Seeking petitions, Derry board rejects four funding requests

Town Clerk Kelly Pajala speaks to the Montessori school’s funding issue.
All photos by Bruce Frauman

By Bruce Frauman
©2018-Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Londonderry Select Board on Jan. 8 went through the list of appropriation requests to be voted on from the floor as it prepared for the March Town Meeting.

Four organizations requesting money from the town were denied a spot on the warning by the Select Board unless they each get 71 people to sign a petition requesting that they be put on the warning. The petitions are due Jan. 18. The new total for appropriations requests is $76,252, down from $91,000 as approved by the board.

The four organizations are:

  • The Current, ($1,000) a bus service serving Windham County but with no known regular routes in Londonderry;
  • West River Montessori School, ($2,000) because their request was not specific enough;
  • Mountain Valley Medical Clinic, ($12,000) because they are now owned by Springfield Medical Center which does all their billing; and
  • Gerda’s Equine Rescue, ($100) which did not include a financial statement.

Town Clerk Kelly Pajala said that as a pre-school, West River Montessori cannot take funds for its educational program except for 2- and 3-year-olds not covered by the state education laws. In spite of repeated requests from town Treasurer Tina Labeau, the school treasurer did not submit a revised request.

Board Vice Chair Jim Ameden said the petitions will prove that the organizations have community support.

During the extended discussion, Vice Chair Jim Ameden, who is heading up the board meetings since Paul Gordon resigned, said he would like to see a policy requiring all new requesting organizations to submit a petition to “prove its support by the community.” But, he said, he is not sure this can be a legal requirement unless the board first turns down their requests.

Marge Fish spoke about the Green Mountain Club’s request of $5,000 to build a new observation tower on Bromley Mountain. Fish said this would be a one-time request to help raise a total of $162,000, of which $118,000 has been received. Providing a “fantastic four-state view,” Fish said the new metal tower would be a big tourist draw. Though this is a first time request, since no mention of a petition was made when Fish submitted her request in early December, the board did approve the request for the tower on the warning. 

Labeau said all the new and potentially controversial requests will be listed as a separate article, partly at the request of the Town Moderator Doug Friant,who said this would save time.

Labeau said the town budget has been reviewed by the board several times. She will put a draft of the budget on the town website and expects that the board will adopt it at its next meeting.

Brown mum to requests from State’s Attorney; State Police cuts back on hours

Town Administrator Robert Nied said Ed Brown was given 30 days by the State’s Attorney to respond to a request to a mediation session with the Select Board on how he should compensate the town for painting over a mural on the concrete wall on the corner of Routes 11 and 100.

Town Administrator Robert Nied updated the town on next steps resolving the Ed Brown situation and on the State Police patrols.

Working with the Brattleboro Social Justice Center, the board asked Brown to pay $3,000 into a wall painting fund but Brown offered to pay $500 directly to Flood Brook School. Brown has since “refused to budge and refused to respond to additional requests,” according to Nied. Board member George Mora said she is hoping to resolve the issue without going to court. If Brown does not respond by Feb. 5 — the 30-day extension deadline — the case will revert back to the State’s Attorney to be resolved by the court.

Nied said that Lt. Anthony French of the Vermont State Police told him that when the contract with the state police contract comes up in March, he will no longer be able to commit his troopers to the 25 hours previously contracted. The town pays for the service by the hour, with a maximum of $86,000 per year.

Nied said French told him he has “significant resource issues at the barracks” after losing some officers and having some who live so far from Londonderry that they are not willing to make the drive since there is no travel time provided. Nied said the coverage is provided by officers volunteering to work for overtime pay. Ameden said he expects to have more information from French by Town Meeting Day.

Marge Fish, who was a member of the now-defunct policing committee, said two other options – the Winhall Police Department and the Windham County Sheriff – were discussed by the committee. Fish said the Sheriff gets most of its money from traffic stops, so the town could expect many more tickets than the VSP currently issues. The Winhall Police chief only offered to provide 24-hour coverage with a three-year commitment. The goal of decreasing drug dealing in public at the Mountain Marketplace Plaza and the town parks has been achieved, according to Fish.

Residents of a camper parked near Thompsonburg Road living in what Nied, who is also Zoning Administrator, deemed unsafe conditions were removed to a warming shelter in Springfield. The owner of the camper promised Nied to remove the camper from the property. Nied said a two pronged approach was used combining threat of fines to the property owner for non-compliance of zoning regulations as well as asking social service agencies to help the residents find alternate housing. “We have to temper the need to enforce our zoning with the reality of what people are facing in those conditions, and we are going to do that going forward.”

Board member Bob Forbes said the trusses for the town salt and sand shed are on site and may be mounted this week. Forbes said construction has been “really hampered by the weather.” Three or four pieces of rental equipment have been used, but mostly are “just sitting there.”

In other news

  • The board also agreed to go ahead with a Request for Proposals for the Town Office project. The first phase of the project will deal with drainage, according to Labeau.
  • A more streamlined employee evaluation form was written by Nied with a section for safety added as well as a check box that the employee has read the personnel policy. The new evaluation form was accepted by the board.
  • Ameden said the road crew used 472 tons of salt and 899 yards of sand in December, which is a large amount of each. He said that he and the road crew and had listened to the complaints about road maintenance in early December. They made some changes and there were no complaints during the last storm.
  • Dwight Johnson was appointed to the Planning Commission, following some discussion on conflict of interest. Johnson is  a member of the Development Review Board, which enforces the zoning by-laws created by the Planning Commission. Mora said Johnson is a “really thoughtful and thorough guy” with a background in municipal law and it would be an “enormous benefit to the town” to have Johnson serving on both.
  • Bill Barclay was appointed to the Traffic Committee to explore options for slowing down traffic, especially on Middletown and Thompsonburg roads.
  • Candidates night has been set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13.  Jim Ameden will moderate. Three Select Board seats are up for a vote including the remaining year of Paul Gordon’s term. Other board members up for re-election are Tom Cavanagh and Bob Forbes.
  • Vermont Alert has upgraded its service, and anyone who has previously signed up will need to re-register.
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