Weston voters give GNAT a boost during relatively quiet Town Meeting

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

All of the articles presented in the warning of the Weston Town Meeting held on Tuesday morning passed by wide margins, but as is often the case, more discussion time was spent on small expense items than the large ones.

Weston Select Board chair Denis Benson compares GNAT to drug pushers who get people hooked for free only to later charge them money. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

One item that was discussed in quite a bit of detail was an appropriation for Greater Northshire Access Television (GNAT), which sends videographers out to record public meetings including select boards and school boards, and broadcasts them on Comcast Cable. Cable users make up just 4 percent of Weston residents and non-subscribers can view videos on GNAT’s website or YouTube Channel.

Last year, the Select Board reduced the $2,000 amount requested to $500, which voters at Town Meeting approved. This year, GNAT again asked for $2,000 and the board reduced it to $500 once more. Saying that when GNAT first started taping public meetings it hadn’t mentioned anything about money but then began requesting the appropriation, board chair Denis Benson likened it to a dealer giving away “dope on the corner” until people are hooked.

GNAT Executive Director Tammie Reilly was on hand Tuesday to explain the service provided and a number of residents spoke on the organization’s behalf. Carrie Chalmers pointed to the consolidation of schools and said that being informed is “incredibly important.” Chalmers moved to increase the dollar amount to $2,000 and the motion passed.

While other appropriations – like $230 for the Vermont Center for Independent Living and $5oo for the Women’s Freedom Center – were questioned, they all passed without dissent.

Pajala answers legislative questions

Saying that she had to return Londonderry – where she is Town Clerk – for its town meeting, state Rep. Kelly Pajala dispensed with talking points and took questions from those in attendance.

Carrie Chalmers speaks in favor of GNAT full funding.

On gun control, Pajala said that the State House had quickly put together an “extreme protection” statute that would allow police to take guns away from someone who has demonstrated that he or she is dangerous to others or him- or herself for 60 days, with appeals.

She noted that the Senate had voted 30-to-0 to tweak the House bill by raising the standard for acting from “clear and convincing” to a “preponderance of evidence ”and raised the amount of time that guns could be held to one year. Pajala said she had voted for it and for the amendments needed to change it to the Senate version.

Responding to board member Charles Goodwin’s question about education taxes, Pajala also discussed the proposed lessening of emphasis on property tax to fund education, with a dedicated income tax surcharge taking up the slack. She said that the legislature is also working on a fix for the higher taxes imposed on states like Vermont from the new federal tax statutes.

Benson complained that the Agency of Transportation  is “not in touch with reality” when it comes to  regulations for controlling erosion and runoff from dirt roads as part of the Clean Water Act.

“Rather than dealing with the towns individually, they are going through the (regional planning commissions),” said Benson, who wondered if the people making the regulations had ever been out in the real world “or (just) a grad from some school who got a job writing up rules.”

Pajala said she did not see the state backing away from working with the RPCs, but that they are trying to get more resources to help town comply with the law.

Elected offices

The audience of voters elected the following people by voice vote.

  • Moderator – 1 year – Wayne Granquist
  • Town Clerk – 1 year – Kim Seymour
  • Town Treasurer – 1 year – Kim Seymour
  • Select board – 3 years – Jim Linville
  • Select board – 2 years – Annie Fuji’i
  • Lister – 3 years – Ron Prouty
  • Lister – 3 years – Greg Carroll
  • Constable – 1 year – Vacant
  • Collector of Delinquent Taxes – 1 year – Sandra Goodwin
  • Mountain Towns Regional School Board – 1 year – Carrie Chalmers
  • Town Grand Juror – 1 year – Wayne Granquist
  • Town Agent – 1 year – James Young
  • Library Trustee – 5 years – Donna Bonang
  • Trustee of Public Funds – Nicole Pfister
  • Cemetery Commissioner – 5 years – Bill Hoyt
  • Cemetery Commissioner – Vacant – Richard Lechthaler
  • Cemetery Commissioner – 1 year – Mimi Neff

Rudolph Johnson prizes

Nicole Pfister, a Trustee of Public Funds, and Carrie Chalmers handed out the Rudolph Johnson prizes of $150 each to seven eighth-graders who will be leaving middle school for high school next fall.  Rudolph Johnson, principal of the Weston Town School, left money to the town for the awards and a fund in his name is managed by the trustees. Awards went to, pictured from left in the photo:

  • Will Borhek
  • Angelo Bonnano
  • Coleman Reese
  • Alexis Seymour
  • Sarah Anne (Summer) Murphy
  • Hilary Morrow
  • Brielle Proctor

Many of the students said they would use the money to help buy laptops and academic software for school, while others said they would put the money in savings. Coleman Reese wrote that academics are important, but that he would like to use the money for one-on-one work with a baseball coach.

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