Sands fends off write-in candidate, Gibbs beats incumbent to win seats on Grafton Select Board

By Cynthia Prairie
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With 320 voters casting ballots, Grafton residents turned out one incumbent and turned aside a write-in candidate who mounted an active campaign against another in Tuesday’s Australian balloting.

Al Sands calls his victory 'a good win. A good win for the town.' Telegraph file photo.

Al Sands calls his victory ‘a good win. A good win for the town.’ Telegraph file photo.

Cynthia Gibbs, who had served more than 30 years as Town Clerk and Town Treasurer, won her first Select Board campaign against one-term incumbent Noralee Hall, 174 to 132, for the three-year seat.

And candidate Al Sands, who calls himself “pro-process” in the current debate over a large wind project,  prevailed decisively against write-in Matt Siano, 191 to 98, to regain a two-year seat he lost to Sam Battaglino, who became Select Board chair but decided not to run again.

Following the reorganizational meeting of the new Select Board after the polls closed and the votes were counted Tuesday night, Gibbs joked, “­I said that if I didn’t win, I’d win back my freedom.” She added that her priorities will be within her wheelhouse. “I don’t think (the board) has been looking at the finances. With the fancy stuff we have today — computers — we can easily see when we are over and when we are under.”

She added that another priority will be the repair of Town Hall, continuing the work that former board Chair Battaglino began. “It needs repair,” she said, pointing to the front posts and second floor windows.

Sands called his victory “a good win. A good win for the town.” In a late-night email, he added, “I actually saw smiling faces that had been pretty frustrated by the poor treatment and lack of respect many people had experienced or witnessed. It was an interesting win because several folks worked to make it happen the old-fashion way of talking to other town’s people.”

Cynthia Gibbs says paying attention to Grafton's financials and repairing Town Hall are two priorities as a new Select Board members. Telegraph file photo.

Cynthia Gibbs says paying attention to Grafton’s financials and repairing Town Hall are two priorities as a new Select Board members. Telegraph file photo.

Referring to letters that were sent out by both Siano and Hall, Sands said that his victory “wasn’t done with fancy expensive mailings, it was done with honest talk. Now to rebuild some trust in the Select Board and a feeling that folks can communicate … There are other things to work on beside just wind-related issues.”

During the reorganization meeting, Gus Plummer was chosen as the new chair of the Select Board, with Sands as vice chair and Skip Lisle clerk.

The results for other offices are at the end of this article.

Also, during Australian balloting, voters approved 226 to 87 to allow Union High School District 27 to appropriate $7.444 million, which is expected to translate into a $15,230 expenditure per equalized pupil. Voters also approved, 233 to 78, the River Valley Technical Center expenditure of $2.777 million.

Voters OK fiscal notes at Town Meeting,
agree to tax exemption for Historical Society

With nary a hiccup, voters in the Town of Grafton passed every fiscal article placed before them during Town Meeting on Tuesday morning.

The meeting, held at Grafton Elementary School, couldn’t even be delayed by  a power outage caused when the month of March decided to come in like a lion in the early morning hours, bringing with it roaring 85 mph winds. The power came back on by 8:30 a.m., just in time for polls to open at 9 a.m. and the Town Meeting to start at 10 a.m.

Power flickered off only twice during the Town Meeting, but quickly came back on. The Town Meeting took place during Australian balloting, which included races for two seats on the Select Board and went on until 7 p.m.

Articles in the Town Warning and their amounts that passed are:

ART. 4: Approval of $1.473 million for the Athens/Grafton Joint School District budget for K-6 expenses. Grafton/Athens School Board Director Ed Bank told the gathering that the article required a vote count from Grafton that would then be combined with the Athens’ vote. The vote was 74 to 0 in favor.

ART. 5: On a voice vote, residents authorized the Grafton School District to spend $903,928 for the next fiscal year. Bank rose to tell the crowd that this comes out to $12,880 in equalized per-pupil spending, which is expected to be 4.13 percent lower than the current fiscal year. It also amounted to about a 10 cent reduction in taxes.

ART. 6: Voters agreed to spend $141,000 from the Capital Budget for its regular equipment rotation cycle ($100,000); guard rails ($4,000); “highway structures,” which actually means bridges and culverts ($10,000); the annual Fire Truck Fund ($15,000); plus $5,000 to go toward Town Hall repairs; $2,000 for computers and $5,000 for bridge painting and scraping.

ART. 7: Despite a vocal dissent from resident Charlie Gates, who harrumphed, “When will maintenance take place,” other voters agreed to appropriate $523,150 for the ongoing maintenance of the town’s bridges and highways.

ART. 8: Gates again dissented, yet the voters agreed to appropriate $273,340 for the budget for the Select Board.

Residents also took the step of exempting from property taxes the newly purchased building at 147 Main St. for the Grafton Historical Society. GHS President Harold Tincher told those gathered that the organization had been renting the property from the Windham Foundation at a final cost of more than $8,000 a year. The GHS then purchased the property, closing on it in late January. The property taxes of about $2,000 a year, however, would be prohibitive, he added. But he believed that the work that the organization does for the town earned it that status. Although he continued to outline works of the society — education, preservation, creating oral histories, collecting documents — the voters seemed convinced early on to agree to give the tax exemption to the group.

Passing unanimously were:

  • $9,000 for ambulance services, which are contracted through Golden Cross;
  • $26,000 for the Firemen’s Association operating expenses (The article was amended to from $23,000 to fix a typo);
  • $9,000 for the Grafton Rescue Squad, which allows that organization to keep up training and equipment; and
  • the combined Humanitarian expenses of $9,741 (unchanged from last year) from Bellows Falls Senior Center ($674), Health Care and Rehabilitation Services ($600), Parks Place ($100), Senior Solutions ($650), Southeastern Vermont Community Action – SEVCA ($650), Vermont Center for Independent Living ($105), Grafton Cares ($1,000), Visiting Nurse Association ($2,300), Valley Cares ($1,052), RSVP ($160), the Current bus ($250), Woman’s Freedom Center ($600), Youth Services ($100) and Grace Cottage ($1,500).

Filling other offices

The other races to fill Grafton’s offices went unchallenged or needed write-in candidates. Here are the positions and their winners:

  • Town Moderator (1-year term) – David Ross, with 285 votes
  • Town Lister (3-year term) – Joan Lake, with 293 votes
  • Trustee of Public Funds and Trustee of Campbell, Woolson Funds (3-year terms) – Gailann Fisher, with 275 and 274 votes respectively.
  • Trustee of Public Library (two, 3-year terms) – Robert Donald, 274 votes, and David Whittall, with 256.
  • Auditor (3-year term) – Kathleen Muelrath, 258 votes.
  • Town Grand Juror and Town Agent (1-year terms) – Kim Record as a write-in candidate in both.
  • Grafton Town School District Director (2-year term) – Sadie Hallock, with 278 votes
  • Grafton Town School District Director (3-year term) – Edward Bank, with 249 votes.
  • School Director of the Union High School (3-year term) – Jack Bryar, with 258 votes.
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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has 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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  1. J. Backs says:

    Thank you. Good coverage. It’s nice to be able to view this site to keep updated on local events and issues in Grafton.

  2. David Ross says:

    Well written and thorough…another nice piece…thanks