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Voters to decide on fate of School Forest

PUTNEY—The Putney Central School’s forest may soon become town property in order to keep it under local control.

On Nov. 2, Putney voters will decide whether the school board should sell the 164-acre School Forest to the town for a sum of $10.

During two recent special Selectboard meetings, the Board met with members of the Putney Town School District Board to discuss the issue.

At the end of the second meeting, on Sept. 26, the Selectboard voted to enter into a purchase and sale contract for the School Forest, contingent upon approval by the voters of the Putney Town School District.

The impetus for the transfer is Act 46, the education consolidation bill. On Nov. 7, residents will vote on whether to merge the school districts of Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, and Putney.

Some Putney voters are concerned that “if the unification vote is in the affirmative, the property [will] disappear into the [merged] school district,” because it will become a district — and not a town — asset, Interim Town Manager Chip Stearns explained at the Sept. 27 regular Selectboard meeting.

Board Chair Scott Henry asked what will happen if the unification vote fails.

“We would probably go forward because, as of July 2019,” as per Act 46, the state Agency of Education could place the Putney Central School in a unified district regardless of what voters decide, and the School Forest would come under control of that new district’s leadership.

At the Sept. 27 meeting, Conservation Commission member Anne Kerrey presented Board members with a collection of comments from the commission.

“Generally speaking, we’re on the same page: that continued public access, preservation of all the wetland areas and forest areas, and continued access for educational purposes” remain, Henry said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #429 (Wednesday, October 11, 2017). This story appeared on page D1.

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