Liveblog for Vermont's 2022 Town Meeting Day
Town Meeting Day was Tuesday, March 1, 2022. As we enter a third pandemic year, about three-quarters of the state's towns and cities allowed residents to vote early and mail in their ballots, according to an analysis by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
Bookmark this page for reporting and results from Vermont journalists.
A measure to allow ATVs on certain sections of town roads in Royalton passed by one vote — with 185 people in favor, and 184 against.
More details, like the time of day, and which months ATVs can be on town roads, will be determined through public discussions in the coming weeks.
- Lexi Krupp
Montpelier, Manchester, Vergennes, and Colchester were among the municipalities that voted in support of big-ticket waste infrastructure projects during Town Meeting Day yesterday.
Voters in those places approved nearly $40 million in new wastewater spending.
Karen Horn directs public policy and advocacy for the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which has been tracking Town Meeting Day results.
She says the recent influx of federal COVID aid, including from the American Rescue Plan Act, spurred officials to pursue high-dollar projects this year.
"Certainly the ARPA funding was key, especially in Colchester," Horn said.
Colchester voters approved a $11.5 million bond to build a sewer system designed to reduce pollution in Malletts Bay, which is part of Lake Champlain.
Voters rejected a similar proposal in 2019.
- Kevin Trevellyan
Vermont voters approved the vast majority of school budgets on Town Meeting Day. But the six districts in which voters said ‘no’ now face some difficult financial decisions.
Slate Valley Union Unified School District in Fair Haven has cut 40 staff positions over the last five years. And superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell says this year’s spending request was actually down from what the district sought three years ago.
Nonetheless, local voters rejected Slate Valley’s budget request on Tuesday.
“And so at some point, there’s nothing else left to cut if we still want, you know, great outcomes for kids. And so it’s super concerning,” Olsen-Farrell said.
Voters in Alburgh, Cabot, Canaan, Missisquoi Valley and Otter Valley school districts also rejected budget proposals.
Education officials say schools are being called on to fund mental health services that are adding to overall costs.
- Peter Hirschfeld
The towns of Monkton, New Haven, Bristol and Starksboro voted to ratify Lincolns’ plan to withdraw from the Mount Abraham Union School District Tuesday.
Voters in Lincoln overwhelmingly approved a proposal to withdraw the Lincoln Community School from the Mount Abraham Unified School District last August, but the move needed approval from all four MAUSD towns — Bristol, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro.
More from VPR: Reporter Debrief: Act 46 Votes In Addison County Signal Larger Questions About The Law
All four towns offered strong support of Lincoln's withdrawal from the district.
There are still a handful of steps for Lincoln to withdraw if all four Addison County towns approve its departure. That includes securing conditional approval from the State Board of Education.
- Karen Anderson
Peacham voters made a number of important decisions this year on Town Meeting Day: approving a budget, electing local officials, and of course, naming the town snowplow.
More than 200 residents cast their ballots to choose a name for the Town of Peacham Snow Plow for a term of three years.
The winner by a wide margin went to Ker-plow, with 87 votes. Runners up included Snowflake, with 36 votes, Avalanche and Pegasus with 33 votes each, and Snowy with 16 votes.
Voters had several write-ins, including Plowy Mcplowface, Snow Doze and Poseidon.
- Elodie Reed
Communities across the state voted on some key issues on Town Meeting Day Tuesday.
Voters in St. Albans approved $100,000 to fund an additional crisis intervention specialist to work with the St. Albans Police Department, as well as a charter change that would make the city clerk and treasurer positions appointed by the city council, rather than elected.
Voters in the Northeast Kingdom communities of Lyndon and Lyndonville approved a measure to pursue a merger. The measure was approved 267 to 60.
Yesterday's Town Meeting Day marked the first time in Winooski that all adult residents — including people who are not U.S. citizens — were able to vote on community issues. More than 900 ballots were cast, electing two city councilors and approving the city budget.
And in Vermont’s largest city, Progressives will hold on to their six seats on City Council — making up half of the 12-member council.
One Burlington ballot measure that did not pass was the increase to the tax rate for city residents.
And two South Burlington city councilors retained their seats, despite challenges over zoning regulations.
- Karen Anderson
City officials ran out of ballots in Rutland yesterday.
