I’ve been observing or reporting on Town Meetings in Vermont and New Hampshire since moving to the Upper Valley about 15 years ago.
In that time, I’ve often wondered about town positions like Weigher of Coal, Fence Viewer or Inspector of Lumber, Shingles and Wood. This year I decided to try to find out what these positions are, and why they’re included in so many annual town reports. A friendly woman in the archives section of the Vermont Secretary of State office did a bit of quick sleuthing and came up with some intriguing information.
The Weigher of Coal position was added to state statutes for the first time in 1910 and some version of it has been on the books ever since. Selectboards are authorized to appoint a Weigher of Coal candidate from among legally qualified voters to serve as a referee in determining weights of contested loads of coal. For this service, the Weigher is entitled to a fee of ten cents for the first ton and four cents for each additional ton.
As a practical matter, to have an official Weigher of Coal, a municipality should first have a municipal scale. But according to the archives lady, no town in the state has a municipal scale in use.
This revelation was confirmed in a conversation I had this week at the Fairlee town meeting with that town’s Weigher of Coal – Clyde C. Blake II who’s held the position for many years. He’s also the town’s Inspector of Lumber, Shingles and Wood.
Blake says he’s never been asked to weigh coal. And in actual fact, the only coal he’s seen in town are a few lumps on the ground behind a building near the old train station.
Blake says the only time in recent memory he’s ever been called to duty involved a quantity of wood. A lady from Lake Morey called him to ask whether the wood she’d just received was a true cord. He responded with a tape measure and concluded that it was, indeed, very close to a cord.