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Bradford Keeps Town Meeting Time, for Now



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Bradford, Vt. — Voters narrowly rejected bids to change Town Meeting next year to Tuesday night or Saturday from the traditional first Tuesday morning in March.

Residents first voted, 42-39, against switching Town Meeting to the first Saturday in March at 9 a.m. Shortly after, a push to move Town Meeting to Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. failed, 48-44.

Although the article failed, Selectboard Chair Ted Unkles said that doesn’t necessarily mean next year’s Town Meeting will be held at the traditional time.

A change requires a vote of the townspeople, and residents will convene at the polls in November. It was the consensus of those in attendance on Tuesday that the townspeople should be surveyed on what time and day works best for them.

A survey could take place over the summer and an article could be warned for the November election, Unkles said.

If not, the survey could go on a ballot as an advisory article in November, giving residents at Town Meeting next year a better idea of what people in the town of 2,800 want.

The idea was kicked around at Town Meeting last year, when two-thirds of those in attendance said they were in favor of a change in order to increase attendance and participation.

Discussion on the topic went on for some time in the Bradford Academy Auditorium on Tuesday.

Resident Diane Chamberlain said many people at Town Meeting are retirees and that few people under age 60 are able to attend.

“If they want to come to Town Meeting they have to take a day without pay,” Chamberlain said.

Resident Chris Brown expressed frustration that the people who were able to attend Town Meeting on Tuesday were the ones deciding what time would work best for the people who couldn’t make it.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me to have us decide,” said Brown, who suggested surveying residents. Many people were receptive to that idea.

Some residents said they weren’t in favor of an evening meeting because it may interfere with dinner and bedtimes.

One of the most vocal opponents was Byron Kidder.

“People are getting ready to settle down and have a glass of wine,” Kidder said, to which Town Moderator Peter Mallary fired back with, “We could have wine at the meeting,” prompting the roughly 120 or so attendees to erupt in laughter.

Resident Marcia Tomlinson asked the Selectboard if it could figure out the process for changing to Australian ballot elections from floor votes for officers in yet another attempt to increase participation.

Voters approved a $1.27 million general fund budget, a roughly 1.6 percent decrease over last year’s. 

They decided to add $2,500 to the budget for Northeast Slopes, a nonprofit ski area in East Corinth that didn’t get a petition in on time for a special article. Voters sided with the Selectboard in decreasing the interest rate on delinquent tax payments to 0.5 percent for the first three months of late payments and 1 percent after that.

“Don’t penalize people who don’t have the money,” resident Emily Marsh said. “I think it’s irresponsible.”

Voters also approved a highway budget of $1 million, which represents a 2.6 percent increase in spending.

Voters will need to raise $1.89 million in taxes to support both budgets, a 6 percent increase.

Residents passed all of the special articles for area organizations: $2,500 to Downstreet Housing & Community Development; $8,500 to Orange East Senior Center; $5,000 to the Bradford Conservation Fund; $4,413 for the Clara Martin Center; $3,000 for Central Vermont Adult Basic Education; $5,120 to Stagecoach Transportation Services; and $12,450 to Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire.

Voters re-elected Randy Moore to a three-year term and Daniel Perry III to a two-year term on the Selectboard.

All of the people who currently hold offices and had seats up for re-election retained them. There is a one-year lister position that remains up for grabs because of a vacancy left by Mary Wendell.

During the Water and Sewer Commission meeting, residents and ratepayers passed amended water and sewer budgets of $288,000 and $231,000, respectively. The amendments decreased both budgets by an additional $10,000 to reflect a decrease in the office manager’s hours.

Commission member Robert Lefebvre retained his seat.

Correction

Town Meeting voters sided with the Selectboard in decreasing the interest rate on delinquent tax payments to 0.5 percent for the first three months of late payments and 1 percent after that.  An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the Selectboard's stance and the effect of the vote.