Town Meeting 2014: Reports from 24 towns

Every year on or around the first Tuesday in March Vermonters gather with their neighbors to weigh in on town, school and highway budgets and to express their views on matters of local interest. The annual town meeting, which has been taking place for more than 250 years in many towns, is also a time for townspeople to re-establish relationships with those whom they see at the store or school drop-off.
We feature here capsule reports from the town meetings in the 23 municipalities in Addison County plus Brandon. Read about the issues discussed at your town meeting next week and take part in the civic life of your community.
You can view the PDF version of our paper, which has the town-by-town Town Meeting reports on pages 12A-18A, or read the town capsules below.
ADDISON — Addison residents on Town Meeting Day supported the town’s taking ownership of Addison’s former town hall and a spending measure that will allow study of a septic system site for that and other area buildings, including the town’s fire station and the Addison Community Baptist Church.
Addison residents in Australian balloting also backed all other proposed town spending measures, including town and Addison Central School budgets, a major culvert project, and all charitable contributions. There were no contested races for town offices.
By a tally of 180-130, residents supported the question of whether Addison should take “ownership and responsibility of the Town Hall and the land it sits on from the church by an agreement to supply the church a connection to the waste water system for the Town Hall? (Taking ownership enables the town to apply for grants toward the restoration of the building into Town Offices and meeting space.)”
The church referred to is the Addison Community Baptist Church, which now holds title to town hall and has agreed to give it to the town in exchange for septic service.
The related article asked if the selectboard could borrow up to $55,380 to fund a septic study, the first step in the process for providing that septic service and allowing the now vacant town hall’s restoration.
Voters backed that measure, 165-144.
Addison’s 140-year-old town hall has never had running water or septic, and Addison Town Hall Committee Chairman John Spencer has said the fire station and the current clerk’s office have questionable septic systems. 
According to Spencer, septic system construction, engineering, permitting and purchase of an easement for the site are estimated at $675,000, but he is optimistic the state will award Addison a grant for 35 percent of the tab, or $236,000.
The Town Hall Committee also has plans drawn up for a $1 million renovation of Addison Town Hall to replace what many believe is an increasingly inadequate town clerk’s office, which has little storage, office room and meeting space, and a nearly full vault. Experts have determined town hall’s structure is sound, and Spencer said grants would probably help pay for restoration.
Voters also backed what was, at least up front, a larger request: a five-year, $300,000 loan to replace a failed culvert on Townline Road. The vote for that proposal was 217-102.
The selectboard’s proposed $307,781 general fund budget prevailed, 232-86, and proposed road spending of $651,110 won backing, 243-77. Neither of those budgets saw major changes.
Residents backed an Addison Central budget proposal of about $1.534 million, 193-131. It called for a decrease of about 2 percent and for cutting a full-time teacher and the school’s part-time math instructor. Two classrooms will be merged to allow the teaching position cut.
There were no contested races on the ballot. Selectboard members Lisa Davis and Rob Hunt retained their seats, as did ACS board members Michele Kelly and Alison Martin.
No one filed a petition for Addison’s vacant seat on the Vergennes Union High School board. Town Clerk Marilla Webb said no write-in candidate garnered enough votes to earn the seat and a director will be appointed.
Among the charitable contributions residents saw on the Addison ballot was $25,967 for the Bixby Library in Vergennes. The selectboard opted to take the Bixby out of the budget and let voters decide whether Addison should support the library, and they did so by a 183-131 margin. All other nonprofit requests were also backed.
Addison residents voted against the proposed $9.73 million Vergennes Union High School budget, which went down to a 918-747 defeat.
They backed a $50,000 capital fund for VUHS, 165-152, but that proposition lost by six votes overall, 902-896. 
BRANDON — For only the third time in almost 50 years, Brandon has a new town clerk and treasurer, and the town budget went down with a thud.
By a wide margin, Sue Gage won the four-way race to replace longtime clerk and treasurer Bill Dick. Gage tallied 568 votes compared to 399 for Sara Johnston Stevens, 152 for town administrative assistant Anna Scheck, and 113 for former longtime selectman and interim town manager Richard Baker. The treasurer election results were similar: Gage (546), Stevens (399), Scheck (153), and Baker (124).
Baker also ran for two different selectboard seats, but came up short there as well. Incumbents Blaine Cliver (634) and Ethan Swift (658) were re-elected to one-year seats, and Maria Ammatuna (757) was elected to a three-year seat. Baker received 470 votes for the one-year seat and 421 for the three-year seat.
Dick White was re-elected to represent Brandon as an Otter Valley school board member. With declining enrollment, White is now the sole Brandon rep on the OV school board. Neshobe school board members Mike Lufkin, Devon Fuller and Debbie Boyce won unopposed.
The proposed $3,276,095 town budget, which carried a 14.8 percent spending increase, was soundly defeated by voters by a two-to-one margin, 817-399. Voters had a hard time with the almost 15 percent increase, which would have translated to an additional $200 in property taxes on a $200,000 home.
The Neshobe Elementary School budget was defeated by 62 votes, 638-576. The proposed $5,356,775 spending plan entailed a manageable 2.3 percent increase and a 4-cent increase in the school tax.
The Otter Valley school budget was approved, 1,152-1,062. The $10,525,717 budget is $16,351 lower than the current spending plan. The biggest cuts came with the elimination of the dean of students position and a $110,000 decrease in special education spending.
BRIDPORT — Bridport residents at their town meeting passed all of the money items on their warning, including their elementary school budget by a 115-99 tally.
Bridport Central School directors proposed a 2014-2015 spending plan of $1,464,069, representing a 0.78-percent increase compared to this year. But a decline in Bridport’s common level of appraisal, among other factors, are projected to result in a 13.64-percent increase in the town’s K-12 local homestead education property tax rate.
Residents agreed to borrow up to $200,000, to be amortized for up to five years, to purchase a dump truck, plow and sander. They also green-lighted the borrowing of up to $100,000 to buy a new tractor and roadside mower.
The proposed town/highway budget of $1,131,830 — down around $150,000 from this year’s spending plan of $1,284,914 — received approval. The amount to be raised by taxes is shown to increase from the current $706,549 to $987,105, owing to an accounting error made by town officials last year. Last year’s spending plan should have reflected a combined total of $230,000 in state and federal money Bridport received to replace a Middle Road culvert that had been destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene. But the selectboard, town auditor and treasurer did not pick up on the error, resulting in the appearance this year of a large tax increase.
