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Piermont: Town Worries About Federal Aid

Piermont — Uncertainties about future state and federal financial support for the town dominated discussion over key warrant articles at Town Meeting last night.

About 80 people attended the meeting in the Piermont Village School, including eight fifth- and sixth-graders on a voluntary assignment.

Selectboard Chairman Bob Lang provoked the financial support discussion by proposing that the meeting “pass over” action on the largest article for almost $313,000 to upgrade a culvert on Indian Pond Road to a bridge. Although no new town taxes would be raised to support the project, most of the funding would come from federal and state sources.

“We just don’t know what these governments (federal and state) will do,” Lang said. “They can’t guarantee anything so I recommend we pass over this article.” Steve Rounds asked what “pass over” meant. Lang suggested possibly another separate warrant article next year.

This sparked expressions of confusion and grumbling from the audience until one member pointed out a sentence in the warrant article stating, “this project is contingent on approval of the aforementioned (federal and state) funding,” and suggested that this should cover any funding uncertainty.

Moderator Joyce Tompkins agreed and the article was approved by voice vote.

Federal financial support also figured into the discussion on a proposal to buy equipment for an emergency operations center to be based in the meeting room at the Old Church Building on Route 10. The center would be used to help prepare the town for impending storms and natural disasters.

The warrant article proposed almost $20,000 for equipment such as computers, television monitors and radios. About half would come from a federal grant and Piermont would raise the remainder through taxation.

Lang proposed that the warrant total be reduced to $12,526 because of federal funding uncertainties. He expressed the hope that the lower amount would more likely attract a 50 percent federal contribution.

Greg Stelzner said he was mainly concerned about the reliability of the equipment and how it would be used. “What do you need a 40-inch television monitor for?” he asked. “This thing sounds like ‘toys for boys’ to me.”

Bernie Marvin, head of the center, explained how the equipment would be used and how it would provide future benefit for the town.

The amended article passed by voice vote, along with other warrant articles.

Rob Elder proposed some reductions in the proposed appropriations for 14 charitable organizations. This was also approved by voice vote, resulting in a total of $10,219 instead of $13,069.

The operating budget was approved. The amount to be raised by taxes would increase by about 7 percent, from $815,000 to about $873,000. The town’s current tax rate is $6.47 per $1,000 of assessed value. Under the new budget, the rate would increase to about $7.20 per $1,000 of assessed value, according to Jennifer Collins, executive assistant to the Selectboard.

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