Editorial: Time to get involved is now

Last week, Bennington voters authorized a $9.85 million bond for upgrades to the town's sewer treatment plant.

That's the good news. The upgrades are needed, and mandated by the state. They'll result in a cleaner, better-smelling Walloomsac River, and that's something residents and visitors alike can appreciate.

The bad news? Only 729 voters took the time to cast a ballot for (520) or against (209).

That's about 8 percent of Bennington's 8,998 registered voters. And 130 of those were absentee ballots.

More disturbing? 8,269 voters decided they had better things to do on Tuesday than decide if the town would take on nearly $10 million in debt to make needed improvements, and raise rates to pay for it.

The low turnout for a special vote on sewer system upgrades isn't exactly a surprise. Public works bond votes will never be quite as exciting as a race between actual human beings for an elected office. That's not a new development.

But all the same, it does point to larger concerns about a lack of voter participation and direct involvement in government. It's a troubling trend, not unique to our area.

Luckily, there's another chance to get involved.

Next month, voters in Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury and Woodford will be asked if their four town school systems should merge into a single entity under Act 46. Informational sessions are being held in each town affected by the proposal. Shaftsbury hosted one last Tuesday.

The four towns are already unified by their shared high school district, so this is not an arranged marriage by any stretch of the imagination. But the process still requires a vote by the four towns, and that's where you come in.

The time to get involved and educated about the facts of the proposal is now, so when Election Day rolls around, you can go to the polls and make a confident, educated choice.

The Banner recognizes this is an important decision on a complex issue. We pledge to make every effort between now and Nov. 7, when the four towns vote on the merger, to help readers understand these issues as clearly as possible.

Also, the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union website has information on the proposed merger, and you can find that here: https://sites.google.com/a/apps.svsu.org/svsu-boards/home/act46.

One of the complaints about Act 46 mergers across the state has been the threat of a loss of "local control" and civic involvement once districts become regional rather than single-town entities. But there's nothing stopping anyone from running for a seat on the new regional board -- or simply attending meetings and getting involved.

In short, your vote matters — and the only way you can truly misuse it is if you don't use it at all.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

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