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Town Meeting Preview 2015: Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s 2015 town meeting will seem like a ho-hum affair compared to last year’s edition, which featured a vote on a controversial, $6.5-million town offices/recreation center project and an eight-person field competing for three seats on the selectboard.
No such excitement this year.
Middlebury voters will gather in the town gym for their annual meeting on March 2 at 7 p.m.  to dispense with seven largely perfunctory articles. The most noteworthy article is a municipal budget request of $9,949,155, which is up 6.7 percent compared to the current spending plan of $9,325,048. It should be noted that around 50 percent of that increase is related to debt service on the soon-to-be built new town offices and recreation center, Ilsley Library repairs, and the recent makeover of the Middlebury and East Middlebury fire stations.
Contracted salary increases and benefits are the other major drivers for the proposed budget, which if approved would add 3.8 cents to the current municipal tax rate of 94.03 cents per $100 in property value.
The other money-related article on this year’s warning seeks permission for the town to take out a loan of up to $117,000 to finance two new police cruisers and related equipment, a one-ton dump truck for the highway department, and a pick-up truck for the Vehicle & Equipment Department.
There could be some interesting discussion under “other business” at the Monday evening gathering. That’s when town officials will be able to give updates on, among other things, the town office/recreation facility projects; a proposal to replace the Main Street and Merchants Row rail overpasses; and plans to develop a piece of town-owned land off Bakery Lane, behind the Ilsley Library. Residents will also be invited to discuss a citizen’s suggestion that selectboard members receive an increase in their annual stipend. The board is also seeking public support in eliminating the position of elected auditor, noting no one runs for that job in an era when the town’s books receive a professional audit.
This the first year that various human services agency officials will be asked to describe the services they provide thanks to the annual financial contribution they receive through the town of Middlebury.
On Tuesday, March 3, Middlebury voters will field a ballot that features one contested race, for a three-year term on the Mary Hogan Elementary School board. That race involves residents Leslie Bodette and Elaine Orozco Hammond.
Incumbent Selectwomen Susan Shashok and Donna Donahue are unopposed in their respective bids for new three-year terms. Selectman Chairman Dean George also has no challengers in his quest for another year on the panel.
In other uncontested elections:
•  Chris Watters is seeking a three-year term on the Ilsley Library Board of Trustees.
•  Incumbent Mark Perrin, incumbent Robert Ritter and Steve Orzech are all seeking three-year terms on the UD-3 school board, which governs Middlebury Union middle and high schools.
•  Hudson Tilford is seeking a three-year term as lister.
The annual town meeting will be held on Monday, March 2, at 7 p.m. in Middlebury’s municipal gym. Australian ballot voting will take place the next day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the same location.

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