by Matthew Wilson
DERBY LINE — Derby voters gathered at the Derby Elementary School here Monday night and after a brief discussion adopted the town and Derby school budgets.
At the start of the meeting, Derby residents took time to recognize Curt Brainard for his many years of service to their town. Mr. Brainard’s photo appeared on the dedication page of the 2022 Town Report and Moderator Frank Davis asked everyone to give Mr. Brainard special thanks. Mr. Brainard rose to a standing ovation from his neighbors.
Select board member Brian Smith, who also represents Derby in the House of Representatives, spoke about his work on the committee on Environment and Energy.
“Write some of these numbers down, because they’re important,” Mr. Smith said, before going on to address a number of bills he thought may affect people living in Derby. Mr. Smith spoke of a hazardous waste bill and another piece of legislature intended to reduce roadside litter. “You’re going to be paying an extra five cents for a juice box or a bottle,” Mr. Smith said. “They’re good cleanup bills.”
Mr. Smith also spoke about a bill meant to preserve the natural landscape. “They’re calling it the 30-30 and 50-50 bill,” he said. The state wants to preserve 30 percent of the land by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050. Right now, the Northeast Kingdom is at 43 perfect in 2023, so it’s kind of a moot point for us up here but Chittenden County is only 8 percent preserved. I suggested to the committee that they do a little bit of work around Lake Champlain to get them to put a little more effort into their cleanup.”
The last piece of legislation that Mr. Smith wanted to talk about was S.5.
“I call it the Unaffordable Heat Act,” Mr. Smith said. “They want to electrify cars and heating in the state. If this bill passes the way it is, all of us in here are going to be paying a lot more for fuel, diesel fuel, and it’s gonna put loggers out of business.”
He explained further, saying that the bill was amended to include a study and in January of 2025 the bill would be revisited.
“This bill is essentially dead now,” Mr. Smith said, thanking Senators Russ Ingalls and Bobby Starr for the work they’ve done to halt the measure.
Members of the town’s school board then gave a Powerpoint presentation about the budget, highlighting the major costs. The primary factors influencing the school’s budget this year include an increase in staffing costs as well as healthcare costs. There was little discussion of the education budget, but one resident was curious to know if the school board had considered any green initiatives, particularly solar or electric buses.
Members of the board said that they had not, they tend to keep their focus on immediate needs such as upcoming sewer maintenance that will be required in coming years.
Mr. Smith spoke about the idea of electric buses. “When I was on the transportation committee last year, we had a gentleman from the Transportation Department boosting up electric school buses and he said we have ordered for the state of Vermont 25 school buses,” he said. “Living in the Northeast Kingdom, it does get cold and we’ve got children who get on these buses and they have to travel twenty miles or more. You turn a heater on in an electric bus and it’s not going to last long. He told me that they’ve solved that problem. They put furnaces on the roof of these buses. I asked him how they’re going to power these furnaces and he said it’ll either be fueled with propane or diesel. The electric school buses are probably great in Pasadena, California, or Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but they’re not that great up here in the Kingdom. Right now, I don’t think they’re advanced enough to take the cold.”
Mr. Davis went through a few of the appropriations before select board member Karen Chitamber moved to have the articles combined in a single measure. Some small discussion was made over the appropriations. One resident asked who was managing funds to combat Eurasian milfoil in Derby Pond. Another question was about an increase in the cemetery’s funding. Mr. Brainard, who has been Cemetery Commissioner since 1980, explained that they had hired another employee and raised wages. All the appropriations passed, for a total of $173,512.89.
The town budget quickly passed. Residents decided to spend $2,964,457.71 for the services Derby requires.