Town meeting vote in question

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – The voting at the Bellows Falls Annual Village meeting, which resulted in the passing of a $1.98 million budget, became a major point of discussion at a May 23 village trustee meeting. The vote to affirm the budget that took place at the Bellows Falls Opera House passed on My 16 with a total vote of 34 to 26. At the voting a villager had asked for a ballot vote in favor of a standing vote, which complicated the legitimacy of the results. New trustee member Jim McAuliffe stated that the registration checkers at the door only processed 51 voters. McAuliffe continued that this situation raised a red flag and questioned if this was a valid vote.

bellows falls
Bellows Falls and Rockingham Town Hall. Photo provided

Municipal Manager Shane O’Keefe maintained that some people manning cameras at the vote did not sign in. The trustees have notified the secretary of state about the issue. There was a discussion of reviewing the vote by watching a Fact VT video of the event. Town Clerk Kerry Bennett noted that if a petition challenged the results it would have to be filed 30 days after the vote, which would be June 5 and a new meeting could be warned at a considerable expense. Bennett clarified that with potential voters at 1,853 and 92.7 needed to file the petition 93 people would have to sign the document. Three trustees on the current board, Jim McAuliffe, Deborah Wright and Stefan Golec voted against the budget.

As was evident again at this year’s vote, the number of registered voters in Rockingham who actually voted was very small. Bennet proposed three ideas that could increase the participation in the future including: putting a warning on the water bill, including a flyer in the Shopper and placing a banner up in the town.

  Villager Doug MacPhee said he has had several calls concerning a petition but was not inclined to move it forward at this time. He also stated that the ball was dropped by “all of us in this situation.”

The passed budget also became the point of discussion. Jim McAuliffe stated that the public should know that the trustees will go over the budget line by line. He said, “As a board let’s review the budget and possibly change some elements.”

Villager Jim Mitchell stated, “I hope the board will take a look at the budget and how it could be reduced as there is concern in the village about the recent six cent hike.”

Additional meeting items included the paper of record: The Shopper was named the paper of record and the Eagle Times as a backup. Bennett said that the Shopper gets delivered to everyone and is the least expensive option.

Farmer’s Market: Gary Fox announced the 2017 farmers market will be opening June 2 and made a request on the behalf of the market’s manager that the events allow two ounces of sample cups of craft beer so they could decide to buy the beer in bottles. Fox clarified that no one will be walking around the market with beers and indicated that this is standard fare for farmer’s markets. Trustee Stefan Golec said that someone from the liquor commission needs to approve this and the issue was put on the June 30 joint board meeting.

The two new trustees made a brief statement at the end of the meeting. Wright said, “I would like to thank the voters who came out and I will do the job I was selected to do.”

McAuliffe said, “I would like to thank the people who voted and gave me the opportunity to serve. O’Keefe lauded the work that Colin James did on the board for six years.”

The entire meeting can be watched at www.fact8.com.

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