What will the new board bring to Brattleboro?

BRATTLEBORO — Town Manager Barbara Sondag estimated that the town paid $5,000 in dealing with the repercussions of the special article calling for the indictment of Bush and Cheney.

While not a trivial sum, the real cost of the elections to the town could be far greater.

Three new Selectboard members have joined Dick DeGray, a most conservative member on past boards. Can we expect them to move the board beyond the narrow range of predicable positions DeGray stood for in the past, or will they and he form a power block with the potential to do more harm than good for the community?

Martha O'Connor campaigned on the slogan that the Selectboard should stop “micromanaging.” The last board, under the leadership of Audrey Garfield, had to clean up messes totaling tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, as the town oozed money without proper accountability. The cleanup required careful oversight and at least some board members doing their homework. Will this board build on Audrey's work or let inconvenient details be dammed?

Putney Road could be the test of the board's seriousness or hidden agendas. Will the board push though questionable projects along Putney Road that will swell costs for Brattleboro residents with minimal benefit to the community?

One of the first board priorities could be the approval of a truck stop close to the Exit 3 roundabout. If you think traffic gets backed up there now and using the roundabout sometimes gets more than a little scary, just wait as more and more trucks come though to gas up and make a pitstop. We can anticipate idling trucks adding to local air pollution. They would enter and turn into oncoming traffic. Serious accidents, traffic snarls, and more potholes will be other costs Brattleboro residents and visitors would have to bear.

Furthermore, the truck stop, which DeGray actively supported in the past, will only make it harder to implement an environmentally friendly, more reasoned, multiuse plan for that end of town.

Can we expect the next board to go green without considerable public pressure? Will response to global warming and environmentally smart solutions take a back seat to the short-term awards of contracts to firms doing business just as always?

The wastewater treatment plant offers this board a chance to invest in a long-term, environmentally friendly solutions to a problem the town has to face. Rich Garant and Audrey Garfield carefully studied other communities' smart solutions to their wastewater treatment problems. They also worked closely with local and state officials on this issue. Hopefully the board will use these efforts so the town can avoid getting stuck with decades-old solutions to 21st-century problems.

Before Garfield's and Garant's oversight, the town was taken advantage of by an engineering consulting firm employed to study options for the wastewater treatment plan. The firm was two years late in producing plans. Because of inflation, we Brattleboro ratepayers will have to pay much more - an estimated $4-6 million - when construction finally begins. Perhaps this could have been avoided if earlier boards rolled up their sleeves and did their homework.

How will the next board respond to issues of human rights and freedom of speech? In the past, Chairman DeGray voted for the more liberal use of Tasers. Will the current board members recognize their responsibly to uphold the Constitution by ensuring respect for dissent and free speech?

The Selectboard members enjoy a public trust to work hard, provide oversight, and reflect the broad range of pubic interests. Let's hope they will prove farsighted and wise. The last election was not a mandate to take the town for a proverbial ride.

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