The Rutland Herald reports high voter turnout forced city clerk Henry Heck to make photo copies for more than 200 voters.
Those ballots needed to be hand-counted last night and have delayed the release of some results.
Heck said he had always tried to be frugal when deciding how many ballots to order, but from now on he intended to err in the other direction.
According to the Rutland Herald, preliminary vote counts indicated all ballot items in the city passed including the city's and school budget, and the retail cannabis referendum by about two to one.
- Nina Keck
More Vermont towns will allow retail sale of cannabis to people age 21 and older.
At least 40 Vermont communities voted Tuesday on whether to allow local marijuana sales once the state’s retail market opens later this fall. At least 25 said yes, according to reporting from VTDigger.
Among the communities to pass recreational retail cannabis were: Essex, Barre, Bristol, Hartford, Manchester, Pittsford, Milton and Springfield.
The Franklin County town of Sheldon approved cannabis retail by just two votes, 71 to 69.
Castleton rejected recreational retail cannabis, with 351 opposed and 306 in favor.
The 19 Norton residents who went to their Town Meeting said also no to retail cannabis.
Under Vermont law, consumption of recreational cannabis is already legal, but communities must opt in before anyone can set up shop to sell the product for non-medical use.
- Karen Anderson
Polls are nearly closed for Town Meeting Day 2022, and about 40 Vermont communities are voting today on whether to allow retail marijuana operations within their borders. That's according to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
The Vermont Legislature legalized the sale of recreational marijuana starting this year, but cities and towns have to vote whether to allow sales in their communities.
Approval by communities would allow businesses to seek a state license to sell or cultivate cannabis, beginning this year. A state board would then review and approve license requests.
More than the 33 Vermont municipalities have approved those operations in the past two years.
- Associated Press
Voters in Chelsea are weighing whether to leave a consolidated school district, which joins students in elementary and middle school with the neighboring town of Tunbridge.
Some proponents say they’re motivated by a recent proposal to send elementary students six miles down the road to attend school in Tunbridge.
“I would like to keep our elementary school here, and the only way to do that is to try to get out of the merger,” said Phyllis Hayward, whose kids went to school in Chelsea. She also taught in the district, and petitioned to get the issue on the ballot this year.
Cindy Allen shared her concerns. “None of the other towns in our district have sent our elementary students away,” Allen said. Her five grandchildren live in Chelsea, and several will be starting kindergarten next year.
It’s an emotionally charged issue, according to Henry Cesari. He grew up in town and will serve on the Chelsea Select Board next year.
“My high school class here had 14 kids, like you can't really serve that population, but of course people miss the community side of it,” he said. “It’s not just our town, but you can see it on display here in Chelsea today, definitely.”
- Lexi Krupp
There’s still time for voters to head to the polls this Town Meeting Day, but in the Addison County town of Lincoln the issue foremost in some voters’ minds isn’t on the ballot.
Located about 30 minutes from Middlebury, Lincoln in August voted overwhelmingly to withdraw the Lincoln Community School from the Mount Abraham Unified School District.
It’s part of an effort to save the K-6th grade school from potentially closing, an option that local education officials are considering due to declining enrollment and rising costs within the school’s parent district.
Librarian Wendy McIntosh voted to withdraw in the fall. Standing outside Lincoln’s polling place on Tuesday, she says the school closing would devastate her community.
“It’s fundamental to our town. We already don’t have a post office and a lot of things. So having the school here is very, very important," she said.
It’s not a done deal yet. Four other towns within the Mount Abraham School District —Bristol, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro — must ratify Lincoln’s decision to leave before the school can move forward.
That’s why Lincoln Town Clerk Sally Ober says her neighbors are anxiously awaiting Tuesday’s election results.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to go to sleep tonight not knowing what happened in the four other towns," she said. "Hopefully on the Secretary of State’s website we’ll be able to find the answers before we all go to bed tonight.”
Following the passage of Act 46 in 2015, small towns across the state have formed consolidated districts. That includes Mount Abraham.
The law was intended to make education more equitable and sustainable amid declining enrollment. But merging has led to school closures in some Vermont towns.
Lawmakers are considering changes to Act 46 this session.
But in the meantime, Starksboro resident Sarah Butler, who teaches outside of the Mount Abraham district, voted in support of Lincoln leaving its district.
