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By Lisa Loomis
Waitsfield voters elected two newcomers to the town select board at Town Meeting this year, choosing Chris Pierson and Scott Kingsbury to replace incumbents Charlie Hosford and Sal Spinosa.
Pierson, who challenged board vice chair Hosford for a three-year seat, received 324 votes to Hosford’s 250 votes. Kingsbury, who challenged select board chair Spinosa for a two-year seat, received 314 votes to Spinosa’s 262 votes.
Waitsfield has 1,448 registered voters, of whom 588 voted by Australian ballot at Town Meeting on March 5.
Voters in Waitsfield rejected a $1.6 million bond article to build new town offices by a vote of 351 no to 229 yes, with 8 ballots left blank. The hotly debated town offices proposal polarized voters in some parts of town with a very strong faction advocating that the town rebuild the former Methodist church in the village versus build from scratch on a parcel of land at the north end of the village.
Remodeling the church would have cost upwards of $750,000 more than building from scratch. With the failure of the bond vote, town officials will have to go back to the drawing board when it comes to addressing the issue of the lack of vault space and two major floods in the town offices in the last 12 years.
The new members of the select board will be sworn in next Monday, March 11, and town officials will determine the next step.
The town offices were subject to very little discussion at Town Meeting other than inquiries about possible cost savings should the town develop town offices in conjunction with the Flemer barns.
Instead, voters dug into the details of the reports from various town boards and commissions and heard from select board member Paul Hartshorn that the town cemetery commission was honoring Marion Turner for her contribution noting that “she knows more about the cemeteries than the people in them.”
Voters briefly discussed a $250,000 request for borrowing up to $250,000 to repair/replace culverts, catch basins and stormwater infrastructure on Bridge Street and to repair a retaining wall and repave the street before passing the article by a unanimous voice vote.
Voters spent the most time this year at Town Meeting discussing whether to spend $50,000 to bury the power lines on Bridge Street from Route 100 up to the covered bridge. Eleanor Campbell asked the select board if a three-way stop sign could be installed at the intersection of Route 100 and Bridge Street, “while you’re digging up the street?” She was told that VTrans has jurisdiction over what street signs are on state highways.
Select board members pointed out to voters that the opportunity to bury the power lines on Bridge Street was a one-time opportunity because of the extensive work that was going to take place there.
“After the power lines are buried, how will you get the power across the bridge?” asked Vic Dumas. He was told that the three-phase power pole and box closest to the bridge would have to stay.
“What’s historic about burying power?” Dumas asked.
Jim Boylan asked the board why the town was burying power in a flood zone and was told that Green Mountain Power recommends buried power.
Many people spoke in favor of taking the opportunity to bury the power lines and improve the aesthetic of Waitsfield’s historic Bridge Street, although select board members Paul Hartshorn and Sal Spinosa expressed reservations with Hartshorn calling it “a frill.”
“I’ve looked at those poles for many years and they haven’t bothered me,” Dumas added.
A motion was made to call the question and that was unanimously approved, even by those who still had their hand up to speak or to speak again. The motion to bury the power was first voted on by voice vote, but a call was made for a show of hands. That vote got 116 yes votes and 45 no votes.
With very little discussion, voters then approved $200,000 to replace a culvert at the top of Tremblay Road. Voters approved a two-vote school budget of $2,184,253 and $122,371 during the school’s annual meeting which convened after the lunch break.
Following the school meeting, voters approved $50,000 for repairs to the town’s covered bridge, shifted from a calendar year to a fiscal year and then approved a request to create a reserve fund that will help farmers restore fields after flooding.
By a unanimous voice vote, voters approved a $1,849,068 town budget.