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Vermont Town Meeting Day liveblog 2023: Get all the latest updates here

Published March 6, 2023 at 3:30 PM EST
A person in a plaid shirt sticks a small piece of paper in a wooden box with another person looking on.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Lifelong Peacham resident Frank Miller casts a ballot in the vote to name a snowplow during town meeting on March 7, 2023. "A little whimsy is a nice thing," Miller said.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Colchester approves new nearly 30,000-square-foot recreation center.
  • School budgets pass in many districts, but voters reject the school budget in Barre.
  • Voters approve clock repairs, bear-proof trash cans, skate park expansion and other budget line items.
  • Egg sandwiches, pie, coffee, doughnuts and other potluck items make a comeback in the return to in-person meetings.
  • Towns split on replacing certain elected positions with appointed jobs, like property assessors.

Shaftsbury approves ban on new shooting ranges, zoning changes for housing

Posted March 8, 2023 at 2:50 PM EST

Shaftsbury voters endorsed a package of zoning changes Tuesday, including a ban on new shooting ranges.

“This is a reaction to the long sad story that Pawlet has gone thru with the Slate Ridge facility,” noted Chris Williams, chairman of the Shaftsbury Planning Commission, writing in this year's town report.

Voters in the Bennington County town also approved zoning changes related to housing, making it easier to develop accessory dwellings in farms and outbuildings and permitting tiny homes in a similar way to mobile homes.

Another voter-endorsed item will have more developers implement an "open space design," including when the project will fragment a forest block or wildlife corridor.

At the floor meeting on Monday, Shaftsbury voters expressed opposition to the proposed 87-acre Shaftbury Solar project, according to the Bennington Banner. Those resolutions are non-binding.


Burlington voters advance fee on fossil fuel heat in new buildings

Posted March 8, 2023 at 2:10 PM EST

More than 60% of Burlington voters supported a new "carbon pollution impact fee" on Tuesday.

The idea is to make developers pay for the carbon pollution that comes from installing new fossil fuel heat. They can avoid the fee by installing heat sources the city considers renewable.

Officials say it will expedite the city's move towards electric heat and its climate goals.

Some of the funds from the new fee will be used to help rental properties and low income residents get things like cold climate heat pumps.

"We need to make sure that when we're building new, that we're not locking in a commitment for 20 or 25 years to new fossil fuel heating systems, that we're really going with renewables and renewable systems," said Darren Springer, the general manager at Burlington Electric Department.

Burlington Electric owns the city's wood-burning McNeil biomass plant, the largest in Vermont.

A building surrounded by snow and trees
April McCullum
Vermont Public
Burlington Electric Department photographed March 6, 2023.

Several climate groups have voiced support for Burlington's policy, including Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

But some say Burlington's definition of "renewable energy" is too broad.

Right now, it includes biofuels, biogas and electricity from burning wood.

Some advocates, including those with the group Stop BTV Biomass and Standing Trees Vermont have called for the city to move away from combustion for its power. Stop BTV Biomass and Standing Trees were not immediately available for comment.

Burlington Electric says regional energy markets determine how much the city's biomass plant gets used.

Vermont's Climate Action Plan directed the state's Climate Council to evaluate the role of biomass in Vermont's electricity portfolio. In December, a special taskforce recommended Vermont study the impacts of phasing out the use of biomass for electricity.


Morristown rejects town budget

Posted March 8, 2023 at 1:52 PM EST
Main Street in the village of Morrisville, which is part of Morristown's downtown, is now a section of the Green Mountain Byway.
Amy Kolb Noyes

Using paper ballots because of the pandemic, Morristown voters resoundingly rejected the proposed $10.1 million town budget – 1,441 votes against and 391 in favor. The budget would have represented more than a 30% increase. According to reporting from VTDigger, the proposed increase was driven by new and increased town employee salaries and more police department funding.

By a similar margin, Morristown voters also rejected funding for new sidewalks along a town road – but none of the votes will count because the town printed the wrong street name on the ballot. Voters will consider the question again with the correct street name, Jersey Heights, in a special floor meeting on April 18.

A proposed $10,000 appropriation for River Arts, the arts organization based in the village of Morrisville, also failed.

Morristown voters did OK the purchase of a new ambulance and power stretcher at a cost of $335,000.


Towns split on traditional meetings vs. ballot voting

Posted March 8, 2023 at 12:19 PM EST

The Orange County town of Strafford has decided to switch from floor voting and make all town and school decisions by Australian ballot in the future, according to theValley News. Supporters argued that ballot voting allows more people to participate.

Wilmingtonand Marshfield voters considered changing the format of their town meetings to ballot decision-making, but decided to stick with floor votes. Bridgewater also chose to stick with traditional town meeting, according to the Valley News.

Highgate voters “tabled” a proposal to move to Australian ballot, according to results of a hand count vote posted on the Highgate town website.


Bethel will allow cannabis retail stores

Posted March 8, 2023 at 12:08 PM EST
People sit on bleachers
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
In Bethel, about 150 people showed up in the town's middle school for the first in-person voting in three years.