Voters agreed to support their fire department to the tune of $12,500, and Town Line First Response for $8,000.
Area social services agencies received a combined total of $18,780 from Bridport voters this year.
Bridport had no contested elections this year. Earl Audet and Jerry Forbes were unopposed for terms of two years and three years, respectively, on the town selectboard. Selectman Steve Huestis decided not to run for re-election after more than two decades on the board.
Incumbent Rick Scott was alone in running for a two-year spot on the Bridport Central School board. A three-year term on the ballot had no takers.
BRISTOL — Voters in Bristol approved all 20 articles as warned at the annual town meeting Monday evening at Holley Hall, and in the one contested election a candidate named Perlee won.
Residents approved a number of fiscal items, including a highway budget of $714,268 and a general fund budget of  $714,435. The sum of all town expenditures totals $2,178,535, a 2.64 percent increase from the 2013-14 fiscal year. This translates into an estimated 2.95 percent property tax increase for residents. The town plans to generate $389,950 in non-tax revenue, leaving $1,788,535 to be footed by taxpayers.
Voters who reside in the police district also approved a budget for the Bristol Police Department of $366,256, by a vote of 166-105. This budget represents a 1.16 percent spending increase from the previous fiscal year. They also authorized the selectboard to purchase a new police cruiser, by a vote of 198-74. The funds for the new vehicle have already been raised.
Bristol residents at town meeting also OK’d:
•  A budget of $259,649 for the Arts, Parks and Recreation Department, $177,399 of which will be raised by taxes.
•  A budget of $122,128 for the Lawrence Memorial Library, all of which will be raised by taxes.
•  $13,000 to the Bristol Recreation Club, a private entity, to improve the facilities at the Bristol Recreation Field.
•  $10,105 to Addison County Transit Resources.
•  $12,000 to the Bristol Rescue Squad.
Voters also approved the Bristol Elementary School budget of $4,799,307 by a vote of 316-189. The budget represents a 1 percent decrease from the current fiscal year. Non-tax revenues are projected to fall 6.0 percent from the previous year, from $798,479 to $750,314. Per-pupil spending will increase 1.9 percent from $14,296 to $14,567. The estimated tax rate is $1.7085.
Residents also elected town officials. In the big race on the slate of candidates Michelle Perlee won a three-year term on the selectboard over Kris Perlee, 253-222. Michelle is married to Kris’s cousin.
Incumbent Sharon Compagna was uncontested for a two-year seat on the selectboard. Selectboard member Alan Huizenga decided not to seek another term.
Three people ran uncontested for seats on the Bristol Elementary School board. Incumbents Chris Crodin, Sheryl Thurber and Elin Melchior won re-election to one-year terms.
Three residents were chosen to represent Bristol on the Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School board. Carol Eldridge and Alicia Kurth won two-year terms, while Douglas Dewitt won a three-year term.
Fred Baser was elected town agent, town moderator and town school moderator. Chief Kevin Gibbs and Sgt. Randy Crowe were chosen for the town’s two constable posts. Frank Buonincontro will be the new grand juror.
Two candidates were chosen to be trustees of the Lawrence Memorial Library. Moira Garrity is was elected to the open three-year term, while Mary Yates was chosen for the two-year term.
Two candidates were chosen for the two town lister positions. Craig S. Scribner Sr. won the three-year gig, while Theresa Gile was chosen for the one remaining year of the other term. The vacancy was created when longtime lister Claire Scribner, Craig Scribner’s wife, died last year. 
CORNWALL — Most Cornwall voters apparently came to their town meeting on Monday evening with the goal of giving Vermont Gas Systems and the Vermont Public Service Board a very clear message: We don’t want the proposed natural gas pipeline to run through our town.
The message was delivered through the only paper ballot vote of the evening, which tallied a result of 126-16 on a resolution that stated the town’s opposition to the proposed Phase II of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project, a Vermont Gas pipeline that would run from Middlebury through Cornwall and Shoreham and under Lake Champlain to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
Before the vote, selectboard Chair Bruce Hiland told the approximately 150 people in attendance that Vermont Gas CEO Don Gilbert had been quoted as saying a silent majority in Cornwall and Shoreham supported the pipeline, and the Cornwall selectboard wanted to be able to show that wasn’t true.
“That’s why we put it on the ballot,” he said. “This allows the selectboard to take the gloves off.”
While the pipeline discussion and vote took up the most time, townspeople also talked a fair amount about what to do with a $132,000 surplus. One person suggested saving some of it to pay for an expert witness on pipeline issues in regulatory hearings. Residents in the end voted to use it to decrease taxes.
On the money items, Cornwall approved by voice vote a proposed general fund budget of $487,511; a highway budget of $394,450, up from $373,800; and a Bingham Memorial School spending plan of $1,451,290, a 5.31-percent increase compared to this year.
Other expenditures that were OK’d included $56,600 for the local fire department; $4,000 for the local library and a combined total of $22,103 to assist various Addison County nonprofits. Voters tabled a move to spend $15,000 to allow the fire department to install 9-1-1 signs for the remaining unmarked Cornwall residences while firefighters refined their estimates of the cost.
One of the few voice votes that drew any No’s was a measure near the end of the school meeting that would give the school board permission to sell the old, vacant town schoolhouse on South Bingham Street. The property has been assessed locally at $22,600. Some people thought it was worth a lot more than that. The measure passed.
There were no contested elections in this year’s ballot. Incumbent David Sears and newcomer Benjamin Marks won terms of three years and two years, respectively, on the selectboard.
No one has stepped forward to run for a two-year term on the local school board or the planning commission. The selectboard will appoint people to those positions.
Cornwall residents gave a nice round of applause thanking Judy Watts, who had served on the selectboard for several years and was not standing for re-election.
FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents on Town Meeting Day elected a new town clerk and treasurer, changed future town meetings from Tuesday mornings to Saturday morning, amended the selectboard’s proposed town budget, rejected in a tie vote a selectboard proposal to change the way the town will pay delinquent tax collector Chet Hawkins, and said no for the first time in recent memory to a proposed Ferrisburgh Central School budget.
