Originally published in The Commons issue #394 (Wednesday, February 8, 2017). This story appeared on page C1.
DUMMERSTON—The Selectboard took a big step toward Town Meeting — but further from keeping its own recycling roll-off bins — by approving the official warning and the Fiscal Year 2018 budget at their Jan. 18 regular Board meeting.
This year’s town meeting warning will see a familiar slate of candidates for the Selectboard. The only people running for the two open seats are the incumbents, Steve Glabach and Jerelyn Wilson.
Most of the highlights of the discussion centered on money.
Voters at the March 8 meeting will decide whether to appropriate $170,000 in taxes for the Capital Fund.
They also will have the chance to approve using no more than $325,000 from the Capital Fund to purchase a new fire truck. If the article passes, the truck, financed over five years, will be leased to the West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department. If the bids on the truck are lower, the Selectboard can amend the amount at or before Town Meeting, noted Board Chair Zeke Goodband.
The Highway Department has requested a new one-ton truck, which, if approved, will cost the town $90,000.
The budget proposal includes sending $512,093 to the General Fund, of which $312,760 will be raised from taxes. The highway portion of the budget asks for $511,189, with $367,385 coming from taxes.
Voters will decide whether to grant one-year tax-exempt status to the Evening Star Grange and the Green Mountain Camp.
The Selectboard unanimously approved the Town Meeting warning pending the town attorney’s approval and the possible submission of a valid petition to include an additional article.
The only portion of the Town Meeting discussion that inspired any debate was about recycling.
December’s Windham Solid Waste Management District Board of Supervisors’ vote to close the District’s materials recovery facility means no more District-maintained recycling roll-off bins in most Windham County towns, including Dummerston. The District will remove the bins June 30.
In response, Board Clerk Joe Cook proposed the Selectboard place an article on the Town Meeting warning to appropriate $18,000 for continued operation of the recycling bins.
Although Cook said he and his wife Debbie take their recycling to the bins and “they’re very popular — we see people there every time,” Cook said he planned to argue against the item.
One reason for that, Cook said, is because continuing operation of the recycling bins would mean Dummerston residents were paying for a facility that people from other towns could use.
But, “let’s let the voters weigh in... [through] discussion at Town Meeting,” Cook said. His reason for the proposal is because this Selectboard meeting was one day before the deadline for Town Meeting petitions, “and it’s too late for anybody to get a petition together."
Cook’s colleagues weren’t convinced his proposal was a good idea.
“We’re spending $16,000 to $18,000 to have the ability to leave [the bins] here at the Town Garage instead of driving another 4-1/2 miles” to the District’s Old Ferry Road facility location, said Board Vice-Chair Steve Glabach. He cautioned against spending money on “a convenience, not a necessity."
Board member Hugh Worden said he uses the bins, too, and appreciates how they are “the social place of the town,” but it doesn’t justify the cost.
Goodband said he brings his recycling to the roll-off bins, even though the District’s Old Ferry Road location is likely closer to his home.
“I like the ambience of the Town Garage a little bit better,” he said.
He doubted the bins are worth adding to the budget, noting if the town “had money and we just didn’t know what to do with a bunch of it, then maybe, but that’s not this year."
Wilson said most of the townspeople upset about the materials recovery facility’s closing haven’t understood that the District will keep roll-off bins at Old Ferry Road, and anyone can use them. Just the facility — which sorts the recyclables — is closing.
“Once they understand it, it makes much more sense,” Wilson said.
The Selectboard decided 1-4 against placing the item on the agenda, with Cook voicing the only “yea” vote.
What Board members didn’t mention is the reduction in recycling hours that removing the bins will cause. The campus closes at 3 p.m. each weekday and its weekend hours are Saturdays only, from 8 a.m. until noon. When the facility is closed, visitors have no access to recycling bins.
Dummerston’s bins are currently open all day, seven days per week.
“If enough people want it, we can have a Special Town Meeting later to reconsider,” Goodband said.
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