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By Lisa Loomis, Kara Herlihy and Ann Day
Voter turnout was high throughout The Valley as residents cast ballots on budgets, town officials and special appropriations.
Valley voters joined the rest of Vermont in choosing Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate by a large margin. Voters in Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston, Duxbury and Moretown cast 1,735 ballots for Obama, 719 for Hillary Clinton and 383 for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, with another 47 for Republican candidate Mike Huckabee.
Moretown voters approved a proposal to spend up to $900,000 to buy land and improve the town garage. Waitsfield voters resoundingly voted down three separate bond items for a municipal water and wastewater system. In Fayston, voters spent three hours after lunch wrangling over the school budget, before passing it by a vote of 40-23.
In Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston, the Carbon Shredders' carbon reduction resolutions passed handily (see related story). Warren voters stepped up to the plate with a cash contribution towards the project. In Duxbury voters okayed the purchase of two new pieces of town road equipment, a loader and a dump truck.
Individual town reports follow.
Voters reject municipal water and wastewater
Voters resoundingly defeated the town's proposed municipal water and wastewater projects at Town Meeting this year, replaced a select board incumbent with a challenger, and elected the town's first woman to the select board.
The proposal to bond for a municipal water system failed 442-398. An article to create a first phase of a municipal wastewater system for 18,000 gallons a day failed 484 to 336. And an article to create the second phase of that wastewater system, for treating up to 91,000 gallons a day, received 297 yes votes to 254 no votes. That third article required phase one to have passed.
Voters elected former planning commissioner Bill Parker to the select board, defeating incumbent Sal Spinosa for a three-year seat on the board with a vote of 514 to 286. A two-year term on the board, vacated by long-term board chair Elwin Neill Jr. was won by Kate Williams, who defeated challenger Rich Rivers Jr. by a vote of 488 to 310.
Neill received a standing ovation at Town Meeting in recognition of his 20-plus years of service to the town. Acknowledging the applause, Neill in turn praised the other long-serving members of the town select board, planning commission and other boards who help create "continuity and consistency" as the town moves forward.
"We're lucky to have that kind of continuity in our community," Neill said.
Neill was recognized shortly before the meeting broke for lunch, returning in the afternoon to pass a school budget of $3,188,211. Voters re-elected Missy Siner Shea to the select board for a two-year term with 723 votes and re-elected Wrenn Flemmer Compere to a three-year term with 744 votes.
In the morning, after discussion of several special appropriates, the town approved a municipal budget of approximately $1,259,000. The total budget number was reduced by $300 after discussion on the floor.
Waitsfield voters passed, by an Australian ballot vote of 576 to 251, subdivision regulations that were voted down in October by a vote of 115 to 70. The regulations offered an update to 20-year-old subdivision regulations. They were created by the planning commission and approved by the select board, with dissent from board member Paul Hartshorn. After the October vote failed, the planning commission revamped the regulations, addressing two areas where Hartshorn had voiced concerns. Those two areas deal with connectivity between roads in adjoining developments and the protection of prime agricultural lands.
Waitsfield has 1,337 registered voters, of whom 865 cast ballots on Tuesday.
Cunningham elected to Warren Select Board
Voters in Warren approved a total town budget of $2,375,681 which includes money spent on five separate articles. Article 3 gave the Central Vermont Community Land Trust $750, and Article 4 gave the Central Vermont Adult Basic Education nonprofit $600.
Voters also approved Articles 5, 8 and 9, which will provide $200 to the Family Center of Washington County, $600 to the Carbon Shredders carbon reduction initiative, and $20,000 to the Warren Conservation Fund.
Residents also voted to keep the $20,000 allotment for the Conservation Commission a separate article in the future instead of including it in the general town budget.
The Warren Elementary School budget of $1,819,313 was also approved by the 625 voters. Warren has 1,364 regular voters and 81 absentee voters.
The race for the single open slot on the Warren Select Board was won by Andrew Cunningham with 263 votes over opponent Robert Meany with 190 votes.
Warren's Town Meeting started with a discussion over road paving that would "eliminate mud season" and the possible implementation of a paving policy. Select board chair Mac Rood said that the cost to maintain paved roads is equivalent to the cost put forth for paved roads.
Members of the community called the proposal "incomplete" while some asked for the process to proceed slowly "with caution." The road paving article was amended into two separate articles; the town voted to establish a policy for paving but voted down the $150,000 that would be spent towards the paving initiative.
