Londonderry accepts one-year State Police contract, votes to study gravel pit purchase

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Wendell Coleman’s last Town Meeting as Londonderry’s moderator turned out to be a six-hour doosie that saw a controversial proposal to hire state police to patrol the town turn victorious on the impassioned speech of a just-defeated select board member.

Select board member Paul Gordon introduces the article to contract with Vermont State Police for added patrols of the town

Select Board member Paul Gordon introduces the article to contract with Vermont State Police for added patrols of the town. Photos by Shawn Cunningham. Click any photo to launch a gallery.

The meeting was more than three hours old by the time it reached Article 9 (of 23), which asked whether the town would pay $86,000 to hire Vermont State Police Troopers on overtime to patrol Londonderry 25 hours per week. The term would be for one year.

The questions for Peter Pagnucco, who chaired the committee that recommended the contract, were the usual things: Would the police patrol or just set up speed traps? Would they patrol on a schedule the town requested or whenever they wanted? And would it make any difference since – as one resident noted – “people who are arrested are out before the paperwork is done.”

“You might just as well drive down Route 11 at 50 miles per hour and throw $100 bills out the window for all the good this will do,” one man shouted to some applause.

But then Cathy Aragi, a select board member who had just been defeated in a bid for re-election, stood before the gathering to say that the crime that brought the policing issue to a head was driven by the disease of addiction and that the community needs to deal with it now.

Former select board member Cathy Aragi tells the meeting that the time to act on drugs and crime is now

Former Select Board member Cathy Aragi tells the meeting that the time is now to act on drug addiction and crime in the community.

Aragi said that this is everywhere including the states around Vermont. “We’ve got people with this illness, the whole community’s falling apart. People are upset about burglaries, upset about arson, they’re upset about drugs. We have people in our families who are addicted to alcohol, tobacco and opiates,” said Aragi, whose own daughter’s struggle with addiction is well-known in this community.  She is now in recovery, Aragi says.

“We need to address it now. If you we see something happening, take down the marker plate and call the state police,” said Aragi, who praised Rutland’s Project Vision, which brings a number of agencies and organizations together with police to work on the drug issue. “The crime rate in Rutland has dropped by 49 percent,” said Aragi.

Asked if she thought the proposal was a good start, Aragi said, “It’s an excellent start.” The response from the room was thunderous applause.

Shortly thereafter, the article was put to a paper ballot vote and passed 95 to 67.

Quarry quandry

Derry Lining up to vote

Londonderry residents lined up to vote by paper ballot several times during Tuesday’s town meeting.

While the vote on the proposed purchase of land south of the Transfer Station, on Route 100 North, for $150,000 lacked the personal drama of the policing vote, it had plenty of twists and a surprise outcome.

Resident Doug Friant noted that the land had recently sold at auction for $49,000, saying, “I don’t think its value magically tripled overnight.” He also pointed to the costs of permitting, processing the gravel and restoring the site, making the costs much more than $150,000. Friant then moved to amend the article for an $80,000 price tag with $20,000 paid this year and $60,000 financed over five years.

“The $150,000 price has already been negotiated. He’s not taking a penny less,” said Select Board chair Jim Ameden. “If you amend the price to $80,000, you might just as well vote no.”

Long time Londonderry moderator got a parliamentary procedure workout in his final town meeting as motions and amendments flew

Long time Londonderry moderator Wendell Coleman got a parliamentary procedure workout in his final town meeting as motions and amendments flew

There were questions about whether the water under the land was contaminated and, if so, was it contaminated by an old dump. There were also questions about whether the land could be the subject of an environmental violation.

The board could not answer these questions definitively and several residents said that while it might be a good idea, it was too much money to vote on today without some answers.

Peter Cobb disputed the assertion by board chair Ameden that a smaller gravel pit could be decoupled from a larger parcel in an Act 250 proceeding.

Fits and starts and fits and starts

After a long discussion, John Berry asked Coleman how the voters could table the motion. Coleman said it could be done either until a “date certain” or indefinitely, which could kill it.

Berry moved to table the article indefinitely, which passed by a voice vote that seemed to end the discussion for the day and freed any number of voters from Town Hall.

After the general fund appropriation of $1.6 million was approved, and more people who had voted to table left the hall, someone made a motion to take the land purchase off the table and to continue the discussion. Berry sought to amend the motion yet again to stop the purchase but still authorize the Select Board to spend up to $60,000 to answer the questions that had been brought up during the meeting.

Several residents thought that $60,000 was too much. In the end, they dramatically altered the article to allow the Select Board $10,000 to do that homework, which passed on a voice vote.

Other action

Select board newcomer Will Reed was elected to a three year term on the second vote in a three way race with incumbent Cathy Aragi and Suzie Wyman

Select Board newcomer Will Reed was elected to a two-year term on the second vote in a three-way race with incumbent Cathy Aragi and Suzie Wyman

In other action, voters approved $60,000 worth of excavating and water proofing at the Twitchell Office Building, $100,000 for the highway equipment reserve fund, $20,000 for the Champion Fire Company and $1,000 for the Londonderry Conservation Fund.

Voters also approved $6,000 for the Rescue Squad, $26,000 for the Mountain Valley Medical Center, $10,000 for the South Londonderry Library Association, $2,000 for the West River Montessori School’s toddler program and $32,700 for a variety of social service and accessibility organizations.

Article 21, which called for $4,800 for the Partnership, passed while Article 22 — asking for $5,300 for Southeast Vermont Economic Development Strategies — failed on a voice vote.

Derry Lang proclamation

Former Champion Fire Company chief George Lang displays his proclamation from the Vermont legislature.

Before the meeting got into full swing, state Rep. Oliver Olsen presented outgoing Fire Chief George Lang and Moderator Wendell Coleman with framed resolutions passed by the legislature honoring their years of service to the community.

The meeting voted to fill a number of offices. These were:

  • Moderator (1 year) – Wendell Coleman, who accepted the post on the understanding that he will be moving out of town shortly.
  • Select Board (3 year) – Paul Gordon
  • Select Board (2 year) – Will Reed
  • Parks Board (5 year) – Suzie Wyman
  • Regional Education District Board (3 years) – Roz Klezos and Jean Zammataro
  • Trustee of Public Funds (3 years) – Michael Goodbody
  • Memorial Park Trustee (5 years) – Taylor Barton
  • Memorial Park Trustee (3 years) – Trevor Bickford
  • Memorial Park Trustee (1 year) – Nadine van Houten
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