Cavendish voters OK tax exemption for Fletcher Farm, Black River Health Center

Select Board member George Timko, far left, who is also head of the Black River Health Center, said that the center could not come to a good arrangement with the town to keep the building as a health center in perpetuity. All photos by Shawn Cunningham.

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Every town meeting is different and it can be hard to predict which articles will sail past and which will spark debate. But more often than not, the time spent on one or two articles is out of proportion with the amount they will cost. True to form, at Monday night’s Cavendish meeting, it was the property tax exemptions for non-profits that came in for the most discussion.

Articles 6 and 7 proposed to exempt the Fletcher Farm Foundation and the Black River Health Center from property taxes for five years.

Carl Snyder did not object to Fletcher Farm being exempt from municipal taxes, but thought that the foundation should pay its education tax, which is paid to the state by the town. Snyder proposed an amendment to that effect, which failed.

Tim Calabrese, who is a trustee of the foundation, spoke to its good works and tight budget and prevailed upon the meeting to pass the article, which it did.

The Black River Health Center also asked for exemption from taxes but Margo Caulfield noted that while the organization that owns the building is a non-profit, four of the five tenants are private practitioners who operate for profit. The fifth is Visiting Nurse and Hospice which is a non-profit.

Cavendish residents cast ballots on whether to eliminate the office of Lister.

Caulfield noted that the practitioners don’t seem to get the word out about services for the community and asked how many people knew about them. There was a mixed response.

Snyder said that if the town owned the building and rented it to practitioners, the taxes would not be necessary to which health center president and Select Board member George Timko said that had been thought of in the past, but they could not come to a good arrangement with the town to keep the building as a health center in perpetuity.

Several people attested to the need for having health care practitioners in town and Sara Stowell spoke about their need to find affordable rent so they can practice where they live. The article passed on a voice vote.

Rolf van Schaik spoke about the Cavendish Streetscape Committee.

Office of Lister eliminated

Residents voting by paper ballot voted to eliminate the office of Lister and replace it with a professionally trained assessor. Town Manager Brendan McNamara told the meeting that qualified people to serve as listers were not available and that the town can be opened to liability using people who are not professionally trained. McNamara said that using a third party would not cost the town more than it is spending now on listers.

On voice votes, the meeting approved all of the other articles.

Under Article 10, Rolf van Schaik and Martha Mott reported on the work of the Cavendish Streetscape Committee, which was instrumental in placing American flags on poles in Proctorsville. The group is currently raising money for flags to mount in Cavendish and for beautification efforts.  Contributions can be sent to P.O. Box 605, Cavendish, VT 05142.

Christensen talks bad roads, Springfield Hospital

Pike botched the job,” said Rep. Annmarie Christensen, referring to the paving contractor for Routes 103 and 131.

Rep. Annmarie Christensen updates the audience on problems with Route 103 road repairs.

Christensen told Cavendish residents that the contractor had moved its only paving machine to Maine from August to Oct0ber, then the weather closed in. Christensen said that Pike “overbid” the job and has been fined by the state and its bid limitation has been reduced in the future.

“The Windsor County delegation has been meeting with the governor’s office and Jesse Devlin who is in charge of the project and that (the Southern Windsor) Regional Planning (Commission) has been active in this.”

“103 will be finished immediately, as soon as the weather breaks,” said Christensen, “then 131 will be a top priority.”

The reclamation project for Rt. 131 has been slowed around securing property rights from residents for new culverts, but the bid phase has been moved up to 2020 with the work beginning in 2020 and completed in 2021.

Christensen urged voters to sign the petition that would be going to Devlin. “It really does make a difference.”

Christensen also spoke about internet access and the state of Springfield Hospital, saying that the legislature is looking to create an “authority” to push connectivity. As for Springfield Hospital, Christensen said, “They will not close. The services offered may change, but they will continue.”

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