Petition filed for revote on Middlebury town office plan

MIDDLEBURY — Resident Howard “Skip” Brush and his helpers on April 3 successfully capped their petition drive aimed at forcing a reconsideration vote on a new Middlebury municipal building and recreation center. Brush filed the petition, bearing around 280 signatures, with the town clerk’s office with a few hours to spare.
“It was a nice effort by a lot of people,” Brush said of the petition drive. “This is something that had to be done.”
Middlebury Town Clerk Ann Webster said she would likely begin verifying the petition signatures against the town’s checklist on Monday, April 7. Brush and his supporters needed at least 230 valid signatures in order to force reconsideration of a March 4 vote at which Middlebury residents approved, by a 915-798 tally, a $6.5 million proposal to erect a new municipal building at 77 Main St. and a new recreation center off Creek Road. Middlebury College has agreed to underwrite $4.5 million of the $6.5 million in construction costs in exchange for the current municipal building/gym property at 94 Main St. and another town-owned parcel at 6 Cross St.
The college has said it will spend up to $1 million to clear the 94 Main property.
Brush opposes the project and is hoping residents defeat it at a reconsideration vote that could be held as soon as mid-May, according to Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay. The selectboard is scheduled to discuss Brush’s petition at its next meeting, this Tuesday, April 8, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building at 94 Main St. The board has 60 days in which to convene a special Australian ballot vote at which the project will be considered all over again.
Brush is hoping that residents defeat the current plan and give consideration to his own proposal that calls for new town offices and a senior center to be built at 105-111 Court St. and a new recreation facility to be added on to the Memorial Sports Center off Buttolph Drive. Brush’s plan has not been reviewed by town officials and will not be part of the reconsideration vote.
Rather, the question put to voters will simply be a yes or no vote on Article 6 just as that article was worded for the previous vote.
Based on election statutes for reconsideration initiatives, Webster said project opponents will not only have to score a win, but must exceed two-thirds of the number of votes that were cast in favor of the project back on March 4. Two-thirds of the prevailing 915 tallies registered on March 4 equates to at least 611 votes that the opponents will have to marshal on their side to vacate the previous vote, according to Webster.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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