For first time since 2020, Dummerston has in-person Town Meeting

Turnout strong as town residents quickly approve budget items

After four years of electronic Town Meetings, the town was very happy to be back at the school Tuesday for an in-person meeting.

About 100 residents filled the cafeteria at 10 a.m. to hear Town Moderator Cindy Jerome call the meeting to order and remind them to respect one another while debating heated town issues.

"Caring for this community is far more important than anything else," she said.

Jerome opened the meeting by solemnly reading the names of the 59 Dummerstonians who have died since the last in-person Town Meeting. In all, Dummerston has about 1,865 residents.

Heated debate did not seem to be on the agenda. There was little debate about the expenses facing the town for the upcoming fiscal year, and members easily agreed to put $110,000 into the Capital Fund, $585,419 into the General Fund, of which $449,989 will be raised by taxes, and $711,450 for town highway expenses, of which $574,950 will be raised by taxes.

Included in the General Fund will be raises in salaries and benefits for town employees.

Town Meeting members also agreed to use $85,000 from the Capital Fund to buy a new tractor for the road crew. It might be a Kubota, but could also be a John Deere. Road foreman Lee Chamberlin has been checking prices, and the John Deere seems to be a much better value at a cheaper price. If any money is left over from the purchase, it will go back into the Capital Fund.

Resident Jodi Normandeau said that when she first moved to town 53 years ago, her dirt road was plowed with a pickup truck.

"Everything seems to be getting larger and larger," she said. "Stop keeping this up. The tractor does a lot of damage to the sides of the road. We're not Montpelier, and we're not Brattleboro. We're Dummerston. What do we use a tractor for?"

The tractor, it turns out, is used for blowing leaves, raking the roads after the grader has gone by, and mowing the roadsides. The motion for a new tractor passed unanimously.

Some of the Highway Fund money will be used to raise workers' hourly wage and keep it competitive with other towns.

"Our road crew is in the upper-age bracket," said Selectboard Chair Ezekiel Goodband. "If we have to advertise for new road crew members and starting pay is below what other towns are offering, we may have a hard time getting qualified road crew members."

Voters raised $27,459 by taxes for blasting and crushing in the gravel pit the town shares with Putney.

Dummerston received about $253,590 in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds during the pandemic. It spent most of that money repairing the Dummerston Community Center, funding the Historical Society, and adding to the Recreation Department, the Evening Star Grange, the West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department, the Municipal Office, and the Highway Department.

Approximately $14,700 is left, which has to be allocated by the end of this year and spent by 2026. It will most likely be used for new lighting for the highway garage.

The voters also gave the Grange and the Green Mountain Camp tax-exempt status for the upcoming year and passed a resolution saying they "call for an immediate and durable peace in Gaza."

This News item by Joyce Marcel was written for The Commons.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates