Derry ponders burn ordinance; pushes racial justice resolution to Town Meeting

By Bruce Frauman
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In a meeting with plenty of discussion but little action, on Monday, June 15, Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe told the Londonderry Select Board that he will continue to work on a draft of a town ordinance to ban the burning of trash. He said he will base Londonderry’s ordinance on one in Chester as well as on state statute.

Select Board chairman George Mora said the ordinance should include language regarding the incineration of trash such as in an outdoor furnace.

Updating the board on the town’s Covid-19 response, town Emergency Management Director Kevin Beattie said he has been spending much less time managing the response since the town is in a “holding pattern” and the state will remain in a state of emergency at least until July 15.

Town Clerk and state Rep. Kelly Pajala said the state will receive $4.6 million of federal money for food and logistics, especially to agencies already distributing food such as the Food Pantry, Community Partners and Meals on Wheels.

The issue of dogs also was broached. Pajala agreed to work with O’Keefe and Beattie to draft a statement to town residents and visitors about the town’s ordinance that dogs must be under control at all times. Board member Taylor Prouty said this is essentially a leash law since very few dogs are under voice control.

Beattie said he has heard two complaints that off-leash dogs had bitten other dogs on the West River Trail. But Pajala said that since the state’s stay-at-home order has been in place, four dog bites resulting in broken human skin have occurred. She added that even one bite a year is unusual.

Mora reminded Beattie that animal control officer Pat Salo can be asked to help and that he always asks owners of dogs who bite if they are licensed and for a rabies certificate.

Prouty, who is also road commissioner, said much work is being done with town roads and bridges. Trail improvements at the end of Under the Mountain Road will be done “properly,”  he said, now that landowners Jared Lindahl and Willoughby Britton hired an engineer to design the project after a neighbor asked for it to be halted. O’Keefe said erosion controls will be included. Beattie said the final plan should come back before the board for a vote.

The board delayed decisions on whether the town will pay for removing two aging pine trees on Thompsonburg Road and whether the town will buy fuel oil in bulk and have the road crew distribute it to town buildings or hire a contractor to deliver directly to each building.

In spite of an emotional appeal from resident and former Select Board member Peter Pagnucco, the board chose not to support a resolution written by Weston resident Anne Hyde Degan and presented to the board by Taylor Prouty. The resolution asked Londonderry to join “cities and towns across the state to condemn the brutal killing of George Floyd . . . and strive for peace, healing and justice for all.” 

Board chair Mora said she had agonized over this decision, but decided the Select Board should not be in the position of speaking for the whole town and is reluctant to politicize the Select Board.

But Pagnucco argued that this is a social justice issue, not a political one, and “silence does not cut it anymore.”

Board member Vincent Annunziata agreed with Mora, saying the board should accept what it has control over and what its sphere of influence is. Ultimately the board decided without a vote to put the resolution up for a vote at Town Meeting in March 2021, as suggested by Annunziata and Board member Tom Cavanagh.

The board did vote to support a resolution from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to ask the federal government to provide direct assistance to all U.S. municipalities to help pay for added expenses and compensate for reduced revenue due to Covid-19.

In other business, the board agreed to sign a contract with the Vermont State Police for an average of 1.3 hours a week of extra duty at a rate of $74.77 not to exceed $5,000 a year. The town paid $71.61 per hour in 2019.

And the board approved Pajala’s request to appoint Elizabeth Labeau to the Park’s Board, which Pajala said has had a vacancy for about a year.

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