Unusual race on Pownal town ballot

Wednesday February 20, 2013


Staff Writer

POWNAL -- After announcing he would not be seeking reelection to the Select Board, long-time board member Nelson Brownell has said he will accept the job if a write-in campaign being run on his behalf is successful.

Brownell is in the final weeks of a three-year term on the board. He did not turn in a petition seeking reelection by the Jan. 28 deadline, however board member Dale Palmer, who is finishing up a term on a one-year seat, did submit enough signatures to run for Brownell's seat.

Rose-Marie Pelletier, of Cedar Hill Road, said after it became clear there would be no contested races on the board she began making phone calls to people she knows, and to Brownell, expressing a desire that he be elected as a write-in. Pelletier said without Brownell on the board there would be three members likely to vote in lock-step with proposals put forth by the current chairman, Stephen Kauppi.

"I think it's unhealthy for a community to have a lock on votes, and it does not encourage ideas, or reservations put forward," Pelletier said.

According to Pelletier, the campaign will consist of phone calls and yard signs, and a call to the town clerk for guidelines on how to legally campaign near polling places.

Brownell said he does not plan to actively campaign on his own. "If people want me to serve, then I'll serve them," he said.

In late January Brownell sat for an interview with the Banner to discuss his reasons for stepping back after more than 20 years of board involvement. Brownell said he felt tensions between board members had come to the point where personalities were driving decisions and not ideas or issues, and felt some time away would let things settle. Brownell said Tuesday that write-in campaigns are difficult, but feels he stands a 50 percent chance of winning. If he does, he said he would not change his approach to sitting on the board and would listen to issues brought forward and make sure they had been thoroughly talked through before acting. He said the current board appears to take some criticisms personally.

Palmer said in an interview Friday that the group of people pushing for Brownell's reelection seem have an issue with the board because the board is not letting them "walk over the town."

He said some residents were upset that the board has taken action on a number of things that have languished for years. Palmer said one reason he joined the board and is seeking the three-year term is because many projects big and small have sat for years with no action being taken.

"I think what I would like to see, and this will depend on the economic situation, is a new town hall," he said.

Palmer said the current town office is small, does not meet certain standards, does not allow privacy for town employees, and lacks an up-to-date records vault.

"What happens when the state comes in and says you can't use it anymore?" he said, adding there needs to be a proper seat of government in the town.

Discussions on a new town office had been wrapped into the controversy over Bartels Lodge, which after a long series of debate and political wrangling played out, was razed late last year. The lodge was owned by the town and there had been talk of using it, or the land it was built on, for a new town office.

Palmer said there are smaller projects that have stalled as well, namely a brick walkway at the former Pownal Tanning Co. which involved people purchasing engraved bricks that would become part of the walkway. He said the bricks have yet to be set and it has been some years since they were purchased.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr


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