LUDLOW, Vt. – The public meeting and annual meeting held Monday, March 6, in the evening was uneventful but offered an opportunity for townspeople to be seen and heard on 21 articles, the first six of which would be voted the next day by Australian ballot.
“One of the exciting things for me last night was how many people under 40 were there. There’s a new generation of children who grew up in this town who are staying in this town and are being politically involved,” said Joanna Bombadil, a Ludlow homeowner who has lived here 39 years and attends Town Meeting most of that time.
Moderator Martin Nitka opened the meeting with a reminder of the ground rules. He asked non-voters to refrain from speaking, and commenters to wait to be recognized and refrain from cross-talk. LPCTV filmed the meeting.
The informational portion of the meeting covered Articles 1 through 6, which would be on the Australian ballot.
On Article 4, renewing the exempt status of the property on Buttermilk Falls Road owned by the Ludlow Masons, a representative of the Masons spoke, thanking the town for the exemption and giving a brief historical sketch of the local lodge and its philanthropy to education. The Black River Lafayette Lodge has been in Ludlow for 149 years. He urged citizens to use their voting privilege.
On Article 5, the cemetery commissioner promised that a new cemetery capital fund would not result in raising taxes.
Article 6 proposed reallocating bike path improvement money to improvements at the highway garage. A citizen worried that the bike path might be abandoned. He was told that there may be a municipal source of funds for the bike path in the future.
The annual meeting followed with a floor vote on articles 7 through 21. All articles passed.
Among the comments were expressions of thanks and appreciation to the fire department (“one of the best around”) and to the staff of the Friends of Ludlow Auditorium.
On Article 16 to maintain a tax-supported recreation facilities fund, a commenter asked if the town could get a recumbent bicycle rather than a spinning bicycle, to which the recreation director answered, “Yes.”
Article 19 generated discussion about the need for the public bus transit services to Ludlow. It was reported that the Regional Transportation Commission has figures on the volume of use in its report. One resident stood up to say that her mother had used transportation to get to dialysis treatments three times a week, provided by private drivers for the Current, who were paid by the mile. The resident said that the value was “pennies on the dollar.”
After a short recess, the moderator invited senators Alice Nitka and Dick McCormick to address the assembly briefly.
Sen. McCormick reported that the Senate Education Committee will not pass a repeal of Act 46. The local study committees have “worked very very hard” to make Act 46 work, so repeal would mean their effort had been for naught. The Committee is working instead to make Act 46 more flexible. He expressed concern for the future of federal funding – “We don’t know what’s coming from Washington, how bad a hit we’ll be taking.”
Sen. Nitka reported that the Senate Appropriations Committee intends to produce a balanced budget. She reported that the Senate Judicial Committee has passed a bill regarding fentanyl, which when mixed with heroin can be deadly. It is now illegal in Vermont to sell or possess fentanyl. The exception would be medical professionals.
Article 21 brought up the rear. Moderator Nitka said this was an opportunity to voice concerns and any feedback would be nonbinding.
The cemetery commissioner expressed his thanks to the town road crew and select board members for pitching in to help with cemetery maintenance.
Town Manager Frank Heald reminded the assembly that a “busy construction summer” is anticipated. Bridges and a culvert will be replaced on main travel routes. Several flyers are available on the projects at the town office and he asked citizens to check with him on road closures and detours. There will be no roundabout at the junction of routes 100 and 103 but there will be a full stoplight.
A critic of Act 46 spoke his concern about losing the school. Selectman Bruce Schmidt admitted that the issue is “very emotional.” He and his family came up through the Ludlow School. But, he said, “we have to look at what we’re doing for the school and what will be the best education.” The Act 46 committee must now choose a direction, he said. The school could be kept open for Pre-K through 12 in a district with similar towns (Proctor, West Rutland and Poultney) with the same superintendent and one board, or join with Mill River, or adopt limited school choice after grades six or eight.
After the meeting, Joanna Bombadil commented that while some feel that their attendance is unimportant, she feels that “it’s the simplest way I’m reminded of my civic duty to the town. Coming to Town Meeting is the smallest of those responsibilities.” But Town Meeting seems to have lost a lot of the “curmudgeons,” she added. “I’ve learned a lot from the curmudgeons, from the people who had the courage to speak up and be grumpy and ask questions and be problematic.”