Selectboard postpones decision on Vermont Railway court appeal

By Mark Kobzik

The Shelburne selectboard members did not make a decision in regard to its ongoing legal battle with Vermont Railway Inc. The Tuesday night meeting left some frustrated at the indecision and others hoping the town appeals.

Selectboard members exited executive session after approximately an hour of deliberation stating they’re not ready to make any motion on the appeal. The next meeting to address this issue will be Jan. 2 at 6 p.m.

The town has the opportunity to appeal U.S Court District Judge Sesssions’ ruling within 30 days of his final judgement order. The almost two-year legal tussle has left the town with more than $400,000 in legal bills and heated disagreements over whether or not to pursue further appeals. This week’s meeting heard from both sides of the aisle including Nora von Stange.

Von Stange stated her decision to speak up on behalf of going forward with the appeal was not as the wife of Chair Gary von Stange, but as a litigation attorney and resident of Shelburne.

She stated the town should not rely on the decision of one judge and that appeal courts, with three judges, are more reliable. She said the town shouldn’t compromise its independence and instead set a precedent for other towns fighting railroads.

Other residents attending the meeting have long been opposed to fighting a battle they deem as unwinnable. John Saar labeled further battles against the railroad as a “folly”. Saar pled with those on the board who aren’t, “hellbent ton going forward with appeals”.

Budget discussions focused on Fire and Rescue’s frugality. Both departments are volunteer which saves the town more than a million dollars a year. Paid stipends for the Fire Department is less than $50,000 a year whereas if they were a career, full-time station, that number would be more than a million dollars.

Toward the end of the meeting, members re-entered executive session to discuss Town Manager Joe Colangelo’s attorney’s letter to the board from last month. The letter from the attorney requested the board clarify its knowledge of the firing of police chief Jim Warden.

Gary von Stange in response to the letter read aloud a statement from the board.

“The board had knowledge and was involved in the decisions leading to the settlement with the police chief. And at no time did any selectboard member question Joe’s conduct, professionalism or integrity,” von Stange said.

5 Responses to "Selectboard postpones decision on Vermont Railway court appeal"

  1. Ted Cohen   December 21, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    “Nora von Stange stated her decision to speak up on behalf of going forward with the appeal was not as the wife of Chair Gary von Stange, but as a litigation attorney and resident of Shelburne.”

    That alleged disclaimer – that she is not the wife of the selectmen’s board chairman – is of course a favorite of anyone purporting with a wink and a nod to deny either reality or at best, a conflict.

    She is free of course to express her opinion. But let’s be adults.

    Taxpayers aren’t stupid.

  2. John Baldwin Day   December 22, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    I would encourage the community to do the best they can to consider separately two related but distinct issues: the first is whether the railroad’s operation is sited appropriately and/or poses environmental risks; the second is whether it makes sense to invest further time, effort and funds in litigating the matter. Even those concerned about the railroad’s site use – and I am one of them – need to understand that doesn’t necessarily mean we have any realistic chance on the appeal of the District Court’s decision. Not appealing doesn’t mean agreeing with the railroad, or even foregoing other (non-litigation) avenues of pursuing mitigation of environmental risks. It simply reflects a decision to not make an additional investment of funds in litigation which we have lost at every step thus far, litigation which, for us to prevail, would require an appeals court to create large exception in the law of railroad pre-emption recognized for decades, and endorse a novel characterization of road salt as a hazardous substance. The only folks who have actually gained anything they didn’t already have by the litigation thus far are the trial attorneys. They’ve had a great year; we shouldn’t give them another.

  3. Sean Moran   December 22, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Amen Mr. Day, AMEN.

  4. Shannon Warden   December 22, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Chief Warden was not fired, he retired.

  5. Sharon Palady   December 24, 2017 at 10:39 am

    The Town of Shelburne seems to be over-run with spouses speaking in defense of their other halves!! It’s enough to make ones stomach turn!!

    I sometimes feel that there are truly a very huge amount of folks that live in la-la-land! They do not get it! Maybe it has to do with alimony… not sure that it could be much else.

    They continue to bark up a wrong tree. They continue to spend the everyday tax payers hard earned dollars. They continue to not care in anything but their own personal agendas.


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