Town Meeting Day: Selectboard candidates in tie vote

Bike path project rejected

Elodie Reed

By Elodie Reed

Staff Writer

Just
The Facts

Owned by

ST. ALBANS TOWN — A tied selectboard race and voters’ rejection of a long-discussed bike and pedestrian path project made for an interesting Town Meeting Day in St. Albans Town.

Candidates David Schofield and Sam Smith garnered the same amount of votes – 474 each – for the three-year selectboard seat vacated by chair Bernie Boudreau.

St. Albans Town Clerk Anna Bourdon said the candidates now have a period in which they can request a recount. If the numbers remain tied, the matter will go to another election.

As of this morning, Smith said he hadn’t requested a recount because he trusted the numbers. Commenting on the voting day in general, he said, “I think they had a good turnout for a cold, winter day.”

Overall, turnout for the town was 26.5 percent, or 996 of 3,809 registered voters, said Bourdon.

Smith added, chuckling, “It’s just too bad we couldn’t get the turnout to increase by one.”

Schofield said of the tie, “Obviously it’s a bit disappointing. It is frustrating considering all the time and energy you put into these things.”

He added that he’s waiting to speak with Bourdon about how to proceed, though Schofield is not exactly a newcomer to close votes. He lost to Bill Nihan for selectboard four years ago following a recount that put Nihan just 14 votes ahead.

“We have a reputation for close votes,” said Schofield of the town. “A couple of people make a big difference on who wins the election.”

In the other selectboard race for the two-year seat, David McWilliams beat out Al Voegele 500 to 433.

The town’s $3,920,214 budget passed 607 to 357 . This budget represents an overall one percent decrease in expenditures and requires that $3,218,244 be raised in taxes.

Also determined in voting yesterday was the proposed $1.76 million bike and pedestrian path to connect St. Albans Town Educational Center (SATEC) and Collins Perley Sports & Fitness Center. The result may have come as a surprise to many when the project went down to defeat by a vote of 592 to 388.

The path, which has been under discussion for more than a year and was previously viewed favorably by residents, according to a survey in August, was to be funded by local option tax funds over 10 years.

That one percent sales tax – applied to items covered under the state sales, rooms, meals and alcohol taxes – brought in just under $170,000 its first quarter between July and September 2014.

All other ballot items passed in St. Albans Town, including $36,000 for 20 sets of turnout gear for the St. Albans Town Fire Department, $80,000 towards the fire department’s equipment reserve fund annually for the next five years, $70,000 for repairing the St. Albans Bay seawall, and $20,000 to help St. Albans Area Watershed Association purchase a second weed harvester.

A junk ordinance, put onto the town’s warning by petition, passed as well.

St. Albans Town voters also approved the SATEC school budget of $10.7 million with $9.18 million to be raised in taxes. The budget, up 3.8 percent overall and representing a 4.4-cent tax rate and 5.5 percent tax increase, passed 521 to 459.

TOWN BY TOWN RESULTS:

There were few surprises on Town Meeting Day, with incumbents re-elected around the county and all of the county’s school and municipal budgets approved.

Bellows Free Academy’s $21 million budget was approved 941-745 despite a five-cent tax increase in St. Albans City and a 2.5-cent increase in St. Albans Town.

Missisquoi Valley Union’s $15.3 million budget was approved, 743-594.

Voters did reject two big ticket items, a proposed recreation path in St. Albans Town, see accompanying story, and a $3 million renovation of Georgia Elementary and Middle School’s cafeteria.

Alburgh

In Alburgh, current town clerk Donna Bohannon was elected treasurer in a three-way race with current treasurer Linda Gotschall and former town clerk Roxanne Creller.

Creller stepped down as clerk and treasurer in 2014. Bohannon and Gotschall both ran for both offices, with Bohannon elected clerk and Gotschall selected as treasurer, both by narrow margins.

The margins were not close this year. For clerk, the votes were: Bohannon 245. Creller 123, and Gotshall 81. For treasurer, the votes were: Bohannon 192, Creller 122, Gotshall 81.

Bohannon was also elected lister over Cheryl Dunn 272-157.

Alburgh’s school budget, which was up 1.5 percent to $5.4 million was approved in a squeaker, 205-202.

Jennifer Lund was elected to an open three-year seat on the school board in a write-in campaign. John Goodrich was re-elected to the school board for two-years without opposition.

The voters also approved:

• $618,000 for highway maintenance, 309-133;

• $572,800 for the general fund, 297-142;

• $55,000 for the fire department;

• and, $15,000 for the fire department reserve fund.

Guy Palardy was re-elected selectman for three-years, while Alton Bruso secured another two-year term on the board.

Bakersfield

Voters in Bakersfield approved all of the town’s funding requests, as well as a $3.3 million school budget.

The school budget vote was 89-47, and voters agreed that half of the surplus from the 2013-2014, budget, $72,150, should be transferred to the capital project fund, 100-35.

On the town side, the library budget was amended from the floor, increased from $27,500 to $32,133.

