Shelburne voters OK first step to new fire-rescue station

Photo by Lee Krohn
Shelburne firefighter, Army veteran, and dependable volunteer Cullen Bullard, left, receives the Colleen Haag Public Service Award at Monday’s town meeting, while Haag and selection committee member Jim Brangan share a hug at the presentation.

By LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

By a two-to-one margin, Shelburne voters on Tuesday decided to take the first step toward building a new, combined fire and rescue station within the next few years.

They also approved a $9.5 million budget for 2019-20, filled key offices including seats on the selectboard and school board, and added to a fund to preserve open land.

On Monday evening, more than 100 people gathered at Shelburne Community School to conduct town business that included honoring longtime volunteer Cullen Bullard with the Colleen Haag Public Service Award.

According to unofficial election results distributed by town officials Tuesday night, turnout Tuesday was just 22.5 percent of the town’s 6,376 registered voters.

The vote to spend $25,000 and enter a land purchase agreement for a new fire and rescue station was 923-491.

The margin was wider in support of the town budget with nearly 73 percent casting ballots in favor: 1,022 to 381. The spending plan combined with the approved separate items is 8.7 percent higher than the current budget. The tax increase to support it, however, is just 5.3 percent given other sources of revenue.

No contested elections

None of the elections for local offices on Tuesday’s ballot were contested:

• Incumbent selectboard member Jaime Heins ran unopposed and was elected to a two-year term, winning 1,230 votes.

• Newcomer Michael Ashooh was unopposed for the three-year selectboard seat previously held by Dr. Josh Dein, who did not seek re-election. Ashooh received 1,214 votes.

• Champlain Valley School Board member Russell Caffry received 1,204 votes in his bid for a three-year seat on the board.

• Incumbent Tom Little won another one-year term as town moderator, receiving 1,310 votes.

Voters also approved 1,095-323 a measure to allocate $35,000 to the Open Space Fund to purchase land development rights or land for preservation.

And just over 77 percent of voters supported creating a Fire Equipment Reserve Fund for future fire equipment and vehicle purchases, 1,095-323. Town Manager Lee Krohn said that a sum of $50,000 included in the budget will be put into that account.   

Fire/rescue project begins

Shelburne fire and rescue chiefs were pleased with the support voters gave to the new project to create a public-private partnership with Healthy Living Market and Cafe.

Tuesday’s vote authorizes the town to enter an agreement with the independent grocer which has an option to purchase a 4.8-acre lot in the Rice Lumber development at the intersection of Shelburne Road and Longmeadow Drive.

The town will kick in $25,000 and a matching amount from the Ambulance Fund to review with Healthy Living the site’s suitability for development, acquire permits and subdivide. If all goes as planned, voters would be asked next year to authorize spending up to $650,000 to acquire its piece of the land for the new station. Construction would require separate future voter approval. Healthy Living meanwhile would build a new market on its part of the parcel.

“It gives us the confidence that the people are behind us on this,” Fire Chief Jerry Ouimet said of the vote. “We feel good that it passed by this much.”

The next step, Ouimet said, will for a committee with members from both agencies to discuss their needs to begin estimating size and cost.

Fire and rescue officials also plan to work hard at fundraising between now and March 2020 when they would return to the voters to ask to buy the property.

“If we could raise the entire purchase price, that would be awesome,” Ouimet said. “We want to do as much as possible to reduce the burden of that cost.” 

Shelburne Rescue Chief Jacob Leopold said the departments were eager to act on this opportunity for a site, but they realize the project needs to happen in stages.

“Fire and Rescue are cognizant of the school project, the library project and the heavy debt load right now,” Leopold said. “We want to be respectful of that, and we’re all residents and pay taxes, too.”

An ‘all-around good guy’

Tuesday’s daylong voting came after Monday evening’s mostly informational town meeting at Shelburne Community School. A highlight was the announcement of this year’s Colleen Haag Public Service Award which went to Cullen Bullard, 80, a veteran volunteer with the Shelburne Fire Department and St. Catherine of Siena Church since he moved to Shelburne in 1967, having grown up in New Haven.

Dressed in his formal fire department uniform down to crisp white gloves, a beaming Bullard shook hands with audience members as he strode to the podium.

Jim Brangan, who led the award selection committee, introduced Bullard, noting that he is a U.S. Army veteran and die-hard Rod Sox fan. He pointed out that in 42 years working at Hulbert Supply, Bullard never even took a sick day. 

Choking back emotion, Haag called Bullard “my very good friend” and “all-around good guy” as she announced the award. At the podium, Bullard flashed a thumbs up and said he only wished his wife Edith of 49 years could have been there to share the moment. She passed away in 2016. 

Bullard held up the gleaming pewter bowl, a replica of a larger silver bowl given to the town on its bicentennial in 1963 by the ninth Earl of Shelburne, England, a direct descendant of the town’s namesake. The original is kept in the town vault.

The annual award was created when Haag, who still is town treasurer, retired in 2016 after serving 34 years as town clerk. It’s meant to recognize an individual dedicated to Shelburne, “someone who makes a difference,” said Brangan, the first recipient in 2017.

Retired Police Chief James Warden was honored in 2018. Brangan said the award selection committee received nominations for seven individuals this year.

No pay cut for selectboard

Because most town business is decided at the polls on Town Meeting Day, just a few items were up for discussion Monday evening. Voters made one significant change on the floor – they reversed a selectboard attempt to give itself a pay cut.

Article 2 of the meeting warning proposed zero compensation for the selectboard in the coming budget year. Selectboard chair Jerry Storey said the board decided to forego its annual pay – $1,200 for members, $1,500 for the chair – during budget preparations.

Town departments were asked to make “fairly dramatic cuts,” so it seemed unfair for the board to keep its pay, explained board member Dr. Colleen Parker.

“I don’t think any of us do this for the pay,” Parker said. “We do this for the love of Shelburne.”    

But resident Peg Rosenau stood up and suggested that although the current board may not mind skipping the pay, the modest stipend could make a difference to potential future members who might incur expenses such as child care in order to serve. 

A majority of voters in their seats said “aye” and raised their green paper cards, amending the article to add the compensation back. The revised measure was approved on a second voice vote.

Also Monday, Shelburne’s Poet Laureate Rick Bessette shared an original poem about the Shelburne Parade ground, the well-used swath of green in the village. He told about working with school students and senior community members and mentioned new ways he plans to engage people in the coming year including a collaboration with the Shelburne Police Department.

Before Monday’s meeting, about 50 people attended a lasagna dinner in the school cafeteria catered by Cucina Antica. State Reps. Jessica Brumsted and Kate Webb and Chittenden County Sen. Chris Pearson attended and met in small groups to answer questions and discuss legislation they are working on in Montpelier.

Webb, who chairs the House Education Committee, discussed school consolidation and funding. Brumsted, a member of the House Human Services Committee, discussed efforts to thwart the increase of e-cigarette use by teenagers. Pearson discussed water quality and Lake Champlain, along with a proposal to alter how Chittenden County is represented in the Senate.

VCAM government access TV recorded town meeting. The video is online at vermontcam.org/show/shelburne-town-meeting-2019.

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