Weston board splits on land gift, talks school merger

Clockwise from lower left, Annie Fuji'i, Bruce Downer, Denis Benson, Cheryl Barker and Charles Goodwin

From left, Annie Fuji’i, Bruce Downer, Denis Benson, Cheryl Barker and Charles Goodwin. Photos by Bruce Frauman

By Bruce Frauman
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Weston Select Board on Tuesday, Oct. 11 told Forestry District manager Nate McKeen that the board was split on landowner Maurice Kahn’s proposal to donate about 1.7 acres of land to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.

The land, on Fulton Road adjacent to Okemo State Forest, generated $406 in taxes last year, of which about $90 went to municipal taxes, according to Town Clerk and Treasurer Kim Seymour. In an email to the board, McKeen asked for the board’s “opinion, and ultimate approval, as well.”

McKeen said he believes this is a “good opportunity,” writing, “This parcel could provide FPR with a convenient spot to install a small parking lot for recreational access for Forest Management activities.” The decision to accept the parcel is up to the state, according to former state representative and current board member Charles Goodwin.

Though there was no motion, board member Bruce Downer voiced a “no” sale opinion, board member Annie Fuji’i said she had “no objections” to the sale, and Goodwin said, “Generally we don’t like to see the value of our grand list go down, but I don’t object to this specific one.”

The Telegraph called McKeen for a comment on whether the Select Board’s approval was required or not, but as of publication time, the call had not been returned.

After a brief public hearing, the board voted to approve the revision of the Town Plan as written by the Planning Commission. Though the structure of the Town Plan was updated, there were no significant changes in content.

Although it was not on the agenda, the board got into a side discussion about a potential school merger. Downer told the board, “This is getting strong-armed by the state. Gee, look at all the choice you have, but if you don’t go the way we want you to go, it’s going to cost you half a million dollars . . .It’s the antithesis of what Vermont is supposed to be about, which is choice.” Downer did say he needs “more information” to have an informed opinion.

Goodwin noted that, according to Deb Lyneis, Weston representative on the merger committee, state Rep. Oliver Olsen recommended to the committee that choosing a Supervisory District of just the proposed merger towns (see Merger panel member floats school plan with Weston Select Board) “locked in school choice more securely than going in the larger supervisory union.”

Town Clerk and Treasurer said tax delinquencies are running higher this year

Town Clerk and Treasurer Kim Seymour said tax delinquencies are running higher this year

The Northshire Merger Study Committee is considering whether to recommend to the state whether the nine towns meeting, including the four currently in the Mountain Town RED (Weston, Londonderry, Landgrave and Peru) should form their own Supervisory District or stay within the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union as well as many issues relating to the implementation of that merger.

The delinquent tax report from before the October tax deadline is “nice and short” according to Fuji’i. Yet, Seymour told the board that the current list, which has not yet “been turned over to the collector of delinquent taxes,” is about $80,000 higher than it was last year, which is a little concerning. I think we were at about $185,000 last year and we are close to $250,000.”  He added that there are a few “notable large ones.”

Board chair Denis Benson responded,  “Are you telling us that the economy is not as rosy as they would like us to believe?” Seymour told the board that this might mean “we would have to borrow more (money) next spring” if it is not collected.

Board administrative assistant Cheryl Barker told the board that HB Energy had cleaned and tested the town office building oil furnace and “we need a new furnace, but we can do another year with the existing furnace.”

Though it is deemed safe, the board voted to buy and install six carbon monoxide detectors for the town office building. Two for the basement will also include smoke detectors. Before the next heating season, the board will investigate the options of switching to a heat pump or propane furnace.

Before adjournment, the board voted to go into executive session on a personnel issue.

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