Forum, March 1: Support Stipends for Thetford Volunteer Firefighters

Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Support Thetford Firefighter Stipends

The Thetford Volunteer Fire Department has proposed paying a stipend to its firefighters who meet specific criteria in terms of attendance at drills, work details and calls. As the former chief for 15 years, and a member of the department for 30, I support this proposal and urge Thetford voters to join me in voting yes at Thetford Town Meeting on Saturday.

Recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters has always been a challenge. In addition to responding to emergencies, which can occur at any time of day or night and can last for hours, members of the Thetford Volunteer Fire Department are expected to attend monthly drills and maintain certification status as both firefighters and EMTs. This time commitment can be both a personal strain and a financial one as well, which sometimes makes it impossible for an otherwise dedicated individual to continue to participate. This stipend will be a way to ease that burden while helping the fire department maintain its current high standards for performance.

Donald Fifield Jr.

Thetford Volunteer Fire Department (retired)

Weathersfield Surpluses Too Big

Weathersfield voters, please take note of your town report and upcoming budget votes on Tuesday.

According to the outside auditor’s report, surpluses totaling $311,720 remain in both the General Fund and Highway Fund. On Feb. 20, the Selectboard voted to transfer $114,000 of the highway surplus to a paving project already completed, leaving a surplus of $111,000.

Vermont law does not allow highway surpluses to go on indefinitely. I brought this up to the board on Feb. 20. These funds were budgeted for other highway uses and not used. Voters did not vote any line item or special article for paving.

The audited General Fund had a surplus of $86,720 on June 30, 2017. Several years ago, voters authorized a “rainy day fund” for emergency use. This was capped at 10 percent of the General Fund budget. By audit, it already has $95,000 in it.

I asked about this at the Feb. 20 meeting. The answer given was that $86,720 was carried forward as a surplus.

Now, with all this cash surplus — undesignated — the budget asks voters for some 4 cents additional money on the tax rate. This math simply does not add up. Each penny of the tax rate is equal to $30,000.

These budgets have a total of $406,720 of audited surplus money (including the voter-approved rainy day fund). This is above and beyond the regular approved annual operating budgets of $2.5 million. This is about a 15 percent surplus. Our town has always voted on moves like this through special article. In fact, the opinion of the counsel from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns was exactly that: When in doubt, let the voters decide.

This comes at a time where our school budget (which for a few years now has had nominal increases) will ask for more money also.

I’m voting no again on March 6 and ask that you join me. I stood on the Town Meeting floor outlining the surplus from last year, and this year it has doubled. Audits are not wrong. The fact is, a compromise could have been reached in which the school and town reached their goals without raising taxes.

David T. Fuller


Bid for Hartford Selectboard

My name is Jameson Davis. I am a proud citizen of Hartford and I am running for Selectboard. The values embodied by Hartford citizens — hard work, inclusivity, commitment to family and a love of nature — are all values I grew up with in the town of Hamden, Conn. I was raised by two hard-working people of color — my father, a now-retired state police captain of 35 years who became the first African-American captain in Connecticut State Police history, and my mother, a woman of God who retired from teaching after 20 years — who instilled in me the desire to be of service to people.

I am running because the people of Hartford have welcomed me with open arms, and I am greatly appreciative. I am running to offer perspective to a platform where racial diversity has not existed before: the Selectboard. I am running to continue nurturing a culture of inclusivity. I pledge to separate my personal agendas and to embody the issues that we as Hartford residents collectively agree need our attention.

Greater diversity within town leadership will allow for honest conversations to occur on a more regular basis. Voices that may have been overlooked and communities that feel disenfranchised will finally have true representation. With diversity and honesty, the Selectboard will run even more efficiently.

My goal as a Selectboard member is to improve the way of life for all constituents, recognizing that we all desire equality in status, rights and opportunities. Vote for me and Kim Souza on Tuesday at Hartford High School.

Jameson Christopher Davis


Backing Souza in Hartford

I urge the voters of Hartford to vote for Kim Souza for one of the two Selectboard seats that have a two-year term.

Souza is thoughtful, listens well and has a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. She also has time to focus on being a Selectboard member.

As the owner of a downtown business, she has worked collaboratively with other business leaders. In the past, this has been a valuable addition to and perspective for the Selectboard. She can and will be a conduit about what is needed to keep White River Junction moving toward a brighter future.

Lynn Bohi

White River Junction

Misunderstanding Exit 4 Acquisition

I was disappointed to read that Randolph’s new town manager, Adolfo Bailon would choose to make an issue of the Exit 4 acquisition (“Manager: Land Trust Misled Town,” Feb. 21). This effort shows limited understanding of the transaction, its value to the town and the will of the citizens.

The preservation of the beauty and character of the town is far more valuable than the imaginary loss of taxes that might have been levied on a new development. It is apparently also necessary to remind Bailon that tax revenues are not accrued without services and the net to the town would be greatly diminished by the need to provide a traffic light, extra road maintenance and other costly services that are not required for farmland. Keeping this parcel as a farm and orchard retains its beauty and outweighs trivial tax considerations. This is its highest and best use. The purchase by the Preservation Trust of Vermont was a triumph for the town and its citizens. By retaining the beauty and avoiding sprawl, we have accomplished something very special.

Bailon’s first foray into town politics appears ominous for its lack of foresight and failure to understand the sentiments of the majority. I understand he has been listening, but listening to whom? The Preservation Trust was called in to help by Randolph citizens. I find Bailon’s position to be disrespectful of those citizens and the deliberations of our town boards, which considered this at length. To call the Preservation Trust deceitful is not only absurd, but it serves to create hard feelings over something that was a great gift to the town. The putative lost tax revenue is well worth the reward in splendor. Each time I turn onto Route 66 and see farmland and distant mountains, I feel delight as well as security in the knowledge that it is preserved forever.

Mark Kelley

Rising Mist Farm, Randolph Center