Sharon Advances Climate Change Agenda As It Endorses $1.5M Budget

  • At the Sharon Town Meeting Jill Wilcox of Sharon, Vt., speaks to the crowd during the meeting on March 6, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Will Davis, of Sharon, Vt., steadies his son Tal, 9 months during Sharon's Town Meeting on March 6, 2018. His wife Stephanie Davis sits with them on the left. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Sharon —  Roughly 100 voters came to Town Meeting at the Sharon Elementary School Tuesday morning and unanimously approved a $1.48 million town budget on a voice vote.

Voters also backed an environmental resolution that urges the state to ban natural gas pipelines and to be more aggressive in its pursuit of its stated renewable energy goals.

“This is a signal to our state government that we consider this to be a really important issue of our time, and that we need the Legislature and administration to take the results of climate change very seriously,” said Cat Buxton.

Sharon was one of 36 Vermont towns that are considering the climate change resolution during Town Meetings, part of a statewide effort from 350 Vermont, the state chapter of the global climate activism network 350.org. There was a spirited debate in advance of the vote, with several opponents arguing that the resolution went too far in calling for a ban on pipelines and “any new or expanded fossil fuel infrastructure.”

“I think maybe we're being somewhat short sighted in asking for a moratorium on gas pipelines when the (carbon dioxide) impact is significantly less than people who ... are burning oil for home heating fuel,” said Dick Ruben.

And Michelle Wilson said that, while she supports clean energy, she also supports property rights.

“I just don't feel that it's our place to tell other towns that they can or cannot accept or have a pipeline if they so choose,” she said.

But supporters of the resolution for the ban pointed out that the environmental impact of natural gas is also defined by fracking, a controversial method of extraction that involves forcing high pressure liquid into subterranean rocks, which has been shown to cause earthquakes, among other problems.

“I believe it’s important to send a unified voice to Montpelier,” said Art Stacy. “I think it's important to stand together on this.”

After the discussion, which took a majority of the meeting's 90-minute run time, an amendment to weaken the resolution by deleting references to the pipeline failed by a large margin. The resolution then passed overwhelmingly.

Voters also tweaked the budget from the floor to add $1,300 to funding for Stagecoach, a public bus organization that serves the region.

About $1.1 million of the $1.48 million budget is raised through taxes.

With the tweak, the overall municipal spending budget increased by about $27,000, or 2.5 percent, and is expected to increase the municipal property tax rate by 1.6 cents, to 69.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value. That would add about $40 to the tax bill of a $250,000 property, bringing it to $1,730.

Also during the meeting, Selectwoman Mary Gavin talked about a shift in road repair strategy that calls for the shoring up of roads that have not fully degraded, rather than what Gavin called the more intuitive strategy of fixing the worst roads first. She said the town is increasing its highway department funding to refocus efforts on a road reconstruction plan that was commissioned in 2006.

“As we all know in 2011, (Tropical Storm) Irene came to town and caused significant damage and that caused a diversion from the highway department in terms of the needed repairs,” Gavin said.

All other warrant articles passed with little comment.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.