By KATHRYN FLAGG
MONKTON — As the Monkton selectboard gets ready to grow from three to five members this year, candidates have squared off in two races for seats on the board. It represents one of the few Addison County town in which there is a selectman’s race.
Terry Cunningham and Mark Burritt are up against one another in the race for a three-year selectboard seat, and Chris Acker and John Phillips are both vying for a one-year seat on the board. L. Stephen Pilcher is running unopposed for a two-year seat on the board.
Current board members Anne Layn and Peter Norris will retain their seats on the board. Selectboard Chair Henry Boisse is stepping down from his seat on the board.
Cunningham, a three-year resident of Monkton, said he’s been attending the selectboard meetings for a couple of years and is concerned that decisions are being made without the community’s awareness. He was particularly concerned when the board did not respond to a petition submitted by roughly 80 Monkton residents last fall who were worried about the board’s decisions to install stop signs on Monkton Ridge and pave a portion of Mountain Road.
“A board has to be totally open and transparent, and I think I can offer some of that,” Cunningham said.
A retired detective and law enforcement officer, Cunningham said his experience in management and supervision will be an asset if elected. He said he’d like to see the town find ways to spend less money.
“With the technology that we have, management has to have as a priority the idea of doing more with less,” Cunningham said. He called himself a believer in the less government, the better.
Cunningham also said he’d like to see the selectboard take action to try to invite more business to Monkton.
Cunningham’s opponent, Mark Burritt, did not respond to messages for comments by press time.
In the race for a one-year seat on the board, past board member Phillips comes up against Acker, who said he was inspired to throw his hat into the ring “just to see if I can make a difference.”
“I’m just trying to help the town,” Acker said.
Acker, an excavator, said he’s gone to selectboard meetings in the past, but has not held a town office before. He sees the zoning rules as one of the biggest challenges facing Monkton in the next few years.
“I think it’s going to be a tough challenge to keep the zoning rules so that you don’t have the big developments coming in, but also to maintain it so that people can still subdivide their property and do some development,” he said.
Acker said he’s interested in pursuing “middle of the road, common sense decisions” if elected.
Phillips served on the selectboard in Monkton for nine years previously, leaving the board two years ago.
“I just think that experience would be a help to the board and the town,” said Phillips, who has lived in Monkton for about 20 years.
He said passing the town plan, dealing with ancient roads and addressing traffic concerns will be areas on which the board needs to focus in the next few years.
Phillips also said that he’s worried about the challenges the state and towns will have in the current economic climate.
“I think the whole state’s going to have a problem in the next couple of years with how to fund the services and at what level,” Phillips said.
TOWN MEETING PREVIEW
In the only other contested election on the Monkton ballot, Dawn Griswold and Anne Layn have thrown their hats into the ring for the three-year seat on Monkton’s elementary school board. Griswold sits on the board currently. Elementary school board members Holly Acker and Robert Radler are running unopposed for the one-year seats they currently hold.
Thea Gaudette, Michael Bayer and Sam Burr are running unopposed for seats on the town’s planning commission.
In other business, Monkton voters will consider suspending an annual two-cent municipal property tax initiative — approved in 2006 to maintain open land — in light of what town officials termed current “uncertain economic conditions.”
Voters will be asked whether or not they approve of allocating a total of $17,142.50 to social service agencies like HOPE, the Bristol Rescue Squad, Addison County Home, Health and Hospice, and Addison County Counseling Service. Twenty groups have submitted requests for funding.
Voters will also consider $258,948.26 in requested funding for town salaries and general expenses; $656,100 for highway expenses; $66,000 in funding for the Monkton Volunteer Fire Department; $17,112 for the Russell Memorial Library; $900 for the Monkton Museum and Historical Society; and $3,000 for the recreation fund.
The Russell Memorial Library is hosting a “Meet the Candidates” night on Monday, Feb. 23, at the Monkton Central School, starting at 7:30 p.m. All of the candidates on the ballot for election at town meeting have been invited to attend. There will be a time slot set aside for questions from the public.