by Jim McIntosh
Kirby selectman Donald Wood, who has served in that office for 24 years, was voted out at Town Meeting Tuesday, but just barely. He was replaced by Rod Lamotte on an unprecedented second ballot. The first ballot resu]ted in a 27-27 tie. John McClaughry said it was the first tie vote in his 31 years as moderator, and several old-timers said they could not recall it happening in the last half century or even longer.
When the result was announced, McClaughry called for a second vote. As voters were scribbling on their paper ballots, a latecomer arrived, boosting the total number of voters to 55. But the tide had turned, and Lamotte won 29 to 26. The citizens then gave Wood a round of applause in recognition of his service to the town.
"I've enjoyed working for the people for the last 24 years," said Wood after the meeting. "And I wish them all luck."
Wood also had served three years on the zoning board and six years as lister before shouldering the selectman's job. Lamotte is a businessman and a self-described "conservative" who has lived in town for three years, but has roots in neighboring East St. Johnsbury where he lived for 30 years.
Other than Wood's upset - which McClaughry and Town Clerk Wanda Grant termed "a complete surprise" - there were no other surprises at the 73-minute meeting.
In a six-minute session, school directors presented a $583,390 budget (minus pending state aid) and five routine articles which all passed unanimously. School Director Lloyd "Tim" Thompson was re-elected with no opposition. He and chairwoman Mary Etter commented that the state's ongoing overhaul of school funding policy will probably help the town. "Kirby is almost guaranteed to receive more, not less, state aid," Etter said. She promised a public meeting "when we know more."
The Town Meeting began at 10:13 with the re-election of McClaughry, and Grant as Moderator and Town Clerk respectively. Several housekeeping articles passed with little comment. Gisele Burrington was elected to a lister vacancy and Lamotte as a new selectman, but all other offices were filled by incumbents.
Article 8 proposed the selectmen's $214,925 budget. The sum reflected a last-minute board amendment to add $6,000 for roof repairs to the Town Hall and adjoining shed. The entire package passed with no discussion.
The proceedings then paused to allow State Representative Janice Peaslee to address the subject of the House's draft revenue plan, summanes of which she distributed. She warned of new state taxes and criticized lawmakers: "There are a lot of things that they are not taking into account with this plan." She urged citizens to attend upcoming hearings in St. Johnsbury and Newport.
When the meeting resumed, voters disposed of the remaining 21 articles in 20 minutes. Most of these concerned funding for community agencies. Dollar amounts were affixed to two articles that lacked specific appropriations: $100 for the Concord
Fast Squad and $100 for St. Johnsbury Baseball Incorporated. All told, 19 articles passed, amounting to $2,215.90.
Funding of $138.40 for the Northern Vermont Development Association was reduced to zero by a voice vote, as it was at last year's meeting. Article 27 sought support for a Vermont Joint Senate Resolution that would ask the federal government to redirect defense spending to other government programs. Selectman Reginald Lussier moved to table this article and the motion carried with only a couple of nays.
Kirby took a strong stand against unfunded state mandates by approving article 28 which would allow such mandates to be decided at the municipal level. Although the article passed, selectman Lussier warned: "This is really an opinion poll. They can still mandate spending." McClaughry agreed that the measure was '~advisory."
Also approved was an article that would allow the Town to vote on the Town Plan by Australian Ballot. The town plan is due for its 5-year renewal this year.
The Kirby Community Action Council announced that scholarship funds were available for local students, and Road Commissioner Robert Wood voiced his satisfaction with the grader that was purchased as a result of last year's town meeting vote.
"The garage is open and I invite everybody to come and check it out said Wood. Then, at 11:20, the meetmg adjourned and a lavish potluck luncheon was enjoyed by all.