Contests set for Vergennes city council, VUES board seats
VERGENNES — The Vergennes Town Meeting Day ballot will offer two contested races, including a rematch of a 2012 contest decided by one vote, and a petitioned article.
It will not include Senior Alderman Randy Ouellette, who did not file a petition by Monday’s deadline and will step down after a decade.
One of the races is the second go-around between Susan Ferland and Cheryl Brinkman for the seat on the Vergennes Union Elementary School board now held by Ferland. Both are seeking a three-year term.
In 2012, Ferland, a former Addison Central School teacher, edged Brinkman, then an incumbent VUES and Addison Northwest Supervisory Board member, 329-328. Addison Superior Court eventually upheld the result.
Ferland more recently vocally and persistently opposed the proposed East Street preschool playground, one that aldermen eventually scaled back before submitting to the Vergennes Development Review Board.
She handed in the related petition on the ballot asking for a city-wide vote on the playground. It reads: “Should the City of Vergennes build a Toddler/Preschool park adjacent to the Sam Fishman Pool at Vergennes Memorial Park at a cost of $42,000, half of which would come from the city Water Tower Fund?”
Officials said that vote would be non-binding. City Manager Mel Hawley and others in December criticized the petition for not mentioning that the other half of the money would not come from the general fund budget, but from a state grant, and no direct taxpayer money would be used other than for ongoing maintenance.
Brinkman served several terms on the VUES board before losing her seat in 2012. She currently serves as the city’s representative on the Addison County Solid Waste Management District board.
A two-year term on the VUES board is also coming open; Sue Rakowski is running unopposed for that seat. City Hall officials said there are no seats opening on the Vergennes Union High School board.
Meanwhile, four candidates are vying for three two-year terms on the Vergennes City Council. Two are incumbents who have served multiple terms, Joe Klopfenstein and Lowell Bertrand, who was re-elected to the council in 2012 after losing in 2011.
Two newcomers, William Northrop and Jeffrey Fritz, are seeking the third seat now held by Ouellette, whose fifth two-year term expires in March.
Northrop is a 2008 VUHS graduate who is now the president of Young Democrats of Vermont and a former Democratic Party field organizer and childcare worker.
Fritz and his partner are best known in Vergennes for purchasing a large Victorian Main Street home in 2011 and renovating it before moving there from Washington State.
Ouellette, who notes he missed only two meetings in 10 years, said he chose not to run primarily because he sold his Vergennes business in 2011 and is now working for a Chittenden County firm. As well as wanting to focus on helping that company grow, he said not being in Vergennes fulltime means he cannot devote the time he would like to council issues.
“That was the biggest thing,” Ouellette said. “I don’t feel I can do the job as well as it needs to be done.”
Ouellette, who won’t rule out running again in the future, said his only regret has been city officials’ failure to get fair compensation from the state and federal governments for hosting Northlands Job Corps.
He believes the council has done a good job overseeing the city’s finances, including moving the sewer fund into the black and controlling municipal taxes.
“I’m proud of the fact that in 10 years we did not raise the tax rate much,” he said. “I was very proud to be on that board.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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