Fayston voters debate money for Bragg Farm purchase and school budget

Fayston voters vigorously debated whether or not the town should put $20,000 into its Conservation Reserve Fund and donate $10,000 of that to the Vermont Land Trust towards the purchase of the Bragg farm.

The Town Meeting article was ultimately decided in favor of setting aside the money and donating it as proposed.

Prior to the vote, Cory Stevenson from the town’s Conservation Commission and Liza Walker from the Vermont Land Trust presented a slide program of the Bragg Farm and the Vermont Land Trust’s and Fayston’s role in the purchase of the farm.

A lengthy discussion followed with a number of the voters questioning the town’s use of the $20,000 and last year’s spending the entire $10,000 on one piece of land (the Bragg Farm). Some people said that, with the economic situation, price of gas, etc., that they did not want to pay more taxes. Tom Bisbee pointed out that $20,000 represented only .03 percent more in property taxes.

Many others spoke about the benefits of the purchase and future plans for the Bragg Farm and the preservation of this valuable property at a very reasonable cost for the town and The Valley.

Peter Forbes explained to the assembly that Knoll Farm on Bragg Hill was purchased and preserved with the Vermont Land Trust in the same way the Bragg Farm is being done now. Knoll Farm has been a successful example of preservation and conservation of open land and sustainable agriculture, he said.

Walker explained that authorizing the town’s $10,000 will help ensure raising the rest of the purchase price for the Bragg Farm.

After the meeting, Walker said “We are grateful to have the support and partnership of Fayston residents in this exciting effort to conserve the Bragg Farm. The town’s investment in the protection of this iconic property will help achieve community goals identified in the Town Plan and also ensure the farm can contribute to The Valley’s economy and working landscape.”

In the coming weeks, VLT will reach out to the broader community to raise the remaining funds needed to permanently conserve the Bragg Farm and enable its sale to Marisa Mauro of Ploughgate Creamery.

Prior to that vote, the voters re-elected all of their town officials including town clerk Patti Lewis, moderator David Jones, and select board member Robert Vasseur who was re-elected with appreciation for his 54 years on the board.

Lister Tony Egan agreed to accept one more term but noted that he was going to turn 80 and would like someone else to step forward when his three-year term expires.

Fayston’s town budget for 2013 is $1,021,614, the first time Fayston’s budget has gone above one million. Voters passed it and also passed a resolution in opposition to the tar sands.

After a break for lunch, voters re-elected Susan MacLean-Daley to the school board along with Heidi Spear. Sarah Stavraky was re-elected school district treasurer. After a discussion of where the money is going to come from, the voters appropriated $55,000 to the school’s Maintenance Reserve Fund.

Voters got into a detailed discussion of the school budget, proposed at $1,708,836. After discussing the matter at great length, the school budget was passed by paper ballot as follows: 35 yes, 20 no and 1 spoiled for a total of 55 votes.

Ann Day, Fayston, and Lizzy Hewitt, Warren, contributed to this report.