Vershire approves budgets

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 5/23/2022 11:17:53 PM
Modified: 5/23/2022 11:17:57 PM

VERSHIRE — While voters here approved budgets and elected officers with little fuss, several smaller expenses on the Town Meeting warning generated substantial debate over the town’s priorities.

That debate included a rejection of a proposed contract with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for four hours of policing every week.

None of the races for town offices was contested. David Hooke was elected to a 25th straight year as town moderator. Eleanor Zue and Nate Thames were elected to four-year terms on the Planning Commission and Gregory Wilson will serve a one-year term. A three-year term on the Planning Commission received no nominations, leaving the Selectboard to appoint someone to the seat.

Other elections for town offices took place by ballot voting throughout the day. Vernal Stone was elected to a seat on the Selectboard with 57 votes. Nicole White-Fogarty took another Selectboard seat with 59 votes. The town has 561 registered voters.

Also by ballot, a general fund budget of $324,000 won approval by a vote of 56-7, as did a highway fund budget of $420,000 in a vote of 53-10.

Vershire Fire & Rescue saw a large increase in its budget this year due to a growing staff. Normally, Fire & Rescue collects donations to meet a third of its budget, but this year the group asked the town to appropriate funds to cover the entire budget of $63,500. Voters approved that funding by ballot in a vote of 53-10.

Though a fraction of the budget that had passed already, a $5,000 appropriation for the Emerald Ash Borer Fund prompted a lengthy discussion on Sunday.

Joan Waltermire, a member of a committee formed to assess the emerald ash borer, which decimates ash trees, said that though the insect hasn’t quite reached Vershire yet, it’s predicted to arrive soon.

With more than 2,000 ash trees along roughly 30 miles of road, any cost estimate for their removal is high, she said, justifying building up the fund in advance.

Tree Warden Mark Fogarty said he will work on a plan to submit to the Selectboard for discussion at public forums.

The article ultimately passed.

Article 13, which asked the town to appropriate $1,000 to the Cemetery Fund also prompted questions about the $80,000 the fund holds in an account.

Cemetery trustee Rita French explained that the budget covers a long list of maintenance needs, such as mowing, brush cutting, tree removal, gravestone restoration and general upkeep.

The motion carried, but received several firm “nays.”

The proposed $6,000 contract with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, intended to initiate four-hours of coverage a week by one officer, was opposed by the Selectboard.

The State Police answer 911 calls faster than the Sheriff’s Department, and county officers wouldn’t be able to respond if they are short staffed or officers are off-duty, Selectboard member Nicole White-Fogarty said.

State Sen. Mark MacDonald, D-Williamstown, said that Orange County deputies do more than just law enforcement. They deliver divorce papers, conduct domestic abuse investigations, and more, he said.

Mark Fogarty questioned the department’s dedication to the contract, since they sent no representation to Town Meeting.

The motion failed, with resounding “nays.”

Rose Terami can be reached at rosoterami@gmail.com.




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