Bradford Recreation Director, Fire Engine Sail Through Town Meeting
Rebecca Schramm serves a cup of coffee to a Bradford resident while volunteering along with her two sons at the Bradford Town Meeting lunch at the Grace United Methodist Church in Bradford, Vt., on March 4, 2014. The lunch helped raise money for the Youth Group's upcoming missions trip. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Skip Barrett argues for the need for a part-time recreation director during the Bradford Town Meeting in the Bradford Academy Building in Bradford, Vt., on March 4, 2014. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Shirley Beresford listens at the Bradford Town Meeting in the Bradford Academy Building in Bradford, Vt., on March 4, 2014. This year's town report for Bradford was dedicated to Beresford, who is very active in the community. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Bradford, Vt. — Voters’ authorization of the purchase of a new fire engine and road grader at Town Meeting on Tuesday just scratched the surface of an aye-centric meeting that saw 26 of 27 articles win approval.
Considering it had the biggest price tag of all spending articles, the fire department’s request for up to $679,000 received some of the heftiest discussion. The new truck, a 75-foot “quint” — so called because it can perform five functions — has a pump and ladder and will be able to reach some of Bradford’s rural roads. It will replace the longer, aging 1986 vehicle.
“It’s aptly painted yellow,” Gary Moore, chairman of Bradford’s Public Safety Commission and a firefighter with more than four decades of experience, said of the old truck, “because it’s a lemon.”
Fire Chief Ryan Terrill said the old truck is out of service as it needs a replacement part the department has yet to find. He added that, because of $85,000 the department has in a capital fund that it could put toward the purchase, it would more likely borrow just $594,000, to be financed over five years. He estimated the tax impact to be about $55 a year on a house assessed at $250,000.
Though some voters were unsure about approving the article due the higher taxes it portended, they ultimately put it through, 97-36, by a division of the house vote.
The truck discussion came after the road grader discussion, which didn’t last as long and passed by voice vote. Voters approved the borrowing of up to $110,000 for a grader that could cost up to $267,000, with the difference coming from capital fund money and the $70,000 trade-in value of the old machine.
Selectman Daniel Perry III said the old grader was purchased in 1998 and the town’s heavy machinery are on staggered 15-year replacement rotations.
Both the town’s highway budget and general fund passed unscathed, as did the all the spending articles. The $1.1 million general fund budget and the $840,000 highway budget are about the same as last year’s totals, as is the $730,129 tax-funded portion of the highway budget.
Within the passed general fund is $793,218 to be raised through property taxes, about $130,000 less than last year. The difference will be made up by $150,000 in surplus funds that the town will apply to the total.
Selectboard Chairman Ted Unkles has said that if all spending articles pass the town’s tax rate would be approximately 77 cents per $100 of valuation, or $1,925 at a home assessed at $250,000, an annual increase of about $50. Those totals are very rough, he has said, as they were calculated using last year’s grand list and assumed interest rates for the fire engine and grader.
One of the morning’s extended debates had nothing to do with numbers. Early on, an article asking voters to change the terms of the town’s clerk and treasurer to one year from three divided the electorate.
Selectman Brian Schlager defended the article, saying the board has no authority to remove a clerk or treasurer if he or she is doing a poor job (and nothing illegal), so the town would be stuck with a bad candidate for three years. Annual re-elections would allow the voters to make a change if need be, he said, and quality candidates will simply be re-elected year after year.
Many residents disagreed.
“Frankly, I think it’s chaos,” said Shirley Beresford. “I urge my fellow voters to defeat this article.”
They did, though not until a ballot vote had been completed. The only article to be rejected lost in an 87-73 vote, keeping the clerk’s and treasurer’s three-year terms intact.
Two of the articles that Unkles assumed would spark some of the heaviest debate on Tuesday — $10,000 each for a part-time town recreation director and for repairs to the town clock in the Bradford Congregational Church — sailed through. There was very little discussion on the clock, which will receive new numbers, hands, lights and more, and all the discussion on the recreation director was positive.
“What is there for kids to do in Bradford?” asked Skip Barrett, noting that the director would foster youth events and combine existing organizations under the town’s umbrella, lowering the cost of liability insurance for each and therefore helping them grow.
Several residents settled into new positions after voters elected them from the floor. Though several incumbents remained, Lisa Sharp, an 11-year resident with a business management background, was elected to a vacant Selectboard spot, Assistant Treasurer Jennifer Rivers took over the treasurer seat from Marianne McClure, who stepped down, and Nila Newstrom-Anaya, a four-year Bradford resident, took over a vacant lister seat. None of those races were contested.
A brief Water and Sewer Commission meeting followed the town’s section of the warning, during which voters unanimously approved both the $305,836 water budget and $431,553 sewer budget. Rates are not expected to increase this year.