This Town Meeting Day, communities across Vermont are weighing in on issues big and small – from purchasing dump trucks to changing the way future town meetings are conducted.
Here are some of the questions and trends VPR is following this year.
Voters in Burlington will have an advisory vote on recommending that the Vermont Legislature raise the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour. City Attorney Eileen Blackwell said the question is “not about Burlington taking any action,” but is meant to send a message to the Legislature.
Burlington residents will also vote on whether city councilors’ pay should increase from $3,000 annually to $5,000. The current pay has been set since 2003. Dave Hartnett, who represents the North District, proposed the idea of a pay raise last year. He argues that it’s been 13 years since the issue was looked at; that each councilor manages a bigger district now; and that it might encourage a wider range of people to run.
At least three central Vermont towns – Calais, Plainfield and Marshfield – will vote on resolutions to become sanctuary communities, welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and refusing to participate in federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, Brattleboro voters will be asked to adopt a “Compassionate City Charter” as put forth by the international group Charter For Compassion.
Brattleboro is also asking to ban single-use plastic shopping bags in town.
Voters in Tunbridge, Sharon, Strafford and Royalton are expected to debate the proposed New Vistas settlement in their town meetings. A Utah developer has been buying up land in the towns in hopes of building a 20,000 person development.
The Alliance for Vermont Communities, a group that advocates for local agriculture, petitioned to have the merits of Hall's project on the agendas. The vote will be non-binding, but will serve as an official public record of community opinion. Last year, Hall said that if the residents of the area were not in favor of the New Vista settlement he would not see it to completion.
Several towns are considering eliminating various elected positions:
- Montgomery, Worcester and Middlebury are among the towns asking to replace elected auditors with certified public accountants.
- Worcester is also looking to do away with the posts of grand juror and town agent.
- Wallingford is asking to replace elected listers with a professional assessor.
- Hartford is considering making the town clerk and other elected positions appointed.
- Brookfield is asking to disband its cemetery commission and to turn those responsibilities over to the select board.
Some towns are considering switching up town meeting:
- Northfield is proposing moving the Tuesday meeting to Monday night and posing questions via Australian ballot.
- Wilmington is also warming up to the Australian ballot system, proposing budget articles be voted on in the ballot booth.
Vermont law now allows towns to provide notice that annual reports are available, rather than mailing them out to every household. Duxbury, Ferrisburgh, Halifax, Hyde Park and Sunderland are among the towns asking to do so starting next year.
Four towns in the Mad River Valley are proposing to go in on the purchase of the Mad River Park, in Waitsfield, for the Mad River Valley Recreation District. Moretown, Warren and Fayston all have that question on their town meeting warnings.
Eurasian Watermilfoil has been wreaking havoc in lakes across Vermont, and some towns are asking for money to do something about the aquatic weed in local lakes:
- Hinesburg voters will be asked to fund the first of a five-year effort to eradicate the non-native invasive plant in Lake Iroquios.
- Wells voters are being asked to approve a $10,000 grant to the Lake St. Catherine Conservation Fund for a pilot project on Little Lake.
- Barnet voters are being asked to fund the milfoil fight in Lake Harvey.
At least a couple of towns are asking voters to leave the door open for the creation of a town forest. Both Mendon and Cambridge are asking voters to authorize their select boards to acquire land for that purpose "by gift or by purchase."
Changes to a town's charter are often proposed at town meeting. This year:
- Calais is asking to adopt a town charter.
- Waterbury Village is asking for voter approval to begin the process of making sweeping changes that would effectively eliminate "most or all of the Village's general government functions."
- In Barre, one of the proposed charter changes would authorize the collection of a 1 percent local option tax.
Building and infrastructure improvements are often a big part of town meeting discussions. This year:
- Burlington voters are being asked to approve $19 million for school building improvements.
- St. Albans City is considering $18 million in wastewater treatment plant upgrades.
- Hinesburg is asking for $3.1 million for a new town garage.
Some town projects with smaller price tags:
- Monkton is asking for $40,000 to start a reserve fund for a new town hall.
- Underhill is asking for $9,000 to restore The Old Schoolhouse.
- Northfield voters will consider $75,000 for library improvements.
- Wilmington is asking voters to approve $444,000 to replace a bridge on Look Road.
- Waitsfield is looking to raise $125,000 to cover capital expenses for projects that weren't reimbursed after Tropical Storm Irene.
Granville voters are being asked to authorize the town to lease an area adjacent to the town hall to the United States Postal Service. USPS wants to put up a modular building there to serve as a post office.
Braintree is asking to relocate the town's World War II Memorial from the junction of Route 12A and North Road to the town hall property.
Randolph is looking to sell a former medical building it bought to potentially use as a village police station. The town decided to build a new station instead.
And watch your speed in Huntington. The town is asking voters to contract for 222 extra hours of traffic enforcement in the next year.
Rebecca Sananes and Liam Connors contributed to this report.