After wrangling, Derry voters approve articles

By Bruce Frauman
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Under moderator Doug Friant’s guidance, Town Meeting in Londonderry on Tuesday flew through 15 articles with only a scattering of “nays” and some questions about the ever decreasing State Police presence over and above their regular patrols.

Town Moderator Doug Friant running the meeting on Tuesday. Photos by Bruce Frauman

But then the meeting encountered lots of turbulence as it considered the appropriation requests contained in the remaining 8 articles. Friant offered up some rarely seen procedures from Roberts Rules of Order to get through those.

In the early (and easy) part of the meeting, all the town officials seeking to remain in office were elected by unanimous consent. Friant was elected as moderator for the third year. Taylor Prouty was elected to a three-year term and George Mora to a two-year term on the Select Board.

Sandra Clark was elected to a three-year term as Lister and Julie Adams, appointed by the Select Board last year, was elected to fill out Geoff Long’s three-year term ending in 2020. Daniel Cobb was elected to a five-year term on the Cemetery Commission and Michael Goodbody to a three-year term as a Trustee of Public Funds.

Everyone else was elected to a one-year term: Roger Sheehan as First Constable, Joan Dayton as Deliquent Tax Collector, Peter Pagnucco as Town Grand Juror, and Alex Alexander as Town Agent. Nick Doane stood for a post as Second Constable, but had let his voter registration lapse and so was not eligible, according to Friant. Since no one stepped forward to seek the position, the Select Board will appoint someone. Those interested should talk to a Select Board member or let someone know in the town clerk’s office.

Pajala takes questions

State Rep. Kelly Pajala takes questions on a range of topics

Before the votes to elect town officials, state Rep. Kelly Pajala, who is also Town Clerk, spoke about education, telecommunications, and the Springfield Medical system before deftly answering pointed questions asked by Deb Hazelton about House Bill H57 regarding abortion as well as the state of marijuana legalization in the legislature.

In response to Hazelton, Pajala said she did sponsor and vote for H57. The bill has passed the House and is going to the Senate. While the House bill does not criminalize abortion in any stage, Pajala said late stage abortions are still extremely rare and must be approved by an ethics committee. She said the status of the fetus in Vermont is determined by federal law and case law.

For communities with no cell service and no broadband service, the state is considering looking for ways to get providers to get “to the last mile.”  Pajala said no one yet knows what the Springfield Medical Care Systems, which is undergoing financial challenges, will look like, but the goal is to keep the hospital and the clinics open.

Finally, Pajala said the Senate has passed a bill authorizing legal sale of recreational marijuana that includes a Cannabis Control Board. She said the bill still has to go the House, so changes are likely. Her own position is that the legal sale of marijuana should be regulated with a goal of keeping the industry small scale to better benefit communities.

Voters approved $80,000 for Phoenix Fire Company #6 to purchase a $150,000 Ford F550 crew cab fire truck. Don Hazelton said the current truck is 20 years old and showing its age. The new truck will have a heavier chassis and room to carry more crew. The Fire Department is kicking in $45,000 and Landgrove has been asked to contribute $25,000.

Select board chair Jim Ameden explains the arrangements with VSP for patrolling this year

There were a few nays to the vast majority of yeas to approve a sum not to exceed $15,000 to fund contracting with the Vermont State Police for overtime patrols. That sum, board chair Jim Ameden said, was “just for budgeting” purposes. Ameden said State Police Lt. Anthony French can only promise about 12 hours a month this year, but the board still believes this is the best policing option at the moment.

Marge Fish said she was on the previous policing committee and the options were contracting with Winhall Police and to create a new department and that those options are very expensive. Contracting with the Windham County Sheriff was rejected because that agency primarily focuses on traffic stops resulting in tickets. The VSP focuses on prevention by issuing warnings unless the violation is flagrant.  The VSP is also willing to patrol back roads.

Voters also showed great interest in the proposed Pump Track for Pingree Park being developed by the Parks Board. This will be a dirt track with hills and dips for kids and adults on dirt bikes, according to Parks Board member Nadine Van Houten. It will replace the upper ballfield, which is no longer being used. An appropriation of $5,000 was approved for the park, with the remaining $3,200 raised through fundraising and Park Board funds.

Resident John Barry sought to reduce the allocation to GNAT-TV to $800 from $2,000, based on comparing the populations of Manchester and Londonderry. The request was split off into its own article and after much discussion about the merits of GNAT, the proposal was rejected and the request of $2,000 was approved.

Jennifer Stromsten of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation explains the funding request from SeVEDS

Jennifer Stromsten, of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., spoke of the benefits to area economic development of Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies. She said the organization supports businesses where Londonderry residents work. Stromsten said rural regional development is difficult and SeVEDS can help communities apply for planning grants.

Not convinced helping fund SeVEDS at a rate of $3 per resident is of value, Barry moved to pass over the appropriation indefinitely, a motion he later withdrew. Instead others moved to commit, meaning the Select Board would have to set up a study committee to report to the next Town Meeting. Stromsten said that regardless of funding, they would continue to serve areas in need.

Jim Ameden said perhaps SeVEDS is waiting for the town to approach it for advice. He added that SeVEDS had presented at Select Board meetings in 2018, though no one from the public attended. Hearing that, the commit motion was withdrawn. Yet another proposal to offer $2,500 in funding was defeated 50-32 requiring a “division of the house” and a count taken. Ultimately the meeting voted to appropriate SeVEDS its full $5,307 request.

John Barry again contested a funding request, reading through the many income sources of the Windham County Humane Society and said it “did not need” the $500 it requested from Londonderry. The meeting voted to appropriate the $500 anyway.

John Barry objecting to one of several expenditures on the warning

Barry then questioned the legal existence of the Mountain Valley Medical Center in its $5,000 request leading to a brouhaha and several amendments which, in the end were defeated and the original article was approved.

Renata Sawyer, director of the West River Montessori School, talked about the many benefits of their 2-3 year old program and their $3,000 request to provide scholarships was approved.

In “other business” one woman praised the Londonderry Community Forum on Facebook and asked people to be “thoughtful and kind” to each other. Mora said this forum is entirely independent of the town government.

The board was asked about the progress of the Lowell Lake management plan. Ameden said the town had not been kept informed. Bob Maisey said a Lowell Lake working group, organized by former Town Administrator Robert Nied, will meet at the South Londonderry Library on Monday, March 11 at 6:30 pm. Several people said the existence of this group and their meeting times need to be better publicized.

Steve Twitchell said that for three years Candy Bliss has been collecting and organizing bottles and cans to be redeemed, generating thousands of dollars for the Parks Board and the Flood Brook Athletic Association and ought to be praised.

Finally after meeting for 3 hours and 50 minutes straight and voting for a General Fund of $1,836,016.77, the meeting adjourned.

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