Grafton board seeks counsel advice on conflict of interest; considers Town Meeting date change

By Gloria Dufield
©2015-Telegraph Publishing LLC

Monday’s Grafton Select Board meeting began fairly routinely with early agenda items moving the meeting quickly to a mystery topic only listed as Kent Armstrong. Once he was announced, Armstrong asked each board member on what grounds each had decided to run for the Select Board — to which all responded “to serve Grafton residents.”

He then said that he believed that three of the five board members had a conflict of interest relating to a controversial wind project because they had stated publicly that they were against that project. He had broached this topic at the last board meeting, when the Select Board backed a resolution to ask the General Assembly to support towns in having more influence in Public Service Board decisions over energy projects.

Armstrong read from the Code of Conduct and asked that the town lawyer be called upon to address his concerns as to whether there was a conflict.  During the discussion, which involved many in attendance, Grafton board chair Sam Battaglino questioned whether involving the town lawyer was the best use of town funds.

But board member Gus Plummer said it would be beneficial for counsel to be involved so everyone “was sure” as to what was being done. All four board members (Skip Lisle was not in attendance) voted in favor of having the town lawyer address the concerns regarding Code of Conduct relating to board members at the next meeting.

Following the meeting, board member Ron Pillette said members don’t have a conflict because, according to the code, conflict of interest “does not apply to a member’s particular political views or general opinion on a given issue.”  In addition, there is no conflict of interest in matters in which the public officer has a personal or pecuniary interest in the outcome that is no greater than that of persons generally affected by the decision, such as adopting a bylaw or setting a tax rate.

Another hot topic was a proposal to change the day of the week that town meeting is held in Grafton. Saturday was suggested since it would allow more people to attend than the Tuesday daytime meeting that coincides with Australian balloting.  Town clerk Kimberly Record said a number of towns hold their meetings on Monday night, with the Australian ballot held on Tuesday. One community member suggested that a proposal be put to Australian ballot to allow those currently having difficulties attending town meeting the opportunity to vote on the measure.

Town Hall repairs, town garage sale addressed

Attention  then turned to  updates on various ongoing town projects. Plummer reported that all items on the current Town Hall check list of repairs and updates had been completed and he would be preparing another list of work for the front of the hall. Battaglino noted that the Town Hall, which was built in 1816,  was in “very bad shape” and that every year spent waiting to address repairs would increase the bill.

He also added that although it would take considerable funds to do all the needed repairs, it would result in a Town Hall that the community could be proud of. Plummer noted that funds would not be available for additional work until the start of the new fiscal year but he would start the list and perhaps the bids could go out prior to the funds being available. Town administrator Rachel Williams announced that she and town clerk Kimberly Record are  volunteering their time to spiff up the inside of the town office with new paint.

Road foreman Danny Taylor updated the board on the new town garage and required work inspections, then presented to the board the bid proposal for a plow/body package.  The board and community members’ discussion of the sale of the old town garage resulted in the need for review of the value of the property with information from the listers’ office and for future discussion as to timing of the sale.

Emerald ash borers on the way; drug problem already here

Liisa Kissel, who serves on the town planning commission, gave a brief report on the emerald ash borer.  She suggested that the town consider inventorying ash trees in all town rights-of-way that would have an impact on the town economically as well as environmentally if they should be infested. Currently there are no confirmed infestations in Vermont but with other nearby states reporting, Kissel said it will only be a matter of time and that it would benefit the town to start looking into the issue now. She also said that  the state will be hanging pale green trap boxes, replacing the deep purple ones, after discovering that the green has proved to be more effective in attracting the insect.

Battaglino suggested having a knowledgeable area resident address the growing national drug problems, for which Vermont has become notorious. Also part of the discussion would be the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana.

Fact Television – Channel 8 (  records Select Board meetings. Board minutes are available on the Town of Grafton site.  The next Select board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 20 at Grafton Elementary School, 58 School St. The agenda will be available in The Chester Telegraph.

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About the Author: Gloria Dufield is a Green Mountain Union High School and University of Vermont graduate. She has more than 15 years of experience working in higher education libraries. Her most recent writing includes marketing projects for a Vermont GIS company as well as articles for a weekly publication.

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