Of Warren's 1,364 registered voters, 625 came out to cast ballots at Town Meeting, plus 81 absentee ballots.
Town garage proposal passes, BOS remains intact
The results are in, following a lengthy pre-Town Meeting in Moretown where candidates for elected positions introduced themselves and offered their positions on critical issues.
The select board remains intact, with chair Paula Mastroberardino who received 410 votes and Wexler who earned 374 votes. Both were running for two one-year positions on the board. Their opponents, Hoover Austin and Charles Abare Sr., earned 211 and 160, respectively.
John Hoogenboom was re-elected to a three-year term on the Moretown Select Board with a total vote count of 392 over opponent Carl Wimble's 279 votes.
Town Clerk victor Cherilyn Brown Bandy earned 361 votes over opponent Jamie Wimble's 310. Amy Deutl won the town treasurer race with a total of 355 votes over Bandy, who received 315 votes. Deutl will also serve a one-year term as trustee of public money.
Amy Bolger will serve as school director for a one-year term earning 459 votes over Charles Abare Jr.'s 311 votes.
All 38 articles were approved by the voters in Moretown, including $900,000 for the purchase of a 2.5-acre parcel adjacent to the town-owned property and construction of a new town garage at its current location on Route 100B. Voters approved Moretown's $885,656 municipal budget and a school budget of $2,057,671.
The School Board gave a presentation that included standardized test scores, up significantly from the previous year in reading, math and writing. The school board also voiced their concerns over a proposed quarry on Route 100B in Moretown that is currently the subject of litigation.
At pre-Town Meeting on March 3, candidates for open elected positions introduced themselves and offered their reasons for running and top priorities. Candidates for select board, Carl Wimble and Hoover Austin, both pointed to what they considered "frivolous spending" on the part of the select board.
Austin, who also presented on the progress of the debated town garage project, said he "had something to offer the town." The proposed new town garage would occupy the current location, be big enough to keep all town-owned trucks and equipment inside, and have a radiant floor heating system.
Members of the public questioned the $102,000 price tag on the two-acre village parcel being considered by the town. One resident called the price "astronomical" compared to other two-acre properties.
Select board member Don Wexler gave a brief presentation documenting the Town Hall historic renovation project, which has been underway since the fall. The Town Hall has so far received work for drainage issues, heating system and floor refinishing. The town also plans to overhaul the downstairs kitchen, entryway, front porch and roof in the future.
Of Moretown's 1,282 registered voters, 728 cast ballots on Town Meeting Day.
Fayston voters honor Quenneville, pass school budget
The Fayston Town Meeting was called to order by moderator David Jones at a half hour later than the warned 10 a.m. The delay was necessitated by the heavy turnout of voters for the presidential primary.
At 10:30 moderator Jones asked everyone to be seated and the gavel fell to open the town portion of the meeting. Voting continued throughout the day and by 7 p.m. 392 registered voters marked their choice for president.
Select board member Robert Vasseur ("next year will be my 50th year!"), Jared Cadwell and Ed Read presided over the meeting. Twenty-five articles were discussed and voted on.
Michael Quenneville, who will be retiring as road foreman in July 2009, received a standing ovation and was honored for his dedication and fiscal responsibility as well as his unsurpassed ability with the equipment and tools he used.
All serving officials retained their positions and were elected unanimously. Virginia Vasseur will serve another one-year term as town clerk, Ed Read will serve another three-year term on the select board, and Patti Lewis will continue for another year-long term as town treasurer.
The office of town constable was left open. After a discussion and favorable vote on Article 10 -- "Shall the town vote to fill the office of constable by appointment of the select board rather than by election in accordance with the statutes..." -- the town voted in favor of it.
When Zelda LaVanway was re-elected to the cemetery commission, a voter asked where the cemetery was located in Fayston. The microphone was handed to Arthur Williams who has served many years on the commission. "There are three," he said. "North, South, and Center -- where do you want to lay -- I think I have said enough. I may be in the cemetery before I finish."
David Olenick was re-elected town agent. The select board explained that Olenick has been a valuable asset to the board as well as listers and Board of Civil Authority, especially the last two years as legal issues have become more difficult.
The town voted a budget of $924,052. The budget is up $78,052 from 2007. Select board members said legal expenses, budgeting for a new dump truck and increased energy costs have added to the increase.
