Springfield Selectboard approves downtown mural project and first cannabis dispensary

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – Selectboard Chair Kristi Morris opened the July 10 meeting promptly at 7 p.m., and quickly moved into a public hearing to review the proposed change to the residency ordinance for the town fire chief and deputy fire chief.

Springfield, Vt.

Board member Crissy Webster expressed concern over the change, which replaces the ordinance requiring residency within Springfield, with “must live within a 30-minute response time.” Webster said she felt 30 minutes seemed “excessive.”

Board member Walter Martone countered, saying that parts of Springfield were even further away from the fire station than some neighboring towns. “If the town of Springfield were a perfect radius, around the downtown area, or the fire department let’s say, this would be a different story,” Martone said. “But our town boundaries are irregular.”

Morris said he had spoken with some residents about the issue who were worried about the 30-minute response time. He wondered if the board could find a different way to delineate the area more effectively, perhaps by determining an acceptable radius around the fire station.

Webster agreed, and asked, “Can we literally pick a pinpoint in Springfield, such as the fire station, and draw a circle around that?”

Town Manager Jeff Mobus replied, “We’d have to start the process all over again.”

“That would be a major change, I’m assuming,” added Morris. “We’d have to go back for another public hearing, I would imagine.”

“Which can happen,” said Mobus.

“Which can happen,” reiterated Morris.

The discussion continued, until, with a vote of 3-2, the board approved the motion to remove the residency requirement and implement the 30-minute response time adjustment.

Mobus reported that a retail cannabis establishment called TMM Dispensary on Chester Road had opened on Monday, July 3, after receiving a license issued by the state of Vermont. As Mobus explained, the state cannabis control board did not forward their report to the local cannabis control commission as they should have, and signed off on the application without local approval. The state board issued an apology for their error and corresponded that, “they are hopeful that our local commission will issue and administer a local control license through our usual process despite their error.”

TMM Dispensary’s owner Leanna Lebarron was in attendance, and told the board that the entire application process had been “a nightmare.” There was a breakdown in communication between the state cannabis control board and the local commission, resulting in many delays and lack of shared information.

Selectboard member Mike Martin asked town clerk Barbara Courchesne to inform the state board on everything that had gone wrong, and ensure they are up to date on local guidelines and procedure moving forward.

Martone told the meeting he had visited the newly renovated TMM space, in the former location of The Magic Mushroom retail shop, and that it was “very nice, and very secure. Leanna did everything right,” Martone emphasized. “She followed the rules. And we followed the rules. All the mistakes were made at the state level.”

The board unanimously approved the license, and Lebarron and TMM Dispensary were given full approval to operate the first, legal retail cannabis shop in Springfield.

A downtown mural project was presented to the board by Bettina McCrady, Barbara Sanderson, a longtime Springfield resident and philanthropist, and mural artist Phoebe Lo. The mural would be located at the Springfield Town Office, on the wall facing the parking lot.

Lo lives in Burlington, and has painted murals across Vermont. She told the board she was a family friend of the Sandersons, and had “visited Springfield on many occasions” and was “inspired by all of its natural beauty.”

McCrady added, “We feel this is a plus for the revitalization of downtown Springfield.”

Lo presented the board with three mock-ups, and Sanderson said her choice was design number one.

Martin addressed Sanderson. “I like it,” he said, “but I have a personal preference. Am I allowed to have an opinion on that?”

“Yes, you are,” Sanderson replied.

Martin described why he favored design number three, even going into detail about the color palette. “If we’re going to paint the side of our building, we should let it pop!”

Board member Crissy Webster agreed.

The vote passed 4-1, with the one dissenting vote coming from Everett Hammond, who ultimately favored design number one.

The mural project will be funded by a private donation from the Barbara Sanderson family.

Lisa Baker was named the town animal control officer. She told the board she has more than a decade of experience training dogs, but admitted she is also learning and overcoming some challenges with the new position.

Data terminals for police department vehicles were approved for purchase, with the project to be partially funded by grant money, and Police Chief Burnham presented the board with his research on purchasing body camera technology.

He reported to the board that his officers are currently testing a system from Reveal Body Camera, and are pleased with the results. Coming in as the lowest bid by far, at an initial cost of $14,729, the equipment package will then have an annual fee of $2,709. Currently, the town has reserves of $15,000 to purchase the system, and Mobus told Burnham he would do his best to encumber funds at the end of the fiscal year to cover the annual cost. Burnham addressed the board’s questions regarding the price difference, other concerns, and audience remarks.

“This was extremely well thought out and very cost effective. I absolutely support it,” Martone stated, before the board unanimously approved the purchase.

The chief was given the go-ahead to buy a Chevy Tahoe for the department, at a price of $42,566.55. The cost was included in the town budget for fiscal year 2024.

Mobus reported that town paving projects had begun on South Street and Seavers Brook Road, and the culvert replacement on Eureka Road will be scheduled for September. That work will involve a full road closure, and Mobus mentioned the detour routes will be posted on the town website.

Chief Burnham gave a report on the huge storm and flooding event that was causing major damage to much of the state. Burnham said the police had been called to Giddings Street by reports of flooding around the bridge, so they shut down the road. He said they had evacuated five residents north of the bridge, “further up Giddings [where] basements were being flooded and houses were becoming submerged.”

Burnham also said that one of the bridges on Route 106 heading toward Chester had water cresting on either side, and flowing over the road, while another flooding situation involving propane required response from the fire department.

The selectboard will next meet on Monday, Aug. 14, at 7 p.m.

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