The Duxbury Select Board held an informational meeting in advance of Town Meeting Day (March 1, 2022) on February 22 to discuss the articles voters would see on their ballots, including the town’s budget of $1,145,499, and answer voters’ questions. Representative Kari Dolan also spoke to the select board and residents about the work she and Representative Maxine Grad are doing in the Legislature.
Not discussed at the meeting was an issue with the town warning in advance of next week’s vote. According to Vermont statute, 17 V.S.A. § 2641: “The warning shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality at least five days before the meeting, unless the warning is published in the town report and the town report is mailed or otherwise distributed to the voters at least 10 days before the meeting. The legislative body annually shall designate the paper in which these warnings shall be published.”
According to Duxbury town clerk Maureen Harvey, the town warning was sent to the Times Argus three times, on February 1, February 14 and February 16, but the paper failed to publish the warning. However, she stated that town reports had been mailed and posted online more than 10 days in advance of the meeting, so the election will be valid. “If someone wants to challenge it, they can have at it,” she said.
“We have acknowledged the emails were missed, and we have apologized to the town for any inconvenience we may have caused,” said Times Argus publisher and editor Steven Pappas. “It does not appear that our error is going to have an impact on the March 1 election, for which we are relieved. Public notices are an invaluable part of any newspaper's critical role in the community. Readers depend on being informed through them. Our lack of attention to detail nearly cost a community its right to a valid election. As stewards of open government and local democracy, we need to do better to insure we are doing our part to uphold the requirements of the law. This was entirely our fault,” Pappas added.
Articles on Duxbury ballots include whether to appropriate $30,000 to the pavement escrow and $111,000 to fund the capital reserve, whether to approve the expenditure from the capital reserve fund in an amount not to exceed $145,000 for the purchase of a tandem truck and whether to authorize the select board to pursue a solar power installation on an unused 3.5-acre lot of town land at the former gravel pit location. The select board will issue an RFP for a solar company to do the work, if approved by the voters.
The FY2023 budget includes $193,298.79 in local town and regional funds, which includes fire department and ambulance contracts, library funding, along with a number of charitable donations to support organizations such as Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice, Waterbury Senior Citizens Center, Green Mountain Transit and others. Duxbury resident Phyllis Arsenault-Berry asked whether there is a spending limit on how much the town allocates to nonprofit organizations and was told by select board chair Mari Pratt that there was no such limit. “Some of these things have really been heightened with COVID,” she said. “There should be some sort of limitation at some point,” Arsenault-Berry said.
Dolan spoke about her and Grad’s priorities this legislative session, which include completing the reapportionment, housing, workforce development, broadband, child care and climate change. Arsenault-Berry asked Dolan whether there was a chance Duxbury would be redistricted with Waterbury, as opposed to The Valley. “It seems like we’d be better suited to be attached to Waterbury,” she said.
Dolan explained the process for public comment on redistricting and that the initial proposal included Duxbury being reapportioned with Moretown and two-thirds of Fayston, which Fayston residents vehemently opposed. She explained redistricting, which happens every 10 years following the census, is based on population. “It has a domino effect,” she said.
Duxbury resident Jill Smith asked Dolan if ‘slum landlords’ would be bailed out with the funding related to affordable housing. “There will be a close and careful look at those dollars for housing, “Dolan said, now that there’s a substantial increase in funding available through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. “That kind of accounting is critical to ensure we’re making the most of those dollars,” she said.
Duxbury voters will vote by drive-thru at the town office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1, 2022.