Town meeting preview Candidates state their case ahead of vote

BRADFORD—Five Bradford Selectboard candidates are gearing up for town meeting day in which community members will decide who will be filling the two open town officer positions.
There are two selectboard positions—one for a three-year term and the other for a two-year term. Candidates Todd Danis, Meroa Benjamin, Sarah Surette, and Anna Davidson are all running to fill the three-year seat, previously held by Randy Moore, who decided against running for reelection. Carole Taylor, the only incumbent, is running unopposed for another two-year term. Other than Benjamin, who is a write-in candidate for the three-year seat, all are listed on this year’s ballot.
Bradford Selectboard candidates gathered on Feb. 17 for introductions in a forum moderated by Alex Nuti-de Biasi from the Journal Opinion.

Town meeting preview PD budget scrutinized as vote approaches

THETFORD—Police funding is the key issue in Thetford’s proposed budget for 2021.
The budget shows an 18.8 percent increase in police funding yet a line item shows a reduction in payroll which could mean a reduction in hours and pay of department personnel.
Besides Chief Michael Evans, the police department consists of two other full-time officers: Stuart Rogers Jr. and Michael Scruggs, and one part-time administrative assistant, Judy Powell.
“Although numerous lines within the police budget were reduced without conferring with department staff, the most concerning is the line for Police Officer Salaries,” Evans wrote on the town listserve

TM outlines FD merger plans

WOODSVILLE—With several questions about fire departments going to voters next month, Haverhill Town Manager Brigitte Codling last week presented her vision for the background and future of a town fire department.
Currently, three of the town’s precincts—Haverhill Corner, North Haverhill, and Woodsville— independently operate their own fire department and maintain their own fire station, although all rely on town funds.

Security tops concerns at juvenile facility meeting

NEWBURY—Newbury residents seized on a meeting with state officials last week to voice their fears over a proposed juvenile detention facility in a former bed and breakfast. Chief among those concerns: What happens if there’s an escape or another emergency in a town without its own police or emergency responders?
“This proposed detention facility threatens my perception of Newbury as being a safe place to live and run my business,” said Joanne O’Meara, who was among the residents who turned out for a Zoom meeting on Feb. 11.

Fire destroys historic house

WEST FAIRLEE—Fire officials said a family of three barely escaped with their lives after a fast-moving fire destroyed their historic split-level home at 3207 Blood Brook Road on Feb. 8.
The fire was called in at 10:19 p.m., and within minutes dozens of firefighters and equipment from at least nine mutual aid communities had converged at the scene to battle the blaze.
Fortunately, the husband and wife and their 10-month-old child were able to vacate the burning house by the time firefighters arrived, said West Fairlee Deputy Fire Chief Zach McNeal.
“They barely made it out the smoke was so heavy,” McNeal said.

Town meeting preview New garage site on warning

TOPSHAM—The location for the town’s new garage is once again the top issue for voters.
Topsham has been looking to build a new town garage for over a decade. The current building, located along Tabor Branch in East Topsham, is cramped and underequipped. Several initial proposals were rejected by voters or vetoed by state regulators.
Then, at a special town meeting in January 2017, voters approved $43,000 for an 11-acre lot on Peterson Road near the intersection of Ben Dexter Road and Willey Hill Road. The site is centrally located between East Topsham and West Topsham. Residents approved the purchase in a 30-16 vote.

Farewell as Guard deploys for next year

BRADFORD—In an atmosphere charged with anticipation, the Bradford Armory was abuzz with chatter, tears and hugs on Saturday as Vermont National Guard soldiers departed for a year-long deployment abroad.
Approximately 80 soldiers were given the big send-off by well-wishers at the armory and beyond. Flags, horns and sirens, balloons and “thank you” signs and banners enlivened Main Street and the Lower Plain as scores of people from throughout the area turned out to support the Guard members and their families.
The National Guard unit of Bradford will be part of Task Force Avalanche within Operation Spartan Shield, a U.S. Department of Defense operation in the U.S. Central Command.

Candidates line up for board races

BRADFORD—It’s a town meeting season unlike any other in the past. With COVID-19 upending traditional practices, municipalities have been given some flexibility on how to conduct their annual town business meeting.
But Zoom meetings and Australian ballots are not the only features for town meeting this year. In several area towns, there will be competitive races with multiple candidates standing for selectboard seats.
In Bradford, there are five candidates in all seeking a spot on the board. Incumbent Carole Taylor is the only registered candidate for a seat with a two-year term.

Covid cases push BMU to remote

WELLS RIVER—Several positive COVID-19 cases in the community prompted pre-k-12 Blue Mountain Union School to move to remote learning on a full-time basis for the next three weeks.
At least five people with Covid were within the school building last week.
In a letter posted on Facebook, Orange East Supervisory Union Superintendent Emilie Knisley said none of the cases confirmed last week were a result of in-school transmission. Knisley did not return a voice mail.

Board gets briefed on audit

ORFORD—It appears that changes implemented over the past two years have resolved budgeting problems that led to an $800,000 deficit in 2018-2019.
Early on in the Rivendell Interstate School District’s Feb. 4 board meeting, professional auditor Tyler Paine briefed the board on the district’s finances for the year ending June 31, 2020.
In that period, the firm found new as well as recurring issues that they identified as “deficiencies” in Rivendell’s business practices.
Paine noted that thee audit of the district’s finances was the “smoothest one we’ve had this year.”
“There’s no [further] planning or consideration needed from the district at this point,” Paine said. “Any comments or suggestions have been well-received by financial administrators.”