Derry board mulls cannabis sales

By Bruce Frauman
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Londonderry Select Board has begun considering allowing a cannabis dispensary within town limits, should the state legislature pass S. 54, which would establish a commercial marketplace for the products in the Vermont.

Board member George Mora notes the possible local tax gains allowing cannabis sales could create. Photos by Bruce Frauman

At the board meeting on Monday, Nov. 18, board member George Mora said it might be in Londonderry’s interest to allow such a retail outlet since the town could get a portion of the taxes collected on sales. According to Marijuana Moment, the bill as written would collect a 16 percent excise tax and allow for a two percent “cannabis local option tax.” The bill passed the state Senate last January and is currently before a House committee.  Board member Bob Forbes said it’s not a sure thing that the Vermont General Assembly will pass the bill.

Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe said the board will discuss the bill more fully at its next meeting.

In other business, Select Board chair Jim Ameden said the new plow truck should arrive this week. He also said the two-man road crew is getting its work done, though the town is still looking for someone to replace Matthew Rawson, who resigned last month.

Ameden asked someone to list the job opening on the Londonderry Community Forum Facebook page. Forbes said he wanted readers to know that this is not an official town social media outlet. Labeau said the listing could be posted with no comments allowed. Mora said she could do that. At Ameden’s suggestion, O’Keefe will post the job opening on Indeed as well.

Conservation Commission member Mark Wright told the board that he asked town Treasurer Tina Labeau to send $7,500 to the Vermont Land Trust from the Conservation Fund which exists “for this purpose.” Wright said Bob and Jim Twitchell will deed 183 acres to the Vermont Land Trust. He said both have been very involved in town affairs for many decades.

Wright said the development rights for more than 2,300 acres in Londonderry have been deeded over to the Vermont Land Trust. He said this guarantees the land will not be split up and developed “in perpetuity” or at least as long as the Land Trust exists.

The board authorized O’Keefe “to submit an application for funding from the VTrans Better Roads Grant Program for supplementary funds for the Derry Woods Road culvert project.” O’Keefe said he will apply for a $60,000 grant in addition to the $175,000 major structures grant the town has already received. O’Keefe said he will ask the engineer to come back with a new estimate for the project before putting the project out to bid. He is also expecting to receive a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.  Ameden said previously the bids included work, such as brush clearing, that the town road crew could perform. Board member Taylor Prouty said the constraints of the project, the river on one side and a beaver pond on the other, make for a “lot of extra stuff to be done to do the work.”

Another board discussion concerned the request by property owners on Under the Mountain Road to improve a section of town trail that crosses their land. There was discussion about whether it was a class four highway or not. Mora suggested the board wait and see what the actual request is.

Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe will apply for an exemption to close out the septic field permit

In spite of a letter from Eamon Twohig, Program Manager of the Residuals Management & Emerging Contaminants Program of the  Department of Environmental Conservation saying that new testing of the former septic field for per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) is required, the board authorized O’Keefe to submit documents to close out the solid waste permit for the former septic fields. O’Keefe said he will seek an exemption since the town has done all the tests necessary up to now.

Treasurer Tina Labeau said the final draft of the financial audit written by Sullivan, Powers & Co. has been received and that she has only three items to respond to. She said she is now giving the select board copies of general fund journal entries. After some questioning, she agreed that providing the entries was for greater transparency. It shows that “someone else looked at it besides me.” Board chair Jim Ameden thanked Labeau for her efforts.

The board offered no objection to O’Keefe’s request to move the select board meetings to the big meeting room to make more room in the current select board room for his work as well as that of Sharon Crossman. Mora said they could relocate the table and chairs to the other room. Board members said they prefer to face each while still acknowledging the presence of the public at board meetings.

Finally, the board agreed to apply for a Preservation Trust of Vermont historic revitalization grant for the improvement of the Town Hall Building. Since the grant application deadline was that day, O’Keefe said Sharon Crossman, Mimi Lines, and Larry Gubb had already worked together to submit the application. The town will be notified of funding by Dec. 9.

In other business:

Treasurer Tina Labeau said the town offices will be closed on Thursday and Friday Nov. 28 and 29.

The request from the Chester Snowmobile Club to use part of Lowell Lake Road to access the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) trails from Dec 15, 2019 to April 15, 2020 was approved by the board.

After considerable discussion, the board voted to accept a request by Transfer Station full time staff to be given non-paid days off since Christmas and New Year’s fall on Wednesdays this year, a day the Transfer Station is closed. They will still be paid for these holidays.

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