the selectboard’s recommendations, with a few tweaks. Residents decided to:
•  Spend $150,000 to pave approximately 1 mile of town highway.
•  Use $15,000 for energy-related upgrades to be done at the town garage/fire department that would save an estimated $3,000 per year in heating costs.
•  Set aside $100,000 for a “major equipment fund” to be used toward major highway and fire department-related purchases, such as loaders or trucks. Those future equipment purchases will have to be authorized by voters. The original article had specified “highway major equipment fund,” but residents chose to take out the word “highway” in order to also make the fire department eligible to benefit from the account.
•  Decline the offer of returning $50,000 to taxpayers through a property tax rebate.
•  Place the remaining $160,980 (plus interest) — along with the $50,000 that had been proposed for the tax rebate — into a reserve fund to be used to refund, if needed, established accounts which may have been drawn down; to reduce the need to borrow money in anticipation of tax receipts to pay bills during the summer; and for new projects or initiatives in the future that would be voted on by the town at a regular or special town meeting.
Residents offered around 10 other ideas for use of some of the money, but those ideas were ultimately not brought to a vote, according to Weybridge Selectwoman Gale Hurd.
Those ideas included creating a local college scholarship fund and spending some of the money to make repairs to the town hall and library buildings, noted Town Clerk Scott Wales.
Hurd said the meeting was a prime example of democracy in action.
“It was an incredibly wonderful discussion,” Hurd said. “There were good ideas and opinions, and everyone got a chance to speak and be heard.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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