Northfield voters approve town and village merger
Stefan Hard / Staff Photo Northfield resident Ryan Bright, 2, sketches with colored pens while her parents, Colin Bright and Lydia Petty, listen to a speaker Tuesday at Northfield's town meeting, held at Northfield Middle and High School.
NORTHFIELD — In seemingly symbolic fashion, Northfield town residents held the swan song of the “town versus village” debate before the long-discussed merger was approved at town meeting Tuesday.
Voters in the town and the village approved the merger 655-327 and 368-71, respectively, by Australian ballot.
“I’m really encouraged. It was finally time for merger in Northfield,” said Christopher Curtis, vice chairman of the merger committee. “We finally have one Northfield.”
Select Board member Brad Denny said there had been six previous attempts to merge the town and village, with five actually coming to a vote — all of them unsuccessful.
That was then. This is now.
“It’s a great moment,” he said. “We did this for all the committees that have worked for this over a period of 60 years.”
Kevin Beal, chairman of the village trustees, said the merger won’t be a drastic change that residents will see, “but hopefully it’ll help us continue to grow in the future.”
The merger now goes to the Legislature for its approval. The plan calls for the village to be merged into the town in June 2014, when the Select Board members and village trustees will be combined into a new consolidated Select Board.
Current Select Board members would serve out their elected terms, and village trustees whose terms extend beyond 2014 would join the consolidated board until town meeting in 2015, when the board would revert to five members.
Before the polls closed Tuesday, as if for old times’ sake, town residents had one last chance to argue over who owned what, at the morning floor meeting at Northfield High School.
The issue concerned an article asking voters to approve $80,000 for the purchase of a new village truck for the highway department. Residents keyed in on the “village truck” wording of the article.
“I don’t see how the town can pay for a village piece of equipment that is going to be in the village capital improvement fund that the town employees can’t even get their hands on,” resident Linda Barrows said. Other residents also showed their concern and confusion over the town purchasing a piece of village equipment.
Town Manager Rob Lewis tried to put the concerns to rest by pointing out that in 2009 the town and village combined the highway departments.
“We are not as concerned about the ownership (of the truck) as we are the need of the vehicle to be replaced in order for the combined highway department, which you voted for, to do its job,” Lewis said.
Highway Superintendent Peter Demasi said that while the truck will be registered with the village, that will not affect its use.
“I use these vehicles as I see fit, whether it be in the village or in the town,” he said.
Resident Carolyn Stevens shared her exasperation with the whole truck situation.
“I’m hoping that the voters decide to merge, because this whole exercise is getting crazy,” said Stevens, whose comment was received with a round of applause.
Also at the morning meeting, town residents voted to approve raising $1,561,990 in taxes to support the general fund of the town. Town residents approved $1,318,360 for highway operations.
In the only contested race, Matt Gadbois defeated incumbent Gregory Sanders 610-263 for a two-year Select Board seat. Kenneth Goslant ran uncontested for a three-year board seat.
Other articles that were approved at the floor meeting included $94,000 for a new ambulance and $88,000 for a new dump truck.
Australian ballot results Tuesday included a 560-408 vote to give $21,000 for the re-establishment of the Northfield-Montpelier commuter bus service and a 716-251 vote in support of spending $300,000 to resurface roads.MORE IN Central Vermont
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