2017-03-16 / Front Page

Town Meeting Will Move to Monday Next Year

John Cruickshank
The Northfield News

Photo by Bill Croney, The Northfield News

Northfield resident Pam Ricker (right) checks in to vote on Town Meeting day. 928
Northfield citizens turned out to vote for the Australian ballot measures that were on the
Town Warning. Finally, Article 10 which allows the Selectboard to make tax reduction
deals for new businesses coming to town and for the expansion of facilities for existing
businesses passed. This required a 2/3 rds vote and has been on the ballot for the last
three years before finally passing this year.Photo by Bill Croney, The Northfield News Northfield resident Pam Ricker (right) checks in to vote on Town Meeting day. 928 Northfield citizens turned out to vote for the Australian ballot measures that were on the Town Warning. Finally, Article 10 which allows the Selectboard to make tax reduction deals for new businesses coming to town and for the expansion of facilities for existing businesses passed. This required a 2/3 rds vote and has been on the ballot for the last three years before finally passing this year.Saturday town meetings were tried a few years ago to see if having the meeting on a nonwork day would increase turn out. It didn’t. As a result, meetings went back to being held on Tuesday morning on the first Tuesday of March and it has been that way for several years. No longer.
The approximate 150 voters who turned out for Town Meeting last Tuesday decided to try having the meeting on Monday evening for the next three years, once again to see if it will result in a greater turnout.
The idea was put forth by Ron Merolli at the meeting last year. He said that he once lived in
Williston and that they have their meeting on Monday night and the room is always packed. He said that he’d like to see if Northfield could do the same. As a result, the Selectboard put
Article 6 on the Warning this year to see if the voters would like to move the meeting to
Monday night and after some considerable discussion, the voters decided to try the idea for
three years and see if it would make a difference.
Also on the Warning and discussed at the meeting were provisions which would have put all
items on the Australian ballot and would have done away with town meeting entirely. These did
not pass. Many speakers said that the right of Vermonters to get up and express themseleves
at town meeting was a treasured right that should not go away.
Most believed that voting on the budget by Australian ballot would remove the voter’s right to amend the budget if they so choose.
One dissenting voice was John Quinn, former Selectboard Chair, who said that only about
100 people turned out at the meeting while there are over 6,000 in town that could be voting
on the budget if it were on the Australian ballot. In actuality, only 928 turned out to vote this
year on Australian ballot measures. One item that always brings considerable discussion is the town budget which passed without amendment this year but no without voices being heard from several of the voters who were present.
The most discussion turned on whether the Police Department should have a sixth officer and the Selectboard promised that if the new chief who will be sworn in in May wants a sixth officer, they will seriously consider it. The cost of a sixth officer would be approximately $90,000 including benefits, the voters were told.
The voters approved a budget for the town of total expenditures of $4,032,540.00 of which
$2,693,760.00 will be paid from property taxes and $1,338,780.00 will be paid by
non-tax revenues.
Then, the voters at town meeting approved the establishment of a reserve fund for conservation and related purposes such as acquisiton, preservation and
maintenance of land and water for forest, wildlife, recreational, agricultural, scenic and natural area use.
Also, the voters agreed to borrowing a sum not to exceed $75,000.00 for library building
improvements. Most of this money has already been spent, David Maxwell told the voters by putting a new roof on the building and making other improvements which he said were long overdue.
Finally, Mary Dollenmaier suggested that in future years, the Selectboard should explain the
budget to the voters prior to the vote so they might have a greater understanding of the items in the budget and how the board arrived at the amounts placed in the budget. The voters agreed.

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