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Pomfret residents reject regional energy coordinator

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/3/2020 7:00:46 PM
Modified: 3/3/2020 10:04:50 PM

POMFRET — Following more than 30 minutes of impassioned floor debate, Pomfret voters rejected a proposal to pay for the town’s share toward a regional energy coordinator, with several people calling for more study and others arguing the money would be better spent to insulate buildings.

“This is a very small town with very intelligent people who know how to change an LED light,” said Planning Commission Chairman Bill Emmons, speaking in opposition to the article that sought more than $10,000 to go toward Pomfret’s share of an energy coordinator for seven towns who would be managed by the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission.

Pomfret’s rejection deals a blow to the plan for the position, which depended on contributions from each town. That will leave towns that approved the appropriation searching for an alternative use for the money. Thetford and Woodstock both approved the funding at their meetings on Saturday, and Barnard, Norwich, Sharon and Strafford approved it Tuesday.

Pomfret, however, opted to do without, at least this year.

“This may be a good idea when we know what is going to happen and what this position will entail,” Selectboard Chairwoman Emily Grube added. “Right now we don’t know any of these things.”

But other residents voiced passionate support for the proposal, saying that the threat posed by climate change behooves the town to recognize its responsibility to support renewable energy.

“Ten thousand dollars for the expertise of one person is not very much in the large scheme of things,” Joanna Long “The energy you save when you take the advice is money in your pocket and in the long run it’s also (leaving) a world for the next generation.”

Margaret Schultz said the “energy adviser is a baby step toward facing the emergency we are facing. That’s what towns in Vermont need to do ... $10,000 is minuscule compared to what we are facing.”

But resident Scott Milne, a former Republican candidate for both the U.S. Senate and governor, said the proposal represented a step away from local town control.

Milne called the proposal “another step of regionalization of our government with Two Rivers throwing something down our throats ... to me this should be done democratically through the counties and through bureaucracies.”

The article was defeated on a voice vote.

Voters approved $1.5 million in municipal spending, including $405,492 for town operations and $1.1 million for the highway budget with $922,493 to be raised by taxes. Voters also approved to “reappropriate” an unassigned fund balance of $176,400 from last year’s general fund, with $90,000 going toward the highway reserve fund and $86,400 to offset the amount to be raised in taxes this year.

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.

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