Candidates talk issues
by Compiled by Jack Deming and Mike Eldred
Feb 28, 2014 | 3823 views | 0 0 comments | 73 73 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEERFIELD VALLEY- Dover, Wilmington, and Whitingham are the only towns in The Deerfield Valley News’ coverage area featuring contested seats on their respective selectboards. In Dover, former selectboard member William “Buzzy” Buswell is challenging Randall Terk for his two-year term, while in Wilmington, Tom Manton will appear on the ballot for an open two-year seat, with Tom Fitzgerald running a write-in campaign. In Whitingham, Dwight Williams is challenging Keith Bronson for his three-year seat.

For our last week of pre-Town Meeting Day coverage, we asked the candidates in each race to respond to three questions:

1.Why are you running for selectboard?

2. What is the most important issue facing the town and how should the selectboard address it?

3. What do you hope to achieve as a selectboard member?

We began in Dover with incumbent selectboard member Randall Terk, who has been on the selectboard for four years. “I want to continue to work with a board that has made significant accomplishments during my four-year tenure, primarily in the area of economic development,” said Terk. “We funded Internet access to East Dover, supported fiber optics to the school, built a beautiful park in West Dover, and supported various events with grants from economic development funds.”

Terk said that the most important issue facing the town was taxes. “The most important issue is the tax burden placed upon our residents and property owners and the way the state proposes to increase that burden without accountability. The selectboard must continue to work closely with our school board to protect our town’s excellent education offerings and to bring accountability to state education fund spending.”

“I want to continue to foster the board to maintain its civil, collaborative working relationship with other town’s boards and committees,” said Terk. “Also, I want the town to continue to enhance infrastructure with economic development funds. The Route 100 and Dover Town Hall beautification project, enhanced hiking trail system, the Valley Trail and other recreational opportunities, and leveraging fiber-optic upgrades to allow for diversification of our economy are just a few. When someone visits our town I want them to see Dover as a place where they can live, work, and raise their family. I want our kids to be able to stay and live here because we have developed an environment where a non-tourist-based business can operate and flourish, and provide employment opportunities for them.”

William “Buzzy” Buswell has served on the selectboard before and would like to return to it.

“I’m running for the Dover Selectboard to give it balance and equal representation of the voters of Dover. To give everyone the opportunity to have an open-minded board member willing to listen to them before making a decision on any particular matter. I will be someone who thinks outside of the box and will vote without a secret and private agenda, and do what I think is best for the betterment of the town of Dover.

“The biggest problem facing our town is the high statewide property tax,” said Buswell. “Between Act 60 and Act 68 our statewide education tax is killing us and destroying our local tax base. We as a township cannot survive without local taxation, but with local and statewide taxation more and more people don’t have the money and don’t want to move here to Dover or can they survive to live here in Dover. To save our way of life and infrastructure we need to lower our taxes and we need to start lowering them today.

“How long and how much money do we spend to continue to work with our lobbyist group on trying to change the minds of Montpelier? We have spent over $200,000 in the past three years to do so,” said Buswell. “Now is the time to take legal action against the state of Vermont. Fourteen years ago the Vermont State Supreme Court threw out the lawsuits against Act 60, not based on its merits but because the impact of Act 60 could not be measured as of yet since the full impact of Act 60 had not taken place as of yet. We have played long enough with a lobbyist group, now it’s time to play with a legal group and see what our legal options are against the state of Vermont statewide education tax.”

If elected Buswell would like to achieve lower statewide taxes and a better way of life for all residents of the town of Dover.

In Wilmington, Tom Manton, a former member of the school board, is running for the open two-year seat. We were not able to reach Manton with our questions by time of publication.

Tom Fitzgerald is running for the two-year seat in Wilmington with a write-in campaign. “I’m running because I want the town to move forward in a positive economic direction and see jobs come to town,” said Fitzgerald. “We have to get the town back on its feet first, because you can’t walk forward if you don’t have your feet. I’m currently on the economic development committee of Wilmington Works, and there are a lot of people involved in this town in a positive way right now, and I want to bring that positiveness to the selectboard. I want to maintain some diversity on the board, because you can’t have one mind set and go with it. You want everyone to work with an open mind. After living here for almost 40 years you have some kind of ownership in this community, and I don’t want to see it go the wrong way.

“The economic stability of the community is the most important issue facing the town,” said Fitzgerald. “The selectboard needs to support the efforts of the groups and committees that are taking the horse by the reins and trying to bring business to the town.”

As for what Fitzgerald said he would like to achieve: “I’d like to see an increase in the grand list, which will result in a reduction of taxes, and stay on task with bringing jobs to this community.”

In Whitingham, two candidates are runing for a three-year selectboard seat.

Challenger Dwight Williams said “I think one of the greatest freedoms we possess is the opportunity to serve in a local citizen government.  Change is not always necessary, but it’s important that government figures refresh and renew from time to time.  Voters need choices, and citizen boards benefit when members represent diverse backgrounds.  Anyone that has the ability to serve their community should take a turn.”

In response to question two, Williams answered “Whitingham has enormous challenges ahead. Perhaps the greatest being how to improve our economic viability while preserving our heritage and culture.  We also have a major change to infrastructure presented by the new Twin Valley Middle/High School project.  I’d like to see the selectboard and school board collaborate more effectively to the benefit of all.”

Willams added “I’m running for a three year seat because in the short term, I don’t expect to achieve anything of significance until I have a thorough understanding of the policies in place, and the reasoning behind prior decisions.  In the long term, I hope to improve communication to the public, encourage public participation in selectboard processes, offer 17 years of experience in business finance, negotiation, and continue a long-standing family tradition of community service.

Keith Bronson is the incumbent selectboard member. “We have a fiscally conservative board that works for the benefit of the town of Whitingham. No one on the board has a personal agenda. I enjoy working with them. In response to question two, Bronsson said, “The pending litigation with TransCanada over their appraised value, they being the largest taxpayer in town. Seeing how this reappraisal was conducted by the state of Vermont, we feel the state should be paying all court fees. In cooperation with other towns along the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers, we are monitoring legislation to address such funding.”

Bronson added “My hope as a select board member is for continued financial stability. If all items pass at Town Meeting on Tuesday, the Whitingham municipal tax rate will be 58 cents. The tax rate in 2003 was 58 cents. The continued reliance on the statewide property tax as the state of Vermont’s main source of income will always be a hurdle facing all towns. Until the landscape changes in Montpelier and Act 60/68 are deleted, we must endeavor to persevere.”
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