“That was definitely one of the big things I was considering," she said.
She worries how Lincoln students could be impacted — facing long bus rides to and from school, for example — if Mount Abraham merges with another district based in Vergennes. That’s an idea under consideration.
Butler also wants to respect the wishes of Lincoln voters last fall.
“There’s been a lot of talk about potential shifts in this district," she said. "And I don’t necessarily think it’s going in a great direction, so I understand if Lincoln wants to withdraw.”
Although Lincoln voted to withdraw its school from the Mount Abraham district by a three-to-one margin in August, those who turned out to vote today acknowledge that it wouldn’t be an easy process.
Fearing closure, nearby Ripton voted to withdraw its elementary school from the Addison Central School District last year. But Ripton hasn’t found a supervisory school district to join since then, threatening its ability to provide school services.
Peg Sutlive, who used to teach in the Mount Abraham district, says watching Ripton’s experience has created some hesitancy to withdraw in Lincoln.
“It almost feels like the lesser of two evils in some way. And I don't see it as an evil thing. But I guess I just mean there isn't a perfect solution, and this feels like the better choice,” she said.
Sutlive worries about having enough resources to provide special education services and run the business office if Lincoln withdraws and forms a new district with Ripton, which is being considered.
But she says the potential alternative — the Lincoln school closing — is too difficult to stomach. Sutlive praises the education her two children received at the school years ago. And she says the school serves as a gathering place for the community at large, through its annual cultural festival and other events.
“Oh my gosh; it’s the heartbeat of the community," she said. "There’s something about the small rural school — it’s hard to articulate clearly, but it’s a sweet thing. And I feel lucky to be a part of it.”
There are still a handful of steps for Lincoln to withdraw if the four Addison County towns approve its departure. That includes securing conditional approval from the State Board of Education.
- Kevin Trevellyan and Grace Benninghoff
Royalton is the latest community in Vermont to vote on whether to allow ATVs on certain sections of town roads. Voters headed to the polls in the high school gym on Town Meeting Day.
Joshua Powers is in his 80s, and he’s lived in Royalton year-round for the past three decades.
"The first thing I did when I drove in from New York, was to come to the town clerk and register to vote," he said. "That was before I even went home."
Today, the races are uncontested, and the only issue on the ballot is whether ATVs should be allowed on town roads connecting trail systems. Powers is not a fan.
"I personally am not excited about having the darn things running up and down the road ... If you want to ride it on your own property, or people that give you permission, or state and federal property that has open rights… that’s fine. ATV means off road," he said.
Not everyone feels that way.
"It's nothing that concerns us, really, they can do it for all I care, I'll probably vote yes," say Bob and Deborah Gray.
The Grays say they always take the time to vote, no matter what is on the ballot.
- Lexi Krupp
The view from #BTV Ward 3 on #TownMeetingDay, where just under 900 of 4,643 registered voters had cast their ballot by the time election officials were eating their pizza lunch.— Elodie Reed (@elodie_reed) March 1, 2022
Most of those votes, according to the officials, were cast early or mailed in — about 750 in total. pic.twitter.com/inWxLSKAGM
Vermont's Town Meeting Day has historically marked the time when maple sugaring kicks into high gear around the state.
But over the last 30 years, maple researchers say that's shifted. And they say climate change is partly to blame.
As winters warm, sugaring weather is moving earlier in the season. But Vermont operations are also on average getting larger, which means they tend to tap their trees earlier.
Mark Isselhardt is the maple specialist with University of Vermont Extension.
"If folks are bound and determined to follow the practices that were in place in the past, like tapping around Town Meeting Day, for example, you know, things have changed, and that will probably end up impacting your production," he said.
Isselhardt says sugarmakers should adapt their operations as much as possible to harvest whenever sap flows. If they do, he says they should continue to see consistent yields.
- Abagael Giles
Rutland City voters will elect four new school commissioners today. The seats are tied closely to debate over the local high school's mascot.
No incumbents are running for re-election, so the vote will have a significant impact on a school board that’s been mired in controversy.
Much of the discord has swirled around the schools’ "Raider" name and arrowhead logo, which has been deemed offensive and hurtful to Indigenous people.
More from VPR: Rocky Road Away From 'The Raiders': The Controversy Over Rutland High School's Mascot
Recent school boards voted first to retire and then reinstate the controversial name.
