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Woodstock Voters OK Budgets, Digital Projector for Pentangle

  • Woodstock Town Clerk Jay Morgan empties the ballot box to be counted after the decision of whether the town should purchase a digital projection system went to a paper ballot yesterday. The measure passed, allowing Pentangle Council on the Arts to continue showing movies at the Town Hall Theater after the movie industry stops distributing film in favor of digital media. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Woodstock Town Clerk Jay Morgan empties the ballot box to be counted after the decision of whether the town should purchase a digital projection system went to a paper ballot yesterday. The measure passed, allowing Pentangle Council on the Arts to continue showing movies at the Town Hall Theater after the movie industry stops distributing film in favor of digital media. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Woodstock Moderator Matt Maxham checks the time on his watch before restarting Town Meeting after lunch in the Town Hall Theater yesterday. The meeting began at 10 a.m. and continued until 5 p.m. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Woodstock Moderator Matt Maxham checks the time on his watch before restarting Town Meeting after lunch in the Town Hall Theater yesterday. The meeting began at 10 a.m. and continued until 5 p.m. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Woodstock Town Clerk Jay Morgan empties the ballot box to be counted after the decision of whether the town should purchase a digital projection system went to a paper ballot yesterday. The measure passed, allowing Pentangle Council on the Arts to continue showing movies at the Town Hall Theater after the movie industry stops distributing film in favor of digital media. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Woodstock Moderator Matt Maxham checks the time on his watch before restarting Town Meeting after lunch in the Town Hall Theater yesterday. The meeting began at 10 a.m. and continued until 5 p.m. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Woodstock — First-run films, economic development and gun control were on voters’ minds yesterday during the lengthiest Woodstock Town Meeting in recent memory.

By the time they filed out of Town Hall Theater at 5 p.m., residents had passed the school and town budgets, approved $25,000 for improvements to Vail Field, and OK’d $60,000 for a digital projection system. They’d also mulled over the proposed $2 million bond to renovate the Windsor County Courthouse and discussed nearly all of the 18 warning articles to be decided by ballot on Tuesday.

The special articles on this year’s warning, many of which request for funding for local nonprofits, “did create a buzz,” Town Manager Phil Swanson said.

That excitement prompted presentations on nearly every article, he said, making for “a great Town Meeting,” the longest in his 27-year tenure.

Much of the buzz yesterday centered around the new digital projector system for the theater, where Pentangle Arts Council screens first-run movies. Few Hollywood movies are being shot on film anymore, and next month, studios will send to theaters only the digital versions.

Without the new projector, the theater would go dark at the end of this year, said Jeffrey Kahn, who leads the committee that oversees the movie screenings.

Carl Taylor, one of several residents who spoke in favor of the projector, linked his comments to another article on the warning. The proposed article, to be decided Tuesday, calls for hiring a part-time economic development coordinator to recruit and retain businesses for the town, which has seen a growing number of empty storefronts.

“If we don’t have a functioning movie theater any more, we are just shooting ourselves in the foot” when it comes to bringing the economy back to life, Taylor said.

Others, including Marian Koetsier, voiced concerns about the purchase.

“I just don’t see this as a town expense,” Koetsier said. And, she added, “digital equipment becomes obsolete quicker than mechanical 35 millimeter stuff.”

In a ballot vote, the article passed 123 to 31. The projector will be owned by the town and maintained by Pentangle. In addition to showing movies, it can also be used for inbound streaming of live performances or webcasts.

Voters also approved several other articles, all by voice vote, including the town and Woodstock Elementary School budgets, which passed almost unanimously.

The town tax rate is expected to rise by about 1.4 cents on $100 of appraised value under the $4.1 million operating budget, Swanson said.

Meanwhile, the $3 million school budget is expected to push up the elementary school portion of the school tax by just over 4 cents per $100 of assessed value, to 66 cents, said School Board member Kristine Corey. The increase is due largely to a higher state education tax rate and a 12 percent increase in health insurance premiums.

Toward the end of the meeting, an assistant judge in Windsor County put in a plug for the bond to make Windsor County Courthouse in Woodstock handicap accessible.

“As a county, we must provide a suitable court for use for civil and probate court. We are not doing that,” Jack Anderson said. “We are now breaking the law, and I think it’s about time we brought a civic building into compliance.”

Toward the end of the meeting, an article asking state and federal lawmakers to pass gun control measures sparked some discussion.

In 1988, Bob Williamson’s daughters were attending a school in Winnetka, Ill., where a shooting left one boy dead and six people wounded. Williamson called the regulations “a commonsense public safety measure.”

Danielle Ferry said high powered guns are sometimes needed to safely hunt game and that some states with the strictest gun regulations also have the highest crime rates.

The article is one of several that voters will decide on Tuesday, when Town Meeting continues at the theater. Residents will elect town and school officers and also weigh in on the $11.3 million Woodstock Union High School District budget and the courthouse bond. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Aimee Caruso can be reached at acaruso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.