Elected positions and school budgets — Ferrisburgh joined other Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns in voting down a Vergennes Union High School spending plan — were decided by daylong Tuesday Australian ballot in the central school gym, while town spending and other decisions were made from the floor of the school gym on Tuesday morning.
Write-in candidate Gloria Warden scored a decisive victory in the town clerk race, outpolling David Hawkins, 470-226. Warden’s husband, Jim Warden, had said he would step down from the selectboard after many years of service if she won election.
Gloria Warden also ran for treasurer, but lost a close race to Garrit Smits, 350-332. Both will work 20 hours a week under the budget approved by voters on Tuesday, although the selectboard put in a contingency fund in case it is necessary to increase their hours. Assistant clerk and treasurer Pam Cousino will continue to work full-time.
They replace outgoing town clerk and treasurer Chet Hawkins, who will retain his post as delinquent tax collector but retired from his combined full-time job. Hawkins was honored by Reps. Warren Van Wyck and Diane Lanpher at the meeting. Van Wyck read a joint House-Senate resolution they sponsored lauding Hawkins’ 35 years of service to Ferrisburgh, and Hawkins received a standing ovation.
By an overwhelming voice vote majority at Tuesday’s meeting, residents backed the switch to Saturday, which had been recommended by the central school board. That board pointed out that Tuesday meetings cancelled school, and a Saturday meeting at the school could also show off the facility to residents. No firm decision was made on whether to hold all votes at the nearby town office building, but town officials were leaning in that direction.
The selectboard had proposed paying a salary of up to $3,000 to Chet Hawkins to collect delinquent taxes. Previously, the town budgeted $14,000 for the position, and Hawkins made about $17,000 this past year by keeping the 8 percent late penalty for the money he collected, minus expenses. Selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said the town would pick up those expenses on top of the proposed salary, although that provision was not spelled out in the article.
The 116 residents at the meeting split evenly, 58-58, on the question, meaning the motion failed. The $3,000 line item remained unchanged in the budget, but officials said it would not affect the amount finally approved because Hawkins will be paid by revenue that is not in the budget, either.
In amending the budget, residents almost unanimously in a voice vote overruled the selectboard on Bixby Library funding. They added $13,559 to proposed Bixby support for a total of $52,559, in line on a per capita basis with other towns the library serves. Residents also overruled the selectboard in the same fashion with the same numbers in 2013.
With those discussions out of the way, residents backed a $1,674,338 town budget for the 2014-2015 year and then added another $30,840 in charitable contributions.
The resulting total of $1,705,178 increases spending by almost exactly $35,000. The expected tax hike to pay for town spending alone will be around a penny or a little less.
Ferrisburgh residents did not smile on school budgets, however.
The $3.62 million FCS budget proposal lost, 450-279, or about 62-38 percent. The budget called for an 11 percent increase, driven in part by a special education cost shift within Addison Northwest Supervisory Union.
But the board also proposed adding a new teacher and a modular classroom to help handle a large blended 5th- and 6th-grade class, a move that both ANwSU officials and the FCS administration did not endorse.
Voters did back FCS technology and capital improvement funds.
Ferrisburgh residents voted against the proposed $9.73 million VUHS budget, 435-294. Overall, that budget lost in the five ANwSU towns, 961-747.
A separate measure to start a $50,000 capital investment fund for VUHS lost in Ferrisburgh, 476-352, and failed overall by six votes, 902-896, despite winning approval in the other four ANwSU towns.  
Although there were no other contested races in Ferrisburgh, there will be new town school directors.
George Gardner earned a two-year seat on the FCS board as a newcomer. Running unopposed for another three years on the FCS board was incumbent Chris Kayhart.
Laurie Gutowski, Ferrisburgh’s longtime representative on the VUHS board, stepped down. No one filed for her seat, and the selectboard will appoint someone for a one-year term on that board.
Two incumbent selectmen ran unopposed for re-election: Warden did earn another three years, and Steve Gutowski received a two-year term. 
GOSHEN — In the one contested race in tiny Goshen, challenger David Bishop beat incumbent Irene Rubbins for a three-year seat on the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union School board, by a tally of 41-19. Incumbent Selectman David Gale was returned to his seat for a three-year term. He garnered all 57 votes cast.
Voters on Monday night passed the town’s general fund budget of $215,285 and the highway spending plan of $134,200 as warned. They also OK’d the school budget of $145,456.
There was a fair amount of discussion on the annual school audits, which cost $2,500 and cover all of 15 transactions, according to moderator Kevin O’Classen. Goshen is required by state law to perform the audits every year, and some believe that is not worth the expense to do it so often. A group of Goshen citizens have been in contact with state Rep. Willem Jewett and state Sen. Chris Bray about amending the law to ease up on the requirement. O’Classen said the citizens read aloud at Monday’s meeting emails from both Jewett and Bray that showed sympathy for the town’s situation, but O’Classen said they didn’t give any indication that a change would come any time soon.
In uncontested elections, the following won seats:
•  O’Classen, town and school moderator.
•  Barbara J. Brown, delinquent tax collector.
•  James Hayes, town agent and grand juror.
•  Lori Lovell, auditor.
•  Barbara Walsh, lister.
•  Tammy Walsh, trustee of public funds.
GRANVILLE — On Town Meeting Day, residents in Granville cast ballots on town offices and approved municipal, highway and school spending plans after amending them at town meeting.
When it came to town spending, selectmen presented a corrected general fund budget of $292,834 (it was $31,813 more than originally warned). That corrected municipal warning was then amended at the meeting to $290,334 after a $2,500 cut in funding to the fire department. That represented a spending increase of $29,313 from last year.
For the town highway, voters approved cutting about $10,756 out of the warned budget and approved spending of $110,300 on the road. That represents a decrease of about $9,000 from last year.
Citing additional tuition costs, the town passed an amended school spending plan of $627,361, an increase of $24,722 from the original amount recommended. School spending will be around $97,000 more next year than this year.
In a contested selectboard race, Michele Brown defeated Kevin Bradley, 29-13. Brown replaces Jackie Hammond, who did not seek reelection.
Other articles passed included:
•  $13,500 to purchase gravel from Granville Manufacturing Company Inc. to stockpile for use on town roads.
•  $20,000 to repay the local match of the FEMA expenses toward paying off a $121,816 loan.
