Town Meeting: Tunbridge approves budget, keeps nurse position alive

  • Tunbridge, Vt., Selectboard Members, from left, Mike McPhetres, Gary Mullen and John O'Brien, lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of Town Meeting in the pulling arena at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 21, 2022. The meeting was postponed from March 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Louise Barreda, left, thanks Lenora Kimball, right, for speaking at Town Meeting in Tunbridge, Vt., on Saturday, May 21, 2022, in support of and suggesting an increase in the town's annual contribution to Safeline, an organization that assists victims of domestic and sexual violence in northern Windsor and Orange counties. After Kimball raised concern over an increase in domestic violence during the pandemic, voters and officials shifted funds in the town's appropriations budget to increase their contribution to Safeline from $750 to $2,862, without increaseing the overall budget. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • With Town Meeting postponed from the customary first Tuesday in March to May 21, 2022, and held in the pulling arena at the Tunbridge, Vt., Fairgrounds, 94 voters checked in to participate. Turnout was down from the roughly 125 voters pre-pandemic. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Theresa FitzGerald listens during a budget discussion during Town Meeting at the Tunbridge, Vt., Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 21, 2022. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Selectboard member and State Rep. John O'Brien, D-Tunbridge, right, returns the microphone to Moderator Izzy Provoncha, after delivering his legislative update at Town Meeting in Tunbridge, Vt., on Saturday, May 21, 2022. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Finn Ginsburg watches a show as his mother Laura, a member of the chair of the planning commission follows discussion at Town Meeting in Tunbridge, Vt., on Saturday, May 21, 2022. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 5/22/2022 1:08:27 AM
Modified: 5/22/2022 1:08:08 AM

TUNBRIDGE — The ox-pulling arena on the Tunbridge fairgrounds shaded around 100 voters during a tradition-filled and spirited Town Meeting on Saturday.

Following announcements promoting the Friends of the Library raffle and pie bake sale, town moderator Israel Provoncha got things rolling after a quick overview of Robert’s Rules of Order. Then it was on to the agenda.

One of the most debated items on the warning was the addition of the position of town nurse. Selectman John O’Brien introduced the Selectboard-recommended position, which would be staffed through the Upper Valley Community Nursing Project.

“This would be a nurse who really gets to know the community,” he said.

Later during discussion of the proposed $632,000 general fund budget, resident Helen O’Donnell moved to decrease the budget by $13,000 in opposition of funding the nurse position.

The Central Vermont Council on Aging and other related health services already serve the same purpose, she argued. Several others in attendance murmured in support.

“This (would be) more of a holistic person,” O’Brien argued while offering clarification on the nurse’s role.

The nurse would work four hours a week and provide care for all townspeople, particularly the elderly population, he said.

“I’m for this program,” town auditor Betsy Race said. “I think it’s great to try it for a year and see how it goes for our town.”

After some more discussion, O’Donnell’s motion to cut the budget was defeated.

Another amendment to increase the town treasurer’s salary was approved, resulting in a new general fund total of $638,000.

Later, Jola O’Donnell proposed cutting $18,000 from the $1 million highway budget, arguing a budgeted wage increase for road crew workers is too high and rising fuel prices needed to be considered.

Voters disagreed and approved the highway budget as proposed. That was followed by quick approval of $46,000 to support the Volunteer Fire Department.

Article 9 proposed to have the Selectboard appoint the offices of town clerk and town treasurer moving forward, rather than sticking with the tradition of on-the-floor nominations and elections during Town Meeting.

The motion was carried with a smattering of “nays.”

Residents then continued with floor nominations for other municipal offices; none of the races were contested.

Voters elected Gary Mullen for Selectboard for three years; Darlene Miller as lister for three years; Anissa Morrison as auditor for three years; Baxter Doty for Cemetery Commission for three years; Rob Howe for the trustee of public funds for three years; Lynne Hadley and Laura Ketchum for three-year terms as library trustees; Joseph Paquin as collector of delinquent taxes for one year; and Lenora Kimball as town grand juror for one year. There were no nominations for first or second constable for terms of one year.

Voters agreed for a general fund budget surplus from last year to be applied equally to the capital fund for the town garage and to reduce personal property taxes in the coming year. In the highway fund, any surplus will be rolled back into the budget for this year.

Voters also approved total property tax exemption to the Volunteer Fire Department and the Tunbridge Grange for a five-year period.

Earlier in the meeting town officials gave their reports, after which town Fire Warden Brenda Field presented each speaker with a gallon of hand sanitizer to take home.

Town library director Mariah Lawrence shared that a recent grant she received bought the library seven bicycles that are now available for community borrow. The library has other improvements — including a new sandbox and white lattice border fence — and is gearing up for the annual Summer Reading Program.

Town Lister Rudy Ruddell reported steady real estate sales in Tunbridge over the past fiscal year and noted that home prices are on the rise so far in 2022.

Before the meeting adjourned, Rob Howe announced a townwide celebration and dance on June 17 to build excitement for the 150th anniversary of the Tunbridge World’s Fair coming up in September.

Voters stuck around to hear the results from the raffle, catch up with neighbors and purchase some pie.

There are 1,100 registered voters in Tunbridge, putting turnout at about 9%.

Following Town Meeting, a proposed school budget of $6.99 million passed during the annual First Branch Unified District meeting. The budget, which will fund schools in Chelsea and Tunbridge, increased by $140,000 since last year but per pupil spending is down by 1.23%.




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