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Truck Purchase, Roads Dominate Vershire Debate

Vershire — The costs of maintaining town roads took priority over the national debate about gun control yesterday when about 100 residents gathered for Town Meeting.

When voters returned from a lunch at around 12:30 p.m., an article asking that the town of Vershire instruct federal and state lawmakers to “ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines” came up for discussion.

Several people stood to voice concerns over a wide range of issue related to the topic: the number of firearms sold in Vermont that end up being used in the commission of crimes in other states, the possible ill effects when teenagers are prescribed antidepressants, the right of a democratic government to impose sensible restrictions on gun ownership, and the danger faced by victims of domestic violence when their assailants are reluctant to access mental health services for fear that doing so may impinge on their right to own firearms in the future.

A potentially wide-ranging debate was cut short, however, when a motion was made and seconded to “lay (Article 14) on the table,” according to language provided by Moderator Eileen Murphy. Naomi LaBarr, the collector of delinquent taxes who made the motion to end the discussion, encouraged people to express their opinions on gun control directly to their state and federal legislators, but to focus today “on getting on with town business.” Her motion was approved by voice vote, with just a few people wanting to keep debate alive.

Regarding that town business, the main concerns to those present were the seemingly intricate financial issues involved in maintaining town roads and the heavy equipment required for the Highway Department to do its job.

Articles 9 and 10 asked that a total of $70,000 be set aside in reserve funds for future paving projects. Both articles ultimately passed, but many in the room raised questions about the cost effectiveness of asphalt versus gravel roads.

Selectboard Chairman Vernal Stone, who is also road commissioner, said it is “more cost effective to maintain a dirt road.” He and Town Clerk Gene Craft cautioned that paving is so expensive that it would be prudent for the town to designate some money specifically for that purpose.

Residents who live on dirt roads, such as Martin Thurston, who lives on Eagle Hollow Road, expressed concerns about the condition of their roads in general. Thurston encouraged Selectboard members Mark McKee, Kathy Marshall and Stone to improve dust control in the summer and to better maintain the roads in the spring. Thurston said he would prefer not to find himself “pulling people out of the mud” when their cars get stuck in front of his house.

Many present also weighed in on the question of whether to allow the town to purchase a new 10-wheel highway truck, at a cost not to exceed $165,000. As originally written, Article 12 asked that voters approve taking $40,000 from the capital equipment fund and trading in a 2005 International truck as part of a down payment toward the new 10-wheeler.

Some residents, such as Diann Ward, were curious as to why the town needed a new truck at all, while others questioned the wisdom of trading in the 2005 International.

Stone and Marshall pressed the case that owning the one 10-wheeler would be less expensive than continuing to use two existing trucks to do the same amount of work. Jon Beebe, who works part time for the town highway department, also said it would be “cheaper to run one larger truck rather than two smaller trucks.”

The real sticking point of Article 12, however, was the issue of trading in the 2005 International. Some said they doubted the town would receive top dollar for the truck as a trade-in. Others were concerned that, with only 50,000 miles on it, the town was trading in the truck several years before it needed to. In the end, those in favor of keeping the International carried the vote. Article 12 passed, but with an amendment to not trade in the 2005 truck.

In Australian balloting, voters approved $252,816 for the general fund; $370,732 for the highway fund; and $33,728 for Vershire Fire and Rescue. Stone was elected to a three-year term on the Selectboard, Helen Lons was elected to a three-year term as lister, and Naomi LaBarr was elected the collector of delinquent taxes for the ensuing year. There were no contested elections.

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