Town Meeting

Barton Town Meeting

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Voters approve new police contract

by Joseph Gresser

BARTON—Voters ended an impasse between the town and the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department at Town Meeting on the evening of March 5.  The town hasn’t had a contract with the department, nor any formal agreement to provide police protection with another agency, since 2020, when negotiations with Sheriff Jennifer Harlow broke off.

There was little drama in the resolution, as voters approved spending $95,160 for 30 hours a week of coverage in the town and its two villages.  Orleans had earlier contracted with the department to provide police services in just its territory.

Voters also allowed the select board to sell up to $850,000 in bonds to pay for a new town garage.  Select board chair Jeff Cota said the town is currently putting aside $100,000 a year to pay for a much-needed replacement for the current garage.  If the bond ends up being as much as $850,000, the annual payment will be $60,000, a $40,000 annual savings, he said.

It is possible that Barton will have to borrow less.  Applicants for money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program must show they have bond authority before they can get a grant to help pay for a civic amenity.  It is possible that voters will be on the hook for much less than the full amount.

Mr. Cota said the new garage will measure 60 by 120 feet, be able to hold all the town’s equipment, and have decent amenities for the road crew.

The last was a powerful argument at this year’s meeting, the town report was dedicated to town road workers, who faced a daunting task in making Barton thoroughfares passable after the devastating flooding last July.

At present there is no hot water in the garage, the bathroom is a makeshift plywood add-on, and equipment must be taken outside for maintenance work.

In general, voters appeared to be in a generous mood.  All appropriations passed as presented with the exception of the one to provide support for the town’s two libraries, the Barton Public Library and, in Orleans, the Jones Memorial Library.  Instead of voting the $19,000 per library proposed in the warning, the town voted to raise its level of support to $22,000 per library.

There was one major change this year.  Longtime Moderator Bill Davies decided to hang up his gavel and did not seek reelection.

As the meeting began, Jesse Coe said he was taken by surprise Tuesday when, just before its start, Barton Town Clerk and Treasurer Kristin Atwood asked him to consider taking over the job.

When Ms. Atwood told the 75 or so citizens assembled in the Lake Region Union High School cafeteria, that Mr. Davies, her father,  had decided not seek reelection to the post, she also said he would not be attending the meeting.

“I think he’s shy and doesn’t want to see you cry,” she said.

For his part Mr. Coe said he was surprised by the request to take on leadership of the meeting, and said the only preparation he was able to do was retrieving his glasses from his rig.

His modesty did not deter the people of Barton from voting him in before he had time to reconsider.

Things were a little rocky in the early going, but with a little coaching from Ms. Atwood, Mr. Coe began to get the hang of moderating.

Barton’s voters made it easy on him going through the early articles without much discussion or any dissension.

When questions were raised later on, Mr. Coe was ready to field them and find the best person to answer them.  It was clear he had it figured out late in the meeting when a beverage cooler’s compressor starting up and made it hard for some to hear the speakers.

“You can unplug that if you want,” Mr. Coe told those near the machine.

When someone asked if it would really be okay to do that, Mr. Coe showed his mettle and said it would be.

“Hey,” he told them, “I’m the moderator.”

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