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Voters discuss fire vehicles, SevEDs, and town reports

PUTNEY—Putney Fire Chief Tom Goddard told voters at town meeting, “my personal vehicle has never really been my personal vehicle."

For the last 14 years, Goddard’s truck has been tricked out for fire department use.

“He is spending a sizable amount of time in it every day, doing [the town’s] work,” added selectboard member Josh Laughlin.

To give Goddard and his truck some relief, voters decided whether to allow the town to borrow an amount not to exceed $30,000, repaid over a period of not more than five years, to purchase a first-responder vehicle.

Goddard said he would keep the vehicle at all times, except when he is away, when it would go to the assistant fire chief or remain at the fire station.

Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard said the $13,000 down payment for the truck will come from the general fund, and the remaining $30,000 will add a half-cent to the tax rate. Laughlin told voters the town will work with “as local a bank as possible,” and noted the interest rate for municipalities is about 2 percent.

Voters passed the article, and some expressed their appreciation to Goddard and his crew.

Resident Catherine Howard thanked Goddard for putting “his personal vehicle into service for 14 years,” then added, “Wow! I think it’s about time the town took over."

Goddard told The Commons the vote was “a no-brainer” because people knew he was “already driving around in a town vehicle.” Goddard said he was very happy the town approved the motion, and he thanked residents for their support of the fire department.

Town approves SeVEDS funding

Kristin Mehalick, project manager with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation’s (BDCC) Southeastern Vermont Development Strategies (SeVEDS), appeared at town meeting to promote the article asking voters to give the organization $8,106 “for economic development within the Windham County region.”

The previous year, voters approved SeVEDS’ request for $8,100.

Resident Eva Mondon asked Mehalick if SeVEDS was working with the Springfield prison. Mondon noted that those released from jail are often challenged to find gainful employment.

“Is there any work done on helping young folks coming out of prison?” Mondon asked.

Mehalick mentioned “tri-county coordination,” but admitted SeVEDS has no plans for economic development for recently-released prisoners. “That’s something we’ll look into,” she said.

Expressing her concern that “young people are leaving” the area, resident Carol Westing asked Mehalick if her program is “making a difference” in this apparent migration.

“Windham County led the tri-region in job growth with a 1.4 [percent] increase, which equalled out to 450 jobs increasing,” Mehalick said, but did not offer information whether SeVEDS helped create these new jobs.

After resident Lawrence O’Neill asked Mehalick how many towns in the county supported SeVEDS, it took a few tries for her to answer the question. Finally, she said that out of 16 communities, about 10 are funding the program.

With enough “yea” votes to pass the article, Putney’s voters opted to fund SeVEDS for another year.

Auto-mail Auditor’s report? No.

While residents in some other towns in Windham County debated on town meeting day whether to automatically mail every resident the town report, Putney’s decision was a little different. Voters decided to stop mailing the auditor’s report except by request.

For now, Putney will still mail the town report to voters, but the auditor’s report will only be mailed if someone asks for it.

As per the article — which passed — town officials will provide notice of the availability of the auditor’s report by publishing the announcement in the newspaper, all public posting locations, and the municipal website, at least 30 days before town meeting.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #347 (Wednesday, March 9, 2016). This story appeared on page D1.

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