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Bradford School Resource Officer Fails; Assault Weapons Ban Passes

Bradford, Vt. — Residents yesterday rejected a proposal that would have initiated the process of hiring a police officer to act as a school resource officer at Oxbow Union High School but approved a resolution calling for a ban on assault weapons.

Moderator Mark Johnson said 107 residents voted against the idea to have a police officer stationed inside the school, while 43 voters favored the idea.

“I thank the Police Commission for all of the work they have done, but I don’t want a uniformed police officer in the school,” said resident Byron Kidder.

Retired Oxbow teacher Shirley Beresford, a Bradford resident, concurred and said due to the open layout of Oxbow’s campus, one person can’t fully enforce safety.

“It’s not possible for one person to supply the kind of security that school needs,” she said.

Police Commission member John Hersh felt differently, adding the officer would increase security, level workloads between officers and be a proactive approach to enforcement. “We have had two teachers arrested for wrongdoing inside the schools,” Hersh said, adding “a fresh set of eyes” will help the situation.

Interest in the resource officer, in part, was raised after the arrest last fall of gym teacher Brian Musty, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexually assaulting a former student. Richard Foster, a former Bradford teacher, died in federal prison last month while serving a 25-year sentence for producing child pornography involving some of his students.

Because the vote failed, Selectboard Chairman Ted Unkles said district voters at the annual Oxbow meeting, which is slated for March 26, wouldn’t vote on the article.

“I think it’s fair to say it’s dead,” Unkles said.

Town Meeting voters debated whether to instruct federal and state legislators to ban assault weapons, require background checks and make gun trafficking a federal crime. The petitioned article passed 57-43 by a show of hands, after a voice vote proved too close to call.

Resident Doug Randall spoke in opposition, saying the proposed restrictions infringe on Second Amendment rights. “I would say for you to use your First Amendment rights to restrict my Second Amendment rights is no less egregious,” Randall said. “What this proposed legislation would do is to limit the law-abiding, that’s akin to stopping the leopard by cutting the horns off the gazelle.”

Paul Hunt countered Randall’s statement, saying there are appropriate limitations that can be set that won’t infringe on an individual’s rights.

“How many of you here own a bazooka?” Hunt asked. “You don’t because you’re not allowed to and yet those are arms. If you wanted to make the argument that those are protected under the Second Amendment you could, but we don’t. And this is not any different than that.”

In other business, voters approved a police department request to use a capital reserve fund to purchase a vehicle to replace a 13-year-old Ford Explorer, of which Police Chief Jeffrey Stiegler said he’s “worried about a tire falling off when going down the road.”

Voters approved all eight petitioned appropriations totaling $38,213, which would be added on top of a $1 million general fund budget, with a taxpayer funded portion of $923,517. The taxpayer portion of the highway budget of $734,704 was also approved.

After Town Meeting adjourned, the annual Water and Sewer District meeting commenced, with the majority of comments pertaining to fluoride.

Deborah Wernecke said she was displeased that fluoride wasn’t in the Water and Sewer Commission’s annual report. “You didn’t even put it in, not even a footnote,” she said. “You scooted around it, hid it away and didn’t pay close attention to keeping your public informed.”

Water and Sewer Commission Chairman Robert Nutting countered by saying “it became a bigger issue after (the report) was written.”

Voters at a special Water and Sewer district meeting last month voted to have fluoride added to the water system after commissioners ended the practice last year.

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