Among the other budget items approved by voters were:

• $37,000 to hire the Enosburg Ambulance Service;

• $117,000 for winter work on the roads;

• $100,000 for dirt work on the road;

• $153,000 for general expenses;

• and, $24,000 for the payment on a new truck.

Brain Westcom was re-elected to the selectboard and Katherine Westcom was re-elected town clerk. Both were unopposed.

Berkshire

Berkshire voters approved both their town and school budgets by paper ballot.

Incumbent selectman Ed Messier defeated challenger Josh Aldrich 135-57 to retain another two-year position. While Vince Hickey was re-elected to a three-year seat without opposition.

The school budget, with a five percent increase to $4.3 million was approved 122-78, while the town budget, with a seven percent increase to $9.6 million was approved 146-54.

The primary driver in the school budget increase was an increase in high school tuition of $238,500.

Enosburgh

A rather uneventful budget and town warning led to unsurprising results in Enosburgh.

The town’s general fund of $919,000 passed with $557,000 to be raised in taxes. The highway department fund passed as well for $846,000 with $526,000 to be raised in taxes.

Several of the appropriations on Enosburgh’s warning were discussed, debated and amended. Voters decided to not give funds to the Highgate Arena and instead contributed $1,000 in extra funds towards Laurie’s House, a shelter for battered women in St. Albans.

Incumbent selectboard members Larry Gervais and Terry Wright were re-elected to respective three- and two- year seats without opposition.

School budgets will be voted on Tuesday, March 17, in at Enosburgh Middle/High School Auditorium at 7 p.m. The Enosburg Falls Town Meeting Day will be held a week earlier at the same time and location on Tuesday, March 10.

Fairfax

Both the municipal and school budgets were approved.

The school budget was up three percent to $12.76 million, and was approved 434-357.

The $2.4 million town budget was approved 515-271. The budget is up five percent.

Fairfax voters also opted to eliminate the law enforcement powers of the town constable, 391-345.

Three incumbent selectboard members were re-elected: Thomas Fontaine to a three-year term; Leebeth Ann Lemieux to a two-year term and Larui Bellows Fisher to the remaining two years of a three-year term.

Fairfield

Fairfield voters approved a reduced town budget from the floor yesterday and the school budget by Australian ballot.

The $5.4 million school budget passed, 146-78 and both Michael Malone and Michael L’Esperance were re-elected to the school board. Malone was unchallenged. L’Esperance received 37 paper ballot votes, to 20 for Damian Boomhower and 12 for John Donty.

The town budget was reduced by $105,000 when voters chose to eliminate the four percent discount for advance payment of taxes. The discount had to be covered by an overall increase in the budget.

The resulting budget of $1.28 million was approved.

Other budget items approved from the floor included:

• $130,3000 for the Bent Northrop Library;

• $56,700 for the Fairfield Fire Department;

• $35,000 for the East Fairfield Fire Department;

• and, $15,000 for the Fairfield Community Center.

Gene Archambault was re-elected to the selectboard for three years and Greg Christie for two. Both were unopposed.

Fairfield voters also decided to exempt from taxes property owned by the East Fairfield Fire Department for five years and the Fairfield Community Center for 10 years.

Fletcher

All items passed at Fletcher’s town meeting Tuesday.

The $972,000 budget, up 1.9 percent over last year, was approved by voters, as was the amount to be raised by taxes – $734,000 – which is up 3.3 percent.

All articles were approved by voters, including a $100,000 item for new town trucks. In addition, a separate ballot item for a $550,000 bond for new town offices passed 105 to 60.

Incumbents Todd Pritsky and Terry Riggs were re-elected to their respective three-year selectboard seats without opposition.

The $3.25 million school budget passed 64 to 34. This is a $117,000 increase and will add 12.8 cents to the tax rate due to the expense of seven more tuition students, which raises student tuition costs by $187,000.

Franklin

In Franklin, voters approved both the school and town budgets from the floor, along with a $5,000 allocation for the Franklin Watershed Committee and a $209,000 bond for a new fire truck.

The school budget was up 1.9 percent to $1.7 million.

The town budget was reduced by $13,751 with $719,5000 allocated for the operations of the town including emergency services, the library and highway departments.

Incumbents Andrew Godin and Yvon Dandurand were re-elected to the selectboard. Thomas Thompson was elected school director for three years.

Franklin voters showed their support for the Highgate Arena renovation by voting to donate $4,000 to the cause.

Georgia

Voters approved all but one ballot item in Georgia yesterday.

The ballot item defeated, a $3 million bond to renovate the school cafeteria, was defeated 451 to 289. Another $2.4 million bond for updating the schools heating, cooling and ventilation systems was approved 420 to 319 .

The overall school budget – totaling $12.89 million and up only half a percent overall – passed, 393-322.

Voters also approved the town budget of $2.45 million with $1.59 million to be raised in taxes. This represents a 10 percent or $140,000 increase in the amount to be raised by taxes.

Among the major costs are the $60,000 loan payment for the John Rhodes settlement after the longtime land lawsuit was resolved last April.