Bethel voters decided to allow cannabis retailers in town by a tally of 131 in favor and 71 opposed.

The cannabis vote was done by ballot; separately on Tuesday, voters approved the town budget and library and skate park funding at an in-person meeting.

Bethel was one of two Vermont towns considering the cannabis question this year, in contrast to a flood of local votes last year. The other town taking action on Tuesday, Castleton,voted to reject cannabis retailers.


Randolph rejects plan for new police department

Posted March 8, 2023 at 11:34 AM EST
Outside the Randolph Town Hall Building, a man in a highlighter yellow jacket walks up the stairs. He's greeted by a man in a yellow hat. A red "vote today" sign is taped to the railing.
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
Randolph voters considered creating a new police department on Town Meeting Day.

In Randolph, a proposal to appropriate just over $770,000 to fund a new police department failed by a vote of 136 to 227 on Tuesday.

In early February, the Orange County Sheriff’s departmentterminated their contract with Randolph because of lack of staff.

The town’s select board had proposed funding four police officers and an administrator. Now, they’ll need to come up with a new plan.


South Burlington approves multiple large bonds for projects

Posted March 8, 2023 at 11:06 AM EST

South Burlington voters approved a full slate of large bonds for projects in the city and school district.

Voters signed off on a $34 million wastewater treatment bond, as well as a $15 million bond for the city center that will be paid via property value increases through tax increment financing. The city center projects include a walk-bike bridge over Interstate 89, the creation of a shared-use path along Williston Road, improvements to certain Williston Road intersections, and a city center park.

South Burlington voters also approved a $14.6 million bond for the school district to purchase modular classrooms and make various capital improvements to school buildings, along with the $62.5 million school budget.

Barre school budget fails

Posted March 8, 2023 at 8:36 AM EST

Voters in Barre City and Barre Town rejected their district's school budget. Some critics of the $54 million spending plan, including the chair of the Barre Unified Union school board, had argued that the budget increase was too small, according to the Times Argus.

Meanwhile, school budgets passed in Burlington, Colchester, Milton, Springfield, St. Albans and Rockingham.

The $42 million Addison Central School District budget also passed with 1,889 votes in favor, and 465 against. The district serves students in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.


Colchester approves recreation center

Posted March 8, 2023 at 8:11 AM EST

Colchester voters have approved the construction of a new town recreation center by a vote of 1,763 in favor, 1,316 opposed.

The rec center will have a gymnasium, fitness spaces, an indoor track and classrooms and a kitchen for community events. Town officials hope to have it built by 2025.

The nearly $16 million project will be funded by Colchester’s 1% local option tax on purchases that happen in the town, including $9 million in tax revenues that have been accumulating for several years and another $7 million bond that will be paid back by local option tax revenues over the next decade.

Operating costs and staffing for the new rec center will be paid with membership fees.

The site for the new recreation center is a town-owned 14-acre parcel known as the Bayside/Hazelett property.


Castleton says no to cannabis shops

Posted March 8, 2023 at 7:54 AM EST

Castleton voters have again rejected having cannabis retailers in town. Two previous votes on the topic failed last year by 45 votes and 15 votes, respectively.

This time, Castleton rejected cannabis shops by a 67-vote margin, according to unofficial results.


Essex supports 'just cause' protections for renters

Posted March 8, 2023 at 6:39 AM EST
People sit in a movie theater facing a presentation on a stage
Brendan Kinney
Vermont Public
Essex voters meet at Essex Cinemas for an in-person business and informational town meeting on Monday, March 6, 2023.

Essex voters signaled support for greater protections for rental tenants, or what advocates are calling a "just cause" eviction law.

The ballot item calls for a change to the town charter allowing the select board to enact the new protections. The result was 570 in favor, 383 opposed. The Legislature and governor would need to allow the change.

Voters in Winooski approved a similar proposal, while a "just cause" measure failed in Brattleboro.


Burlington voters reject independent police oversight board

Posted March 7, 2023 at 9:52 PM EST
A sign encourages people to vote at a city intersection. A market and deli is in the background.
Marlon Hyde
Vermont Public
Burlington voters considered a swath of ballot proposals on Town Meeting Day, including a police oversight board.

Here's a quick run-down of results from Burlington's town meeting election.

Voters ...


  • $104 million school budget, which could raise property taxes about 4%.
  • A carbon pollution impact fee. The measure gives the city council the authority to put a new permitting fee in place, starting January of next year. The fee would apply to any new buildings that install fossil fuel heating systems like oil, propane and natural gas furnaces. Officials say it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A charter change that would redraw some local wards.
  • All resident voting. This means green card holders, participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, and people with eligible work permits will be able to vote in municipal elections. That's if the charter change is approved by the Legislature and governor. Winooski and Montpelier previously passed similar provisions.
  • Ranked-choice voting for mayoral, school board and ward officer elections.
  • A charter change that would allow some flexibility in where polling places are located.