•  Authorization for the selectboard to post the former Robert Akin property for sale.
The proposed upgrade to Old Stage Road from a Class 4 town highway to a maintained Class 3 town highway was tabled. 
HANCOCK — On Town Meeting Day, Hancock residents approved town spending that is lower than that approved last year and school spending that represents a substantial hike.
School directors asked for a big increase in spending on education. Hancock, of course, does not have its own school and pays the tuitions for local children to attend school in other towns. Last year voters on Town Meeting Day rejected a school spending proposal of $880,000. This year the approximately 40 voters at the Tuesday morning  meeting approved spending to the tune of $993,089. School directors pointed to increased costs for special education and tuition as drivers of the increase.
Residents by voice vote adopted Hancock’s proposed general and highway spending plan for 2014-2015 of $326,842, a decrease of 8.7 percent from the $356,277 spending plan approved last year.
Among individual appropriations, Hancock residents rejected a $31,654 appropriation for White River Valley Ambulance, and approved $2,460 for the Quin-Town Senior Center, and $1,475 for the Visiting Nurse Alliance of VT/NH Inc.
Town offices are filled at town meeting, some by paper ballot. John Ross was re-elected to a three-year term on the selectboard. Denise Chapin was tapped for the three-year term on the school board. Town Clerk and Treasurer Sara Deering was re-elected to both of those positions.
LEICESTER — Voters in Leicester this week approved the proposed school spending plan and town spending plan and even OK’d from the floor of Monday evening’s town meeting a proposal to spend an additional $20,000 on paving.
The selectboard and school directors in Leicester floated 2014-2015 budgets that propose single-digit spending increases. The Leicester Central School spending plan of $1,146,359 was OK’d by Australian ballot, 84-68. That represents an increase of $28,719, or 2.6 percent, over the school spending plan approved last April. Leicester defeated its proposed school budget on Town Meeting Day last year.
Voters also approved, 102-38, the appropriation of $5,000 to the Foxcroft Farm Program.
At Monday’s town meeting, voter’s OK’d a town/highway budget of $527,497, which is up $25,251, or 4.8 percent, over last year’s budget.
The town portion of the budget showed noteworthy increases in fire coverage, insurance, cemetery costs, and future audit fees. The largest increase in the town budget is due to an increase in the Fire Protection Contract with the Brandon Fire District. The 2012-2013 contract at $20,000 per year ran out on Dec. 31, 2013. The Brandon Fire District did a multi-year analysis of the actual calls associated with Leicester vs. other towns covered. It was determined that Leicester accounted for, on average, 16 percent of the calls. Based on the previous budgets, that would equate to about $34,000 per year. Negotiations between the Leicester selectboard and Brandon Fire Chief Wdowiak (and the Fire District Board) resulted in a three-year contract for $32,000 per year.
Incumbents were returned to their positions in uncontested elections. Those include Ron Fiske (selectboard, three years), Ken Young (selectboard, two years), Hannah Sessions (school board, three years), Matt Brush (school board, two years) and Julie Delphia (town clerk and treasurer, three years). Mark Raishart, the only newcomer on the ballot, won a three-year term on the Leicester Central School board.
Dianne Harvey was returned to a three-year term as lister. Five people received one or two write-in votes for the other open lister position, but a minimum of eight votes was required, so the selectboard will have to fill that position.
Delphia said the conversations at town meeting, in addition to the town budget, centered around mosquitoes, the proposed shoreline protection bill and a possible future natural gas pipeline.
LINCOLN — Lincoln voters passed all 21 articles they considered at Monday’s town meeting.
Residents amended the highway budget to reduce spending by $30,000, bringing the total to $997,043. Of that total, $776,720 will be raised by taxes. While still higher than the current year’s highway budget, it isn’t the 19 percent hike originally proposed. The amended budget was approved by voice vote.
The other big-ticket item, the General Fund budget of $332,239, which represents a 2.3 percent increase from the current fiscal year, was also approved. Of that sum, $248,781 will be raised from taxes.
Residents also OK’d the appropriation of:
•  $44,000 to the Lincoln Library.
•  $55,896 to the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Company.
•  $6,000 to the Bristol Rescue Squad.
•  $12,795 to a litany of social service agencies.
At the annual school portion of Monday’s meeting, voters approved an annual budget for the Lincoln Community School of $2,035,917, which represents a 6.9 percent spending increase from the previous fiscal year. The Mount Abraham Union High School spending plan of $14,091,304, a 2 percent increase from the previous fiscal year, also passed.
There were two contested races on the Lincoln ballot. For two one-year seats on the selectboard, incumbent Paul Forlenza and Will Sipsey, who served on the selectboard in the last decade, were elected with vote tallies of 261 and 215, respectively. Incumbent Elwin Isham fell short with only 92 votes. In the race for second constable, incumbent Mark Truax defeated Josh Otey, 156-142.
The following residents were elected to office unopposed: Will Sipsey for town and school district moderator, Sally Ober for town clerk, George Vince for grand juror and town agent, Lisa Trunchon for treasurer and lister, William Finger for selectboard (three years), Jen Oldham for Lincoln Community School board (three years), Mary Beth Stillwell for Lincoln Community School board (two years), Ari Kirshenbaum for Lincoln Community School board (to fill one year remaining on a three-year term), Sandra Lee for Mount Abraham Union Middle/High school board (three years), Jim Lienau and Ruth Shepherd for two seats as library trustees and Nancy Stevens as delinquent tax collector.
The auditor position remains vacant.
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents capped an extremely eventful Town Meeting Day, voting 915 to 798 for a $6.5 million bond issue to erect a new municipal building and recreation center, while also deciding some highly contested races for the selectboard and Mary Hogan Elementary School board.
Voters also on Tuesday approved bond issues of up to $200,000 and $500,000, respectively, to install a new roof at the Ilsley Library and to round out financing for a proposed tunnel that will replace the Merchants Row and Main Street railroad overpasses. The Ilsley roof bond passed by a 1,536 to 159 tally, while the tunnel bond was green-lighted by a 1,453 to 228 margin.
But the marquis item on Middlebury’s ballot was article 6, through which residents OK’d a much debated plan to build a new municipal building at 77 Main St. and a new recreation center off Creek Road (see related story).