All other articles passed in Georgia. In addition, incumbent selectboard member Matt Crawford was re-elected to his three-year seat unopposed, and incumbents Paul Jansen and Tara Wright won back their seats over newcomer David Vincent Sr. Jansen received 459 votes, Wright 432 and Vincent Sr. 362.

Highgate

In Highgate, voters approved both the proposed school and town budgets, but tabled a proposal to shift all municipal monetary and public questions to Australian ballot.

The $4.7 million school budget was approved 84-28, along with $25,000 for the school’s capital reserve, which passed on a voice vote.

The town budget was amended to allow principal payments on the Highgate Arena bond approved last year. The selectboard had only included the required interest payment in the budget. However, voters opted to increase the budget by $52,000 to $972,000 in order to make a principal payment as well.

By paper ballot, Highgate’s voters opted to eliminate the office of elected auditor in favor of using a certified public accountant to perform the audits, 66-15.

By Australian ballot, Highgate made the town constable position one appointed by the selectboard instead of elected, 276-68.

There were on races on the ballot in Highgate, where Paulette Tatro and Randy Connelly were elected to the selectboard.

Chad Larivee, Richard Flint and Nola Gilbert were elected as school directors from the floor. Flint and Gilbert were incumbents. Larivee will take over a seat vacated by Ron Philbin, who resigned from the board.

Montgomery

Montgomery passed all of its items Tuesday but not a large bond to renovate or rebuild the town hall.

The $1.2 million bond for the town offices, which are currently running out of vault, meeting and office space, was rejected 145-81.

Voters did approve a $1.02 million town budget with a 12.3 percent overall increase and $694,000 to be raised in taxes, representing a 11 percent increase.

An article asking for $11,261 for a feasibility study to relocate and restore the Hectorville Bridge at the recreation area also passed, as was a separate ballot item approving amended changes to the town’s zoning bylaws.

Unopposed incumbents Carol McGregor and Mark Brouillette were re-elected to their respective two- and three-year selectboard seats as well.

The $2.59 million school budget, which represents a half-percent overall increase in expenditures, has not been voted on yet. The budget, if approved, will create a 2.4-cent tax increase due to increases in equalized per pupil costs and a drop in the town’s common level of appraisal.

The school budget vote will be held at 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 9 at Montgomery Elementary School.

Richford

In Richford, incumbent selectman Chris Martel was re-elected in a four-person race, and voters gave their approval to the school and town budgets, but rejected a proposal for a property reappraisal.

The $6.77 million school budget, with a 2.5-cent tax rate increase, was approved 183-140. Voters also gave the go ahead for placing half of the surplus from the previous school year, $47,550, into the capital reserve fund.

The town’s $2.13 million budget received 195 votes for and 132 against.

In the Town only four-person race, selectman Martel received 138 votes, Jacques Desautels 113, former selectman Harold Foote, Jr. 52, and political newcomer Joey Randall 17.

Selectman Norris Tillotson was re-elected without opposition.

The town had asked voters for permission to use $68,700 currently in the town’s appraisal fund for along with $81,200 of either future funds from the state or borrowed funds to conduct a complete reappraisal. Voters said no, 193-124.

St. Albans City

Voters in St. Albans City approved the municipal and school budgets by substantial margins.

The $7.7 million city budget was approved 487-229. Although the budget was up 4 percent, a combination of increased revenues and a growing grand list resulted in no tax increase.

The city school budget of $12.2 million was approved 459-252. It was up 1.4 percent, with a projected tax increase of 1.4 cents.

Voters also gave the city permission, 517-203, to use $1.5 million in already approved tax increment financing. The funds were originally allocated for the construction of the municipal parking garage and related improvements but were not spent. With voter approval it will now be used to extend the streetscaping on Main Street north to Hoyt Street and down Lake Street to the intersection with Federal Street. The clean up of brownfields from the hotel site on Lake Street will also be paid for from these funds.

Ward 6 Council member Chad Spooner was re-elected. In Ward 5, Kate Laddison was elected to the seat vacated by Ryan Doyle. Both were unopposed.

Swanton Town

Swanton voters approved a proposed school budget of $8.3 million, 421-311. There was no increase in the budget over the current year.

The town budget is voted upon in multiple articles. Voters approved:

• $742,000 for the highway department;

• $117,000 for fire protection;

• $22,500 for heavy rescue equipment for the fire department;

• $118,000 for police services;

• $234,000 for rescue services;

• $105,000 for recreation;

• $127,000 for the library;

• and, $300,600 for general expenses.

Incumbent selectmen Dan Bilodeau and James Guilmette were re-elected to a three-year and two-year term respectively.

In the only race in Swanton, local author Rebecca Rupp defeated incumbent Robert Mulkeen, 554-170, for library trustee.

 Swanton Village

Swanton Village voters approved all of the budget items before them and re-elected incumbent trustee Chris Leech and president Ned Speer.

Approved budget items include:

• $115,000 for the general fund;

• $460,000 for the highway department;

• $59,000 for the fire department;

• and $542,000 for the police department.

Voters authorized the village to place any surpluses into reserve funds.

Also approved was $30,000 to purchase heavy rescue equipment for the fire department.