Town Meeting 2018: generators, airpacks and civility

Interested Charlotters filled the room for this year’s Town Meeting. Photo by Melissa O’Brien.

The March 6 Town Meeting at Charlotte Central School was a relatively peaceful gathering this year, with residents filling the school’s Multi-Purpose Room prepared to discuss the town’s annual report for the upcoming fiscal year. Moderator Charles Russell opened the meeting shortly after nine in the morning, and over the course of several hours town residents proposed and voted on several amendments to the articles which will go to Charlotte voters by way of Australian ballot on April 3.

Following opening statements from the Selectboard and then tree warden, Mark Dillenbeck, Article 2 was passed without discussion by voice vote, in so doing agreeing that the town will vote to have property taxes payable on or before November 15, 2018.

Article 3, to approve the town’s $3,145,165 budget, passed by a voice vote after presentations from the Selectboard and lengthy discussion. The article received only one amendment from The Charlotte News Board President, Vince Crockenberg. Crockenberg proposed an amendment requesting that $500 of the town’s budget be given as a contribution to the nonprofit newspaper, which was met with overwhelming support.

A second amendment to Article 3 was put forth by Dave Garbose, owner of the Mt. Philo Inn. They requested a $30,000 addition to the town’s budget for the Trail Reserve Fund which would be used to construct a new path by State Park Road. According to the Committee’s co-chair, Laurie Thompson, the cost of the path would be somewhere between $96,000 and $100,000, meaning that construction would deplete the Trail Reserve Fund completely. This amendment failed in a standing vote 53 to 75. Another amendment to reduce the town’s budget by $100,000 also failed by voice vote.

Selectboard member Fritz Tegatz presented on Article 4, a request for an additional $50,000 to be raised by taxes for the purchasing of two propane generators. If approved at the April 3Australian ballot, these generators will be installed at the Senior Center and Town Hall for emergency use. The generators will provide heat and electricity to the two buildings as well as power to their septic systems.

Discussion surrounding the generators largely concerned their placement. Many residents felt that the Charlotte Central School would be a better suited shelter than the Senior Center because of it’s size. It was made mention how much food would be lost if the school cafeteria were to go without power for an extended amount of time.

Due to its size, however, the school would likely need a much larger generator than the Senior Center. This larger generator would be more expensive, and according to Tegatz, there are currently no federal grants available for the funding of generators. Tegatz also pointed out that the complicated structuring of the school makes it unfit for the installation of a generator. Ultimately, Article 4 passed by show of standing.

Recreation director Nicole Conley presented on Article 5, requesting an additional $30,000 to be raised by taxes for the Recreation Reserve Fund. In addition to grants, this money will be used for the improvement of structures at Charlotte Beach including a new playground and restructured tennis court.

Every vote counts; The littliest Charlotter learns the ropes. Photo by Melissa O’Brien.

The new playground plan includes the replacement of the metal slide and the repair of other outdated equipment. Conley said she’s interested in receiving input from Charlotte’s children and hopes to make a playground that reflects the community’s needs and desires. The restructured tennis court will become a sports court, featuring nets as well as basketball hoops. Altogether, the renovations are expected to cost somewhere around $255,000. Article 5 was passed by voice vote.

Fire Chief Dick St. George presented on Article 6, requesting that $220,000 be used from the Fire and Rescue Reserve Fund for the purchasing of new airpacks. The old airpacks, which were purchased in 1995 and 2005, are approaching the end of their life span and are currently 2 to 3 revisions out of code. According to St. George, a third of the airpacks are out of commission at any given time.

During his presentation, St. George asked one of the fire and rescue team members to demonstrate the use of an airpack to the assembled residents. The airpack, which had been grabbed at random off the trunk, began to leak air as soon as it was turned on, filling the Multi-Purpose room with a loud hissing noise. No discussion followed, and Article 6 was passed by voice vote.

Article 7, which authorizes the Selectboard to borrow money by issuance of bonds or notes not in excess of anticipated revenues for the next fiscal year, also passed with no discussion.

Closing statements made under Article 8 requested that the Selectboard explore the possibility of purchasing the lot along the south east corner of Church Hill Road and Route 7 and that Charlotte request that the state legislature adopt the ban on assault rifles in Vermont.

The Town Meeting was adjourned without discussion of Article 11.

Charlotte’s Town Meeting was covered this year by Meghan Neely, a freelance writer and fourth year student at Champlain College. Of her first Town Meeting experience, Meghan says:

I was really surprised by just how much goes on during Town Meeting, and I was especially impressed with the involvement of Charlotte residents in their local government. It was a really great opportunity to see democracy at work.