The selectboard spoke in favor of Article 4, which asked voters to transfer $189,000 to the Machinery Sinking Fund, to upgrade, replace, and repair pieces of town equipment. The selectboard’s intention is to help the town’s aging fleet, which features two trucks that are 20-plus years old, another that is 19, and one more that’s 13. “We want to replace the Mack truck at $180-185,000, then skip a year and raise enough for a new grader that is $300,000,” said selectboard chair Ray Eilers. Eilers also said the Mack truck is valued at $11,674, and repairs to town vehicles this year, including the grader, have brought about alarm. The article was passed.
A petition to see if the town would create a reserve fund for fire truck replacement became a hotly contested topic as members of the fire department butted heads with the selectboard on the issue. Selectboard member and veteran fire captain Dave Marchegiani asked that voters consider allowing the board to implement their capital planning budget first, which Marchegiani said would include a timeline of 2020 for fire truck replacement.
Currently, the town is paying off two loans on the last truck purchased and Marchegiani warned it would not be wise to buy another quite yet. “We’re not against buying a truck,” said Marchegiani. “But (we should) buy into the future game plan to keep a stabilized tax base.”
Article 12 asked voters to appropriate $50,000 dollars to the reserve fund if Article 11 passed, and the two issues melded together. Former fire chief Carl Marchegiani asked the selectboard why $50,000 for the fire truck was such a problem when so much money was being spent on town equipment. Selectboard member Teddy Hopkins countered that the town had nine pieces of equipment that needed maintenance, something the fire department couldn’t claim.
Fire chief Adam Codogni was asked why the department couldn’t buy used, something Codogni explained was out of the realm of consideration. “If we buy used it won’t work,” he said. “I need to know I have three trucks that will make it to an emergency.”
Carl Marchegiani and other members of the fire department in attendance explained that the price of equipment and trucks increases per year, and by 2015 the price of a $300,000 truck could balloon to $400,000. Marchegiani also said it is imperative to buy a truck that’s “ not a flatland truck from the south, but one that will work up here.”
After an indecisive vocal vote, the article was taken to ballot and voted down with 14 yes and 39 no votes, rendering article 12 unnecessary.
The other balloted topic was whether the annual Fourth of July celebration would feature fireworks or not. The article asked if the voters would raise $6,500 for the purchase of fireworks for the celebration. Eilers commented that the sum would have to be brought down to $5,000 because the town already budgets $1,500 for the annual celebration. After the amount was amended, Codogni told fellow voters that it was something the town should not pass up. “We don’t have much here and this celebration brings people here. This is a nice thing this town does, and it’s something to be proud of.”
Charlotte Clark, who heads the Fourth of July committee, explained that the money was necessary this year because the small committee of six could handle planning, but financial help was an issue.
Eilers took issue with the fact that required liability papers had not been turned in to the town by the committee, after it was decided last year they were necessary for future firework displays to be carried out.
Larry Hopkins and Kim Thayer were vocal in their disagreement with the article. Hopkins pointed out the committee had not secured approval for use of town land, and Thayer said the town could not properly vote to fund something that in essence did not exist yet.
With a too-close-to-call vocal vote, Moderator Bob Tool sent Article 14 to a ballot vote by which voters voted 30-20 in favor of the $5,000 funding.
Voters passed $2,000 in funding for the Wings afterschool community programs, $50,000 for the bridge fund, and $7,000 for the Cemetery Reserve Fund, which has focused its efforts on the rehabilitation of headstones. Voters also approved $15,000 for the Town-Owned Building reserve fund, which will help pay for the demolition costs of a building on Main Street destroyed in a fire, once the town is transferred ownership from a bank in May. The property tax exemption was raised for veterans with 50% or more disabilities from $20,000 of appraised value to $40,000, and residents voted to raise $10,000 for the Personal Protective Equipment reserve fund, which will help update the fire department’s protective equipment for all personnel.
Elected positions have also been set in Readsboro as a write in-candidate for selectboard, Helyn Strom-Henriksen, garnered 54 votes to fill the position being vacated by outgoing selectboard chair Ray Eilers.
Dana Rapp ran unopposed and was elected new school director with 107 votes, while Robert Scott fills the one-year lister seat, and Annalise Henriksen Carew fills the three-year lister position.
The town school district voted to authorize the school budget of $1,287,773.
Readsboro Central School Principal Mike Heller gave voters a glimpse of his first year as head of the school, and detailed the success his students have achieved. Heller displayed NECAP results for the school and pointed to the town’s 85% average as higher than the state’s, which sits at 73%. Heller says there are still points of emphasis for students to work on such as math. Readsboro’s students achieved an average of 73% in math scores which is higher than the 65% statewide average. Heller believes the increase in scoring is due to both parent and student dedication.
“We’re building a community of learners and engaging students,” said Heller. “We also have an active and involved parent-teacher association.”
Heller also credits new teachers Joe Carter and Derek Cipriano, and technology coordinator Adam Richardson, with helping the school achieve its goals in the classroom.
Rep. John Moran made an appearance as well, to update the town on his work in the Legislature. “The Legislature is short money,” said Moran. “But we’re going to do what we can to help working class Vermonters.”
Teddy Hopkins asked where Moran stood on a proposed plan by Gov. Peter Shumlin to tax “break open” gambling tickets. Moran said that many in the Legislature were unaware of what the game even consisted of and that the game was nonprofit. “It’s a bad process and it’s not helpful because it would hurt the Eagles and Legions and other such groups,” said Moran.
Moran also received applause for making it clear he will not vote for any laws that restrict Second Amendment rights, or restrict gun laws further.