BRISTOL — Town Meeting Day in Bristol saw selectboard Chair Michelle Perlee retain her seat against challenger Lance Laliberte, approval of nearly $2 million in town spending and Bristol residents OK’d revised zoning regulations that were five years in the making. Sidewalk repair and school board salaries were the focus of the most discussion on the floor of town meeting Monday evening at Holley Hall.
Perlee defeated challenger Laliberte, 354-239. Selectman John “Peeker” Heffernan won unopposed as did all other Bristol town officials, including Jen Myers, town clerk, town treasurer and delinquent tax collector; Fred Baser, town moderator; and Anne Wallace, library trustee.
The revised zoning regulations are designed to increase housing nearer to the village center and increase economic opportunities across all zones, while protecting agricultural and forest land and preventing sprawl.
Voters on Town Meeting Day also readopted Bristol’s 2012 town plan, minus the now-obsolete 2012 zoning maps. The 2012 plan was set to expire in November, but with voter readoption will now be valid through 2022. The planning commission will next turn its attention to revising that document, said Chair Sue Kavanagh.
The Bristol Elementary School spending plan of $4,719,558 for 2017-2018 passed with 57 percent of votes in favor (357-265).
Also on Town Meeting Day, Bristol together with the other four towns of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union approved the $12,261,839 Mount Abraham Union High School spending plan, 1,333-796, with all ballots commingled. The Mount Abe budget represents an 8.42 percent spending decrease from the current academic year. The budget includes $1 million to fix the aging Mount Abe building.
On the floor of town meeting Monday night, voters approved as proposed:
• A General Fund Operating budget of $933,401.
• A Highway Fund Operating budget of $775,523.
• An Arts, Parks and Creations department budget of $250,195.
The General Fund passed without discussion. Questions were asked about why the budget and staff hours were decreased for The Hub Teen Center. But what gathered likely the night’s lengthiest discussion was the state of and funding for Bristol’s sidewalks.
Voters described a number of sidewalks that flooded or were hard to use because of snow plowing or for other reasons, and asked about whether a Pine Street sidewalk was in the works.
Selectmen Peeker Heffernan and Joel Bouvier explained that repairs were scheduled for this June and July, drawing on the 2016-2017 and the 2017-2018 town budgets.
Voters then amended article 10 to address the sidewalk issue. As warned that article proposed appropriating a total of $300,000 to a number of town reserve funds, including a “Capital Road Fund — Construction” for $35,000.
The amendment renamed that particular reserve fund the “Capital Road and Sidewalk Fund — Construction,” allocated $40,000 (rather than $35,000), and stipulated that at least 10 percent of that reserve fund be used to repair Bristol’s sidewalks. This changed the total approved for all reserve funds in article 10 to $305,000.
A lengthy discussion also ensued over what to pay school directors. The ANeSU central office had hoped to simplify accounting and switch from the current $500 annual stipend plus $15/meeting to a stipend only. The amount was finally approved at $1,000/year for ordinary board members and $1,200/year for the chair, with no per-meeting payments.
Selectboard stipends had been approved earlier in the evening at the current rate of $500/year plus $15/meeting with no discussion.
Bristol residents also took time at different points throughout the evening to honor community members.
Bristol Elementary School Principal Kevin Robinson drew applause when he praised school staff, saying: “We’re very fortunate to have a staff that truly cares about making a difference. And I assure you that your tax dollars are applied in a way you can be proud of.”
Local school board member Allison Sturtevant praised retiring teachers Mary-Jane Broughton, Kathleen McKennan, Andrea Halnon and Carol Spaid, and counselor Jere Urban.
“We are very blessed. We have a tremendous treasure here in Bristol,” said Sturtevant, drawing applause for the Bristol Elementary retirees and their contribution to the community.
Townspeople also learned that Town Administrator Therese Kirby would be leaving her position at the end of June. Kirby began as assistant town clerk in 2005, was elected town clerk in 2007 and became town administrator in 2014. Kirby and her husband, Dave Kirby, plan to move to Brookfield.
Kirby received a standing ovation for her service to Bristol and reminded folks that they will continue to see her at work in the town office through the end of June.