Chronology 2014: March
March is synonymous with Town Meeting Day, and Addison County residents made some major decisions at their respective annual gatherings.
Middlebury residents voted 915 to 798 in favor of a controversial $6.5 million plan to erect new municipal offices at 77 Main St. and a new recreation center off Creek Road. The proposal called for Middlebury College to assume $4.5 million of the project debt in exchange for the current municipal building site at 94 Main St. (to be turned into a public park) and a Cross Street lot to which the institution’s Osborne House was to be relocated from 77 Main St. Opponents were not yet done with their fight, however, as they supported a citizens’ petition that would force a May revote on the proposal. In a related vote, residents on the UD-3 school district communities of Middlebury, Cornwall, Bridport, Weybridge, Shoreham, Salisbury and Ripton voted by a combined 1,698 to 1,343 in favor of a 2,000-square-foot team rooms addition to be built onto the new recreation facility.
In all, 35 of the approximately 250 school budgets in the state were defeated in March — including ones in Ferrisburgh, Vergennes and Brandon. Lawmakers took this as an additional sign that Vermonters were feeling over-taxed, leading the Legislature to reignite the perennial debate around school financing reform. Evidence of residents’ lack of cash could be seen in the culmination of the United Way of Addison County’s 2013 fund drive, which lagged $100,000 short of its $725,000 goal in March.
Voters in the county’s shire town also decided a hotly contested seven-person race for three spots on the selectboard. Making the cut were incumbent Selectman Dean George and newcomers Laura Asermily and Brian Carpenter.
In elections in other area communities, Vergennes residents elected former mayor Michael Daniels, and incumbents Renny Perry and Lynn Donnelly from among five choices on the ballot for city council. In Bristol, voters elected Michelle Perlee over Kris Perlee in a race for the selectboard. Ferrisburgh elected Gloria Warden as its new town clerk and Garritt Smits as its treasurer.
Residents on Town Meeting Day endorsed most of their annual town and school budget proposals, but there were some exceptions. Addison Northwest Supervisory Union voters defeated the proposed $9.73 million Vergennes Union High School spending plan by a 961-747 tally. In Ferrisburgh, residents rejected their elementary school budget but agreed to provide additional support to the Bixby Library. Brandon residents voted down a proposed Neshobe School budget, as well as the municipal spending plan.
Town meeting also provided a forum for citizens in the communities of Monkton, Cornwall and Shoreham to voice their disapproval of the proposed Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project pipeline. But during a legislative luncheon held later in the month in Middlebury, Gov. Peter Shumlin reiterated his support for the project, stating his belief that it would deliver sorely needed economic development opportunities to Addison County and eventually Rutland County. A vast majority of those who attended the luncheon criticized the pipeline plan and the governor’s support of it.
Bristol Elementary officials in March decided to designate the interim leader — Sandy Jump — as full-time principal of the school. Also in Bristol, longtime town Administrator Bill Bryant announced his retirement. His successor would be a familiar face: Bristol Town Clerk Therese Kirby, who wouldn’t take over until the end of June.
Vergennes police had extra reason to be happy in March. That’s because the department moved into its new, 4,611-square-foot headquarters. Prior to that, the department had been squeezed into small space within the Vergennes City Hall.
The Little City was in planning mode in March, following a visit and a series of workshops through the Vermont Council on Rural Development. The workshops provided an opportunity for residents and officials to brainstorm on various projects and policies that could help Vergennes.
At Middlebury College, officials announced the institution was well on its way to achieving its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2016. The college in March also confirmed that it would be giving the Lazarus building at 20 Main St. to the town so that it could be demolished in order to widen the Printer’s Alley entrance to the Marble Works. The conveyance of that property had previously been contingent on the town signing over some its property off Bakery Lane to the college.
The town of Weybridge also had something to be proud of on the energy front. The community learned that it would receive a $10,000 grant for having finished first in a year-long, statewide “Home Energy Challenge,” during which Weybridge weatherized 18 homes and received pledges from 59 homeowners declaring an intent to follow through with a such a project.
Area road crews continued to contend with record snowfall that was stressing snowplow workers and busting municipal budgets. Frigid conditions and precipitation were also giving police all they could handle at accident scenes. The cold weather also created a late start to the maple sugaring season.
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