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04/30/2009

The Moretown Select Board held another special meeting Monday evening, April 27, to discuss wording for an article that will ask taxpayers to approve additional spending to cover unanticipated legal fees associated with the Rivers' quarry appeal.

Select board members also discussed another unanticipated overage: that of the town's outside independent audit, which will likely run $8,000 higher than was budgeted for the year.

Both overages will be voted on in one special vote.

The quarry overages prompted an April 15 special meeting. Quarry applicant Rich Rivers has proposed a quarry that would occupy a portion of the 93 acres north of Moretown Village. Rivers applied for and was denied town development review board permits in 2004, and was denied an Act 250 permit on two criteria (air quality and town plan conformance) in 2007. Rivers appealed both rulings and the appeals later merged at the Vermont Environmental Court.

The April 27 discussion follows an emergency meeting that took place Wednesday, April 15, that allowed town's attorney Ron Shems to explain a recent $8,000 invoice for legal fees that resulted from the preparation of a rebuttal on the findings of fact. The town voted to authorize Shems to complete the rebuttal, and it was submitted on April 27.

During the emergency meeting, Shems said he was well within the $30,000 estimated for 2009, and that he deferred an invoice from November and December until January 2009, per the request of the select board. The total of all invoices is about $18,000, according to Shems, which includes the recent $8,000 bill.

The town has a total of $35,000 budgeted for general legal expenses; currently $32,000 has been spent. According to select board assistant Cheryl Brown and language from the town's listserv newsletter, town officials will consider delaying planned work on River Road, if the voters decide not to authorize additional expenditures.

A total of $60,000 is budgeted for the River Road work for 2009. Select board member David Van Deusen reported in the town's listserv newsletter, "If you do not vote to raise our taxes, we will still strive to keep the overall tax rate the same by proportionately scaling back our planned work on the Town Hall. In a word, the select board is committed to keeping your taxes as flat as can be!"

It is unclear at present whether the article wording will contain a specific dollar amount to be approved by the voters, or if will simply be an open, "not to exceed" figure. Select board members will continue the discussion about article wording at their regular meeting scheduled for Monday, May 4, at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall.

Regarding the auditing overage, the audit is necessary in order to secure long-term financing to finish the town garage. At the April 27 meeting, select board member Rob Roberts estimated that the professional audit will cost approximately $12,000, while there is $5,000 left in the budget.

It is likely, according to select board assistant Cheryl Brown, that a request for additional funding for the audit will be added to the amount for legal spending requested in the article. This issue is also slated for discussion at the May 4 meeting.

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