Longtime First Constable Calls It Quits in Fairlee
During a break for vote counting at Fairlee Town Meeting yesterday, Susan Gyorky talks with Russ Smith about her recent trip to Florida and the state's invasive python problem. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lee Marsh accepts a round of applause after announcing he will not run for a 49th year as First Constable at Fairlee Town Meeting. Jason Bachus, far left, was nominated by Marsh to take his place and was voted into the position. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lisa Avery helps her son Ty, 11, and his friend Sean Maddock, 10, follow the town report while taking notes on Fairlee Town Meeting for extra credit in their social studies class. Bodie Avery, 12, is at left. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Fairlee — Leon C. Marsh Jr. borrowed lyrics from a country tune during Town Meeting yesterday as he wrapped up 481/2 years as the town’s first constable.
“I’m going to smile and wave and sit back on a sack of seeds,” he told voters at the start of the meeting, paraphrasing the final lines from Jim Stafford’s Wildwood Weed.
Voters responded with a standing ovation and, shortly thereafter, enthusiastically welcomed their new first constable, Jason Bachus, 43, who was elected amid some lighthearted teasing as Clyde Blake made a motion that the clerk cast one ballot “for whatever his name is.”
Known around town as “Lee,” the 81-year-old Marsh said after the meeting that his constable career has “been a good ride — fun, interesting and, at times, dangerous.”
But, he added, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Marsh’s farewell to the first constable position — he was re-elected to a one-year term as collector of delinquent taxes — was a highlight of the annual gathering at Samuel Morey Elementary School. With much discussion but little in opposition to any particular article, voters approved an 18 percent increase in the municipal budget, a spike driven by long deferred paving and highway maintenance projects.
The $860,000 budget is expected to raise the tax rate 7 cents to 42 cents per $100 of assessed value. For the owner of a $250,000 home, that will mean a $1,050 tax bill, an increase of $175.
Spending for the highway budget increased by nearly $32,000 to $186,500, and contributions to capital reserve funds for highway projects increased more than fivefold to $154,000. Both increases were largely related to projects involving paving throughout town and improvements to Terry Hill and Quinibeck roads.
Voters also approved a warning article that would allow the town to tap the capital reserve fund to renovate Town Hall, which was flooded by a sprinkler malfunction in January. While insurance is expected to cover costs related to flood damage, Selectboard Chairwoman Mary Daly said the board thought it made sense to make other improvements to the building while it was “already torn up.”
There is about $40,400 in the budget for Town Hall renovations, and Daly estimated the renovations could cost $28,000, although that number could change.
“I thought it went very well,” Daly said after the meeting. “I was concerned about the budget, but I think the questions that were asked were very legitimate, and I don’t think that was a problem. At least we had an opportunity to try to explain what we were trying to do.”
More discussion and explanation centered around a $10,800 appropriation for the so-called Lake Fairlee Dam Project, a joint effort among Fairlee, West Fairlee, Thetford, the Lake Fairlee Association and summer camps around the lake to determine the best process for addressing concerns about privately owned Lake Fairlee Dam, which is in Thetford.
Selectman Frank J. Barrett Jr. — who is finishing his 18th year on the board and was re-elected to another three-year term yesterday — said a preliminary study financed by the Aloha Foundation, which operates youth camps and is a major landowner on the lake, found that the dam is deteriorating and in serious need of repairs. Each town’s contribution was based on its share of the overall value of shoreline property, and Fairlee’s was the final appropriation to be approved.
The appropriations, along with $5,000 apiece from the Lake Fairlee Association and the three camps along the lake, will provide $50,000 in “seed money” to fund a more extensive engineering study and other projects related to solving the dam issue, Barrett said last month. The repairs could ultimately cost as much as $1 million, Barrett said.
While voters ultimately approved all spending articles, some in attendance, such as resident Jim Harris, suggested the town do a better job in keeping voters informed on these issues as they’re developing, instead of residents learning about them at Town Meeting.
Daly said the town is trying to keep residents up-to-date via the email listserv, community bulletins, communicating with news outlets and keeping meetings open to the public.