Driveway sand drives discussion
by Natalie Hormilla
GLOVER — Glover residents voted in all but one of their incumbent town officers by a single ballot, and easily passed the proposed budget and all appropriations at Town Meeting this year.
The only incumbent to meet a challenge was select board member Phil Young, who was challenged from the floor. His opponent lost by paper ballot, 60-6.
Town residents also got to have a formal say in choosing their town clerk, Cindy Epinette, who was appointed to replace Jessica Sweeney in 2022, after last year’s Town Meeting. Voters easily agreed on letting Ms. Epinette stay as town clerk. Before voters continued their generally speedy elections process, resident Liz Nelson called for a round of applause for Ms. Sweeney, which the room delivered with enthusiasm.
“Jessica has been with us for 25 years,” said Ms. Epinette, who went on to thank her predecessor more specifically for “her knowledge, her sense of humor, and her snappy comebacks.”
Though elections went quickly, residents discussed plenty of issues — some new, some old — including wake boats on local lakes, the potential for a statewide school board, the possibility of buying land adjacent to the town’s gravel pit, aquatic invasive species, progress with the ongoing work on Shadow Lake Road, and more.
Residents offered comments and questions generously, with some needing reminders to state their name — for the record — even though most everyone in the room knew most everyone’s name. State Representative Katherine Sims — who was on her round of Town Meetings throughout her House district — was clearly impressed with both the turnout and talk at Town Meeting here.
“You guys are so engaged,” she said, after fielding a variety of questions and comments residents aimed her way.
One of the only moments of contention arose when resident John Rodgers asked about the town’s supply of sand.
“There’s been what I consider a change of policy in town recently, and that is blocking access to the sand pile,” Mr. Rodgers said, speaking about the sand pile located adjacent to the town garage. “It’s something that has traditionally been offered to residents to sand their driveways.”
That sand is used to help people keep their driveways safe, Mr. Rodgers said, including senior citizens who now cannot easily access the sand pile since the town put some cement blocks in front of it. Since then people cannot back their trucks right up to the pile, nor can they reach the pile with a tractor bucket.
“I am making the point that if the select board needs to increase the budget so that residents can continue, as they have for my entire lifetime, to get sand to sand their driveways, they can, but in my lifetime I’ve never seen the town run out of sand and for my entire lifetime, residents have been able to get sand,” Mr. Rodgers said.
“The select board is interrogated,” said Moderator Nick Ecker-Racz as he looked toward the board on stage.
Mr. Young was the first selectman to respond. “So, I did speak with our insurance provider yesterday, because I thought it could be a liability issue having people go down into the pit, and they agreed. So I think we will continue to not allow people to get into the pit.
“That said, we can improve accessibility to the driveway sand pit,” Mr. Young said. “That would be my proposal. As far as increasing the budget, I’m not sure about that, but we would intend to keep sand there continuously.”
Selectman David Simmons added that the town just put some more sand there recently.
One resident stood up to express his agreement with Mr. Rodgers that the cement blocks are harmful to people who are just trying to keep themselves and their neighbors safe. That resident said that he’s never heard a complaint about the sand pit before, that he’s 75 years old and has taken sand from that pile all his life, that he takes just five buckets of sand per year to help people, some of whom are in their 80s, and he’s never charged anyone a dime for his services.
He acknowledged that one can still fill a five-gallon bucket with sand, albeit with difficulty, but said that anyone saying so can stick that bucket in a very personal place.
“My question is, what is the liability?” asked resident Dennis Gibson from the front row. “What does the insurance company think exactly can happen down there if someone’s getting 20 shovels of sand?”
“If something were to happen…it could increase insurance costs, then everyone’s taxes go up,” Mr. Young said. “I think it could be helped by improving access to the sand pile.”
Improving access to the sand pile could also address what Mr. Young called “one of the main complaints” he’s heard about the sand pile, which is that someone seeking sand must shovel it off the ground. Maybe there should be two piles of sand sitting there, “so it’s that much taller,” Mr. Young said.
“What was the purpose for the blocks?” asked resident Tyler Scelza.
Road Foreman Mike Pray was on hand to answer the question. “I put the blocks in front of the pile of driveway sand because…the pile disappears before every snowstorm,” he said. “Two or three people in town take it all with their tractors and don’t leave sand for the people who just want a few bucketfuls, which is what it’s intended for.”
Townspeople discussed whether increasing the budget for more sand would help, or if simply increasing accessibility would help.
“I’d be happy with Phil’s suggestion: a higher pile and the blocks gone,” said Mr. Rodgers. “Access to sand you can actually shovel would be an improvement,” he said, before adding that he thinks liability concerns are unfounded. “No one’s ever gotten hurt down there.”
Discussion around access to town sand resulted in no formal action. The town will likely try to make the pile set aside for personal driveway use a bit more accessible to all residents, select board members Leanne Harple and Mr. Young confirmed to the Chronicle as Town Meeting wound up.
Of all the issues discussed by townspeople at Town Meeting, only one resulted in formal action.
“It’s only bothered me for 50 years, so I thought maybe I’d bring it up,” said resident Chris Braithwaite from the back of the room. “I don’t understand why we list in the town report the delinquent taxpayers who are not any longer delinquent because they paid their taxes. It seems like a public shaming.”
Townspeople murmured in instant agreement.
Mr. Ecker-Racz, who was now nearly three hours into moderating the meeting, asked Mr. Braithwaite if he could formalize his thoughts.
“I would propose that we would exclude from the delinquent tax list people who have paid their taxes,” Mr. Braithwaite said.
This motion was met with multiple seconds from the crowd, and one even bolder suggestion: “I would like to eliminate the delinquent tax list altogether,” said resident Carmela Young, from near the front of the hall.
Some discussion ensued — does the list do any good? Would the state be okay with this? — before townspeople unanimously said “aye” to eliminating the delinquent tax list from the annual report.