Next Tuesday, March 6 is Town Meeting Day. Don’t take it lightly.
In today’s Addison Independent, the news team has reviewed the major — and minor — issues to be discussed at town meeting of each of the 23 towns in the county, plus Brandon. The previews start on Page 12A and continue through Page 20A. We wouldn’t devote eight pages of news to the reviews, if we didn’t think the issues were important and wanted to provide citizens with a shorthand guide to each town.
We also profile several elections in separate stories, including a race for selectboard in Middlebury with five candidates vying for two three-year seats; a city council race in Vergennes; a $1 million bond vote for a new roof at the Middlebury Union Middle School; a $4.625 million bond for new fire stations in Middlebury; and an energy-related program (PACE) being considered in five towns, to name a few. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s in store for residents as they participate in their respective town meetings.
Many town meetings, of course, are held the night before (Monday, March 5) or hearings are held on that day with Australian ballots cast on Tuesday. Some towns stage longer affairs on Saturday. Check on the specifics of your respective towns, then attend and get involved. It makes being a citizen meaningful.
In Middlebury, here’s our view on a few of the separate votes:
• FIRE BOND — Residents will be asked to support a $4.625 million bond over 20-years to renovate and expand its Seymour Street fire department headquarters and replace the East Middlebury fire station with a smaller and more energy-efficient structure. That’s a lot of money, but it’s the right call.
We’re not fans of building expensive public buildings, but the station serves a critical need and that need is no longer being met by the current facility. The downside: taxes. If the bond passes, it will add about $90 to the annual property tax bill of a $200,000 home. Vote your pocketbook if you must, but know that the bond supports a needed community facility.
• BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT FUND — This is one of the few funds residents will face whose effect will be to lower property taxes. That will be accomplished by growing the grand list in Middlebury, while also creating jobs. A series of commentaries that have been running on Page 5A of the Addison Independent under the heading, ‘Good Jobs Close to Home,’ have outlined the ways the fund will work, and why its connection to Middlebury College will help make it successful.
It’s also a bargain for the taxpayer. The town pays a penny on the tax rate ($72,000), while the college and business community will chip in more than $100,000 for each of the five years the fund will be in place. It’s a slam-dunk for taxpayers that will also help keep the town vibrant and provide jobs for our youth. Vote yes.
• MIDD SELECTBOARD RACE — Five candidates are vying for two three-year terms. Gary Baker is running unopposed for a vacated one-year seat. All the candidates have various strengths and would serve the community well.
But in choosing two, we support three-term incumbent Victor Nuovo and former selectman Don Keeler. Here’s why: The town has moved cautiously, but steadily forward, over the past several years to embrace a pro-active agenda on several fronts. Most notably, they worked diligently with Middlebury College to build community support for a second in-town bridge. They then worked patiently to locate and build what is now considered a first-class bridge at a low price tag — and a valuable community asset.
Nuovo, along with many others, was a key part of that initiative. Other projects are coming down the pike (the fire station, the railroad underpasses on Main and Merchant’s Row, a potential commercial building adjacent to the bridge) all of which will benefit from Nuovo’s thoughtful approach to initiatives that move the town forward.
Keeler brings the same veteran experience to the board (he most recently served six years on the board from 2004-2010), but from a nuts-and-bolts perspective with the benefit of being a lifelong resident of the town.
Both also bring a common-sense approach to solving problems, and are willing to address long-standing issues rather than hoping they eventually fade away — needed qualities when attracting new jobs to the area and when helping the town benefit the most of its natural assets.
Angelo S. Lynn