  • The creation of an independent police oversight board. The measure would have created a new city department with the power to discipline officers. Proponents said it would have helped rebuild trust. The police union and others argued the measure would have worsened the department's staffing problems and limited officers' abilities to respond to public safety concerns.
  • A charter change regarding proposition zero. It would have allowed Burlington residents to put ordinances, either binding or advisory, on the ballot by petition campaign, among other changes.
Mayoral races

Rutland, Montpelier elect new mayors

Posted March 7, 2023 at 9:17 PM EST

Rutland City voters have elected a new mayor.

Michael Doenges unseated incumbent David Allaire. According to unofficial results released Tuesday night, Doenges won with about 25% more votes.

“Which is exciting, because what it says to me is that the voters of Rutland City — it’s a mandate for change," Doenges said. "My entire campaign has been about vision and change and looking forward. Obviously capturing our history — we all want to get back to the Rutland that was. But we have to move forward. And I think the vote totals show that there are plenty of people who are in support of that movement."

The 42-year-old has currently been serving as the president of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen.

Doenges takes over as mayor on March 15.

A person smiling while wearing a Carhartt hat.
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
Rutland City Mayor-elect Michael Doenges smiles for a photo while campaigning outside Godnick Senior Center, one of the city’s polling places, on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

Meanwhile in Vermont's capital city, Montpelier residents also elected a new mayor. Jack McCullough won with 1,126 votes to Dan Jones' 708 votes and Richard Sheir's 272.

McCullough has been serving in the role on an interim basis since January due to the elected mayor, Anne Watson, becoming a state senator.

McCullough is also the current president of the Montpelier City Council.


Killington voters approve new municipal water system, upgrades to ski mountain access road

Posted March 7, 2023 at 8:49 PM EST

Voters in Killington approved two ballot measures that officials say will be transformative.

Residents greenlighted a $47 million spending package that will upgrade Killington’s access road and create a new municipal water system.

Select board member Jim Haff said the upgrades will help create new housing and enable developers to finally move forward with a ski village.

“This is huge. This is getting a water line that we’ve never had, a municipal water system in the town of Killington," Haff said. "It will open up other business opportunities, along the Killington Road. You know and at the same time, it will take care of our road construction that we need to do in town — this is big.”

Voters also approved a $1.6 million bond to purchase a building on Route 4 where they will relocate the town hall.

Renter protections on the ballot

'Just cause' eviction measure fails in Brattleboro, passes in Winooski

Posted March 7, 2023 at 8:14 PM EST

A ballot measure that would have added protections for renters in Brattleboro did not pass. 

The so-called "just cause" eviction measure failed by a more than 500-vote margin, 1,221 to 656, on Tuesday.

The proposal would have made it harder for landlords to evict tenants and cap rent increases to 12%.

Landlords opposed the measure.

In Winooski, a similar measure passed. Article 4 spells out how the city's charter will be amended to include more renter protections.

The city is required to hold another vote on the proposal, and the Legislature and governor will need to sign off on the proposal before it goes back to the city council.

Pass the pie

Bethel funds budget, library and town skate park

Posted March 7, 2023 at 7:00 PM EST
A photo of a woman standing in a doorway looking into a gym with people seated.
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
Jean Burnham stands in the doorway to watch Bethel's Town Meeting Day Tuesday.

About 150 voters showed up to the middle school gym in Bethel for Town Meeting Day. There was a couple with a 5-week old newborn, a retired woman who attended the meeting for the first time in 30 years, and parents who listened as their kids played ‘Red Light, Green Light’ while a middle schooler watched them in another room.

In a hallway outside the gym, Jean Burnham was serving up pie. She’s lived in Bethel all her life.

“I was the town clerk for 49 years,” she said. “I retired in 2018. Now I’m assistant and doing pies.”

There were at least a dozen that people had brought in that morning.

"Raspberry, strawberry rhubarb, coconut cream, cherry, pumpkin,” Burnham said. “There's a little bit of everything.”

A serving knife sits on top of a blueberry pie.
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
Voters brought at least a dozen different types of pie, along with doughnuts, cookies and coffee.

In the meeting, residents agreed to pass the proposed $2.6 million budget, and voted to fund an expansion of the recreation center’s skatepark, and appropriate one-time money to the town's library.

Select board chair Chris Jarvis explained some of the increases to the budget, which went up by more than $250,000 from last year.

The costs of benefits for town employees have gone up, along with things like diesel fuel, heating oil, and road salt, which went up by $30,000 this year.

“Those are the pieces that we haven’t done anything different, it’s just costing us more money to buy those things,” Jarvis said.

People sit in rows in a school gymnasium
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
In Bethel, about 150 people showed up in the town's middle school for the first in-person town meeting in three years.


Stowe voters approve town clock repairs, bear-proof trash cans

Posted March 7, 2023 at 5:19 PM EST
People sit in an auditorium facing away from the camera. People on stage are seated behind a table with a green tablecloth, and there is a man at a podium.
Liam Elder-Connors
Vermont Public
About 100 Stowe residents gathered for Town Meeting Day on Tuesday.

Stowe moderator Leighton Detora opened the town meeting with an invocation reminding the 100 or so residents of the civic importance of this annual tradition.