A separate, petitioned article on the ballot (article 9) that sought support for rebuilding the municipal building and gym complex at its current location at 94 Main St. failed by a 955 to 731 tally. Middlebury residents Michael and Judy Olinick spearheaded the effort to get that question on the ballot to reflect some residents’ desire to keep those facilities where they are.
Brian Carpenter and Laura Asermily prevailed in a six-person race for two three-year terms on the Middlebury selectboard. Carpenter was the top vote-getter with 810 tallies, while Asermily recorded 654. Finishing out of the running were incumbent Selectman Craig Bingham with 460 votes, Ted Davis with 454, John Freidin with 394, and Eric Murray, who notched 228.
Meanwhile, selectboard Chairman Dean George won re-election for a one-year term, defeating challenger Heather Seeley by a 960 to 662 margin. A separate story on the Middlebury selectboard race can be found on Page 1A.
In a four-person race for three, three-year terms on the Mary Hogan Elementary board, candidates Amy Graham (873 votes), Jim Callahan (848), and incumbent Lorraine Gonzalez Morse (776) made the cut. Candidate Jennifer McCarty finished out of the running with 732 tallies.
At their annual gathering on Monday evening, more than 250 Middlebury residents turned out to approve a proposed 2014-2015 municipal budget of $9,153,360, representing a 2.2-percent spending increase compared to this year. The spending plan passed by a resounding voice vote following little debate.
Residents on Monday also agreed, by voice vote, to allow the selectboard to borrow up to $322,000 over five years to replace a police cruiser and related equipment; a medium-duty plow truck and related equipment; and a sidewalk snow plow and related equipment. Residents defeated a proposed amendment that would have required the selectboard to purchase the sidewalk snow plow from a “local” vendor. Residents were concerned about how the board might be asked to define “local” and whether a local vendor should be picked at any cost. Town officials added they might not choose to buy a new sidewalk snow plow, but rather lease equipment.
Middlebury’s current sidewalk snow plow has not functioned to the highway department’s expectations, according to town officials.
Monday’s annual meeting lasted from 7:10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Attendees spent much of the time discussing the following day’s Australian ballot articles, particularly article 6. The meeting also included a 30-minute presentation on the Main Street-Merchants Row rail tunnel, an $18 million project that engineers believe will start late this spring. The town will apply for grants to lessen the $500,000 local share of the project that voters approved on Tuesday.
MONKTON — At Monkton’s town meeting Tuesday morning, voters made it clear by voice vote that they denounce the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project that Vermont Gas has received state permission to lay through the town (see story, Page 1A).
Also at the meeting, 408 voters cast ballots at the town’s elementary school. Voters approved article 6, which appropriated funds for town expenses such as salaries, highway expenses, and the Monkton Volunteer Fire Department, after amending it slightly. Highway expenses were lowered by about $20,000, which brought the total town expenses down to $1,149,072 from $1,170,332.
Voters also approved:
•  The appropriation of $21,224 for social service agencies such as the Bristol Rescue Squad, Green Up Vermont and the Homeward Bound Humane Society.
•  The establishment of a $3,500 salary to compensate the town collector of delinquent taxes.
•  The appropriation of not more than $100,000 to purchase a new bucket loader.
Voters approved a new town plan, by an Australian ballot vote of 262-131. The old plan expired in 2012.
Residents also elected town officials. There was only one contested race on the ballot — two spots on the Monkton Central School board, both one-year terms. Incumbents Marikate Kelley and Jennifer Stanley were re-elected with 231 and 239 votes, respectively. Newcomer Bailee Layn-Gordon came up short with 206 votes.
Kristin Blanchette was unopposed for a three-year term on the local school board.
Anne Layn won a three-year term on the Monkton selectboard, and Henry Boisse earned another two years on the selectboard.
The following residents were elected unopposed: Kenneth Wheeling for town moderator and school moderator, John Howard for lister, Ivor Hughes for the one-year planning commission term, Janet Cassarino for auditor, Wendy Sue Harper for the three-year planning commission term, Sharon Gomez for town and school clerk, Charles Huizenga Sr. for constable, Gretchen Beaupre and Suzanne Ledoux for three-year library trustee terms, and William Joos for town and school treasurer and also delinquent tax collector. No candidate appeared on the ballot for grand juror or town agent.
Voters also approved an elementary school budget of $2,578,248, which represents a decrease of 1.16 percent from the previous fiscal year, by a vote of 221-187. The new budget will necessitate a tax rate of about $1.9069.
New Haven
NEW HAVEN — Voters in New Haven approved all 27 town meeting articles as warned. A total of 337 voters turned out.
The big-ticket items, the road fund and general fund budgets, both passed. The road fund budget is $1,178,673, of which $595,237 will be raised by taxes, is nearly 8 percent lower than the budget for the current fiscal year. It passed 259-69.
The proposed general fund budget of $660,764, more than half of which will be raised by taxes, is just less than 2 percent higher than the budget for the current fiscal year. It passed 255-70. Voters also approved:
•  $1,075 for John W. Graham Emergency Shelter services.
•  $4,211 for Addison Country Transit Resources to improve public transportation in the town.
•  $1,250 for WomenSafe Inc. to support its mission to eliminate physical, sexual and emotional violence against women and children.
Residents also elected town officials. In the only contested race, Heather Morse defeated Karen Gallott for town lister. Neither were incumbents. Two vacancies on the library board of trustees went unfilled.
Residents ran unopposed for the following offices: Sylviasue Ford for delinquent tax collector, Earl Bessette and Tim Bouton for grand jurors, Pam Marsh for moderator, Carole Hall for the selectboard (two years), Doug Tolles for the selectboard (three years), and Tim Bouton for town agent.
No candidates filed for vacancies on the Beeman Elementary and Mount Abraham Union Middle/High school boards.
The spending plan for Beeman Elementary, which passed 227-110, is 4.93 percent less than last year, and is slightly less than $1.8 million. Revenue is expected to fall 19.66 percent from last year, from $393,946 to $316,501. Per-pupil spending will increase 2.68 percent from $14,800 to $15,196. The school budget will necessitate a school tax rate of $1.5966.
ORWELL — It was a relatively quiet town meeting in Orwell, with no contested elections and what selectboard chairman Rolland “Ted” Simmons called “normal, small-town discussions.”
