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Woodstock passes $6 million spending plan at Town Meeting

  • Eddie English, of West Woodstock, Vt., asks for clarity about the highway budget's reserve fund as Jacob Maxham, of Woodstock, Vt., waits to pass the microphone onto another voter during Woodstock's Town Meeting in Woodstock, Vt., on March 2, 2019. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock selectwoman Sonya Stover explains the town's pothole policy while fellow board member John Doten Jr. listens during discussion of the highway budget at Woodstock's Town Meeting in Woodstock, Vt., on March 2, 2019. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Voters, including Roger Logan, of Woodstock Village, Vt., left, listen to the discussion about the proposed funding of a full-time chief of emergency services position during Woodstock's Town Meeting in Woodstock, Vt., on March 2, 2019. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • In the lobby of the Town Hall Theater during Woodstock Town Meeting on March 2, 2019, in Woodstock, Vt., the Woodstock Economic Development Commission solicited voter feedback as part of the Woodstock Community Visioning Project that began last year. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Saturday, March 02, 2019

WOODSTOCK — There were plenty of comments and questions on the proposed $6 million municipal budget at Saturday’s Town Meeting, but no one spoke against the spending plan and it passed unanimously along with several other articles.

The discussion on the budget, which included $1.8 million for town highways, focused on a few key areas including road paving, the town’s emergency shelter and a decision to make the fire chief and chief of emergency services with the ambulance department one full-time position with a combined salary of $60,000 plus benefits.

This year, the positions combined had $25,000 in wages.

Selectboard Chairman Butch Sutherland said Fire Chief David Green has another full-time job. He puts in 20 hours a week and is responsible for all training.

“That ambulance is very busy,” Sutherland said. “We can’t do it on a part-time basis. It is a full-time job.”

Under the new budget, Green, if he takes the job, would be paid for a 40-hour week, plus being on call as both the fire chief and emergency services director.

“We have not had that in the past,” Sutherland said, pointing out that the service often needs ambulance drivers. “We want to make sure we are running a ship that will stay afloat.”

Under the culture and recreation part of the budget, the Selectboard said money that used to be funneled through the recreation department to the schools to avoid Act 60 penalties is no longer available under the school consolidation law, Act 46.

Paige Hiller, chairwoman of the Windsor Central Modified Unified Union School District, said the loss of town money means the district will have to find another way to pay for a new emergency generator at the school, which serves as the town’s emergency shelter.

“The school cannot afford the cost of a large generator for the town,” Hiller said.

She said town and school officials have been discussing the issue and whether the school should continue to serve as the emergency shelter.

“Is it going to be just a generator to run the school or a bigger generator to run an emergency shelter?” Hiller asked.

Municipal Manager Phil Swanson added that the closest Red Cross-run shelter is in Hartford. He said the Red Cross won’t run a shelter in Woodstock.

Selectboard member Sonya Stover also pointed to the $30,000 increase for town hall repairs and a cost-of-living increase for town employees that are part of the 3.7 percent spending increase, which also includes town highway spending. Stover said the budget carries an estimated tax increase of about 1.6 cents per $100 of assessed value.

On the issue of paving, the budget increases from $40,000 to $55,000 for village paving and Swanson also said town officials are gearing up for a major repaving project in 2020-21 on routes 4, 12 and 106, but in the meantime, the town will patch and pave the worst sections.

“It is holding up well so far,” Swanson said, which elicited some groans from the audience.

There is an increase in sidewalk construction, from $8,000 to $25,000, so the work can be done before the major paving project.

After lunch, voters adopted a nonbinding article that urges the state to take concrete steps toward reducing dependence on fossil fuels and cutting carbon emissions. Halting new or expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and committing to 90 percent renewable energy in the state are two of the provisions in the article.

Resident Anne Macksoud spoke in support of the article, which passed easily on a voice vote. Macksoud, a filmmaker who has done a film on climate change, said the article was on 39 ballots last year and is on 13 this year, and though that is a small percentage of the towns and cities in Vermont, it is a sign that the issue is being pushed at the grassroots level.

“It shows the responsibility of (addressing) climate change is becoming more and more a local commitment,” Macksoud said.

Voting on the warning continues on Tuesday at the polls from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Town Hall. Articles to be decided include several appropriations for outside agencies and the Norman Williams Public Library. Also on the ballot are two contested races. Eden Marceau-Piconi will challenge John Doten Jr., who’s been on the board for 25 years, for a three-year Selectboard seat, and Jill Davies, who’s been in office for one term, will face Raymond Bourgeois for a two-year Selectboard seat.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com