"We gather as a community in the oldest sense of the word," Detora said. "We gather to come together and try to make decisions about what is favored and what is not."

It turns out Stowe residents favored almost everything on Tuesday's agenda. They supported adding an extra 1% sales tax in the town to raise additional revenue. They passed the town's $16.5 million budget, and residents said yes to more than a half million dollars in capital projects, including $60,000 to buy bear proof trash and recycling cans and $95,000 to restore the town clock.

There was one thing voters didn't sign off on — an amendment to raise pay for select board members.

Marina Meerburg introduced the motion: "It's getting harder and harder, we know, to find volunteers," Meerburg said. "And, I really think it's important to encourage people to be able to do this, and I think it might make it possible for people."

Earlier in the morning residents voted to double pay for school board members to $3,000 a year, but residents decided against giving select board members a raise,

There was one more attempt during the meeting to raise wages for elected officials — this time for listers, who oversee the town's grand list. In Stowe, the listers get $250 a year. During the meeting someone suggested tripling that amount because of the upcoming town reappraisal. But lister Paul Percy said it wasn't necessary.

"We don't need more money for the next two years to be a lister in this town because we don't do a heck of a lot," Percy said, to laughter.

Residents heeded Percy's word and voted down the proposal.

Keeping with tradition

Voters reject move to paper ballot in Wilmington

Posted March 7, 2023 at 5:00 PM EST
A sign reads "vote here today" in both English and Spanish
Howard Weiss-Tisman
Vermont Public
Wilmington voters gathered for town meeting on Tuesday.

At least 18 communities talked about moving all of their future voting to a paper ballot instead of a floor vote at town meeting this year, including the town of Wilmington.

There, participation skyrocketed when residents were allowed to vote by Australian ballot during the pandemic.

So there was a discussion to make the change permanent at the meeting Tuesday, where about 60 people showed up.

Listen to the story.

“All we are trying to do is say, ‘Okay, maybe we can reach out to the youth, and show them a ballot,’ and maybe they’d get interested in participating in the government here, of this town,” said Select Board Chairman Tom Fitzgerald.

Resident Bill Spirka said it was important to come out and hear what your neighbors had to say.

“The way things are in this country today, there’s very few things we have a say on, and I think we should keep this,” he said.

Others agreed they weren’t ready to change the traditional town meeting format.

“I think there are a lot of things that the town government can do, and citizens can do, in terms of getting more people here,” said resident Nicki Steel.

“I would like to try that,” she said. “Not just throw in the towel and have people check things off.”

The debate in Wilmington happened at the end of a five-hour meeting.

The voters that were left unanimously rejected the proposal.

from the field

Oversight of police department, carbon tax, voting expansion on Burlington ballot

Posted March 7, 2023 at 4:30 PM EST
Photo of a brick building. The ground in front of it is covered in snow with a few lawn signs sticking up.
Marlon Hyde
Vermont Public
One of Burlington’s polling places, the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes.

Burlington residents could have greater oversight of their police department.

An item on the city's ballot would establish a community board made up of a handful of residents who would handle disciplinary issues and complaints about the Burlington Police Department.

The board would have the power to discipline officers and the police chief. If passed, the ballot item would still require further approval from the legislature.

"In reality, it probably won't pass the state legislature even if it does pass," said Burlington resident Sam Powers. "I think it will still send a message that people are not satisfied with the current infrastructure of police oversight.”

A second ballot item that would also require approval from the legislature asks residents whether they support a carbon tax for non-residential buildings using fossil-fuel heating and water systems.

If passed, owners of new industrial and commercial buildings that are 50,000 square feet or larger would pay an up-front fee starting next year. Existing buildings in need of heating system renovations would also be subject to a fee.

A third ballot item asks voters whether they want to grant legal residents who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote in their municipal elections, as has been done in Montpelier and Winooski.

from the field
Keeping warm

One official hands out hand warmers at the polls

Posted March 7, 2023 at 4:00 PM EST
Two women stand smiling outside a polling place. A woman in a pastel pink coat holds a box of handwarmers. A woman in a baby blue coat holds signs, and handwarmers.
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
Barbara Spaulding, a grant administrator for the Rutland Redevelopment Authority was visiting the polls across Rutland city today giving out hand warmers.

With temperatures in the 20s across much of Vermont today, it was a chilly day to be out campaigning.

So Barbara Spaulding decided to pass out handwarmers to the folks she saw holding signs outside polling places in Rutland City.

“I figured instead of hot chocolate, which maybe everybody couldn't drink, or donuts, which you know everyone’s on a diet, I figured, well what else can I do?" she said. "And I thought hand warmers might be suited for today’s weather."

Spaulding is a grant administrator for the Rutland Redevelopment Authority. She was also handing out business cards to remind those campaigning about the services her agency provides locally.