Voters decided to buy a new road grader rather than spend $50,000 to fix the 32-year-old machine they had. Selectmen will call another town meeting when they figure out how much another grader will cost and make a plan for financing it. They’ve seen estimates of $180,000 to $200,000.
The village school budget passed on a paper ballot, 77-27, and the town budget passed on a voice vote. The Orwell Village School spending plan for the coming year is $1,709,645, which represents an increase of $13,270, or less than 1 percent, from last year. The municipal spending plan is slightly lower than the $973,176 plan that voters OK’d at last year’s town meeting.
Voters did not say yes to all spending proposals. Residents rejected a request by the fire department for $15,000 to repave the concrete in front of the relatively new fire station. Simmons said townspeople may reconsider when that station is paid off in a couple years.
PANTON — Panton residents in Tuesday Australian balloting backed a charter change that will make the town’s clerk, treasurer and delinquent tax collector appointed positions in the future, a measure that remains subject to approval of the Vermont Legislature.
The vote in favor of a proposal made by the selectboard was 62-35. The board had maintained it should have more control over town employees and said the measure would allow the town’s governing body to make sure those employees are qualified.
Residents from the floor of Tuesday’s town meeting backed essentially level-funded town spending proposals and filled expiring terms on several boards.
Earning support was the selectboard’s proposed town budget of $603,961, which was up by about $2,000 from a year ago, and $59,000 in five Town Reserve Funds, the most notable of which were $20,000 apiece for highway equipment and capital projects and $15,000 for Panton Town Hall restoration.
Also backed were $8,551 of charitable requests. 
Returned to office were current selectboard chairman John Viskup, Vergennes Union Elementary School director Jason Fearon, auditor J. Douglas Dows, Vergennes-Panton Water District commissioner Meddie Perrie, and listers Cheryl McEwen and Beverly Biello.
Voters in Panton, Waltham and Vergennes backed the $4.26 million VUES spending plan, 357-298, in commingled balloting. That proposed budget called for a spending increase of about $178,000, or 4.34 percent.
Voters also backed $15,000 for the annual VUES capital improvement fund request, $10,000 less than a year ago.
Panton residents voted against the proposed $9.73 million Vergennes Union High School budget, 64-37. Overall, that budget lost in the five Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns, 961-747.
A separate measure to start a $50,000 capital investment fund for VUHS won 59-42 approval in Panton, but failed overall by six votes, 902-896.
RIPTON — Ripton residents at their town meeting re-elected longtime incumbent Selectwoman Laureen Cox to another three-year term in office, but declined to add two new positions to the selectboard.
Cox bested challenger Perry Hanson by a 91-40 tally.
A petitioned article requesting an expansion of the Ripton selectboard from the current three to five members was defeated by a 41 to 27 margin by paper ballot at Monday’s annual meeting.
In other elections, Laura McIntosh and Giles Hoyler ran unopposed for terms of three years and two years, respectively, on the local school board. Incumbent UD-3 school board member Jerry Shedd had no challengers for another three-year term on the UD-3 board.
Ripton is transitioning to a fiscal year budgeting system. The proposed highway budget of $349,650 and requested general fund spending plan of $382,652 reflect 18 months of expenses (not the usual 12 months) and both passed by voice vote, according to Town Clerk Sally Hoyler.
Also passing by voice vote was the 2014-2015 Ripton Elementary School spending plan of $894,399, representing a 10.57-percent increase compared to this year. Part of Ripton’s budget increase is associated with debt service on its new roof and solar panel project, OK’d by voters last year.
Ripton voters also agreed to:
•  Appropriate $54,500 to support Ripton Fire and Ripton First Response.
•  Dissolve the defunct Ripton Cemetery Association and create a new commission that will oversee the community’s four public cemeteries. Elected (unopposed) as cemetery commissioners were Charles Billings, Lisa Knickerbocker, Elizabeth Walker, Cheryl Larocque and Bonnie Swan.
•  Allocate a combined total of $15,730 in support for various Addison County-based nonprofits.
•  Transfer up to $42,300 from the education reserve fund to the school’s general fund.
SALISBURY — Salisbury residents on Tuesday elected challenger Martha Sullivan over incumbent Selectman Jack Beasley and decided two other contested races in Town Meeting Day voting.
Sullivan defeated Beasley, a longtime incumbent, by a 130 to 90 tally. Meanwhile, incumbent Town Moderator Wayne Smith out-polled challenger Mary Anne Sullivan, 175 to 48, and incumbent Lister Daniel Kuczynski turned back a challenge from Mary Anne Sullivan, 144 to 73.
Selectman John Rouse and Salisbury School Director Craig Carpenter had no challengers for two-year terms on their respective boards. A three-year term on the Salisbury school board had no takers, while Timothy Ryan had no competition for a one-year term on that panel.
Residents endorsed the proposed general fund budget of $202,067 by a 183 to 43 tally. That budget is up from the current spending plan of $189,915. The proposed highway budget of $392,359 received a nod by a 191 to 35 margin. That spending plan was up slightly from the current budget of $390,878.
The other major money item on the warning was a request for up to $141,200 in financing for a 2015 International dump truck for the highway department. That passed comfortably, 177 to 48. The purchase will be made through a combination of a low-interest loan from the state, a commercial bank loan and money from the town’s equipment reserve fund.
Residents also agreed, by a 142 to 82 margin, to spend $7,500 to hire a consultant to help plan the next steps in renovating Salisbury’s town hall. That consultant will prepare a financing plan and grant application material to maximize the potential for federal, state and private grants to help underwrite costs of a project.
The proposed 2014-2015 Salisbury Community School budget of $1,624,142, representing a 4.08-percent increase compared to the current year, passed by a 66-18 paper ballot vote.
Salisbury’s annual school warning also featured three other successful articles. One sought permission for the school to borrow, at no interest, $28,000 from Green Mountain Power’s Evergreen Fund to retrofit Salisbury Community School’s building with energy efficient lighting. Another article sought use of up to $30,000 in school reserve funds to perform restroom renovations. And the third article sought to consolidate the school’s education reserve funds into a single account.
In other town meeting-related business, Salisbury voters supported:
•  $33,000 for the town fire department.
•  A combined total of $33,685 for various Addison County-based nonprofits.
