Cavendish Selectboard hears from GMUSD on bond measure

Renovations include fixing fire and safety code violations, updating accessibility requirements per the Americans With Disabilities Act, and repairs and upgrades to the heating, ventilation, and lighting systems. Photo provided

CAVENDISH, Vt. – At the Monday, Oct. 17 Cavendish Selectboard meeting, the first topic of discussion was a $20 million bond proposal to renovate the three schools in the Green Mountain Unified School District (GMUSD); CTES, CAES, and GMUHS.

GMUSD board member and Cavendish resident Steve Perani, along with Facilities Director Todd Parah, presented the proposal, which will be the first major maintenance project for the GMUSD facilities in more than thirty years, and addresses a backlog of renovations including fixing fire and safety code violations, updating accessibility requirements per the Americans With Disabilities Act, and repairs and upgrades to the heating, ventilation, and lighting systems. Videos explaining each improvement in detail are posted on the Two Rivers Supervisory Union’s website,

Because the November general election ballots have already been mailed, Parah explained that postcards with the bond voting information have been sent to each registered voter. Ballots are available at all town clerk offices through Nov. 8 and will be distributed at the polling sites for election day voting. Voters who completed and returned their ballots early can still vote on the bond.

Parah said, “These repairs will move the schools 30 years into the future and won’t need to be redone for a long time. This is not a quick fix.” He added, “My goal is for everyone to vote informed. I’m not here to convince anyone of anything.”

Citizens including Margo Caulfield expressed concern over the schools’ dwindling attendance numbers, an aging local population, and a tax burden that will disproportionately impact residents without school age children who might be on a fixed income. The board deferred this line of inquiry to the School Board to address.

The next item on Monday night’s agenda was the ongoing consideration of Airbnb and other short-term rentals and their impact on the local economy and quality of life. Leading the discussion were Caulfield and Kem Phillips, who had collected data on property ownership, town population, rental information, and student population. The unofficial study found that approximately 40% of properties in the Cavendish-Proctorsville area are owned by residents, and long-term rentals have decreased while the short-term rental market continues to grow. As a result, there are less year-round residents paying taxes, fewer children to boost school attendance, and almost no affordable housing available to attract younger families to the area. The impact of the weekend renters on the water system and transfer station is significant as well, with no real recourse for the town.

The discussion became somewhat heated as residents looked to the board to address these issues, currently shared by many towns across the nation. Some in attendance expressed frustration that Cavendish is not currently planning to regulate short-term rentals, and suggested that a 1–2% tax would be a minimal effort to recoup some money for the town. Others were not keen on any new regulations.

Planning Commission member Tim Calabrese said he could add the topic to the commission’s agenda, although he admitted they are “in dire need of members,” and urged anyone interested to attend the next meeting on Nov. 2.

Town Manager Brendan McNamara addressed the meeting in regard to the Town Plan Energy Chapter, and the request for the Planning Commission to adopt the measure into the Town Plan. George Timko presented the motion, which Stephen Plunkard seconded. McNamara mentioned the board would need to warn of a public hearing on this addition to the Town Plan.

Timko explained that the purpose of adopting the Chapter into the Town Plan was to state recommendations and goals, not implement restrictions. It would give the town more input when large projects are proposed, and residents will have access to information and resources, such as Efficiency Vermont, to help lower individual energy usage and cost. Nothing in the Chapter would be mandatory. All in attendance voted in favor, and the motion passed.

The board revisited converting the streetlights in Proctorsville to LED, and McNamara quoted the cost at $9,100 to replace all the bulbs, with a yearly savings of $4,100. He said he would continue the conversation with the Town Treasurer, and if there were available funds, the project would be completed before winter.

McNamara stated that the town had received almost all the ARPA funds coming to them, and anyone interested in joining the committee to review potential projects, should let him know. Hoping the first meeting would be the week of Oct. 24, McNamara said his goal was to come up with a list of proposals ready to start next spring, to present to the board.

The meeting concluded with McNamara’s Town Manager Report, which covered the Tarbell Hill Road paving completion, a job opening for Assistant Water/Wastewater Operator, tree cutting, and other road maintenance projects. McNamara is working with the Regional Planning Commission on a Transportation Alternative grant to replace the salt shed at the Town Garage, as well as conducting a second speed study for Route 131.

McNamara reminded everyone that in-person voting for the General Election, Justices of the Peace, and the School Improvement Bond will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8 at the Proctorsville Fire Station from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Secretary Jen Leak announced that anyone with voting questions should call the Town Office. The meeting adjourned just before 8 p.m.

The selectboard will reconvene on Monday, Nov. 14, at 6:30 p.m.

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