"People have been appreciative and they're cold," she said.

from the field

Hours-long meeting in Killington details nearly $50M in water, road improvements

Posted March 7, 2023 at 3:45 PM EST
Two  middle aged white men sit at a table in front of a large screen. One where's an orange plaid shirt. The other is in a green sweater. There's a bottle of soda on the table.
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
Killington Selectman Jim Haff (right) and Moderator Paul Buhler at the start of Monday night’s informational meeting. Just over 40 people attended the meeting remotely while about a dozen came in person.
Listen to the story.

Once volunteers with the lasagna fundraiser cleared out and Killington’s state representative had his say, local officials dug into two big ticket items on Killington’s town meeting ballot.

The first is a $1.6 million bond to buy a building on Route 4 and move the town hall there, where it would be next to the post office and across from the town’s visitor center.

“By putting town hall in that location it will better qualify the town for the possibility of becoming a new town center,” said Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth.

A town center designation would allow town officials to work with the state to adjust speed limits and make other upgrades to the Route 4 corridor, according to Hagenbarth.

Killington's town meeting was Tuesday, March 7.
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
Killington's town meeting was Tuesday, March 7.

The other big ticket item is a $47 million spending package to create a new municipal water system and upgrade Killington’s access road.

The improvements would be paid for with what’s called a tax increment financing district — a tool that would use a portion of the taxes on future development to pay for the upgrades.

from the field
Democracy sing-along

Listen to the Elmore moderator's Town Meeting Day song

Posted March 7, 2023 at 3:00 PM EST
A person stands up in the middle of a crowd of people seated on folding chairs
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Elmore residents met in person for town meeting for the first time since 2020 on Tuesday.

As Elmore residents gathered in-person for the first time since the pandemic for their annual town meeting.

Town moderator Jon Gailmor did something special for the occasion, and picked up a guitar.

"I’m only doing this because its our first meeting in the flesh, and I’m so happy that I thought I would sing a song to you — with you," Gailmor told the gathered crowd.

Listen to "Town Meeting Tune" here.
A person pushes open the door of a white building with green accents

Gailmor said one year, he decided to take the town meeting warning and set it to music.

And today, he was singing this song live for the first — and maybe last — time.

After a rousing round of applause, the voters of Elmore got down to business.

Two people converse
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Auditors Carla Blood, right, and Diane Cote chat before the start of town meeting in Elmore.
A person pushes open the door of a white building with green accents
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Karen Autorino goes into Elmore Town Hall for town meeting.
A woman picks up a doughnut from a box
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Sharon Fortune gets a doughnut before the start of town meeting in Elmore on Tuesday.

from the field

Voters weigh funding for a new police department in Randolph

Posted March 7, 2023 at 2:56 PM EST
Outside the Randolph Town Hall Building, a man in a highlighter yellow jacket walks up the stairs. He's greeted by a man in a yellow hat. A red "vote today" sign is taped to the railing.
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
About 250 people had voted by absentee ballot and in person at the town hall as of 9:30 this morning, according to Emery Mattheis, the Randolph town clerk. He said outside the building is the oldest crab apple tree in Vermont, according to a state Supreme Court case.

In Randolph, voters are weighing a decision to fund a new police department for almost $800,000. That’s because the Orange County Sheriff’s department hasn’t been able to fulfill their contract with the town. November’s election ousted the longtime sheriff and many staff members quit.

“It all happened so quickly,” said Paul Rea, of South Randolph.

“Randolph was caught without police coverage and then the select board started building it back up," he said. "Some people think it’s too big so they want to pare it down.”

The question isn’t so much whether to have a police department, but whether it makes sense to fund one for so much money, according to Rea.

A woman sits behind a desk at a polling station.
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
Election officer Mimi Burstein in Randolph.

The proposed police department was not the only thing that brought people out to vote.

Josie Carothers from East Randolph was excited to vote for two women running for the select board, and to fund a nearby craft center and community playhouse theater.

“I love to participate. I’m a strong believer in democracy. It’s inspiring to me every single time,” she said. “I’m not young, as you can see. I still love it.”


Peacham settles on a snowplow name

Posted March 7, 2023 at 2:43 PM EST
Two people sort through slips of paper on a table
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Jean Dedam and Larry Jensen count the ballots for the vote on a new snowplow name for a term of three years. The winner was "Robert Frost."

Peacham voters agreed to suspend the rules at town meeting on Tuesday to try out ranked-choice voting on their last item of the day: naming a snow plow.

Residents nominated five names chosen by local school kids: Unicorn Egg, Snow Storm, Lightning, Voldemort’s Plow and Robert Frost.

People sit in pew-style seats as natural light comes in from windows on the right of the image
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Voters gathered in the Peacham Olde Meetinghouse on Tuesday, March 7.

Then they cast paper ballots. Town moderator Tim McKay read out the results.

Robert Frost just barely won a majority with 45 out of 88 total votes cast. The plow will be named Robert Frost for three years.

Unicorn Egg came in second with 23 votes.

Peacham also enjoyed a potluck in the basement of the Olde Meetinghouse. The system for who brings what is laid out in the town report: Those with last names beginning with A through K are assigned a side dish or salad, L through Z the main dishes.

