Thetford warning leaves some social service groups unfunded at Town Meeting

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/2/2019 10:11:44 PM
Modified: 3/2/2019 10:35:08 PM

THETFORD — Voters at Town Meeting approved a total of $2.74 million in spending — yet some residents were upset they weren’t spending a little more.

The Thetford Selectboard this year required social service agencies to file petitions to request funding, whereas previously petitions were required only if the amount to be requested differed from a previous appropriation.

While agencies such as the Visiting Nurse and Hospice ($11,536), Lake Fairlee Association ($5,250) and White River Council on Aging ($4,950) successfully submitted the petitions and received approval through warned articles on Saturday, other entities such as the Vermont Association for the Blind, the Vermont Center for Independent Living and Headrest failed to submit petitions despite several notices about the change in procedure, Selectboard members said.

Nine social service agencies in all did not petition themselves onto the warning, while another pair were absorbed into municipal budgets. Not including the absorbed items, $5,479 less was allocated for social service appropriations compared with last year.

Not all of the approximately 160 attendees at Vaughan Gym were happy about the savings.

Pam Kneisel, of Thetford Center, brought her Town Report to the microphone to list off all of the organizations the town wouldn’t be supporting, while Duncan Nichols, a former Clara Martin mental health therapist who now runs a private practice, suggested the petitions are a burden that some organizations lack resources to facilitate.

“A lot of these organizations have very low budgets, and it’s a lot of stress,” Nichols said. “They don’t have the personnel to be dedicating time for petitions. This is troubling.”

Selectboard Chairman Stuart Rogers said the petition requirement mirrors many other Vermont towns.

“Some require it every year; some require it every three years,” he said. “As a Selectboard, we decided to require it this year and how long we do so will be a matter of discussion.”

Selectboard assistant Marty Betts said she was surprised at the lack of response from some organizations to notices of the change. She also said imposing the petition requirement was not an easy decision, but that “as taxpayers, it’s prudent and wise to seek accountability” and encouraged residents to attend Selectboard meetings to be part of such discussions.

In another format change, money for municipal services not under town auspices such as the Thetford Volunteer Fire Department ($188,733) and Thetford Library Federation ($107,585) also were separately warned. All passed.

The Department of Public Works budget of just over $1 million, an 8.7 percent increase, passed despite questions regarding the winter roads allotment, which increased 12 percent to $140,000.

“That has gone up $25,000 in two years, and I’m deeply concerned about how much of that is being spent on salt,” said Academy Road resident Bill Shepard, who added that sand has less of an environmental impact and takes less of a toll on vehicles.

Rogers responded that the town follows Vermont Agency of Transportation guidelines for salt distribution and that there has been some discussion at the state level about reducing salt use as it relates to the Clean Water Act.

First-time articles were warned to authorize that taxes be collected under the direction of Thetford’s newly approved town manager position — $36,400 for six months of his or her salary was inserted into the budget — and to establish reserve funds for the newly gifted Timothy Frost building ($5,000), a brick church next to Town Hall, as well as a Town Tree Fund ($7,500).

The latter would help the town execute tree removal maintenance, including preventive measures in anticipation of emerald ash borer infestation.

The day began with the annual School District meeting, where officials discussed a proposed budget of $8.6 million, a 4.5 percent increase per equalized pupil.

Voters will decide on that budget as well as the race for Thetford’s lone open Selectboard seat, between 31-year-old freelance web developer Nick Clark and retired firefighter David Goodrich, 63, on Tuesday at Thetford Town Hall. Voting will run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Jared Pendak can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

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