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Tunbridge Town Meeting Day 2007 …

Moderator and SelectboardLast year we attended Town Meeting Day in Tunbridge, even though we hadn’t closed on our house yet. We knew we couldn’t vote, but we wanted to go anyway to see how our adopted town worked. We learned a great deal about our town and our neighbors last year, and came away feeling that we not only made the correct decision about the house we bought, but that we had lucked into a great town.

Since last year’s town meeting we have made many efforts to get involved. Sarah volunteered to fill one of the vacant auditors positions. Our town usually has three auditors, but Jim Wick had been working on his own the previous year, so he was very happy to welcome Sarah. After a trial period Sarah was sworn in as an auditor last year. She is up for re-election in 2009. Thankfully, the town elected another auditor this year to join Sarah and Jim since Jim is hoping to step down at the end of his term.

Last year’s town meeting ran very smoothly and—including the lunch break—only took about five hours. None of the elected positions were being challenged either, so we had no need to go to a paper ballot. Every incumbent was renominated, and every incumbent was reelected by a voice vote. Neither of us even recall hearing any nay votes.

This year there was some concern that things might get a bit heated. Since last year’s meeting, mold had been discovered in the town hall and the town offices. The mold was so bad that our Town Clerk had become ill. The Selectboard picked an abatement company, and the offices and the town hall were closed while the work was done. But the abatement wasn’t done well, costs and time on the project escalated, and apparently the work was started before a contract had been signed. In a nutshell, the job appeared to have been mishandled and a few weeks before this year’s town meeting one of our select board members (rightfully, in our minds) resigned over the matter.

We’d rather not go into too much detail, and this post is not intended to air dirty laundry or place any blame. In fact, overall, we believe the Selectboard, the Town Clerk, and the citizenry did a great job of handling what was a very difficult situation.

Below is a summary of the 17 articles the Town of Tunbridge discussed and decided at this year’s Town Meeting:

  • We reelected Euclid Farnham as our Moderator.
  • We reelected Wendy McCullough as our Town Clerk.
  • We reelected Ann Mallary as our Treasurer.
  • We listened to and approved all of the Town Officer’s Reports.
  • We agreed to pay our taxes on or before November 1, 2007 and interest on delinquent taxes.
  • We approved the budgets of the Selectboard and Highway Department.
  • We agreed to allow the Selectboard to borrow money as needed for current expenses in anticipation of taxes.
  • We approved the budget for the Tunbridge Volunteer Fire Department.
  • We approved a sum of money to support the First Branch Ambulance operating budget.
  • After much polite, yet enthusiastic, debate we approved a measure to use remaining funds in the Capital Improvement fund to help defray some of the remaining costs of the mold abatement project at the Town Hall and Town Offices.
  • We approved the appropriation of money for the Capital Improvement Fund for future Town Building Capital Improvements.
  • After a presentation by one of the Cemetery Commissioners, we approved money for a reserve fund for a new cemetery on land owned by Tunbridge.
  • After some debate—and an attempt to introduce an amendment to cut the amount in half—we approved the allocation of money to finance the purchase of a new tanker truck for the Tunbridge Volunteer Fire Department.
  • We approved a tax exemption for the Tunbridge Volunteer Fire Department and the Tunbridge Grange for the next five years.
  • We approved roughly $8,000 in support money to a number of organizations including: Central Vermont Adult Education, Central Vermont Council on Aging, Clara Martin, Central Vermont Community Action, Chelsea Senior Center, Green Up, Kid’s Place, Orange County Court Diversion, Safe-line, Upper Valley Services, Vermont Association for the Blind, Vermont Center for Independent Living, and the Vermont-New Hampshire Visiting Nurses Association.
  • We elected a new Selectboard member (Tim Wolfe), which required two ballots. With one exception, we reelected all other elected positions without contesting. The exception was a member of the Library Trustees who declined nomination and nominated his successor. The nominated successor was elected.
  • The last article of business was “other nonbinding business” where the town heard from a variety of people, including announcements of fundraising dinners for school trips; information on organizations working to reduce energy use and global warming; expressions of thanks to various people for their hard work—including a round of applause for the Selectboard member who had resigned, but who had not attended this year’s meeting. The town also voice voted on a nonbinding resolution to call for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The vote was relatively close, but the ayes had it. Lastly we heard from our state representative, David Ainsworth, who spoke briefly about what was happening in Montpelier, and who encouraged people to contact him with any concerns they had.

Representative David Ainsworth

We also had a lovely lunch sponsored by the Friends of the Tunbridge library, which included meat and vegetarian lasagna, a salad bar and more pie than any town could have possibly eaten in one sitting; although a neighbor kid announced to Rick that in addition to eating his lunch he had eaten 4 pieces of pie. Rick congratulated him and told him he hoped he didn’t get sick in his mom’s car on the way home. At lunch we got to meet one of our Cemetery Commissioners, Floyd McPhetres, and his lovely wife Eloise. Floyd is probably in his late 80s and has lived in town all his life. He lives in a house next to the one where he was born. Another woman who ate with us, Mary, was a student of Floyd’s when he taught high school many years ago.

The entire meeting, including lunch, lasted about four and a half hours, but went by very quickly. It was great to see so many of the people we have gotten to know over the first year we have lived in this great town, and it was nice to make new acquaintances.

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Hunger Mountain Weekend …

This weekend was all about Hunger Mountain CoOp. Saturday afternoon we visited the Coop-sponsored “Food and Wellness Expo” at city hall, and later we stopped by the CoOp to do our weekly shopping. Sunday we attended the CoOp’s annual members’ meeting, which was also held in city hall’s auditorium. The auditorium is also the home of the Lost Nation Theater. It’s a nice space.

The expo gave us a chance to meet the nice people who grow and make the yummy food we eat, and the annual meeting showed us our first glimpse of Vermont democracy in action.

Both events were interesting, and we met lots of nice people. The expo was attended by representatives from all sorts of places. We chatted with Nick of Shelburne Orchards about apples and ginger, and about daikon and herbs with Richard of Cate Farm. The Annie’s folks were real nice and even fawned out back over Mick before things got started. We were surprised that we didn’t see Nutty Steph, but she ended up going to her usual Montpelier farmer’s market gig on Saturday. She set up a table at the annual meeting the next day. She’s a trip.

As for the democracy, the biggest issue this year is whether or not to offer a family membership as opposed to requesting (not requiring) that each adult in a household have a membership. The vote was so close that a movement was made to table the motion and immediately seconded. Not unusual. What was unusual was that once it was seconded, it was voted on, and it was nearly unanimous that the item be tabled. Neither side seemed all that interested in fighting it out or anything. And without going into details, the compromise is already sort of in place, so it is something that can wait until next year to try to be decided.

* Every product getting a link is getting one because Sarah and I actually use and like the product. Although we haven’t been to the theater yet.