Grafton residents to vote on using surplus to buy tractor

By Cynthia Prairie
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Grafton Select Board Monday night decided to ask town voters to approve using funds from the town surplus to help pay for a new tractor and attachments that would help the town comply with Act 64, which was signed into law in summer of 2015 and is intended to improve the state’s water quality.

Joe Valente, right, listens as Don Dougall talks about financing a new town tractors. All photos by The Chester Telegraph.

Towns throughout the state are now required to line ditches with stone to manage runoff and control erosion. This means that graders can no longer be used to clean ditches. Many towns are in the process of purchasing new tractors and attachments to blow debris from lined ditches.

So on Monday, Grafton Road Foreman Danny Taylor presented the board with two qualified bids on new tractors and mower and blower attachments. After some discussion, the board decided to go with the Case Tractor from Salem Farm Supply and the blower from HP Fairfield. The total cost, Taylor estimated, would be $130,548. He added that he expected equipment to be used for 15 to 20 years.

How the town would pay for the equipment was a more difficult decision. Don Dougal suggested several ways including making a large upfront down-payment and borrowing the rest to be paid off over five years. “I don’t see anything wrong with financing. The difference is about $7,000,” he said.

Taylor said the equipment had to be ordered and the soonest it could arrive would be the end of May. Board member Stan Mack suggested putting off the purchase for a month and consider using the surplus. “Maybe we can do it in some other way to avoid the $7,000 in interest.”

But several people, including Taylor, were concerned that since town voters had to approve the use of surplus funds, the process of getting to the vote would delay the purchase. “If you wait too long, you might have to rent a machine that could cost $10,000,” Taylor said.

While board chair Joe Pollio said that the cost of the rental is already in the budget, Dougal asked if the rental would be available when the town needed it, since other towns book the equipment.

Board member Stan Mack, left, addresses the board as Ron Pilette and Joe Pollio listen.

Board member Cynthia Gibbs suggested that the town order the tractor now, take the issue to the voters and “if the voters vote down (using the surplus), borrow the money.” To the laughter of the audience, she then turned to Taylor and remarked, “But the fact is that no one turns you down, Danny.”

In the end, the board agreed to both purchase the tractor and put the issue of the use of the surplus before the voters. The board will meet in special session on at 2 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall to hammer out details of the Special Meeting on the vote. You can read that agenda here.

Two new Planning Commission members

In other news, the board appointed two new members of the Planning Commission, turning down a reappointment request from incumbent David Acker. The terms of Acker, Eric Stevens  and John Plummer were up. Plummer decided not to seek reappointment.

Board member Ron Pilette suggested reappointing both Acker and Stevens. And Planning Commission member Liisa Kissel agreed, adding that, “I find it unusual to announce new people on the Planning Commission with announcing the vacancies first.”

Board chair Joe Pollio.

Board member Al Sands said that the appointments seem to be coming “from one group.” Pilette responded, “It’s not a matter of rubber-stamping. These people have served well.”

Kissel said she took exception to the phrase “one group,” calling it divisive. “We care about this town and that’s why we want to serve.”

The board decided to reappoint Stevens and appoint Town Treasurer and Clerk Kim Record and David Culver.

Another dustup over announcing vacancies occurred as the board replaced Pat Mack as auditor. Pollio told the group that with Stan Mack now a Select Board member, his wife cannot serve as auditor. He added that Joe Valente “wants the position.”

Kissel asked if the position had been made public. Pollio replied to the audience of about 30, “It’s public now. Does anyone want to volunteer?”

The board voted Valente in to fill out the Mack’s term.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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