Bond re-vote and town budget up for discussion at Monday’s Plymouth Selectboard meeting

Plymouth Selectboard meeting. Photo provided.

PLYMOUTH, Vt. – Selectboard Chair Jay Kullman’s first announcement on Monday night, Dec. 5, was that the board had posted notices advertising for a new town clerk, as was agreed upon in the last meeting. Unfortunately, they’d received no applications thus far.

Kullman also said discussion at the previous meeting determined the clerk position should be an appointed one, rather than elected, and in order to make that change, the proposal would have to be presented in an article, “asking the voters to allow us [the board] to appoint someone to the position.”

There was still the question of whether the position had to be filled by a Plymouth resident or not. Kullman and others restated the policy could really limit the town’s ability to find the best candidate. Kullman said he thought the rule was a state statute, and if they wanted to revise it, they would have to go through a “charter,” approved by the state legislature.

A special staff meeting will be held on Dec. 13, at the town office, primarily to have a discussion between employees and elected officials regarding upcoming changes in payroll, issues with the phone system, and potential software updates. The board asked Beth Graves Lombard, temporary town clerk, to confirm the meeting time of 2 p.m.

Preliminary discussion about the town budget was presented by Kullman, for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, based on the recent audit. Kullman noted, “This is just the first pass at the budget. Some things still need more clear answers.” He said they were reviewing and working to further clarify those items.

As Kullman continued to review the budget pages with board members Rick Kaminski and Keith Cappellini, he apologized to the residents attending the meeting, saying, “I’m sorry I didn’t make copies for y’all.”

Treasurer Elaine Pauley said the budget will be published in the town’s annual report, and by law must be in hands of the voters 10 days before the town meeting in March 2023, and hopefully much sooner than that.

Kullman mentioned that the Sheriff’s and fire department had exceeded estimated expenses, and that the fire department is currently in need of a new firetruck. He didn’t think they would get a grant, so suggested the board possibly consider raising money for that.

There were some questions from the board members and residents about costs related to the fire department, and if they impacted taxes. The answers seemed a bit unclear.

Kullman said, “The fire department is its own entity, but the town insures them.” He also stated that the trucks are not listed as town assets, as it is considered a “municipal service,” with its own tax ID, and their own treasurer.

Wrapping up the budget discussion, the board said it will regroup and review the areas still in question. Since Kullman, along with Elaine Pauley, had worked on finalizing this version of the budget, Kullman felt confident the numbers were accurate, and they represented the town’s current fiscal situation.

Kaminski reported that the highway department had made the decision to replace its front-end loader and he presented the board with two quotes. The board spent a few moments reviewing and comparing the quotes, trade in offers, and warrantees, and decided to go with the lower of the two, and the same brand as the current machine.

There were some questions about the total equipment budget, other potential expenses, and comparing the quotes to other vendors. Kaminski said the cost fell within the equipment budget, he felt it was a fair price, and he strongly recommended they go forward with the purchase.

Cappellini said, “I think we should shop around. Compare.”

“I can’t believe the price is going to vary that much,” Kaminski replied. The board was silent for a few more moments, before ultimately approving the motion to go forward with the purchase.

Regarding the highway fund, Kullman put forward a motion to close a “redundant bank account” based on a recommendation from the town treasurer and transfer the money into the general highway funds account, which will then be the sole account for that department. Kaminski seconded the motion.

Speaking about the pending bond re-vote, Kullman said that he and the attorney had been corresponding, and it was decided they could conduct an “e-vote” to allow citizens to cast a vote on the revised bond measure, Article 1a.

“We’d run [a warning notice] for at least three days in the Vermont Journal,” Kullman stated. “Or I suggest more than three days. And, barring any more conversation with the lawyer, we can proceed with getting this warning posted.”

With a vote expected by Jan. 17, Kullman told the board and attendees that he had written the article and, after some revisions, it went to the bond attorney for a final legal review. “The lawyer altered some wording, and that’s where it was left,” Kullman said.

Resident and Justice of the Peace Karen Evans posed a follow up question regarding the “Airbnb registry” that had been discussed in previous selectboard meetings. She suggested that the bond re-vote offered an opportunity for the board to share information with voters about other articles that they would be asked to vote on.

A total of three articles could be proposed and printed on one page. There was some back-and-forth discussion with regards to the cost of postage, and if an e-vote would preclude a mail-in ballot option.

Additionally, as Evans pointed out, the realistic situation is that the mailings would reach Plymouth voters only, who were not necessarily the owners of short-term rentals. Often those owners were second homeowners, with primary residences outside of Vermont.

Kaminski suggested they table the topic and discuss this issue further with the town listers, when they meet next on Dec. 13, during the special meeting.

Finally, Plymouth resident Al Bar-am was in attendance, and spoke about his upcoming cannabis retail license, which he hasn’t received yet, but said he hopes to have approved by Dec. 21. They are currently working on the compliance measures, such as installing security which the state will inspect and hopefully approve. Bar-am acknowledged that he is aware the approval is a three-step process. The state control board needs to approve first, Bar-am will take a background check, and once everything is in order, the local Plymouth cannabis board approves. A meeting will be held on this issue on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

The next Selectboard meeting will be Monday, Dec. 19, 2022.


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