LUDLOW, Vt. – During their Dec. 7 meeting, the Ludlow Selectboard approved voting by Australian ballot at this year’s town meeting March 2, 2021 due to Covid-19 concerns. The board made a point that this was an exception for one year only. There will be an informational meeting Monday, Feb. 22 via Zoom, giving citizens enough time to watch the recorded meeting on Okemo Valley TV prior to the vote. Article questions and the budget will be available for viewing prior to the informational meeting via the town’s website.
Absentee ballots will also be available, but citizens would have to request those. Voter petitions have until Jan. 14 to be submitted according to Ludlow Municipal Manager Scott Murphy.
The board has decided to table moving forward with a town charter until after town meeting. Murphy advised the board, based on an opinion from legal counsel, that the board set up a committee and devise a charter that would address more than one topic since state legislators have resisted approving single purpose charters in the recent past. Discussion on establishing a town charter for Ludlow has focused solely on voting flexibility up to this point. Murphy also said the cost for the process could span from $5,000 to $15,000.
Board Chair Bruce Schmidt suggested tabling for now but said that he felt they should go through the process later when more residents could get together to talk about it.
Murphy announced an upcoming Zoom meeting scheduled Thursday, Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. to discuss the Red Bridge on Lake Rescue. The meeting, which will include the Lake Rescue Association, will discuss issues that have arisen in that area over the summer and fall.
The town Christmas party has been canceled. The board agreed to give $50 gift certificates from local restaurants to the full- and part-time town employees instead.
Board member Justin Hyjek, being a Ludlow restaurant owner, recused himself from the vote, which was otherwise unanimous.
The board reviewed proposed budgets from Highway, Transfer Station, Fire Department, Listers and Ambulance. The highway department discussion focused on a budgeted full-time position to perform vehicle maintenance as well as other highway tasks such as plowing and sidewalk clearance during winter storms. Schmidt expressed concern over the “creep of adding positions,” and said he had begrudgingly approved the position last year because they were losing the bus position.
Ron Tarbell, head of the Ludlow Highway Department, said the position saved over $16,000 in vehicle maintenance last year and that the department currently has six staffers and seven plow routes, although they could double up if necessary. The person currently in that position was willing to work part-time.
Transfer Station has seen increase in revenue and a large increase in activity due to more people moving into town. Patty Potter, manager of Ludlow Transfer Station, said that she and her staff were stretched thin and the biggest impact may be the need to ask for a full-time employee in the near future.
Ludlow Fire Department Chief Peter Kolenda said he wasn’t seeing any huge increases over the next few years other than capital expenses that would be coming up in 2024 for a new pumper and a new pick-up truck.
With the upcoming retirement of Lister Margot Martell, the Listers Department is recommending a switch from elected listers to contracting for an assessor for one day a week through a professional company, along with an administrative assistant that would be in the office for the other four days to field all questions and perform other tasks. The change could save the department close to $27,000, but the voters would need to approve the change.
Schmidt said this was a huge change and that he was concerned with having an assessor just one day a week. Murphy said that if the department did not make the charge that they could be hurting come March and April once Martell retires. He said they could go through the RFP process to find the right company to partner with.
The Ambulance Department Deputy Chief Stephanie Grover announced that their department will need to restructure their fees and revenue to help make up for a $240,000 shortfall in their operations, the difference between projected revenues, which are down due to Covid-19, and their projected expenses. According to Grover, towns will need to pay approximately $70 per household address, something that other towns such as Woodstock and other ski towns have adopted already. The Ambulance Department will also need to revisit their arrangement with Cavendish and Plymouth. The ambulance service provides 24-hour ambulance with a three-minute average response time. The change will need to become an article for the residents and will increase the tax rate by about another cent and a half, according to Murphy.
With this last review of departmental budgets, the board has now seen all departments and will begin their budgeting process with their first budget meeting scheduled for Monday, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. via Zoom.
The board approved a bid from Springfield Fence for construction of the dog park, which will be built at Fletcher Farm by the soccer fields in the spring. Their bid came in just above the $20,000 budget, which is financed through fundraising.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 4 at 6 p.m. via Zoom.