Pownal puts final touches on March warrant

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POWNAL — The Select Board has put the finishing touches on the issues and candidates to be voted on at the March town meeting, correcting a typo in the road fund budget and adding a one-year seat on the Select Board to the list of town positions to be filled.

The open seat is the one year remaining on the three-year term of Nelson Brownell, who was elected to fill the Bennington-1 House seat last November. At the time the warrant was being put together, Brownell had not yet resigned, said Town Administrator Michael Walker.

The board also corrected two transposed digits in the amount of the road fund budget to be raised through taxes, making the figure to $836,029.

The changes were made during a meeting Wednesday.

Town voters will be asked to approve a $1.3 million municipal budget this March, which represents a decrease of $67,000 from the first presented budget and a 3.8 percent decrease from fiscal 2019.

Voters will also be asked to consider almost 30 ballot articles, including one the seeks approval for the town to accept two buses from the Pownal School District.

The town would maintain and operate the buses. One is valued at $15,000 and one is valued at $20,000.

The estimated cost of owning and operating the buses is $13,450.

The $13,450 has been budgeted in the town's $1.02 million road fund budget.

Acceptance of the buses is meant to head off their transfer to the new, regional school district that is to be created under Act 46.

The road fund budget the board approved also had a $2,450 increase from the initial presented budget.

That's because the town must replace a one-ton truck, to the tune of $5,000. There's also an additional $5,000 put in to buy more salt.

"Close to half of our allotted salt is [already] gone," Walker previously told the Banner. "We're kind of sweating it."

The capital projects fund has also gone up significantly from fiscal 2019, with $100,000 allotted for the repair of Snake Hill Road.

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The town has applied for grants, and they've been denied. The project must be funded either way, Walker previously told the Banner.

Besides the bus issue, voters will also consider other ballot articles, including $15,000 to hire a part-time library director of the Solomon Wright Public Library, after a grassroots effort garnered enough signatures to call a vote.

They'll also be asked to approve the acquisition of 8.5 acres of land at 197 Maple Grove Road, to be used for mining gravel and sand.

The town has reached its limits for mining its own property at the town highway garage, Walker said.

Gravel and sand are used to treat, resurface and recover roads.

The town will take out a loan for the $200,000 cost of purchasing the property, which will be paid for by the money already in the budget that the town would spend on purchasing gravel and sand.

"So there's absolutely no increase in the budget whatsoever [from this]," Walker previously told the Banner. "We're just using that money for a different purpose."

There's also no tax increase associated with the article, Walker said.

After that loan is paid off after five years, the town will have its own gravel and sand pit, which should keep providing those materials for at least 20 years, Walker said.

The property at 197 Maple Grove Road is owned by Lea Dimuzio and valued at $103,500, according to the town's 2018 grand list.

Voters will also consider multiple ballot articles for local nonprofit funding, including $2,000 for the Bennington Free Clinic, $2,000 for Bennington Project Independence and $1,800 for BROC Community Action in Southwestern Vermont.

They'll also decide on articles funding local fire and rescue efforts, including $50,000 for the Pownal Rescue Squad and $52,000 for the Pownal Valley Fire Department.

The town's floor meeting will be held March 4 at Pownal Elementary School at 7:30 p.m. On Tuesday, March 5, the town will hold elections for town positions and consider 26 ballot articles.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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