CHESTER – It was a briefer and less well-attended Town Meeting than some expected Saturday, as just over 120 voters made their way through the warrant in just over three hours.
The meeting began at just past 9 a.m. in the multi-purpose room, overseen by moderator Michael Scott.
At start time there were only about 60 voters, plus elected officials, in attendance, but the number grew as the day went on.
Prior to reading the results of the Tuesday secret ballot election (see story page 8), Scott took time to recognize the military veterans in attendance, a tradition he said had been lost through the years but that he considered to be important.
When noting his own re-election, Scott pointed out that he received 350 votes but there were a couple write-ins as well.
“I think there were two people that said, ‘Anybody but him,’” said Scott to laughs.
School District clerk Bob Grimm also took the floor for a brief period to announce the results of the district election and to formally close out that meeting, started in March.
There were some big numbers on the warrant this year, and with the opportunity to fund the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) in earnest, some expected major debate. And while the CIP article (see related story page 5) did take up some time, there was little to no objection to the plan, and raising $800,000 for the CIP fund was nearly unanimously supported.
The budget at $4,103,063 passed quickly with no discussion (unanimously but for one naysayer) and the majority of the articles saw the same fate.
There was extended discussion on whether the town should move away from electing its road agent and whether to appropriate funds to better compensate employees (see related stories pages 3 and 4), but both of these items ended up tabled until at least next year.
Discussion during the day stayed relatively sedate but for a brief flare-up by selectman chair Steph Landau, who took offense at what he considered were personal attacks during a discussion. Though the frustration was not aimed at Scott, Landau and he went back and forth briefly, with Scott ending the issue with a point of order.
Landau emphatically directed Scott to “Just read the amendment, Michael!” at which point Scott called the point of order, saying that he was running the meeting, and was not going to allow for back and forth discussions or for people to make comments on the record about personal grievances. “Take it up after the meeting,” said Scott. “That’s probably the best way to do it.
“We’re not going to have conflict at the meeting,” Scott added.
Voters approved nearly all articles this year, and with near unanimous votes on most. Article 18 to raise up to $85,000 into the Winter Road Maintenance Expendable Trust Fund was tabled by selectmen but all others passed, including the next phase of the Edwards Mill Dam repairs, although the selectmen were vocally dubious about its potential for passage or need for this year when creating the warrant.
At the end of the meeting, which officially adjourned at 12:16 p.m., Scott thanked everyone for coming but said he wished there were more voters. He noted that anecdotally it seemed like there was better attendance when the meeting was held during the week and suggested that it might be worth looking into for coming years.
While some noted that the meeting can last for hours and as such it may be unwise to hold it during the week, town clerk Erin Newnan said that in her research she’s found that communities dedicated to their CIP programs have many fewer articles, and as such it was something to consider when comparing future meetings with past ones with many articles.