LUDLOW, Vt. – The Ludlow Selectboard Oct. 7 meeting began with the informational meeting on the proposed town plan. The Planning Commission has met extensively over the course of many months, welcoming citizen input and incorporating their comments into a new vision statement and focus for the town.
Alan Couch of the Ludlow Planning Commission recapped their efforts saying the committee’s goal was to make things more concise, focus on where the town and village were going in the future, and bring plan into coordination with zoning bylaws. Couch said that going back over plans from the past, that many previous goals remained, but they now specified who should be responsible for reaching those goals and implementing them. “We want to allow people to develop their properties and expand the town without ruining the character and quality of life here,” he said.
After the meeting began, the Selectboard went on to approve the town plan with Board Chair Bruce Schmidt praising the Planning Commission for their efforts. The plan will go into effect after 21 days.
The Selectboard set a special informational meeting date of Monday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Town Office building to discuss acquisition of the high school building, coinciding with the next Selectboard meeting. The vote will happen Tuesday, Nov. 12, starting with discussion and then moving to a vote on the floor, similar to town meeting.
The Selectboard began discussions on implementing a 1% local options tax for Ludlow. This is an additional 1% tax that is added to four different categories: meals, rooms, alcohol, and sales. The measure was defeated in Ludlow in 2016 by 13 votes. Approximately 20 towns in Vermont currently implement a local options tax with 30% going to the state, and 70% going to the town. To move forward with the proposal, the Selectboard will have officially decide to move forward with the plan and then schedule informational meetings with the hospitality industry and local citizens for their input.
Board member Justin Hyjek, who also owns several businesses in town, said he spoke directly with Killington and although they repealed the sales portion of the local options tax, that everybody has benefited from the local options tax. “The one worry I have as a business owner in town is by instituting another tax on the local population,” he said.
Projected revenue for the town with the 1% local options tax would be approximately $563,000 based on 2017 figures according to Town Manager Scott Murphy. Schmidt said that the last time they had proposed the tax to the town, they outlined that 50% would be used to reduce municipal property taxes and the balance to infrastructure reserve funds that would be approved at special meetings.
Schmidt mentioned many upcoming projects that could benefit from additional income including taking over the school building, paving, sidewalks, the senior center building, community center, public safety building, and town garage. Murphy brought up several infrastructure projects facing the village including storm drains and several water and sewer line projects throughout town.
The Selectboard agreed to consider the information presented and put it on next month’s agenda. Schmidt mentioned that if the Selectboard did decide to move forward, that it would be important “to figure out a way to educate the voters.”
In other business, the Selectboard approved the new Police Department union contract saying that with the increase, they were now close to the Vermont state average for a police department of their size. Schmidt added, “We got behind on pay scale and it became evident that we got behind for the staff and officers we have…we need to make sure we don’t have that happen again.”
The Selectboard also agreed to set new rates for Ludlow Ambulance Service. Stephanie Grover, the new Ludlow Ambulance Coordinator said that their rates were significantly lower, by approximately 50%, versus other towns in Vermont according to two different sources. The rate changes will not affect Medicare and Medicaid recipients. The cost of basic ambulance transportation will increase from $475 to $725. Ludlow Ambulance does offer a membership subscription program that can help offset some of these costs.
The next Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Ludlow Town Office.