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Dummerston Town Clerk Laurie Frechette checks in voters from behind a protective pane of clear plastic in the basement of Dummerston Congregational Church on March 2.

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Pandemic makes for a Town Meeting Day like no other

COVID-19 concerns temporarily upend traditional meetings in most Vermont towns

—Noontime on Town Meeting Day in Dummerston usually means a lunch break for baked ham, macaroni and cheese, and pie before voters plow through the rest of the meeting warrant in the afternoon.But the gymnasium at Dummerston School was empty on Tuesday, as COVID-19 concerns prompted the town to switch to the Australian ballot to vote on the budget and other matters.Instead, the noontime scene shifted to Dummerston Center and a group of mostly unused and socially distanced polling booths in the basement of the Dummerston Congregational Church.Poll worker Gail Sorenson said that the votes of 365 Dummerstonians had been tallied to that point. Many chose to vote by absentee ballot.That scene was repeated all over Windham County. Only Stratton held a traditional in-person meeting, with town officers elected from the meeting floor.Athens, Brookline, Dummerston, Grafton, Guilford, Halifax, Marlboro, Newfane, Putney, Rockingham, Townshend, Whitingham, Wilmington, and Windham all conducted their business by Australian ballot.Vernon and Westminster held elections for town and school officers on Tuesday, but will conduct the rest of their respective Town Meetings in May.Londonderry postponed its Town Meeting until May, but the polls were open on Tuesday to vote on the Taconic and Green School District budget.Dover, Jamaica, and Wardsboro decided to postpone the whole thing until May.Brattleboro will hold its Annual Representative Town Meeting online on Saturday, March 20.Following are some of the results from voting from around the county, as of press time on Tuesday night.

Brookline

—Voters on Monday approved all articles on the warrant, including the $289,096 municipal budget for fiscal year 2022. The town ran a surplus last year, so just $255,425 needs to be raised in taxes.Gwen Tanza and Shelby Brimmer were re-elected to the five-person Selectboard. Tanza won the three-year seat, while Brimmer won the one-year seat. Dorothy Maggio won a two-year term to the Selectboard. Of Brookline’s 446 registered voters, 72 cast ballots.

Dummerston

—Voters dealt a decisive blow to a proposal to break up the Windham Southeast School District.They rejected the town’s exiting the district by a 409–102 vote, and they rejected the withdrawal of Brattleboro, Guilford, and Putney, 368–130.All four towns were required to either unanimously vote to leave the district, or unanimously vote to stay, for the proposal to take effect.In the only contested race on the ballot, incumbent Zeke Goodband defeated challenger Todd Davidson, 310–175, for a three-year seat on the Selectboard.Rebecca Lotka was unopposed for the two-year Selectboard seat and received 412 votes.Re-elected to their positions were Town Moderator Cindy Jerome, Town Clerk Laurie Frechette, Town Treasurer Charlotte Neer Annis, Lister Michael Silberman, and Library Trustees Phyllis Emery (one year) and Lyle Holiday (two years). No one was elected to a vacant five-year seat on the Trustees.For fiscal year 2022, voters approved a General Fund budget of $507,490 and a highway budget of $560,335.

Marlboro

—Voters overwhelmingly approved all the articles on the Town Meeting ballot, including $300,000 for the General Fund for fiscal year 2022 (291–10), and $380,000 for the Highway Fund (300–8).A school budget of $2,910,780 was approved, 264–36. The school budget is 3.5 percent less than the current budget.There were no contested races for town or school offices.

Putney

—Voters also rejected leaving the Windham Southeast School District, 461–199, and rejected Brattleboro, Dummerston, and Guilford’s respective exits from the district, 428–226.Aileen Chute was elected to the Selectboard, defeating Charles Raubicheck, 411–155.Also approved: $1,344,755 for the General Fund, $1,001,554 for the Highway Fund, and two nonbinding measures to support federal universal health care and to commit the town to fighting climate change.

Rockingham

—In the Selectboard races, Bonnie North won the three-year seat with 385 votes. Stefan Golec got 88 votes, Jonathan Wright received 46 votes, Deborah Wright got 40 votes, and Cass Wright got 20 votes.The top vote-getters for the two one-year seats were Rick Cowan with 394 votes and Elijah Zimmer with 381votes.Golec came in third with 112 votes. Jonathan Wright received 89 votes; Deborah Wright, 66; and Cass Wright, 35.

Vernon

—Voters approved a $6,315,848 school budget, 172–86.In the only contested Selectboard race, Jeffrey Dunklee got 143 votes to win a two-year seat, defeating Ken Bloom, 81 votes, and Katherine Baldwin, 52 votes. Michael Root, unopposed for the three-year Selectboard seat, garnered 236 votes.Also winning their unopposed races were Timothy Arseneault (town and school moderator), William Hammond (lister, three years), Hannah Rosinski (school board, three years), Kerry Amidon (school board, two years), Mary Lynn Scherlin (delinquent-tax collector), and Constables Jessie Jobin and Jonathan Bratton.

Wilmington

—Voters supported a $5.5 million bond issue, by a 290-184 margin, for a new combined police and fire station to be built on town-owned land near the former Wilmington High School on 40 Beaver St.A combined FY 2022 General Fund and Highway Fund budget of $5,385,075 was also approved.There were no contested races for town offices on the ballot, as John Gannon, Sarah Fisher, and Tony Tribuno won re-election to the Selectboard and Kathy Larsen was re-elected to the Twin Valley School Board.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #602 (Wednesday, March 3, 2021). This story appeared on page A1.

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