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Town Meeting preview: Bradford, Vt., seat lacks candidate



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bradford’s Town Meeting and Sewer District Meeting will start at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 5, in the Bradford Academy Auditorium.

BRADFORD, Vt. — Voters at Town Meeting will be asked whether to approve almost $2.4 million in spending, a 2.9 percent increase from last year’s total town, highway and appropriations spending. Meanwhile, three Selectboard seats are on the table, with Chairman Ted Unkles running unopposed for a fifth three-year term and third-term incumbent Carole Taylor running unopposed for a two-year seat.

The last of a three-year term currently held by Lisa Sharp Grady, who is departing, so far is devoid of candidates, though Unkles said he expects one or more will emerge during Town Meeting.

“That’s one of the great things about Town Meeting; it gives the people the opportunity to come forward when they see there is a need,” Unkles said in a recent phone interview. “We hope to not have to operate with an empty seat.”

Based on the 2018 grand list, Bradford’s property tax rate would be just under 90 cents per $100 of valuation, about 2 cents lower than last year. That would amount to a bill of $1,798 on a home valued at $200,000. However, that figure does not include $50,000 in property taxes the town will raise for principal and interest payments toward a water and sewer bond approved several years ago, Unkles said.

“Because that bond was already approved, the state doesn’t want us to include it in our operating budget, even though it affects what people pay,” said Unkles. “I’d like to see that changed.”

Bradford’s total town and highway budget of $2.3 million is roughly $70,000 higher than last year’s, largely because of increases to salaries and both summer and winter highway maintenance. Funding changes for appropriations articles on the warning include a nearly $3,000 increase for Upper Valley Ambulance and an $80 increase to the Orange County Diversion program.

“Far be it for me to say, but I don’t anticipate many contentious issues on the table this year,” Unkles said. “It seems to me to be a fairly straightforward warning.”

One article that potentially could spark discussion asks if the town should urge the state to halt the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure while ensuring the transition to renewable energy be “fair and equitable for all residents, with no harm to marginalized groups or rural communities.” The article was added via citizen petition.

A previously discussed topic that isn’t on this year’s warning is whether Bradford’s Town Meeting should transition to a different time slot — namely, Tuesday evening, Saturday or Sunday — which theoretically could prompt higher attendance from residents who work weekday mornings. Votes to move Town Meeting to the first Saturday in March at 9 a.m. and another to shift it to the first Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. were each narrowly defeated last year, but Unkles said then that the issue would be revisited.

“We’d intended to survey residents about that at the polls on Election Day in November,” Unkles said. “I’m embarrassed to say we forgot to do that, but it could still be raised again (at Town Meeting this year).”

Bradford’s Water and Sewer District meeting will take place immediately following Town Meeting. Ratepayers will be asked to approve a $290,552 water budget, a 2.6 percent decrease over last year’s approved spending, and a sewer budget of $219,307, which represents a 10.3 percent decrease.

Some of the savings is attributable to the retirement of former 11-year department employee Ronald Moore as well as a reduction in hours and benefits to its office manager position, according to chief water/sewer operator Jon Thornton.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.