SHAFTSBURY >> Selectboard members said in response to a citizen's comment on Monday that they would honor the voters' wishes regarding the location of the town garage, regardless of the fact that the ballot is non-binding.
Shaftsbury resident Ed Corey brought a list of questions before the board regarding the ballot question, which asks voters to approve of the North Road site, adjacent to the town's transfer station, for a new town garage. Voters have not yet approved the financing of a garage; that would have to be addressed on a future ballot. Corey had requested that each member of the board answer his yes or no questions individually, but board Chairman Tim Scoggins said that he would answer for the board, although other members could feel free to chime in if they wished. He also pointed out that the board was not required to answer any of the questions. "This is a time for public comments," he said, "not a time for debate."
Corey asked if his previous questions regarding the garage would be answered in writing. Scoggins said, "We are not inclined or obliged to engage in a written debate, and we are not going to do so."
When Corey asked if the ballot article was voted down, would the board follow the wishes of the townspeople, Scoggins answered immediately, "yes."
Board member Mitch Race was quick to point out that, if that location is not approved, the cost of a garage will go up, as the town will have to purchase land, rather than using the land it already has.
Corey also asked if he could hand out his questions regarding the garage to voters on Town Meeting Day, to which the board replied that it would seek legal counsel to answer that question.
The final two questions, "Would you build a $400,000 house on the site where you're proposing to build the garage?" and "Would you drink the water from the Grey Spring house on the former Crawford property?" Scoggins declined to answer.
Race said he would not be able to attend Town Meeting Day, but urged voters to approve the articles the board had decided to put before them. "I approve the budget, I think we did a great job on the budget," he said.
Town Administrator David Kiernan said planning is underway for improvements to Cole Hall, which he hopes will be able to make workflow inside the town offices more efficient. He said he had come across plans for a remodeling of the building from 1996, but that much has changed since then, so the plans are no longer viable. Kiernan said he and Chris Williams had toured the building and found several potential Americans with Disabilities Act violations that will need to be addressed. He said the goal is to do as much as possible with the amount of money they have available.
"We might just change the lights, improve the number of fans up here, put up divider walls, we're tossing around a lot of ideas," he said, "We want to keep the cost reasonable, but restore this to a level of looking nicer and functioning better, with functionality being the main driver of this." He said the goal is to keep the cost of renovations around $20,000, as the outside of the building will need to be painted this year as well.
Scoggins brought up that one of the major problems with the building is that there is no way for town officials to have private conversations with members of the public. "The only benefit with that plan from years back," said Kiernan, "was that you could divide the treasurer's office and mine into two decent office space sizes, and both have doors, and a work area for people who come in to see the treasurer. It's an interesting plan. It changes a few things at relatively low cost, and there would be real walls in between us, so each of us could have conversations. I agree, there are people who come in now to talk to the treasurer that shouldn't have to have me sitting there listening to the whole thing."
The Shaftsbury Select Board meets the first and third Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at Cole Hall on Buck Hill Road in Shaftsbury. Full recordings of their meetings are available on Catamount Access Television, and on the station's YouTube page.