DUMMERSTON—About 55 registered voters showed up at the Congregational Church basement on June 29 for a Special Town Meeting to vote on whether they should come back 41 days later and vote again.
The residents said “yes,” so, on Aug. 9, they will return and decide by Australian ballot whether the town should raise $175,000 through taxes to help fund a new Central Fire Station for the West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department.
Selectboard members hope the town’s fundraising campaign can substantially lower that amount.
“The vote was by a show of hands and was resoundingly in favor,” according to Board Chair Zeke Goodband, who noted there was “only one hand raised in [the] nay column."
“From start to finish, the meeting took 15 minutes. Socializing, talking about the weather, and catching up with neighbors took longer,” he said in an email to The Commons.
Fire department volunteers raised about 40 percent of the $250,000-$280,000 estimated cost of demolishing the current station on East-West Road and building a new one in its place. According to fire department officials, the current station is inadequate for modern firefighting needs — some of their trucks are too large to fit inside the building.
There were many months of back and forth between the Board and fire department officials to decide if and how the town can get involved in the independent department’s fundraising, which included receiving the okay from town attorney Bob Fisher. The fire department ultimately submitted a petition calling for a Special Town Meeting. [See “Fire Department requests Special Town Meeting to seek funding for new fire station,” The Commons #357, May 18, 2016]
The measure received more than the required number of voters’ signatures, and the Board set the date.
Goodband explained the Selectboard’s reason for choosing the Aug. 9 date for the Australian ballot vote: “With the State Primary coming up, this would present an opportunity for more of the people in town to vote on the Fire Department’s petition to raise up to $175,000” through taxes.
At their July 6 regular meeting, the Selectboard voted to hold an informational session on the topic on Aug. 3. By state statute, that session must occur within 10 days before the vote, Town Clerk Laurie Frechette said.
Goodband said the Board opted to make the informational session part of the Selectboard meeting, “so we could have the information covered on [Brattleboro Community Television]."
“We anticipate an informed electorate,” he said.
As of press time, Frechette couldn’t confirm the location, but directed interested parties to the town’s website (dummerston.org) and invited them to call the Town Offices.
Goodband expressed his hope that local individuals and business owners “will help the Volunteer Fire Department rebuild the Center Station and lower the amount that, should the request for funds be approved on Aug. 9, will be raised through taxes."
The West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department doesn’t yet have a nonprofit designation, Goodband said, but Fisher “has told us that people can write a check to the Town of Dummerston, earmarked for the Center Station reconstruction; the town will hold the funds and disperse them through the Selectboard specifically for the Fire Station project. Contributors will be able to write the amount of their donation off their federal income taxes as a charitable contribution."