The town of Readsboro has twice failed to reach a two-thirds favorable majority to approve up to $1,430,000 in bonds to finance town water system upgrades. The state mandated the town to upgrade its water system and fire hydrants, however selling the proposal to the town has been no easy task. Many believe $1,430,000 is too much to ask the town to pay for. Voters supported article on Town Meeting day, 139 to 136, and at last week’s special Town Meeting, 131 to 99, but each vote failed to reach the required majority.
According to Eilers, last week’s special Town Meeting was a “reconsideration” of Article 7 (the water bond article) from Town Meeting day. Any articles under “reconsideration” require a two-thirds majority to pass. If the article does not meet the two-thirds majority to pass, the town may vote on the article again at another special Town Meeting. However, Eilers said the article is no longer under “reconsideration,” and no longer needs a two-thirds majority to pass. “This time, the article is determined by a one-to-one vote,” said Eilers. “I say we do this again.”
Eilers believes requiring the town to pass the article by a two-thirds majority was the reason behind the water bond’s last defeat. Now that the rules are different, he believes the town has a better chance of passing it.
Selectboard member Craig Bartosewcz said he was not supportive of the water bond because of the steep price, but has changed his mind because he believes “it’s something that’s in the best interest of the town.” Bartosewcz suggested the selectboard look at a scaled-back version of the water system repairs and do what is mandated by the state.
The selectboard also agreed to lower the asking amount from $1,430,000 to $965,000. They believed that a lower monetary request won’t scare as many taxpayers once they decide to vote. Town clerk Annette Caruso said the town cannot vote on the water bond for another 24 months, should the water bond not pass. One Readsboro citizen stressed the importance of passing the water bond this time around. “If we don’t pass this, the state is going to keep after us. They still want us to do it,” said Dave Marchegiani.
Forrest Hicks supports another special Town Meeting, but he suggests the selectboard spell out what the new vote means to the town. He also added they should explain to the voters that the voting rules changed due to state law so that voters aren’t suspicious about the new process. “We don’t want to lose. We have to explain why the vote doesn’t have to be two-thirds, so that it doesn’t look like a snake oil deal,” said Hicks.
The selectboard will provide further information about the special Town Meeting at a later date.
In other news, Mark Brayman requested the selectboard stop billing him for sewer and water at property located on Canal Street. Brayman said the house has been uninhabited for some time and he believes he shouldn’t have to pay for something no one is using. “Please disconnect it. It’s ridiculous I have to pay $80 a month and no one’s using it,” said Brayman.
Eilers said he understood Brayman’s concern, but he said all property owners have to pay a base rate even when the property is not in use. Brayman asked the selectboard to change the policy. “The policy needs to be changed, you’re paying for a dead horse,” said Brayman.