Ludlow 2023 Town Meeting

Ludlow, Vt. Photo provided.

LUDLOW, Vt. – The results from the March 7 vote in Ludlow are as follows.

Ulla Cook was re-elected as Town Clerk. George B. Tucker Jr. was elected for the three year selectboard position. Scott Baitz and Robert Brandt were re-elected to the selectboard. Jeffrey Billings was made first constable and Shannon Barton Stark was elected to the cemetary commission. The voters of Ludlow approved both the Ludlow Mount Holly Unified Union School District and the River Valley Technical Center budget.

There will be a vote on March 28 for the positions of town moderator (one year), village trustee (three years), electric light commissioner (three years), and water commissioner (a two year and three year term). Make sure to come down and vote, or grab an absentee ballott from town hall.

The Ludlow Town Moderator, Marty Nitka, was not able to attend the Ludlow Town Meeting on March 6, 2023. Selectboard member Brett Sanderson nominated Newton Rose as moderator for the meeting, Brandt seconded the nomination, and Rose was elected.

Ludlow Town Manager Scott Murphy read two resolutions offered by Representative Logan Nicoll of Ludlow, honoring Selectboard Chair Bruce Schmidt for “an exemplary tenure of 21 years” with the selectboard, and Phil Carter for “his services for 37 years on the Ludlow Development Review Board, which he currently chairs.”

Don Lagro made a motion to adopt Article 2, exempting the Ludlow Masonic Building Association from property taxes at 22 Buttermilk Falls Road for a period of five years. Earl Washburn read a statement from the Mason’s lodge, thanking the town for the past 15 years of exemption and discussing some of the lodge’s contributions. Peter Girouard asked what the taxes for the property were, Cook said they were $3,360. Article 2 was passed.

Bob Fortuna made a motion to accept Article 3, fixing the salaries of the selectboard, cemetery commission, and trustees of public funds as the same as the previous year. Alan Couch voiced his opinion that some of the salaries should be looked at during a future meeting, “the cemetery commission, their meetings are typically 11 to 37 minutes, the planning commission meets for at least an hour and a half every month they meet, I think the planning commission is severely underpaid.” Article 3 passed.

Chris Miele asked if the dates listed in Article 4 could be changed if the state does not release education rates in time, Murphy said they could. Article 4 passed. Article 5 passed with no discussion.

Girouard asked the board why Articles 9 was separate from Article 6. Schmidt explained that Article 9 is to approve capital purchases and Article 6 is to approve the day to day items in the budget. Gary Blodgett commended the selectboard on the budget. Chris Miele said that the budget is really $4.5 million, not $4.4 million, when you add the $97,500 from Article 9. Ron Parry mentioned expenses for the Black River High School building, asking “are we gonna break even on this?” Schmidt acknowledged that the town originally said they would do something with the building in five years, which is approaching, and that it would be up to the board. Article 6 passed.

Article 7, asking to appropriate $312,085 to operate the Ludlow Community Ambulance Service, was motioned by Mariel Melengolo. Girouard asked what other communities contribute to the ambulance and stated that most of the calls are to the mountain, “I say, sell it all.” “I am going to politely disagree with your comment that they run into things and that we should sell it,” said Schmidt. He mentioned that Cavendish and Plymouth both contribute money to the fund. Steve Meyers asked how much money Okemo contributes. Murphy said the mountain helped provide staffing for the second ambulance during the peak season and contributed $38,000. Article 7 passed.

In discussion for Article 8 Meyers asked why Okemo makes up 50% of the ambulance calls and pays less than 10% of the cost. Dean Alexander asked why the ambulance is in a proprietary fund. Murphy explained that being in a proprietary fund keeps the ambulance separate from the town, and that funds cannot be transferred in or out of the fund. He said that moving the ambulance into the general fund would allow the town greater flexbility with managing its funds along with other departments. Andrea Goldman asked how Okemo came to contribute $38,000, as opposed to another amount. Murphy said that it came from an agreement with the mountain and that the amount is supposed to cover all of the calls to Okemo. Stephanie Grover stated that in the winter 20-40% of the ambulance calls are to the mountain and that without the $38,000 they couldn’t run a second ambulance. Article 8 passed.

While discussing Article 9 Fire Chief Pete Kolenda noted that the fire equipment fund currently has $394,000 in it and that a truck will need to be replaced in the next couple years, with a price tag of $800-900,000, he recommended that starting next year $50,000 be put yearly into the equipment fund, instead of $30,000. Jarod Harper made a motion to amend Article 9 to strike the words “and to fund programs” from the Article. The amendment passed, as did the Article afterwards.

Article 10 passed with no discussion.

Discussion for Article 11, granting $75,000 in bridge funding for the Expeditionary School at Black River (ESBR), opened with ESBR Trustee Pat Pullinen giving a statement. He explained that the school had planned to be approved by the state by now and that they are currently in the reapplication process and are requesting this funding to bridge the gap until they are approved. Mary Hoyne requested more detail on what the $75,000 would cover. Pullinen said the school has been operating on $150,000 and the $75,000 would help secure personel for the upcoming year and cover operational costs. Kendra Rickerby, Head of School at ESBR, talked about the schools collaboration with the New Hampshire Academy of Science. She stated that the school currently is at capacity with 15 students, six being from Ludlow, and that they are hoping to increase incrementely. Fran Kissell asked if the other towns sending students are contributing money to the school. Pullinen said they have not requested funding from other towns. Jordan Harper said that the town voted twice to not support the high school and he would never vote for public funds to go to a private school. Meyers mentioned that the town sends money to schools outside of town and “to keep $75,000, to actually support local, to keep it in town seems like a great idea.” “To have families stay, we need education,” said Goldman, “this is a bridge, hopefully a one time, to accredidation.” Harper mentioned that state approval of the school is not guranteed. Pullinen said that even if they are not approved this year, they are already recognized as a school and may continue operating under that designation. After further discussion Article 11 passed.

Representative Logan Nicoll thanked Schmidt again for his years of service with the town, “I can safely say from the whole town, that we are so thankful for your service over the years.”

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