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Town Meeting: Pomfret picks Selectboard

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/5/2019 8:09:42 PM
Modified: 3/5/2019 8:26:50 PM

POMFRET — In his first run for public office, Steve Chamberlin easily captured an open Selectboard seat, joining incumbents Frank Perron and John Peters Jr. who won their re-election bids at Pomfret’s annual Town Meeting on Tuesday.

Chamberlin, who owns a property maintenance business, defeated Ona Chase, chairwoman of the town’s cemetery commission, 77-12, for a one-year position.

Chamberlin replaces attorney Michael Reese, who after nearly six years on the five-member board didn’t seek re-election. Board member Scott Woodward told the 100 or so people gathered at the Town Hall that Reese was a mentor who “made town government better.”

In other Selectboard voting, Peters claimed a 75-12 win over Chase for a three-year seat and Perron ran unopposed for a second term.

Pomfret, population 904, conducts its Town Meeting voting from the floor, which doesn’t require candidates to announce their attentions ahead of time. Resident Bruce Tuthill nominated Chase, who didn’t attend the meeting, for both seats.

Later, Kevin Rice, chief of the Pomfret-Teago Fire Department, suggested that the town consider changing the way it conducts elections. If candidates had to announce a month or so before voting, “we’d get an opportunity to learn who they are and why they want to run,” Rice said, adding that the change would help voters make more “educated decisions.”

In other elections, Town Clerk Becky Fielder was unopposed and Ben Brickner, a newcomer to Pomfret, accepted an auditor’s position. He joins incumbents Nancy Matthews and Regina Lawrence, who won uncontested seats.

After voting, resident Laura Kent asked the Selectboard to explore hiring a part-time town administrator, which could be voted on in 2020. Having administrative help could lessen the burden on the Selectboard and “encourage other people to participate in town government,” Kent said.

Peggy Kennenstine, 80, offered another way that could get a few more people to at least attend Town Meeting — improve handicap accessibility to Town Hall. Kennenstine, who uses a walker, made it up the outdoor steps with the help of fire department volunteers. 

“We know (handicap accessibility) is something that needs to be addressed,” Woodward told the audience, adding that the town had been unsuccessful in securing grants to pay for the project.

By voice vote and with little discussion, voters approved a town and highway budget of $1,312,435. 

For the first time, Town Meeting Day didn’t include a floor school meeting. Last July, Pomfret and Bridgewater, which make up the Prosper Valley School District, merged with Woodstock, Reading, Killington and Plymouth to form the Windsor Central Modified Unified Union School District. Pomfret residents in Australian ballot voting on Tuesday backed the proposed school budget, 65-22. 

After finishing town business, residents spent an hour talking about school issues. Patti Kuzmickas, a Pomfret representative to the unified union school district, reminded residents that the town’s Prosper Valley School will remain closed for the 2019-2020 school year due to mold problems that were discovered last summer.

The 70 or so Pomfret and Barnard students in K-6 will be integrated into classes at Woodstock Elementary School, Kuzmickas said.

But even after the mold problem is overcome, Pomfret must face the problem of declining enrollment, which is plaguing many Vermont communities, School Board member Bob Coates said. 

The bigger issue is the lack of affordable housing in Pomfret, several residents said. “It’s frustrating that I never see it addressed,” Kent said. “Nobody wants it in their back yard, but if we want young families, we’ve got to do it.”

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.




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