Shashok claims seat as vice chair of board

MIDDLEBURY — After two rounds of voting on Tuesday evening, the Middlebury selectboard emerged with a new vice chairwoman, Susan Shashok.
Shashok and incumbent vice chairman Nick Artim tied with three votes apiece after the first round, with Selectwomen Laura Asermily and Heather Seeley backing Shashok and Selectboard Chairman Brian Carpenter and Selectman Victor Nuovo backing Artim.
Normally, a seventh member of the board would break a tie, but that seat is temporarily vacant.
Carpenter, who had just been unanimously re-elected to lead the board, at that point asked Shashok and Artim to make their cases.
Shashok said she believed it was important for the board to “share leadership as much as possible,” that she was “very qualified to do the job.” She added that Carpenter and Artim were the two board members whose work commitments most often required them to travel, and that it made sense to have a vice chairperson who could more often fill in if Carpenter was absent.
Artim, making his pitch via speakerphone because he was out of town, cited his ongoing work to shepherd the $52 million downtown rail bridges and railroad replacement project. It’s a “highly critical” time, Artim said, for that project, in which “continuity and consistency” would be vital.
Asermily said she did not see that project as an issue in deciding who is vice chair.
“I feel he could still do that,” Asermily said.
Carpenter then asked if anyone would break the logjam, and Nuovo spoke up to swing the election Shashok’s way.
“We are a deliberative body. We also need to compromise,” Nuovo said. “I will change my vote.”
At the end of the meeting, Carpenter joined other board members in praising Artim’s work as vice chairman and said the fact that there was competition for the position — and four candidates seeking appointment to the board vacancy — is healthy.
“It’s an indication that we do have a functioning board that is deliberative, as Victor says,” Carpenter said.
In other business, the selectboard:
•  Heard via email sewer station operator Bob Wells’s explanation of a Feb. 25 Weybridge Street nighttime pump station overflow. Wells wrote the overflow, between 9:30 and 10:25 p.m., was “due to excessive rains and a frozen ground which would not allow the rain to saturate into the soils.” He added town employees have already done “extensive work in this drainage area,” and that increased wet well and pump capacity would be the next steps to take. Most of the overflow was water, he said.
•  Interviewed four candidates for a one-year vacancy on the board, former Selectmen Gary Baker and Travis Forbes and potential newcomers Jennifer Molineaux and Farhad Kahn. An article detailing the interviews is planned for the March 27 edition of the Independent, and the selectboard plans to decide among the candidates at its next meeting, on March 28.
•  Reviewed town meeting poll results and feedback. Fifty-nine percent of 201 responders said they preferred to be  informed on town news via “ newspaper,” followed by Front Porch Forum (38 percent) and town listserv (36 percent).
Forty-nine percent of respondents said they wanted to learn more about the upcoming rail bridges replacement project and proposed Ilsley Library expansion; next on the list was the town plan update at 36 percent.
According to the handout, “most were satisfied or had no response” about town meeting in the Middlebury Union High School auditorium. But some criticized the length of the meeting and the difficulty of access to microphones for those not sitting near aisles; some of those residents suggested hand-held microphones or a return to a gym setting. 

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