Weston board begins to address state cannabis legislation, regional broadband service

By Bruce Frauman
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

State cannabis legislation and its affects on local jurisdictions, regional broadband service and the rising cost of recycling and solid waste disposal were all discussed at the Dec. 17 Weston Select Board.

The Weston Select Board, clockwise, from bottom left, Annie Fuji’i, Bruce Downer, Jim Linville and Charles Goodwin. Board chair Denis Benson is absent. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

After several board members admitted confusion over a letter describing cannabis regulation legislation now in a committee of the Vermont House, the board chose to table further discussion until the Jan. 14 meeting when board Administrative Assistant Cheryl Barker returns. Board member Bruce Downer suggested that “this is worth a conversation with our state rep,”  Kelly Pajala. If passed, this bill will “create a taxed and regulated cannabis marketplace in Vermont” and allow cities and towns that allow sales the right to  collect a 2 percent local option sales tax.

The House Ways and Means Committee is proposing a 1 percent “share” of the retail sales revenue to go to the community hosting a retail cannabis establishment. The board of the Vermont League of Cities and Town is proposing a local cannabis tax of 5 percent, with towns hosting retail establishments receiving 70 percent of the 5 percent tax.

The remaining 30 percent would be pooled and distributed to towns hosting activities that do not generate tax revenues such as cultivators, wholesalers, product manufacturers, and testing laboratories and to towns not hosting retail establishments. VLCT is asking local officials and residents to “engage with local legislators now to advocate for the needs of their communities,” on this and related issues.

Transfer Station fees expected to rise for 2020

Transfer Station director Esther Fishman discusses the challenges in the current recycling market.

Esther Fishman, coordinator of the Londonderry Solid Waste Group, told the board that while Weston’s paid less to the Transfer Station in 2019 than in 2018, it should expect a jump in the fees for use in 2020. But, Fishman said, she will not know how much the fees will increase until January 2021, after all of next year’s fees have been totaled.

Fishman said the reason for the increase is that several New York landfills are closing in 2020 and the only Vermont landfill is in Northeast Vermont and is owned by Cassella Waste Management. Cassella recently purchased TAM Waste Management, which has the contract to remove the Transfer Station’s solid waste and recycling.

Fishman said the recycling market is the “worst it’s been” in large part because of China’s recent decision to stop accepting metals and paper recycling.

Fishman also said that the Transfer Station will continue to take meat and bones, which are sent to a composter up north, but that all other food scraps will be banned from the solid waste stream as of July 1, 2020. She said it is best for households to compost at home.

Windham Regional Commission proposed broadband district

After some discussion, board member Charles Goodwin said that before sending someone from the Select Board to attend a Jan. 16 meeting about the development of a feasibility study and business plan by the Windham Regional Commission, he will find out what will be discussed. You can read what the WRC intends to talk about by clicking here.

Annie Fuji’i. left, is concerned with providing cell service during power outages.

Board member Annie Fuji’i said her main concern is providing cellphone service for the downtown area. She is concerned that during a power outage, residents in the village cannot be contacted by phone.

Board member Jim Linville said that residents are still invited to discuss the time and date of the Town Meeting. Hart gave the board an article about the town of Windham’s discussion of making all voting on its Town Meeting warning by Australian ballot, which the article suggested was not a good idea. Goodwin suggested that use of the Australian ballot spells the end of Town Meeting and the flexibility it offers. Hart added that the cost of Australian ballot is also prohibitive.

Also, the board agreed, without a vote, to pay nearly $44,000 to the Weston Volunteer Fire Department toward the $49,000 cost of new air packs. Linville said the Fire Department kick in the other $5,000. The board payout will occur in January 2020 and be included in next year’s budget.

In other business:

  • The board continued discussion on finding a right-sized generator to power both the Little School and Town Offices during power outages.
  • The board voted to appoint Susan Morris to the Zoning Board of Adjustment based on the recommendation of Deborah Granquist.
  • Road Foreman Almon Crandall said that they “blew the sidewall of a loader tire” and he ordered two new tires at a cost of $1,800 each.
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