The new administrator, Carlo Pilgrim, was at the board’s Tuesday evening meeting, and said he was ready to start work on Wednesday morning. “I take my job very seriously,” he told board members. “I will do my best for this town, and I will enjoy doing it.”
Pilgrim is currently living in Wilmington. He’s a Navy veteran and has served as town manager in Newport, ME; Boothbay, ME; Boothbay Harbor, ME; and Holbrook, AZ.
In other matters, the board approved a request for funding for the Vermont Fiddlehead Festival. The Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce presented an initial request at the board’s last meeting, but board members told them to sharpen their pencils and return with a more complete budget, which might result in more economic development funding.
This week, festival organizers presented a more detailed budget with total expenses of $24,700. Following economic development director Ken Black’s recommendation to fund the maximum of 50% of the total budget, the board approved funding of $12,350.
Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Adam Grinold said the chamber planned to partner with Honora Winery, which is holding a chocolate festival the same weekend, to promote the festivals and other summer events at the New York Times travel show next week. “We’re selling the festival on a community level and on an Internet level,” he said. “We want to bring in the maximum amount of people into this area that we can.”
The festival, to be held over Memorial Day weekend, includes a fiddle contest, craft fair, and food competitions in Dover, and a block party in Wilmington. Grinold said the festival would dovetail with other Memorial Day activities, including the parade in Wilmington and the duck race to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
In other economic development matters, Black suggested the town consider organizing a parade to celebrate the athletes from Dover who participated in the Olympics. Two Dover athletes, Kelly Clark and Devin Logan, will be returning with medals for their performances in the games, and freeskier Nick Goepper, of Indiana, a member of Mount Snow’s Carinthia Pro Team, also won a bronze medal.
Grinold said that the chamber had also discussed organizing a celebration, and a Mount Snow representative had suggested that any local celebrations be coordinated with Mount Snow Communications Manager Dave Meeker, who will be in touch with the athletes. Grinold said it wasn’t clear whether the athletes would be in the Deerfield Valley soon, or at the same time as their colleagues. “Maybe we should just have a celebration,” Grinold said. “Or they may all be able to come to the Blueberry Festival,” suggested Black.
In other discussions, Dover School Board Chair Rich Werner reacted to a suggestion that the two boards consider holding future Town Meetings at a different time and date, with the goal of increasing attendance. According to one Vermont study, Werner said, adjusting the date of Town Meeting actually decreased attendance. “The biggest thing that will increase attendance is to have something controversial going on. That will pack the place.”
Over his years as school board chair, Werner said he has come to realize that a lack of attendance usually indicates that voters are happy with the status quo. “It’s when people show up that you know something’s wrong,” he said. “The (proposal to locate a cell tower at the school) is a good example – I thought it was a nothing issue that would draw five people. How wrong can you be? And the voters let us know.”
Werner suggested mailing budget information, the Town Meeting warning, and a letter from the boards to residents might be more effective in attracting voters. He also suggested free day care during the meeting. “Or if we could get $10,000 from economic development,” Werner joked, “we could have everyone who comes in during the first 15 minutes of the meeting draw a ticket, and if they’re still there at the end, have a drawing for a cash prize.”
Werner also said there would be a presentation or letter from the lobbyist hired by the town to “prevent bad things from happening” in regard to education funding. And the lobbyist may soon be busy, according to school board member Laura Sibilia. “There’s a lot of stuff going on up there, and there may be some big changes coming down. It may take some quick moves to protect voters and students.”
Sibilia referred to a proposal from Rep. Peter Peltz, of Woodbury, that would eliminate the state’s 60 supervisory unions, reorganize the state’s 282 school districts into 30 to 60 school districts, and consolidate school boards. “It’s looking probable,” said Sibilia. “It’s surprising to see the amount of steam it’s gathering.”
“Which is unusual,” said Werner, “Usually in the year right before an election they try to do as little as they can.”