Two towns approve gravel pit purchase

Ratti publicly honored as Dummerston school principal career draws to a close

DUMMERSTON — This was the rare Town Meeting Day where the most important action was happening in the voting booths, rather than on the floor.

No contested races for town offices appeared on this year's ballot.

Instead, while the 140 voters in the Dummerston School gym were having multiple discussions over budget items, in the back of the gym, ballots were being cast regarding whether the town would bond, along with the town of Putney, to buy an existing gravel pit, the Renaud Gravel Pit, for $2 million.

Both towns' voters overwhelmingly approved the bond request. In Putney, the measure passed by a 270–52 vote. In Dummerston, the request was approved, 297–21.

To make this Annual Town Meeting seem even more surreal, voters approved a town school budget for the 2019-20 school year that might never be used.

Dummerston, with 151 students, is fighting the state to prevent an Act 46 forced merger of its school district, making it difficult for the school board to produce a budget, knowing it will likely be moot.

In the end, the town approved a school budget of $3.03 million, or education spending of $18,311 per equalized pupil. That figure is 2.86 percent higher than the spending for the current year.

“This budget may not come to pass, and we may be forced merged,” said School Board Chair Kristina Naylor. “But the board felt it was important to be prepared for every eventuality.”

Dummerston School principal to retire

The biggest news of the day came from Naylor, who announced that Jo Carol Ratti was retiring after 20 years as the principal of Dummerston School.

The School Board has 19 candidates vying to replace her, Naylor said, and plans to hire one of them by the end of this month.

Ratti “will leave behind a valuable legacy,” Naylor said.

The School Board then surprised Ratti with a bouquet of 20 yellow roses, one for each year of her service.

“Her love for our students is seen in how she supports every child,” Naylor said. “She uses best practices to help children learn to make good choices. The fact that the lights are on and the toilets flush is a tribute to her management. She will be missed.”

Flushed and flustered, Ratti said that “it's been an honor and a pleasure to be part of a community that values its children and its education as Dummerston does.”

Gravel-pit patter

Without much discussion, on the town portion of the warrant, the voters approved two gravel pit-related articles in case the purchase was approved.

One authorized the Selectboard to pay up to $50,000 for the first year of the bond.

The other authorized the Selectboard to continue negotiating an inter-local pit-management agreement with Putney. The agreement is already in draft form.

The Selectboard assured the voters that the pit has all its Act 250 permits in place, but the towns will do an additional environmental study to see if anything else has been found down in the pit since the permits were first issued.

After the two votes, Town Moderator Cindy Jerome told the meeting, “You have bought a gravel pit that will serve your grandchildren if the article passes.”

Money matters

After discussing other articles on the town warning, the voters grew generous, passing the budget unanimously.

To applause, they doubled the town's donation to the farmland protection fund to $5,000, added $570 to the health and welfare fund, approved $5,000 for structural repairs of the Dummerston Historical Society building, and passed a town budget of $473,186, of which $304,481 will be raised from taxes.

The $168,705 in non-tax funds will come from current use payments, permits and licenses, fees and charges, and the like.

In addition, the town approved $170,000 for the capital fund and then spent $160,000 from that fund for a new dump truck.

Also from that fund, money will be taken to give the outside of the town offices a fresh coat of white paint. Inside, heat pumps will be installed to replace the current inefficient baseboard heating.

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