Residents vote down $11.2M SCS facilities bond

Resident David McLellan voiced his concerns regarding the $11.2 million bond, foreshadowing the election results which mirrored the doubts of the community.
Resident David McLellan voiced his concerns regarding the $11.2 million bond, foreshadowing the election results which mirrored the doubts of the community.

By Sadie Williams

The Shelburne Community School (SCS) gymnasium boasted a mediocre turnout on Monday night’s Town Meeting, which ran until just before 11pm. Roughly 150 citizens appeared for the debriefing of the next day’s voting issues and to vote on Article II, Selectboard stipends and Article III, the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Ordinance. Both articles were passed with a tired but uncontested “yea.” Selectboard stipends are set at $1,500 for the chair and $1,200 for all others for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015-16.

The majority of Monday night’s discussion centered on Article VI, the $11.2 million bond for repair and reconstruction of SCS facilities. While residents were asked by Town Moderator Tom Little to limit their microphone use to questions under two minutes, many used their air time to state arguments for or against the article. Both camps appeared equal in number and passion.

Town Meeting Day on Tuesday, March 3 pulled in 2,067 voters and mixed results: Every single article on the ballot was approved except for the $11.2 million bond, which was voted down by a narrow margin with 1,032 against and 955 for.

SCS Board Chair David Connery, who tweeted a photo of a sad puppy captioned “kinda sums it up” after results were announced on Tuesday night, said via phone Wednesday morning, “we’re disappointed that it didn’t pass, it’s work that really needs to be done for maintenance, safety, and a conducive learning environment.” When asked what the board’s next steps will be, Connery commented that they would have to revisit their plans, as the need for repairs won’t go away. “It’s only been 13 and a half hours. We meet in a couple of weeks, and we’ll see.” Connery also encouraged citizens to attend board meetings and get involved in the continuing conversation around the issue.

The proposed Town budget of $7,454,229 was passed with 71.1 percent of the vote (1,403 to 571); $5,417 of that amount will be raised through taxes.

As for Article VII, the purchase of a wastewater truck at $185,000, an overwhelming 75 percent of voters approved; the article passed 1,503 to 500. The new truck should have a lifespan of 30 year or more, and will be used to transport sludge between plants.

The Open Space Fund will be receiving an additional $25,000 (to be raised by taxes); voters approved the article 1,392 to 643. The money will be used to obtain land, or the rights to land, which preserve open space and natural resources. This matter received a bit of attention at Monday’s Town Meeting; a handful of residents questioned transparency surrounding conserved lands, saying they wanted to know where the access points were and which lands they could use. Selectboard Chair Gary von Stange directed them to Shelburne’s new Town website, where the 2006 Open Space Plan detailing conserved lands, the history of the fund, and more is available for perusal. To get there, hover over “government,” then click Planning & Zoning on www.shelburnevt.org.

The proposed SCS budget of nearly $13 million was passed with 58.4 percent of the vote (1,190 to 848). Voters also approved the purchase of a school bus at $101,000; the article passed 1,246 to 730. Lastly, Article VIII, authorization to apply $165,000 of the school district fund balance, was passed 1,510 to 444. The budget is up 4.89 percent from last year.

Newly elected town officials had some assurances of their success, as this year all ran unopposed. Tom Little has been reelected to his post as Town and School Moderator, as has Colleen Haag as Town Clerk and Town Treasurer.

Gary von Stange will return to the Selectboard for a three year term accompanied by newcomer John D. Kerr, who will keep his seat for two years. Toni Supple was voted in to finish one year of a three year term.

Matt Wormser and Tim Williams were voted into respective three and two year SCS Board seats. Jeffrey Solomon was voted onto the Champlain Valley Union High School Board for a three year term. Lastly, Thomas T. Bessette was elected as the Champlain Water District Commissioner.