People scoop food from a long potluck table
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Gretchen Boswell and 1-year-old Ingrid get some help getting a lunch plate at the Peacham town meeting luncheon on March 7, 2023.
Slices of pie on plates
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Pie at the Peacham town meeting luncheon, which returned for the first time since 2020.


Wilmington moves away from listers for establishing property values

Posted March 7, 2023 at 2:25 PM EST
People gather around a black ballot box to vote
Howard Weiss-Tisman
Vermont Public
People line up in Wilmington's town meeting to vote on eliminating the office of lister in favor of hiring professional assessors to establish property values.

Wilmington residents voted to eliminate the listers' office at town meeting Tuesday.

Board of Listers Chairman Gerald Osler said the job of assessing properties has become more complicated.

He also said the listers who are now serving the town have all grown older, and there doesn’t appear to be much interest from younger people to do the job.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns said there are at least 24 articles on Town Meeting Day warnings this year to eliminate traditionally elected positions, including lister, auditor and constable.

What's a lister or a constable? Your guide to Vermont local terms

Many of these jobs have grown more complicated, and the league says towns are increasingly moving toward hiring professional firms to do the work.

from the field

Winooski votes in 12 languages

Posted March 7, 2023 at 10:33 AM EST
Piles of paper ballots hang on a bulletin board with binder clips
Matthew Smith
Vermont Public
Winooski's Town Meeting Day ballots have been translated into multiple languages on March 7, 2023.

Winooski's town meeting ballots have been translated into 11 languages other than English to serve the city's diverse population.

City voters are considering a measure that would protect rental housing tenants by requiring a "just cause" for eviction. Voters in Essex and Brattleboro are considering similar proposals, and they would each need to approved by the Legislature and the governor to take effect.

Winooski is one of two cities — with Montpelier — that allows legal residents who are not U.S. citizens to vote in local elections such as Town Meeting Day.

Six people smile holding signs for local candidates and ballot items
Matthew Smith
Vermont Public
People hold campaign signs outside of the Winooski Senior Center for Town Meeting Day voting on March 7, 2023.

from the field

Essex meets in a movie theater, complete with popcorn

Posted March 6, 2023 at 8:59 PM EST
A woman sits behind a table and fastens a neon green wristband on someone's hand
April McCullum
Vermont Public
Betsy Dunn secures a neon wristband on a voter's hand at the check-in table for Essex's town meeting on Monday, March 6, 2023. The wristbands designated registered voters.

Essex voters met in a movie theater Monday evening for town meeting, the first since the former village of Essex Junction broke off as a separate city.

To keep with the setting, popcorn and drinks were provided free as residents milled around informational tables for town departments and programs. Wristbands were provided at check-in to distinguish registered voters (green) from non-voters (blue).

In Australian ballot voting the following day, Essex voters were set to consider a measure limiting evictions and a budget that would increase municipal property taxes by 22%, among other items. The loss of the Essex Junction tax base is a major factor in the municipal tax rate growth.

People sit in a movie theater facing a screen, which welcomes people to the town of Essex annual meeting. A sign taped to the back of one chair reads "registered voters seating."
April McCullum
Vermont Public
Essex held its town meeting Monday, March 6, 2023 at the Essex Cinemas. Australian ballot voting was to follow on Tuesday.
Two women sit in movie theater seats. One is holding a bag of popcorn.
April McCullum
Vermont Public
Jody Gendron, left, and Janet Watts converse ahead of the Essex town meeting at the Essex Cinemas on March 6, 2023. Popcorn was provided free to all attendees.

Quality versus quantity in democracy?

Is town meeting out of reach for too many Vermonters?

Posted March 6, 2023 at 7:09 PM EST

Some Vermonters think town meeting should be easier to attend for more people.

In a discussion on Vermont Edition on Monday, a caller and a social media commenter said more needs to be done to make sure that people with kids, people with jobs and people with mobility issues or transportation issues can attend an in-person meeting.

More people can participate if towns use paper ballots instead of floor votes, acknowledged Middlesex town moderator Susan Clark, who has written books including All Those in Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community. Towns saw that in recent years when they switched to ballots because of the pandemic.

But democracy is not just a numbers game — it’s also about the quality of the interactions between voters, and an in-person meeting supports that quality, Clark argued.

“If we really do care about inclusion, we have to ask ourselves not just about the quantity, but the quality of democracy,” Clark said. “At Vermont town meeting, we’re way more than just voters — we’re deliberators, we’re chewing on issues together, we’re seeing and hearing each other as neighbors, you know, as whole people, which is something we really missed during COVID. We can change our minds, we can change each others’ minds.”

Clark said there can be improvements to town meeting on a local basis.

One commenter on Vermont Public’s Instagram page pointed out that Lincoln organizes child care for its town meeting. (The town also has transportation covered: Its website encourages people to contact the town clerk if they need a ride to the meeting.)

Since Town Meeting Day is an official holiday in Vermont, state employees get the day off. All other workers have the right to take unpaid leave from their job to attend town meeting, as long as they give seven days’ notice and the leave does not interfere with the “essential operation” of the business.

from the field
More voters in municipal elections?