SHOREHAM — At town meeting this week, Shoreham residents approved measures relating to the town’s municipal, road and school budgets, as well as an article opposing the proposed Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project.
Several town offices changed hands in contested elections on Tuesday.
On the selectboard, Loren Wood defeated incumbent Paul F. Saenger, 208 to 226, for a one-year seat, and incumbent Robert Warren defeated challenger Barbara Wilson, 197-90, for a two-year seat.
Challenger Lance Wood will replace incumbent Michelle Matot for a two-year term as a school director after Wood garnered 138 votes and Matot got 130. School board member DeAnn Flagg was uncontested for a three-year seat.
Kathleen Brisson was elected to replace Marion Paquette as town treasurer, 181 to 99.
Town Clerk Julie Ortuno retained her job.
On Monday evening, 149 residents gathered in the gymnasium of the Shoreham Elementary School and voted, 61-41, in favor of a local school budget of $1,497,832, a 2.04 percent increase compared to this year and the lowest increase in all of the Addison Central Supervisory Union. The budget also includes $9,500 for a new Internet service provider that would increase bandwidth to the school. According to district figures, the school budget is expected to drive a $61.92 tax increase per $100,000 in property value.
The town also voted to consolidate an estimated balance of $69,848 in the capital improvement fund into a single education reserve fund. Residents allotted $20,000 in unassigned funds from fiscal year 2013 for use in a new boiler at the elementary school.
In additional projects, the town voted to borrow up to $18,000 in interest-free funds from Green Mountain Power over five years for an energy efficiency retrofit at the elementary school. The project will install banked lighting and additional light switches.
At Monday’s town meeting, voters OK’d a municipal highway budget of $633,340, up from the $613,114 approved by voters last year. The town also approved a municipal budget of $267,219. Selectboard chair Paul Saenger cited costs associated with library improvements, health insurance, liability and fire insurance, legal fees, drainage, fire department vehicle repair and electricity and maintenance at the new conservatory building as justification for the increase of over $20,000.
The town also approved $8,500 to a reserve fund for fire/rescue vehicles and equipment as well as another $8,500 to the general fund for a total of $17,000 up from $10,000 in years past. The fire department was allocated $11,170 as part of the municipal budget for vehicle repair. The fire department anticipates the purchase of a new pump truck in 2018.
The town also approved $4,500 for fireworks for the annual Shoreham Festival.
In money ballot requests, voters approved $19,280 to be distributed in various requested amounts to 21 nonprofits.
Other items OK’d included up to $200,000 for a new road grader with $110,000 of the expense to be financed over five years, $20,000 to be paid through new taxes and the balance to be paid with money from other highway department accounts. The new John Deere grader will cost $189,000 after trade-in and installation of scarification equipment. The current grader has seen 450 to 500 hours of usage every year since it was purchased in 1991.
Citing a lack of prepared zoning regulations, the town voted to table approval of new regulations. The town also voted to table articles that would require votes by Australian ballot to change the town plan and town bylaws.
The final four items, concerning the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, received the most discussion. Residents voted 66-38 in a nonbinding resolution against the pipeline.
“Given that it’s on the warning, it’s a statement of the community’s opinion,” said state Rep. Will Stevens and moderator for the town meeting. “It’s not directing the selectboard, it’s taking the pulse of the community.”
While a majority of speakers spoke against the project, much of the discussion revolved around the next step, with voters weighing options of whether to postpone giving a decision on the pipeline until after the first Vermont Public Service Board public hearing on the project and whether the selectboard should delay, until after the first PSB hearing, negotiating a memorandum of understanding with Vermont Gas related to the pipeline.
Saenger spoke in opposition to negotiating a memorandum of understanding after the PSB hearing.
“I’ve never been able to negotiate something at the last minute to the best of my ability as I have when I’ve had lots of time to prepare,” he said. “By going after the first PSB meeting, I think we put ourselves at a disadvantage.”
Voters defeated the article to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Vermont Gas after the first PSB hearing by voice vote.
Residents tabled a proposal to hold a public meeting on a memorandum of understanding before being signed by the selectboard, and a third proposal to postpone any decision to support or oppose the project until after the first PSB hearing.
STARKSBORO — Starksboro voters on Saturday approved all 13 articles as warned at their annual meeting, held at Robinson Elementary School.
Residents by voice vote approved a general fund budget that expends $735,262, less $202,050 in revenue and a previous surplus of $21,271, for a total amount of $511,941. This is a  $9,612 increase from the previous fiscal year.
Residents also approved:
•  $31,970 for the Fire Equipment Reserve Fund.
•  $90,570 for the Road Equipment Reserve Fund.
•  A proposed budget of $2,650,857 for Robinson Elementary School.
•  Permitting the Robinson Elementary school board to issue bonds not to exceed $100,000 to finance the cost of roof repairs to be repaid over five years.
Residents also elected town officials by Australian ballots.
There were no contested races in Starksboro this year. Candidates were elected to the following positions: Dan Dubenetsky for town and school district moderator, Daniel Harris and Daniel Nugent for two positions on the planning commission, Eric Cota for constable, Jim Runcie for town agent, Peter Marsh for the selectboard (three years), Louis Dupont for Robinson Elementary school board, Jacob Hansen for lister, Bonita Bedard and Jodi Bachand for two positions on the Mount Abraham Union Middle/High school board, Amy McCormick for delinquent tax collector, Peter Ryersbach for auditor (three years), Norman Cota for cemetery commissioner and Judith Kessler and Chris Runcie for two positions as library trustees.
The positions of grand juror, second constable, and auditor (two-year term) remain vacant.
Residents by voice vote adopted a budget for Robinson Elementary School of $2,650,857, an increase of 2.48 percent from previous year. Non-tax revenue is projected to decrease from last year, from $430,319 to $384,810. Per-pupil spending will increase 9.28 percent from $13,065 to $14,277. The school tax rate will be about $1.6646.
VERGENNES — Former Vergennes Mayor and Alderman Michael Daniels and incumbent Aldermen Renny Perry and Lynn Donnelly on Tuesday won a five-way race for three seats on the Vergennes city council.
Daniels earned 345 votes to lead balloting. Perry, a former Vergennes city manager, finished second with 295 votes, while Donnelly, who was appointed to the council a year ago, came in third with 277.
