SHAFTSBURY -- The town of Shaftsbury gathered for its annual town meeting on Monday night, where departing chairwoman Karen Mellinger was thanked for her years of service, and the select board explained its proposed FY15 budget.
As the budget, which will be voted on by residents between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Shaftsbury Fire Department on Buck Hill Road, will represent a 9.1 percent increase from the FY14 budget. The tax rate as proposed will increase to 0.3575, up from 0.3280, which means that the median valued home in Shaftsbury, which is appraised at about $208,000, will pay about $743 in municipal taxes for FY15.
Mellinger outlined some of the major projects that the town has been involved in during the last year, including, the installation of a new computer network at Cole Hall, a complete transformation of Cider Hill Road, including realignment, ditching, and guardrail installation, an emergency deck replacement on Bridge 35, the replacement of a one-ton pickup truck with a one-ton flatbed, which the highway department believes will increase their flexibility. The fire department also downsized its fleet, selling truck no. 66, and acquiring a new multi-use rescue pumper truck. They retrofitted the former rescue truck into a brush truck, saving the town approximately $5,000.
The town and school also collaborated to lower the speed limit in the center of town to 25 m.p.h. Mellinger acknowledged that many saw it as an annoyance, but it had been done with the safety of pedestrians in mind. Selectman Tim Scoggins, who along with school board member Larry Johnson was instrumental in getting that change approved, noted that the difference in time to drive that 0.6 mile stretch of road has been increased by only 26 seconds. "We all have 26 seconds to spare for safety, I think," said Mellinger.
Mellinger also outlined some of the projects the town hopes to accomplish in FY15, pending approval by the voters. Some of those included further planning for a new town garage facility, the renovation of Cole Hall, and completion of a sidewalk project on Route 7A and Church Street. The listers, cartographic associates, and mountain air assessor are also in the process of completing a parcel mapping initiative which will provide 24/7 electronic access to tax maps and grand list data on the town's website.
The town also hopes to see continued enhancement of the town website, continued discussion on law enforcement in the town, continued seeking of funding to install an emergency generator at Shaftsbury Elementary, improvements to State Park Road, drainage and surface improvements to Murphy Hill Road, continued applications for state and federal grants to replace a large culvert on Hollow Hide-Away Road, replacement of a 2006 plow truck, for which maintenance fees are "just killing us," according to Mellinger, and the setting aside of $40,000 to a fire truck reserve fund.
Mellinger then presented fellow departing select board member Carl Korman with a gift in recognition of his service. Korman then read a prepared statement that had been approved by the other members of the select board, thanking Mellinger for her years of service. In closing, he said the residents of the town, through the select board, "recognize her as a Vermonter worthy of admiration, praise, and many overdue thank you's."
"I've met so many wonderful people in town," said an emotional Mellinger in response, "This is a town that I love, and the people I love more than anything. It's been a real honor for me. Now let's get down to business." When state representative Alice Miller thanked Mellinger, her long-time friend, as well, a laughing Mellinger said, "I feel like I died!"
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB