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West Windsor Elects Kantola, OKs All Spending Items

  • People listen to moderator Matthew Birmingham during Town Meeting at Story Memorial Hall in West Windsor, Vt., on March 6, 2018. A total of 15% out of the registered voters attended the meeting. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Justin Ciccarelli, of West Windsor, Vt., responds to a comment after being nominated for a sectboard position at Town Meeting at Story Memorial Hall in West Windsor, Vt., on March 6, 2018. Out of the three nominations for the position, Matt Kantola was elected. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Matthew Birmingham, moderator, left, and Nancy Gaynor, auditor and justices of the peace, talk before announcing the new Slectboard position at Town Meeting at Story Memorial Hall in West Windsor, Vt., on March 6, 2018. Out of the three nominations for the position Matt Kantola, a self-employed contractor, received 70 ballots. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Brownsville — After passing the town and school budgets, all separate appropriations, and electing Matt Kantola to the Selectboard in a contested election, residents at Town Meeting on Tuesday received some good news about the Brownsville General Store, which has been closed since last February.

At the end of the three-hour meeting, Anne Yates, a member of the group Friends of the Brownsville General Store, said the organization has raised enough money to buy the building on Route 44 in the village and has an agreement with a young couple to reopen the store.

“Last week we signed the papers to buy the store and will have a final closing on March 31,” said Yates, who ran the store for 22 years before selling it in 2014.

Yates also introduced Lauren Stevens and Peter Varkonyi, who will lease the store. Varkonyi said he will be leaving his job as chef at Wild Roots restaurant in South Royalton to operate the business with Stevens.

The tentative name is Brownsville Butcher and Pantry, Varkonyi said, with a planned opening in early July. The Friends group, a for-profit limited liability corporation, will renovate the building over the next few months, Yates said

Varkonyi and Stevens, who live in Royalton but plan to move to the Brownsville area soon, said they plan to have more than convenience store items and want to stock enough to become like a small supermarket, with prepared foods and fresh meats.

“The store meant a lot to a lot of people and we want to revitalize it,” said Varkonyi, who grew up outside Washington, D.C.

The store was sold at auction in January to Lake Sunapee Bank, the principal mortgage holder, for $100,000.

In the only contested election, Kantola, a self-employed contractor, received 70 votes followed by former Selectboard member Tom Kenyon with 40 votes, and former Windsor Selectboard member Justin Ciccarelli with 18 votes. Kantola replaces Richard Beatty, who did not seek re-election.

Residents also approved by Australian ballot a school district merger, under Act 46, of the West Windsor and Windsor school districts, which ultimately will send secondary school students from West Windsor to Windsor High School. (See related story, left.)

School Budget Passes

In floor business, the $2.9 million school budget passed in a ballot vote, 67-58. The budget is estimated to raise the homestead school tax rate 25 cents to $1.92 per $100 of assessed valuation, which is about 3 cents more than two years ago. There was a large decrease last year.

The budget is up about 5.8 percent and School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Burrows said several factors contributed to the increase, including more tuition for grades 7-12 and higher special education costs along with salary increases and a $190,000 penalty from the state for exceeding the threshold for per pupil equalized spending.

The penalty angered Selectboard member Win Johnson, who said it is “outrageous” to saddle the town with that burden as it struggles to keep its elementary school open.

“I think it is just awful,” Johnson said to applause.

All other spending proposals passed easily by voice vote.

The general fund budget of $634,000, along with separate appropriations including $51,800 for the fire department, $14,000 for the library and $12,332 for social services agencies and the Sheddsville Cemetery, increased 14 percent from last year, but mostly because of debt payments for a new fire truck and the village sewer system, Johnson said. Without those payments of more than $100,000, the budget would be down more than 2 percent, he said. “We worked hard to soften the blow of those two items,” he added.

The highway budget of $701,000 is up 2.8 percent from the amount budgeted but down from the expenditures of more than $1 million from last year. The additional spending was the result of grants the town received after the budget was approved last year.

Residents gave a standing ovation to Glenn Seward, a former Selectboard member, who has been instrumental in helping to convert the former Ascutney Mountain Resort into a town-owned multi-use outdoor recreation area managed by Ascutney Outdoors. The town report is dedicated to Seward.

Turnout was about 15 percent or 137 of the town’s 890 registered voters.