DUMMERSTON — One of the more interesting moments at Annual Town Meeting on Tuesday was learning that the town office has bats in its attic.
Residents easily - and unanimously - voted $1,500 to mitigate the problem.
Speaking of flying things, close to 150 Dummerston residents flipped the bird at the COVID-19 coronavirus and came out for Town Meeting at Dummerston School, almost the same number that came out last year when there was no worldwide pandemic panic or school board budget to consider.
With much discussion and little controversy, residents voted for a 12.8-percent increase in the town budget.
Since the $51 million Windham Southeast School District budget has yet to be voted on, this percentage does not accurately reflect the increase that residents might see on their next property tax bills. But townspeople should expect it to rise, because rise it will.
Dummerston had an open one-year Selectboard seat this year for which no one took out a petition.
Selectboard member Jerelyn Wilson said she tried and failed to find someone to run, reminding residents to participate in their town government.
“Being on the Selectboard is a positive experience,” Wilson said. “It's less work than you think it is. It gives you an opportunity to get to know people and understand the workings of a small town. I'd like to see multiple names next year so we have true democracy and a choice. We really want our Selectboard to represent our town.”
Among the other articles on the warrant, residents voted to put $210,000, to be collected through taxes, into the capital fund and to spend up to $150,000 of that fund to buy a payloader.
“We're trying to put heavy gear expenses in the capital fund to pay for it up front,” said Selectboard Chair Lewis White. “We want to get out of paying interest.”
Voters also approved $4,000 for two new firefighting equipment kits and up to $22,750 to buy a heavy-duty Tiger flail mower, again using money from the capital fund.
“We decided the town would mow the sides of road a while ago,” said Selectboard member Ezekiel Goodband. Then he joked, “But we found that a heavier-duty mower would do a better job of mowing the grass, rocks, and occasional mailboxes. If you're parked on the side of the road, take care.”
Fire department gets more funding
Voters approved $494,910 for town expenses, $327,828 of that to be raised from taxes and $167,082 to be covered by non-tax revenue.
One of the main topics of this discussion was adding $8,000 to the amount that was warned, because the fire department's expenses have increased more than the Selectboard was aware.
“We choose to have an independent fire department, not a town department,” said Assistant Fire Chief Richard Cogliano. “Every town is different. Ours started in 1950s. In the 1980s, the town started buying the trucks. Running a fire department is expensive, and to fund it completely is exhausting, so we ask the town for help.
“Dispatching went up $7,685 over the last seven years. Also, Southern Vermont Cable increased. Green Mountain Power has gone up. We've switched to propane and lowered our heating costs, but we've been level-funded since 2012.
“We have to raise 46 percent of our budget by fundraising,” Cogliano said. “Help us flip a few less pancakes.”
It took a paper vote, but residents voted 77–70 in favor of adding an extra $8,000.
Townspeople also voted:
• To spend $563,232 on the highway department expenses, $435,632 of that money to be raised by taxes and $127,600 of it not.
• To create a special Highway Blasting and Ledge Crushing Reserve Fund, and then fund it with $18,000.
• To give Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) $5,592, to be raised by taxes. SeVEDS is requesting $3 per person per town.
Paul Normadeau suggested reducing the amount, but Christophe Gagne, president and brewmaster of the Hermit Thrush brewery, which has a brewing operation in Dummerston, said that his company pays $14,000 in yearly taxes to the town, and if SeVEDS “wasn't that good, it would be less.”
The town voted to give SeVEDS the full amount.