TUNBRIDGE – The bullock-pulling arena on Tunbridge Exhibition Grounds shaded around 100 voters in a lively and traditional town meeting on Saturday.
Following the announcements promoting the Friends of the Library raffle and bake sale, city moderator Israel Provoncha kicked things off after a brief rundown of Robert’s rules of procedure. Then it was on the agenda.
One of the most debated points in the warning was the addition of the post of town nurse. Selector John O’Brien presented the position recommended by the selection committee, which would be staffed through the Upper Valley Community Nursing Project.
“She would be a nurse who really gets to know the community,” he said.
Later, during discussion of the proposed general budget of $632,000, resident Helen O’Donnell proposed to cut the budget by $13,000 to oppose funding for the nursing position.
The Central Vermont Council on Aging and other related health services already serve the same purpose, she argued. Several other people present whispered their support.
“This (would) be more of a holistic person,” O’Brien argued while offering clarification on the nurse’s role.
The nurse would work four hours a week and provide care for everyone in the city, especially the elderly, he said.
“I’m for this program,” City Auditor Betsy Race said. “I think it’s great to try for a year and see how it goes for our city.”
After some further discussion, O’Donnell’s motion to cut the budget was defeated.
Another amendment to increase the city treasurer’s salary was approved, resulting in a new general fund total of $638,000.
Later, Jola O’Donnell proposed to cut $18,000 from the highways budget by $1 million, arguing that a budgeted salary increase for highway crew workers is too high and needed to be held. account of rising fuel prices.
Voters disagreed and approved the highway budget as proposed. This was followed by a quick approval of $46,000 to support the volunteer fire department.
Section 9 proposed that the nominating committee appoint the positions of city clerk and treasurer in the future, rather than sticking to the tradition of field nominations and elections at the city assembly. .
The motion passed with a handful of ‘no’s.
Residents then continued with floor appointments for other municipal offices; none of the races were contested.
Voters elected Gary Mullen for Selectboard for three years; Darlene Miller as auditor for three years; Anissa Morrison as an auditor for three years; Baxter Doty for the Cemetery Commission for three years; Rob Howe for Trustee of Public Funds for three years; Lynne Hadley and Laura Ketchum for three-year terms as library trustees; Joseph Paquin as collector of overdue taxes for a year; and Lenora Kimball as the city’s grand juror for a year. There were no appointments for first or second constable for one-year terms.
Voters agreed that a budget surplus from last year’s general fund would also be applied to the municipal garage’s capital fund and that it would reduce personal property taxes in the coming year. In the road fund, any surplus will be fed back into this year’s budget.
Voters also approved a full property tax exemption for the Volunteer Fire Department and the Tunbridge Grange for a period of five years.
Earlier in the meeting, city officials presented their reports, after which city fire warden Brenda Field presented each speaker with a gallon of hand sanitizer to take home.
City library manager Mariah Lawrence shared that a recent grant she received bought seven bikes from the library that are now available for community borrowing. The library has other upgrades – including a new sandpit and white lattice fence – and is gearing up for the annual summer reading program.
Town Lister Rudy Ruddell reported steady property sales in Tunbridge over the past financial year and noted house prices were up so far in 2022.
Before the meeting adjourned, Rob Howe announced a townwide celebration and dance on June 17 to build excitement for the 150th anniversary of the Tunbridge World’s Fair taking place in September.
Voters stayed to hear the raffle results, catch up with neighbors and buy pie.
There are 1,100 registered voters in Tunbridge, bringing the turnout to around 9%.
Following the town meeting, a proposed school budget of $6.99 million was adopted at the First Branch Unified District annual meeting. The budget, which will fund schools in Chelsea and Tunbridge, has increased by $140,000 since last year, but spending per pupil has fallen by 1.23%.