Town Meeting: A Quick Review

For those of you follow town government, watch your checkbook, pay your taxes, appreciate your sewer and your roads or complain about them, laugh or wonder where all the money is going…this coming Saturday, March 2nd is the day to get it all figured out — more or less:  Town Meeting Day. Voting on certain issues will take place on Tuesday, March 5th all day. This stuff all happens at the Town Hall. YOU are welcome!  It is a SHOW! It is what Vermont politics is all about! 

Woodstock Town Meeting has been “warned” and we expect to see Town Report “drops” at various locations over the next few days if you want to get a head start on what all is to be discussed. The budget is $4.1M total, of which $3M is to raised in taxes.  We still haven’t heard about whether school budget or town budget will go first. We’re told it often depends on scheduling needs of school officials. 

We’ve run through a few of the warned items, twitching a bit at the following, which only means we have some questions we expect to hear from voters about the general budget and some separate articles. Our twitching is not to be construed as “pro”or “con” but just a “Hmmmm, what is this about?” 

*Parades and Fireworks total $9000.

*The Norman Williams Library asks for TWO contributions: $133,800 and THEN a separate article of $50,000.

*Pentangle asks for TWO contributions: $32,000 and THEN $60,000 for a new projector.

*The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce asks for $18,000 to pay for running the “Welcome Center.”

*Vail Field (re-done we thought after Hurricane Irene) $25,000 in “general improvements.”

*An article expressing a “Sense of the Voters”  asking State and Federal legislatures to Ban assault weapons, Require criminal background checks and Make gun trafficking a federal crime. (We would note the petition did not define “assault weapon” nor did it identify the sponsors or backers of the petition. No matter where you stand on the need for gun control, we think this well-intentioned petition was lacking in some key areas).

*Economic Development Coordinator a new $50,000 position recommended by Woodstock’s volunteer Economic Development Commission. This person will work PT with the Green Mountain Economic Development Commission to bring business to Woodstock and to act on recommendations made by several groups.  (Woodstock Early Bird will post some documents separately showing the “history” of this request).

Thoughts on the “article” and the issues based on many conversations over the past couple weeks:

1. Woodstock Early Bird does think such a coordinator could be successful in creating a new future with the “buy-in” for change from existing Woodstock Trustees, Selectboard, Chamber of Commerce and voters.  In itself, it really could be the next step coming from all the work that has gone before.

2. However, our observation — at this point in time ––  is that traditional business and government groups in Woodstock are NOT open to moving from an all-tourism “model” for town life.  And, surprise, surprise, people, this is going to be one of the most important premises going forward: Tourism will continue to be unreliable.

Planting grass, enhancing and preserving and trumpeting natural/rural features, sprucing up roads and sidewalks (consistent plowing and cleaning),  supporting affordable housing efforts,  installing fiber-optic lines would all help create quality of life and creative business incentives attractive to young people and their families.  While we love our second-home owners and retirees, and they sure do contribute most impressively to our tax base, we need the 365 day/year youthful local families to keep our economic engines tuned.   The fact is we don’t see a lot of interest in any of the above mentioned-areas on the part of government leaders or voters. Everyone loves things ” just as they have always been” and “as they always should be.” It is the model of  “protect what is” to the detriment of “what could be.”  An  understandable point of view in uncertain times.   That is our observed attitude in our Town.

We hate to say it, and would love to be proved wrong, but Town of Woodstock local leaders and the electorate do not appear ready to support ideas and changes that an Economic Development Coordinator might bring to the table.  This position would likely be a recipe for frustration and futility.  Are we a “quaint, New England village” STUCK in time? Or, are we a “quaint New England Village” MOVING into a model of  21st century success? The Economic Development Coordinator might well ask, “Is the idea that it’s good for BUSINESS always going to be the right question and choice, if it is long-term at the expense of a healthy thriving community of RESIDENTS? (You know our thoughts on this already. To state the obvious: No residents. No town. No business.)

3. Thirdly and finally, we believe “go big, or go home” — If there is such a necessity for an economic development coordinator, ask for the money for a full-time person. A part-timer is no better than volunteers — or as good as volunteers,  but as limited as volunteers — Part-time means distraction from the task at hand. If this is a real  need, a real job, then make it one. Go big or go home.  We expect there are even well-connected savvy individuals in our community who would be happy enough to work full-time for 50K!

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kimbell Enterprises on February 25, 2013 at 12:19

    Hi Julia.

    While we may disagree, I think you gave it a fair shake here.

    A couple things: It is $50k not $60k. Pentangle has $30k in the budget besides the $60 for the projector and another $30 in a special article. The Thompson has $10 in the budget, new this year, and another $30 in a special article. Total over last year would be $10k if both are approved.

    Anyway, thanks for listening.


    Sent from my iPhone while drinking coffee and driving to my next appointment.


  2. Posted by Molly on February 25, 2013 at 14:43

    The Norman Williams Library has requested a huge amount compared to all
    others groups. What would the two separate requests totaling around $183,000
    be used for?


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