Clara “Ziggy” Comeau, a real estate broker and former city zoning board member who was first appointed to the council in 2005, polled 177 votes. Peter Garon, who served a two-year term on the council between 2011 and 2013, received 144 votes.
One other race was contested: Incumbent Vergennes Union High School director Chris Cousineau turned back a write-in challenge from former Addison Northeast Supervisory Union business manager Greg Burdick, 280-126.
Winning without opposition were incumbent Vergennes Union Elementary School board director Tara Brooks, lister Karen Quigley and grand juror Michelle Eastman. Patricia Ganson was on the ballot for the Vergennes-Panton Water District board, where she will be joined by successful write-in candidate Jeffrey Fritz.
All charitable contributions earned support. Aldermen will craft the city’s 2014-2015 budget in June.
Voters in Panton, Waltham and Vergennes backed the $4.26 million VUES spending plan, 357-298, in commingled balloting. That proposed budget called for an increase of about $178,000, or 4.34 percent.
Voters also backed $15,000 for the annual VUES capital improvement fund request, $10,000 less than a year ago.
Vergennes residents voted against the proposed $9.73 million Vergennes Union High School budget, 248-227. Overall, that budget lost in the five Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns, 961-747.
A separate measure to start a $50,000 capital investment fund for VUHS won 274-198 approval in Vergennes, but failed overall by six votes, 902-896. 
WALTHAM — About three-dozen Waltham residents on Monday approved town spending proposals and returned incumbents to office.
They backed by voice vote the selectboard’s proposal for $95,869 of general fund spending, an amount that as well as operating town offices included separate articles asking for $9,205 for the Bixby Library and $3,459 for other charitable requests. Officials said the overall figure increased somewhat from current levels, in part because of a hike in the cost of Waltham’s fire protection contract with Vergennes.
The board’s road spending proposal, up just slightly to $170,825, also passed by voice vote.
Residents were also asked if they wanted to use $26,911 “from the carryover balance” to reduce their 2014-2015 town tax levy. Town Clerk Mary Ann Castimore said the selectboard at town meeting told residents the exact amount of that carryover could not be determined, but residents OK’d an amended measure to allow the board to use a yet-to-be-determined amount to lower taxes.
Officials had said if they choose to apply a $26,911 carryover to tax reduction, the municipal portion of the town’s tax rate would rise by 1 cent.
Waltham chose its elected officials from the floor of town meeting. Mike Grace was returned to the selectboard, and Chris Huston was returned to the board of listers. Castimore, also the assistant treasurer, and Treasurer and Assistant Clerk Lucille Evarts, both of whom were appointed this past summer to replace Mary Kinson, were also both elected. 
Voters in Waltham, Vergennes and Panton backed the $4.26 million Vergennes Union Elementary School spending plan, 357-298, in commingled balloting. That proposed budget called for an increase of about $178,000, or 4.34 percent. Voters also backed $15,000 for the annual VUES capital improvement fund request, $10,000 less than a year ago.
Waltham residents voted against the proposed $9.73 million Vergennes Union High School budget, 43-37. Overall, that budget lost in the five Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns, 961-747.
A separate measure to start a $50,000 capital investment fund for VUHS won 46-34 approval in Waltham, but failed overall by six votes, 902-896. VUHS must also retire a major deficit due to unanticipated special education spending, and its declining enrollment is pushing per-pupil spending higher.
WEYBRIDGE — Weybridge voters on Town Meeting Day decided two contested elections and passed all the money items on their warning.
Daniel James bested Abe Miller, 114-97, in the race for a two-year seat on the town selectboard. Selectwoman Gwendolyn Nagy-Benson was unopposed for a one-year term while Donald Mason had no challengers for a three-year term.
The successful candidates will succeed three veteran officials who decided not to run for re-election: Selectwoman Gail Hurd and Selectmen Peter James and Steve Smith.
The other contested race was somewhat unexpected. Resident Megan Sutton waged — and won — a write-in campaign for library trustee, beating incumbent Joan Jordon, 106-99, according to Town Clerk Scott Wales.
In uncontested elections, Justin Perdue and Eric Bowdish won terms of two years and three years, respectively, on the Weybridge Elementary School board.
Voters endorsed, by voice vote at Monday evening’s meeting, the proposed highway budget of $400,210, and the general fund budget of $98,838.
Also earning support by voice vote was the 2014-2015 Weybridge Elementary budget of $1,042,710, which represents a 9.31-percent increase in spending compared to this year.
Other requests on Weybridge’s 2014 town meeting agenda that earned support included:
•  $20,000 for fire protection.
•  $13,000 to sponsor the volunteer recycling program.
•  $75,000 to repave roughly half a mile of municipal roads.
•  Up to $15,000 to buy a new lawn mower/sweeper for the highway department. That money is to be borrowed from the highway equipment fund.
•  A combined total of $20,669 to support various Addison County nonprofits.
WHITING — Grace Simonds arrived at the Whiting Town Hall before 10 a.m. on Tuesday to open the polls for voting on the Otter Valley Union High School budget, and she didn’t leave the place until town meeting ended at 10:15 p.m. That’s quite a workday for a lady who has been town clerk and treasurer in Whiting for 33 years.
Gale Quenneville was elected as Simonds’ replacement at the town meeting. Quenneville won the clerk’s job on a voice vote, but Whiting voters picked her as town treasurer on a paper ballot, 40-10 over Stacey Freeguard.
Other seats in town government were won by incumbents Steve Quenneville (selectboard), Ellen Kurrelmeyer (OV school board), Carol Brigham (three years on the Whiting Elementary School board) and Cady White (three years on the Whiting school board).
Voters chose to reduce their local school board from five members to three.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t love their school. In fact, residents added $26,800 to the proposed elementary school budget in order to restore the preschool classes that the board had cut out of the budget to keep costs down. In the end, Whiting OK’d an elementary school spending plan of $612,360. Simonds said there was a great deal of discussion on the school budget (the town/school meeting ran more than three hours).
Whiting approved the proposed municipal budget of $290,591, of which $158,026 will be raised by taxes. That will double the town’s tax rate to 54 cents.
Still waiting to get her supper at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Simonds said she will offer all the assistance she can to Gale Quenneville. “I’ve got a lot of things I want to do,” Simonds said, looking to the future. When asked about the end of her long tenure as clerk, she said, “I’m feeling OK about it.”

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