The longest and most heated discussion during the morning session was during the election and funding of the tax collector. Several residents questioned combining tax collector with delinquent tax collector. Select board members explained that Fayston's population is not large enough to warrant two separate collection offices. Tax collector in Fayston is not paid a salary but receives an eight percent fee for collection of delinquent taxes.
Fayston voters passed the school budget after a lengthy and heated afternoon discussion which commenced at 2 p.m. after a well-received potluck luncheon. Mike Riddell was re-elected to a three-year term on the school board as was Bob Lockett. School Principal Chris Dodge gave a slide show explaining educational initiatives and accomplishments. The Fayston School was chosen to showcase their responsive classroom approach at UMass last summer. The local school was one of four chosen from over 1,000 schools nationwide.
School board member Jean Wry presented the school budget and opened the meeting for discussion. The two-hour discussion included several passionate speeches by people voicing a desire to honor the teachers and their commitment to Fayston by keeping salaries intact. Others spoke out about lowering expenses in other services. Also questioned was the hiring of two new teachers. A paper ballot was called for and, in the end, the $1,582,934 budget was approved by a 40 to 23 vote.
Fayston has 969 registered voters, of whom 392 voted on Town Meeting day.
Duxbury voters okay heavy equipment purchases
From the floor of Town Meeting, Duxbury voters re-elected, by voice vote, three members of the select board. Joann Berno was re-elected to a three-year term, Richard Charland was re-elected to a one-year term and Kym Andrews was re-elected to a one-year term.
Duxbury voters passed a town budget of $627,866.
Voters were feeling generous with the purse strings this year, passing articles to spend up to $24,000 to update the town vault and approving up to $106,000 to refurbish a bridge on Camel's Hump Road. This item spurred a fair amount of discussion but did ultimately pass -- also by voice vote. The town will be eligible for state reimbursement of part of that cost.
Voters also okayed spending up to $118,000 to buy a new loader and up to $170,000 to buy a new dump truck. Voters set a tax due date of October 15 and passed over a request from the Green Mountain Transit Agency for a contribution of $775.
Duxbury has 950 registered voters, of whom 475 voted at Town Meeting.
Carbon reduction resolutions pass in three towns
Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston passed resolutions pledging to reduce carbon footprints and energy consumption by 10 percent by 2010. The resolutions were introduced by the local group known as the Carbon Shredders, which is a group initiated and sponsored by Seventh Generation, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, NRG Systems, Yestermorrow Design/Build School and several Vermont energy activists.
The Carbon Shredders group is offering free public training programs to help institutions and residents calculate their energy-use patterns and C02 footprints, along with a step-by-step program to reduce energy use and become more efficient. The program centers around the Low Carbon Diet book by David Gershon, as well as a new EPA-sponsored online tracking/measurement tool known as Do Your Part that will be available through www.carbonshredders.org.
"Everyone wants to know what they can do about energy costs and global warming," said Bob Ferris, executive director of Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren. "And so far we're seeing the Low Carbon Diet as a great starting point. The Carbonshredders.org website will be the hub of our programs and will give the community members and others access to the overall impact in each town. This is starting in the Mad River Valley, but we envision a national program that is open for participation by anyone."
In Warren, voters took the "10 by 10" initiative a step further and pledged a $600 fund to support Carbon Shredders costs for training materials, books and events. NRG Systems also pledged to match this Warren contribution.
"We are rolling out a Low Carbon Diet training program to our employees to help them save money on rising energy costs and reduce their household carbon footprints," said Jasna Brown, domestic outreach coordinator for Green Mountain Coffee. "Seventh Generation and Green Mountain Coffee saw an opportunity to extend our internal programs to local communities, and Carbon Shredders materialized from there."
"We're glad to see our '10 by 10' initiative being adopted by local towns and residents," said Gregor Barnum, director of corporate consciousness at Seventh Generation. "This is really a no-brainer that everyone can embrace. The program gives people something tangible and measurable they can do to reduce global warming and help people deal with rising energy costs. The average household can easily reduce their energy use by 10 percent, and the average financial impact of that is over $700 per year in savings per household."
Carbon Shredders has given an open invitation to the community to attend the group's first public training program at the Big Picture Theater in Waitsfield from 4 to 7 p.m. on March 18. More information is available at www.carbonshredders.org .