ST. ALBANS TOWN — In lieu of local races this primary election cycle, a mailer from the ambiguous group “Concerned Taxpayers of St. Albans” has added some controversy into the mix.
The mailer, which appears to have been sent to the several thousand registered voters in St. Albans Town on Friday, addresses one of six questions on a public-input survey approved by the selectboard and created by the town offices: “Do you [voters] support the construction of Loop Road/207 Extension?”
The survey has been accessible both online and in the St. Albans Town Clerk’s offices since absentee ballots became available 44 days ago, and it will be offered to voters visiting the polls tomorrow at Collins Perley Sports and Fitness Center for the Vermont Primary Election.
Though the survey is non-binding and is only requesting public opinion, the colored, double-sided mailer strongly urges voters to say “no” tomorrow to the survey’s fourth question, which is preceded by this explanation of what “Loop Road/207 Extension” is:
“With increased commercial development along Swanton Road, both North and South of Exit 20, the Town is considering extending Route 207 to alleviate traffic congestion and increase accessibility to businesses. The Town expects to pay for construction through grants, partnerships with private developers, and funds from the local options tax.”
The mailer claims that higher taxes, hurt to existing businesses, and unplanned sprawl will all result from the infrastructure project. It was created by Spectrum Marketing Companies out of Manchester, New Hampshire and set from PO Box 1627 in St. Albans. No name has been connected with the mailer.
According to the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office, any mass media activity costing $500 or more within 45 days of an election must be reported, including mass mailings. However, nothing under the name “Concerned Taxpayers of St. Albans” appears in the Secretary of State office’s database.
St. Albans Town Clerk Anna Bourdon said by phone this morning that her office has been receiving plenty of calls about the mailer, and selectboard chair Bernie Boudreau said he has also received a lot of written and called-in comments.
“I think the timing is kind of late,” said Bourdon. “People have already filled out the surveys online.” According to Bourdon, about 70 have been filled out so far.
Probably the most striking thing about the mailer is its good quality. “Somebody spent a lot of money on a survey question,” said Boudreau.
“If this is so important to somebody, why wouldn’t they come to a meeting,” he added, “and have a discussion about it?”
Boudreau said the town offices would be on the lookout for any patterns in the anonymous surveys that were filled out – it would be noticeable if, say, 100 of them were identically filled out.
“That will show up,” Boudreau said.
He added that he was looking forward to seeing results from the survey, which also asks for voter input on possible bike and pedestrian path routes, town hall renovations or a new municipal complex on town property on Brigham Road, a junk ordinance, and a cargo container ordinance.
“I’m really excited to get some opinions from the surveys,” said Boudreau. “Everyone down at the town offices has been working really hard on this.”
Bourdon added that there was a bright side to the mailer – it might motivate more residents to vote. “It might drive more people to the polls – which I think is great,” she said.
In addition to the survey, voters will have some statewide races to cast their ballot for during tomorrow’s primary. On the Republican ticket, Mark Donka of Hartford, Donald W. Nolte of Derby and Donald Russell of Shelburne are vying for the U.S. Representative candidacy, and Steve Berry of Wolcott, Scott Milne of Pomfret and Emily Peyton of Putney are running for the Governor’s seat.
On the Democrat ticket, H. Brooke Paige of Washington is challenging incumbent Peter Shumlin of East Montpelier in the gubernatorial race, and Paige is also running for attorney general against incumbent William H. Sorrell, of Burlington.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Collins Perley Sports and Fitness Center for St. Albans Town voters.