News, Stannard

Officer Seats Shuffle to Meet Needs, Budgets Working on Moving Targets

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STANNARD — Driving along the unsuspecting and muddy Stannard Mountain Road on Tuesday morning would lead travelers to a sparse-appearing town center. This transformed for a few hours into a corridor lined with cars and a full parking lot near the town hall as 25 voters gathered for town business.

With a population of just over 200, there are few residents to choose from when it comes to filling the seats for town officers. This often means that creative problem-solving is needed to ensure vital functions within the town are maintained. Re-elected moderator Tom Gilbert welcomed voters to the meeting and encouraged them to participate and consider running for a vacant position or a position up for consideration. The result was several new officers being sworn in and current officers transitioning to new roles.

Of note, Constable Warren Nott submitted his official resignation to the town clerk on the morning of the meeting, as he is leaving Stannard as a resident. He shared that the majority of his work was related to ensuring dog registrations and rabies vaccinations were current, and sometimes addressing citizen disputes.

A long silence followed discussion of what the position entailed and no nominees were brought before the assembly for several minutes. Robert Small was ultimately nominated, then voted in as constable, contingent on his acceptance, to serve out the remaining one-year term left by Nott’s resignation.

Steve Pickard ended his term on the select board and readily encouraged another resident to step up to serve, given his lack of year-round availability. Katy Knuth resigned from her position as auditor so she could receive the floor’s nomination for the select board. She was subsequently approved for that position by the voters.

Johanna Polsenberg offered to serve the remaining two years on Knuth’s auditor term and was elected into that position. Simon Cohen was voted in to serve the remainder of a three-year term previously vacated on the town’s school board. The slate of officers remained otherwise unchanged.

Jan Lewandoski summarized the state of the town’s infrastructure in 2023, having just emerged from flooding that created widespread impacts on roads. “We had a lot of troubled water this year,” Lewandoski said.

A bridge on the Stannard Mountain Road required temporary repairs to be passable again after an isolated flooding event in June at an expense of approximately $30,000. State funding covered expenses related to the repairs in a 90-10 split with the town, according to the select board. A permanent replacement will be several years in the making. The town experienced extensive damage in early July flooding as well.

Throughout the summer, additional repairs were made in order to make roads passable again, which required the town to borrow $600,000 to cover labor and materials needed for the project.

$434,923.79 of expenses were listed as an approximate otherwise unbudgeted cost to the town, as it awaits federal and state reimbursement from the disaster. Treasurer Regina Troiano has followed up with FEMA multiple times to ascertain a timeline for reimbursement and found the representatives assigned work with the town were no longer in those positions. Additional meetings with FEMA representatives on the matter are scheduled.

Select board member Ben Hewitt reported having done mapping with road foreman Kyle Hall on all of the sites of concern and that inspections from FEMA were complete with reimbursement expected to come soon.

Troiano believed that the town would still be responsible for some of the expense, as a preliminary projection she viewed showed the town receiving closer to $360,000 in federal and state dollars. “At some point, it is going to cost,” she said.

In the interim, real-time amendments rolled into the town’s highway budget to total $236,046.51. This included adding $3,000 in retirement contributions to align with a raised contribution rate, $500 in storm water permitting, and $23,495 in remaining payments on a new backhoe.

In addition to flooding repair work on the town’s roadways, Emily Finnegan from the Caledonia County Natural Resources Conservation District reported that the district worked with Hewittt and Hall to secure grants to improve water quality in the Stannard Brook, a climate-resilient habitat for wild Eastern Brook Trout. This included developing riparian buffers along the waterway, performing a road erosion inventory, and identifying culverts for upgrades. One of those culverts on the Hutchins Farm Road was replaced this past summer.

The amendment came forward for the select board budget, adding another $100 to the appropriation for the Greensboro Free Library, for a total of $68,579. The total municipal budget of $304,625.51 was unanimously passed by voters, up from $264,451.41 last year.

Voters unanimously voted to approve the $289,429 school district budget, that covers tuitioning students from the town outside of the K-6 Mountain View Union School District jurisdiction. School board member Chris Kurdek reported that despite the volatility in other towns related to property tax impacts, Stannard was able to maintain their rate with a slight overall increase of $11.40 per $100,000 of property value.

Kurdek was made aware that some recent changes to the budget might actually lower the expenditures slightly, but recommended the budget be voted as presented. School board members credited Act 127, which adjusted the school funding formula and helped provide stability to this year’s proposed tax rate, compared to those of other towns.

It was briefly mentioned that polls were open for voting on the Mountain View Union Elementary School District’s budget and a non-binding referendum that asks voters whether they would recommend the Lakeview Campus of the MVUESD be closed. Results of that voting are to be commingled with ballots from other towns within the district and reported separately.

Tyler is our weather reporter and a community journalist. He works as a nurse and EMT, volunteers with Hardwick Rescue and helps to train new EMTs.

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