Burlington to decide whether to allow all legal resident voting

Posted March 6, 2023 at 7:03 PM EST
A photo of three blue signs reading "all legal resident voting, what's that?" stuck in the snow with golden sunlight hitting powerlines in the background.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
On Town Meeting Day this year, Burlingtonians will decide whether to extend the right to vote in municipal elections to green card holders, participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program and people with eligible work permits.

Burlington voters will decide tomorrow whether to allow all legal resident voting.

If the provision passes, green card holders, participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, and people with eligible work permits would be able to vote in municipal elections.

That’s as long as they meet other voter eligibility qualifications such as being over the age of 18 and registered to vote.

If the measure passes, an estimated5.5% of Burlington’s population — the equivalent of a few thousand voters — would gain the right to cast a ballot.

You can read the full story here.

This story is a collaboration between Vermont Public and the Community News Service. The Community News Service is a student-powered partnership between the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program and community newspapers across Vermont.

Statewide trend

'We have a housing crisis': What are towns doing about rentals and development?

Posted March 6, 2023 at 6:40 PM EST
A yellow sign and a black sign in the snow.
Howard Weiss-Tisman/Anna Ste. Marie
Vermont Public
A yellow sign and a black sign in the snow.

Vermont's lack of housing is top of mind for some voters on Town Meeting Day.

A swath of communities will discuss and vote on proposals that could create more housing at a local level or change housing policy. Towns will vote on zoning changes, landlord-tenant rights and housing infrastructure, among other issues.

Winooski, Essexand Brattleborowill consider what are known as "just-cause eviction" policies to give more protections to tenants.

Other towns are looking at the housing issue through the lens of development. Shaftsbury, for example, has five different proposed changes to their zoning regulations. They deal with things like open spaces and clarifies the definition of mobile homes and tiny homes, and it makes it easier to develop accessory dwellings on barns and outbuildings.

"We have a housing crisis," said Chris Williams, chairman of the Shaftsbury Planning Commission. "And you know, the construction industry has really focused on building trophy homes for rich people. But at the same time, you know, people who keep Vermont running are coming up short of a good place to live."

Read or listen: Vermonters have housing in mind ahead of Town Meeting Day

Analysts at the Vermont House Finance Agency estimate that Vermont will need an additional 35,000 to 45,000 housing units by 2030 in order to bring supply in line with demand.

from the field
Name that plow!

Peacham abuzz over plow naming vote

Posted March 6, 2023 at 6:16 PM EST
Listen to Vermont Edition host Mikaela Lefrak discuss Peacham town meeting items with town clerk Tom Galinat.

Town Meeting Day comes once a year, and so does thehottest debate in the town of Peacham: naming the snowplow for a term of three years.

Tom Galinat is Peacham's town clerk, andtoldVermont Editionon Mondaythat the combined grades of local school children cast votes to pick the potential plow names. They are:

  • "Unicorn Egg" (pre-K's choice)

("You can imagine that on a giant, you know, 12,000-pound vehicle running down the road," Galinat said.)

  • "Snow Storm" (kindergarten & first grade)
  • "Lightning" (second grade)
  • "Voldemort's Plow" (third and fourth grade)
  • "Robert Frost" (fifth and sixth grade)

("My personal favorite, although trying to stay as non-biased as possible," Galinat said.)
While recent votes on town plow names have occurred via Australian ballot, Galinat says this year, with town meeting returning to in-person, this presents a challenge.

"When it comes to a floor vote, and unregistered, less-than-18 people bringing these nominations forward, how do we get them on the vote from the floor? Right? It's like, they can't nominate, they're not registered voters. How do we do this?" Galinat said. "And so we've had this last minute scrambles where the students are now campaigning to find adults to nominate their snowplows."

This may or may not involve some backroom-type deals ...

"Kit Kats and Almond Joys being slung around the room like you wouldn't believe, it's getting crazy," Galinat said.

A few other items are on the ballot, of course, including a town budget proposed to increase almost 27%.

"And so that that's really probably going to be the talk, is why it's going up, and no one can really put a finger on it," Galinat said. "That cost of living has hit all of us pretty hard. And when you spread that out through all the line items, health insurance, and cost of living, both for salaries and cost of living of goods, it's really hard to lower it any more than we've already done."

Peacham meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday for town meeting.

from the field

‘Transformative’ infrastructure package up for vote in Killington

Posted March 6, 2023 at 5:08 PM EST

Some Killington residents may be nervous about a $47 million infrastructure bond on this year's ballot. That’s to fund a new public water system and major upgrades to the local access road.

But town manager Chet Hagenbarth said the improvements are the sort of infrastructure the town needs to move forward with a long-awaited ski village.

"You know, people ask the question, 'Can we afford to do this?' and I ask the question, 'Can we afford not to for the long-term future of Killington?'” he said.

The town has created a tax increment financing district to cover the debt. The financing tool will allow Killington to use a portion of the property tax revenue generated by future development to pay for the costs of the new infrastructure.

Hagenbarth also said improving the municipal water system will also enable other needed development, including hundreds of affordable housing units for local workers.

