Town Meeting: Austin Colson case draws debate over security cameras in Sharon

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 05, 2019

SHARON — The father of Austin Colson, the South Royalton teen who disappeared last year and was later discovered shot and killed, sparked a long discussion at Town Meeting on Tuesday morning by suggesting that Sharon install surveillance cameras at the town offices that would point toward the park-and-ride lot across the street.

Dana Colson proposed appropriating $500 for the cameras aimed at the parking lot near the Interstate 89 interchange in Sharon. He also said that more surveillance video would have been helpful in his son’s case and that he’s “heard reports of drug exchanges” at the park and ride, which serves commuters from the White River Valley.

Austin Colson, who was 19, disappeared on Jan. 11, 2018, on a day when he was scheduled to go collect scrap metal. The trailer he was going to use was found abandoned on Downer Road in Sharon the following week, and Colson’s body was found five months later in an old barn in Norwich.

Authorities have identified a White River Junction man as a suspect in Colson’s disappearance, but nobody has been charged in the case.

Several other residents agreed that they want cameras, but they want the Selectboard to discuss pricing and any other issues that could come up with installation.

For Sharon resident Deborah Hopkins, the director of the Central Vermont Substance Abuse Services, this was also a conversation about the opioid epidemic.

“We need to look at both directions,” Hopkins said. “What education is there in the town? For example, do we have Narcan at the town hall? Do people know what that is?”

The proposed amendment was voted down by voice vote among the 82 residents at Town Meeting, but Selectboard member Mary Gavin said they would discuss the surveillance cameras at the next Selectboard meeting.

Voters approved a town and highway budget of $1.55 million, which included an amendment to donate $5,000 to the South Royalton Rescue for a new ambulance.

The new budget means taxes would increase an estimated 7.5 cents per $100 of valuation. The money for the South Royalton Rescue ambulance will come from the general fund balance and will not add to taxes.

Next fiscal year’s highway budget will increase by 5.3 percent. Contributing to that increase are higher wages for a fully staffed highway crew, according to Gavin. The crew also will need funds to restock the sand.

“We all want decent roads to drive on,” said Selectman Kevin Gish. “But it doesn’t come free.”

In Australian ballot voting, Joe Ronan won a three-year term on the Selectboard.

At the school district meeting on Monday night, voters approved a $4.5 million school budget, resulting in $17,134 spending per equalized pupil. That’s a 6.9 percent increase from last year.

Chantelle Brackett and Samantha Brown-Potter will be the new school directors. Brown will serve the remaining two years of a three-year term and Brackett a three-year term.

Daniela Vidal Allee can be reached at dallee@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.