Leicester Town Meeting results 2019

LEICESTER — At their Monday evening town meeting, voters in Leicester approved all budgets as warned by overwhelming voice votes with no changes, though an extended debate to cut the legal funding for the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen-Pittsford Insect Control District (commonly known as BLSG) added excitement to the gathering.
As discussion on the town budget of $672,282.91 got underway, Leicester resident Elise Haydon immediately proposed an amendment to cut $7,501 — an amount she equated with the town’s share of legal costs taken on by the BLSG to fight a lawsuit. The suit was filed by the Toxic Action Center, a Boston-based activist group whose legal work is done pro bono by Vermont Law School students, on behalf of five Salisbury-area residents.
The ongoing lawsuit began in 2018 and cost the BLSG $20,344.20 that year. The BLSG has budgeted $25,000 in legal expenses for 2019. Haydon maintained the district towns should not be expected to pick up the legal expenses because the suit was the fault of the board and it wasn’t money that benefitted district residents.
That sparked an almost 40-minute discussion with a dozen residents rising to speak, including Jay Michael, a Leicester resident and a member of the executive board of the Lake Dunmore Fern Lake Association. Michael said that board had discussed the lawsuit thoroughly and expressed the board’s “full support” of the BLSG’s management and spraying programs, and said he “resented” a lawsuit based on what the plaintiffs have maintained are incomplete reports in the permitting process.
“I completely agree that this is a nuisance lawsuit meant to hamstring the operations of the BLSG,” by piling on legal expenses, Michael said.
Several other residents stood up to recall the swarms of mosquitoes that used to prevent them from being able to go outside in the 1960s and 1970s, before the BLSG was formed in 1979, and praised the work the BLSG has done.
A few residents opposed the BLSG adulticide spraying, saying the chemicals used were dangerous to them and their children, while praising the larvicide program as far more effective.
The tone was civil, throughout, and several times residents appealed for the opportunity to work together with the BLSG to improve systems, if it were also possible to continue programs that reduced the mosquitoes at an affordable cost.
In the end, a paper ballot on the amendment was called and it was defeated, 43-6.
Afterwards, the discussion moved quickly through the remaining items with citizens expressing near unanimous support for the town budget. The 2019 General Fund spending of $291,583 is $10,309, or 3.7 percent, more than last year, and the $380,700 for highway spending represents an increase of $23,750, or 6.7 percent.
Voters also approved an additional $50,000 for paving, which is $10,000 more than the figure approved by unanimous voice vote at last year’s town meeting.
Voters participated in supporting the Otter Valley Unified Union School District budget by a district wide vote of 707-622; and defeated a $2.93 million school bond vote, 759-597.
On Tuesday, March 5, 130 people voted by Australian ballot out of 709 registered votes, an 18 percent turnout.
In town elections, voters re-elected Richard Reed for town moderator, and Diane Benware and Tom Barker to three-year and two-year seats, respectively, on the selectboard.
Others re-elected included Beth Swinington Ripley as delinquent tax collector; Mike Rakowitz for the positions of town grand juror and town agent; and Donna Pidgeon to a three-year term as auditor. All ran unopposed.

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