Temperature check

Proposed juvenile treatment facility on the ballot in Newbury

Posted March 6, 2023 at 4:36 PM EST
 A brown house sits on top of a hill.
Liam Elder-Connors
Vermont Public
The state wants to turn an old bed-and-breakfast in Newbury into a secured facility for kids involved in the criminal justice system. The proposal has met stiff opposition
from town residents.

For months, many Newbury residents have campaigned against a plan to build a six-bed residential facility to serve youth in the child welfare and justice system in Vermont.

After tomorrow, the town will have a better sense of just how many residents oppose the plan from the Department for Children and Families.

“[The vote] really doesn’t hold any legal weight,” Rep. Joseph Parsons, the vice chair of the Newbury select board, explained on Vermont Edition this week.

But Parsons said in the past the DCF commissioner has indicated that only a small group of residents opposes the facility. He believes opposition is much more widespread.

“I think this vote will prove that,” he said.

from the field
The view from Vermont's capital city

Mayoral race, budget increase, and noncitizens voting in Montpelier

Posted March 6, 2023 at 4:28 PM EST

In tomorrow’s vote in Montpelier, voters will decide on a three-way mayoral race.

They’ll also consider a budget increase that would raise property tax rates by over 7%.

That’s been a subject of more discussion than usual according to John Odum, Montpelier’s town clerk who appeared Monday on Vermont Edition.

“This is a town that generally passes its budget,” he said. “But it’s a big increase this year compared to other years. On the one hand, it’s largely tracking inflation, on the other hand, inflation has been way up. That means this budget is way up.”

Eleven of the Montpelier residents registered to vote tomorrow are not U.S. citizens.

That follows a voting law that went into effect in Montpelier last year allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections.

from the field

Monkton votes to sell historic town hall property

Posted March 6, 2023 at 4:09 PM EST
People sit in a school gymnasium facing a stage where a person is speaking with a microphone
Jane Lindholm
Vermont Public
People sit in a school gymnasium facing a stage where a person is speaking with a microphone

Monkton will sell its historic town hall, which dates to 1859, after a contentious in-person vote at town meeting Saturday.

Town offices have moved to a new town hall from the historic property. Those in favor of selling the older building said upkeep would be too pricey and its sale would help defray the costs of the new town hall.

Debate on this article lasted nearly an hour before someone moved to call the vote. After the results of a voice vote were too close to call, votes were cast by a show of hands and the results were tallied. In the end, the voters present passed the article, meaning the town will now sell the building.

The town historical society has been actively campaigning to prevent the sale and one member walked out of the meeting after the vote was finalized.

from the field
Town meeting accessibility

Vt. disability rights advocates ask municipalities to keep COVID-era town meeting models

Posted March 6, 2023 at 3:45 PM EST

The Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights (VCDR) is urging municipalities across the state to keep some of their COVID-related town meeting protocols.

Kate Larose with the Vermont Center for Independent Living says town meetings conducted during the height of the pandemic were a triumph for accessibility.

"We all did remote voting, we all did Australian ballot," she said. "People held their town meetings via Zoom, and people were able to ask questions from the comfort of their own home. And I think for a lot of people, that worked really, really well.”

Larose says 175 municipalities are returning to town meeting rules that will require people to attend in-person in order to vote on all articles on the warning.

She and other disability rights advocates are calling on towns to keep remote attendance options in place to ensure access for all Vermonters who want to participate.

VCDR says anyone with a disability who wants support in requesting reasonable accommodations to vote on Town Meeting Day can email, call, or text: or 802-224-1818.

To elect or appoint?

Several towns weigh eliminating certain elected positions

Posted March 6, 2023 at 3:30 PM EST

Voters in about a dozen municipalities this year will decide whether to do away with some elected positions like listers, who determine the fair market value of real estate property, and constables, who act aslaw enforcement within town lines. Instead, municipalities would hire or appoint those jobs.

“Now, some towns are using professional services for those things, like a professional police department or a professional audit firm, or professional appraisal firm,” said Ted Brady, the executive director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

Voters in the town of Woodstock have already opted to keep one of their elected positions. After a snowy commute Saturday morning, voters rejected a proposal to replace the elected lister position with an appointed assessor by 46 to 32, according toreporting from the Valley News.

from the field
Get your bingo on

Prep for Town Meeting Day with Vermont Public's guide

Posted March 6, 2023 at 3:30 PM EST

Whether you’re a new Vermonter or a seasoned local voter, town meeting can feel overwhelming — school and town reports are thick, and there are endless variations on how things are done from town to town. Trust us: Even journalists sometimes feel our eyes start to glaze over when we’re reading our tax rates.

We’ve put together a guide to help! It has everything you always wanted to know about Town Meeting Day, but were too afraid to ask.

On that last item — Town Meeting Day is serious business, but also, it's fun. You can print out and take this bingo card with you, or save it on your phone, and share your results on social media! If you tag us on social media (Vermont Public) or mail your bingo card to us (365 Troy Avenue, Colchester, VT 05446), we will send you a sticker.