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Town Meeting Day Back To First Tuesday, Again
by Todd Wellington
It's back to Tuesday.
After twice trying to stimulate greater participation in local government by moving Town Meeting Day to the Monday and then the Saturday prior to its traditional date, Lyndon voters brought the effort to an end Saturday by returning the annual meeting to the first Tuesday in March.
There was considerable discussion on the issue, which came under Article 30 (Shall the voters continue to schedule town meeting on the Saturday prior the first Tuesday?) of the town warning.
There were many empty seats in the LI auditorium, prompting some to comment that the turnout was lower than last year (Monday night.) Town Clerk Bob Lawrence said that there were 124 in attendance at last year's meeting, which did not include the annual school meeting, which was part of this year's meeting. Selectman Bruce James said he counted about 140 this year, which would include the school meeting factor.
Carol Fisher said that moving town meeting around wasn't going to be all that helpful because town meeting attendance was a matter of personal priorities. "If people want to be here, then they'll be here," she said.
There was considerable discussion on the issue, much of which concerned the problem of moving the date around so much that voters become confused year-to-year about when the meeting is actually being held. "I think we should go back to the first Tuesday and leave it there," said Dave Stahler.
Further discussion eventually lead to a motion to amend the article to return the date to the first Tuesday. The voice vote was so close that it required a standing vote to be decided. The amendment was approved, 72-55.
After more discussion and clarification of the vote, including a minor debate between local attorneys Joe Benning and Bob Gensburg on the implications of the vote, the amended article passed by a standing vote of 81-47.
Australian Ballot Questioned
One of the issues involved in the discussion surrounded the question of ballot discussion. Some residents pointed out that one of the reasons for moving town meeting to the Monday prior was to allow for discussion of Australian ballot questions. Public meeting discussion is not allowed on the same day as the polls are open.
Leslie Gensburg and Joe Benning both suggested dropping the Australian ballot & shy; saying it was one of the reasons fewer people were showing up at town meeting. "I'd like to suggest dropping the Australian ballot so we can have better participation in town government," said Gensburg under Article 34, other business.
A straw poll was taken, asking selectmen to consider dropping the Australian ballot in another year. About half of the remaining audience (approximately 50-60) raised their hands.
There was some discussion on a plan (to be decided by Australian ballot on Tuesday) to purchase the Oscar's lot as part of a plan to build a new municipal fire station.
Fisher wondered if the lot had been tested for contamination and expressed concern that the town would be stuck with the cleanup bill if it bought property that wasn't fully clean.
LFD Chief Greg Hopkins reported that it had not been tested for contaminants. "We have no indication that it is contaminated," said Municipal Assistant David Dill, following the meeting.
James gave a briefing on the plan and said that if the town didn't buy the property, it would be sold off as a commercial property, lessening the chance that a suitable location within the village would be found for the station.
Little Discussion On Budgets
All three budgets & shy; town general fund ($1,183,950), town highway ($1,119,500), and school budget ($7,126,350) & shy; passed with little or no discussion, an occurence that bothered Richard Lawrence. Lawrence called for greater budget inquiry on annual budget presentations after the highway budget passed with little discussion. "We can't be uninformed about a $1 million budget and come back and complain about it later," said Lawrence.
Selectman Bruce James assured Lawrence that there was a presentation "ready to go," had it been requested.
Special Appropriations Approved
Lyndon voters approved all $58,540 worth of special appropriations with little or no discussion. Another $14,000 worth is set to be decided by Australian ballot on Tuesday at the Lyndon Municipal Building.