Andover residents pass budget; elect full board following move of long-time member

From left, Joe Fromberger, Andover Select Board members Mark Gordon, Barry Williams, Maddy Bodin and Chris Plumb, and Jeanette Haight, Town Clerk. Photos by Cynthia Prairie

By Cynthia Prairie
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With the departure of long-time Andover Select Board member Red Johnson to the hinterlands of Virginia, the board has been one member short. That was remedied at Town Meeting on Saturday morning, March 2, when the board was reshuffled a bit and newcomer Jed LaPrise was elected to fill a 1 year position.

Jed LaPrise introduces himself to Andover voters prior to his being elected to the Select Board.

In introducing himself to the 50+ residents, including children, in attendance, LaPrise said he married into the Kalinen family, moved from up north, his cows have long hair and he and his wife have six children.

He was elected unanimously.

Incumbents Chris Plumb and Barry Williams were re-elected, but to each other’s terms. Plumb,  who had been serving a 1-year term, switched with Williams, who was serving a three-year term. Plumb also has taken over the role of Select Board chair, which Johnson had held.

Jon Bliss was unanimously re-elected moderator and skillfully mixed his easy banter with tight control over the meeting. Town Clerk Jeanette Haight was re-elected Town Treasurer and Tax Collector. Leonidas Salazar was re-elected Lister. And Cindy Ingersoll, who was appointed this year as an Auditor, was elected to a three-year position, taking over from Ron Theissen who did not seek re-election.

Voters also approved the town 2019-2020 budget, with the fiscal year beginning on July 1.

In giving an overview of the budget before the vote, Plumb said the budget is expected to be $861,856.75. Of the total income, $708,364.21 is coming from taxes.

Chris Plumb gives an overview of the budget.

Voters also approved applying half of an almost $48,000 surplus from the 2017/18 budget to the upcoming 2019/20 budget while depositing the other half into the Highway/Bridge Fund. The money in the Highway/Bridge Fund will go toward the replacement of the High Bridge just below the S curve on Andover Road in 2023 and for repaving projects.

Plumb also said that the town had collected and extra $60,000 in delinquent taxes, and that while taxes will go up, they won’t rise “as much if we put money into the highway bridge fund.” He added that the paving project from the town line to the campground on Andover Road will cost about $500,000.

‘Other business’ takes up half the meeting

In other business, Hank Mauti asked the Select Board to considering passing an ordinance banning anyone from setting up a store to sell marijuana, medical or otherwise.

Ray Makul expressed concern that the financial problems at Springfield Medical Care Systems would impact care that Andover residents were receiving. Theresa Hattin, a nurse who works at the hospital, stood to say that the hospital’s care of its patients were paramount and that is why cuts were made mostly to administrative staff.  Emergency room volunteer Carmen Macchia agreed adding that he “doesn’t believe care was being compromised.”

With the Act 46 consolidation of school boards, there are no longer local boards to hold annual meetings, which would be held in conjunction with Town Meeting. Instead, the Green Mountain Unified School District Board will hold its annual meeting on March 21 at Green Mountain High School. It will begin with a Green Mountain board meeting at 6 p.m. and the annual meeting following at 7 p.m.

However, that did not prevent Andover voters from bringing up the school system, which covers Andover, Baltimore, Chester and Cavendish.

Voters listen to a member of the audience during the discussion.

Mauti, a former Green Mountain Union High School Board member, said residents were losing their representation at the schools and called it “a dictatorship.” He said the school budget was “no longer for the students but for the administration.”  He said the “price is soaring,” and urged voters to educate themselves before voting on Tuesday.

Joe Fromberger, who sits on the Green Mountain Unified School District board, asked voters to “consider voting for the budget that the school system has proposed,” calling it “fiscally responsible.” He added that it is up 3.2 percent.

Jean Peters expressed concern about the balloon payment of more than $300,000 that has come due for the school bus leases. And others were concerned about the way in which the repairs to Chester-Andover Elementary School were handled after the water meter flange broke in August 2018.

In the past, the school system has sent a representative to answer residents’ questions, but as with last year, no one from the administration was present. State Rep. Tom Bock is also normally in attendance, but he could not make it due to illness.

Susan Leader asked to move Town Meeting to Tuesday and as other wondered if more people would turn out then.

Fromberger said, “We did get better turnout – if there is a controversy. If there is a roomful of people, you know you have trouble.”

Despite attempts to move next year’s Town Meeting Day to Tuesday or to make it start earlier on Saturday, it will be held on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020 beginning at 10 a.m.

The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 5, at Andover Town Hall, 953 Andover Road, for the Australian Ballot vote on the budgets of the Green Mountain Unified School District and the River Valley Tech Center.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia 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, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. RAYMOND MAKUL says:

    The concern I raised was not that the staff is delivering substandard services. I recently had a two-week stay as an in-patient and the care I received was outstanding, from doctors, nurses, and all supporting staff.

    Rather, my concern is that decisions are being made about what services may no longer be provided in the future.

    And these decisions are being made without transparency to the public. There are no informational public meetings, or mechanism for the public to see and react to proposed future changes in services before decisions are made regarding what services Springfield Hospital will no longer offer. Instead, it appears decisions are only being made on the basis of whether individual lines of services turn a profit or not.

    The quality of services I received as an in-patient, including two surgeries, was outstanding. The staff deserves better.