Of the 10 candidates vying for four seats on Tuesday, eight are running on opposing sides of the issue. Four are members of "Rutland Parents 4 All," which supports keeping the "Raider" name, while four candidates are members of “Making a Rutland for Everyone,” which would like the name replaced.
Many in the community have expressed anger and embarrassment that the name has taken up so much of the board’s time.
- Nina Keck
Many towns, including Manchester, are voting on major infrastructure projects this Town Meeting Day.
Manchester Town Manager John O’Keefe says they’re considering a water and sewage project along a corridor marked for development.
"So with that, we really feel like affordable housing, more clustered housing, would be a really attractive project going up through that corridor," he said.
If the article passes, O’Keefe says it would be Manchester’s first sewer system expansion in decades.
- Mikaela Lefrak
Residents of Colchester are voting today on whether to approve a significant water project.
The Mallets Bay wastewater project would extend Colchester's town sewage system to about 300 homes and businesses in nearby Mallets Bay.
Opponents are worried the extension could encourage big developments, like high rise hotels. Supporters say it will help clean up water pollution in the bay and ultimately Lake Champlain.
Colchester Select Board member Charlie Papillo says this issue didn't pass in 2019. But he says this year is different, because the extension would be free for taxpayers.
"It is funded primarily — 64% of it is from grants, some of that is ARPA funds, and 36% through user fees, so if you hook up to it and you use it, obviously you are going to have to pay for it," Papillo said.
Some groups say the project doesn't address other sources of pollution going into the lake.
- Connor Cyrus
Voters in Winooski and Montpelier are marking an historic first at their town meetings today, opening voting to legal residents who are not U.S. citizens.
Voters in both communities approved charter changes to let noncitizen voters weigh in on local decisions, changes approved by lawmakers in June only after overriding a veto by Gov. Phil Scott.
Montpelier city clerk John Odum tells Vermont Edition that — with only four residents who aren’t citizens registered to vote as of Friday, Feb. 25 — the city is prepared for a small but significant change.
“So, here we go, it’s the first time through, and we’ve had a few registrations, and folks are generally pretty excited about it," Odum said.
In Winooski, 30 residents who aren’t U.S. citizens registered to participate in Town Meeting Day as of Friday.
The noncitizen voting issue is being challenged in court by the state’s Republican party, and by the Republican National Committee. That suit goes before a Vermont judge in late March.
- Matthew Smith
Some quick pics of #TownMeetingDay in Winooski. (The city’s 99th TMD!) About 250 people had voted by 8am this morning. On the ballot: a packed race for 2 city council seats, school board seats, city + school budgets & a $1.3M bond for a new fire truck. Go vote! pic.twitter.com/xt0P95sYfv— Matthew Smith (@MatthewSmithVT) March 1, 2022
Voters in Royalton will be considering today whether to allow ATVs on parts of some town roads.
The Cascadnac Valley Wheelers has requested access to town roads linking to the borders of Tunbridge and Barnard.
The Valley News reports that it would be step toward connecting the Westshire ATV Club's trails in West Fairlee and Vershire with the Vermont Quad Runners' trails in Barnard, Bridgewater, Stockbridge and Killington.
But some residents don't think ATVs belong on town highways, and could be dangerous on roads with other vehicles.
- Associated Press
Traditionally a town treasurer and clerk are elected positions in Vermont. But today's Town Meeting Day could change that for at least one city.
St. Albans City is looking to change their charter so those positions can be appointed by the city council.
City Manager Dominic Cloud says currently the charter requires elected officials to live in St. Albans. But in order to hire the best person, the city needs to look outside town boundaries, which are just two square miles.
"Oftentimes, we find that we are hiring somebody that lives just outside the city in St. Albans Town, or in Georgia or Fairfax, and we need that ability to get the best person," Cloud said.
Residents will also vote on the town budget and whether to add an additional crisis intervention specialist to assist the police department.
- Connor Cyrus
Read more of VPR's Town Meeting Day coverage:
- Sewers, schools & skate parks: What Vermonters will vote on this Town Meeting Day
- Will Burlington Progs lose city council seats? Seven Days reporter previews Town Meeting Day
- Pandemic once again forces Vt. towns to adjust plans for Town Meeting Day
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