Sunderland voters approved a new road safety reserve fund

SUNDERLAND — Voters approved a new road safety reserve fund during Monday's floor meeting at the Sunderland Elementary School, and gave a thumbs-up to all other special funding requests as well.

In balloting on Tuesday, voters approved a highway budget of $360,460, a general fund budget of $340,690, and a cemetery budget of $13,700. On the Select Board, Steven Bendix and Melanie Virgilio were unopposed for one-year terms, and Jon W. French was unopposed for a three-year term. Bendix received 98 votes, Virgilio 91, and French 113.

About 50 voters attended Monday's the meeting, and after some discussion decided to keep the $31,000 initially raised last year as part of a local match for a hoped-for state grant to make safety improvements for pedestrians and cyclists along a stretch of Sunderland Hill Road. However, the grant request was unsuccessful, at least for this year. However, backers of the road safety improvements are hopeful that state officials may give their proposal another look. Meanwhile, voters had the choice of giving themselves a rebate of the funds, or setting them aside in a special reserve fund to have on hand as a local match for another state grant if one were available, or for the town to spend on its own for the improved walkways and cycling enhancements.

By setting it aside in a reserve fund, the money could be preserved for a future purpose. Otherwise, it would have to be returned to local taxpayers if it were left to sit unallocated on the town's budget, said Select Board Chairman Mark Hyde.

Supporters of the road safety improvements liked the outcome.

"I'm very pleased the town is still considering making our roads safer, and using the money allocated," said Marie Litowinsky, one of the backers of the safe road initiative. "It's a safety concern, not only for motorists and cyclists . I'm pleased that we still have an opportunity."

Other measures, which included $65,000 to be added to a highway reserve fund, and another $65,000 to a paving reserve fund, also passed with little dissent.

The meeting also marked the final one for the Sunderland School Board, which is being folded into the Taconic & Green Regional School District. Questions were raised by some members of the audience about whether or not the town would be able to acquire the school building and its property for a marginal sum if the school were eventually be forced to close, and about where its 7th and 8th grade students would be assigned under the new district. Sunderland operates a kindergarten — 6th grade school and gave up school choice for the 7th and 8th grade as part of joining the Taconic & Green, and some parents were concerned that would mean their students might face a long bus ride to the Flood Brook School in Londonderry. However, Sunderland students would first be assigned to attend the Manchester Elementary Middle School, and would only be sent to Flood Brook if that was a parent's choice, school directors explained.

On Tuesday, voters approved spending $340,690 for the town's general fund budget and $360,460 for the town's highway fund, along with $13,700 for the cemetery fund.


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