by Matthew Wilson
HOLLAND — The roads were snowy Saturday morning, but that didn’t stop the people of Holland from conducting their annual Town Meeting. Members of the community heard from their state representative, who shared information about a few bills moving through the Legislature that he thinks may affect rural Vermonters. Town residents also decided to use surplus roadway money to establish a reserve fund to help pay for a needed town garage. They also discussed whether or not to go back to having a Tuesday meeting next year.
Representative Larry Labor of neighboring Morgan spoke to the gathering ahead of its regular business. He first mentioned bill H.23, which would change state law so active voters get a mail-in ballot upon request rather than automatically.
Mr. Labor said its intent is to make sure people only vote once in the place where they are legally registered.
“You’ve got three stovepipes in the state,” he said. “The clerk’s offices, post offices, and the secretary of state.” Mr. Labor said it would make things simpler to have the ballots sent only upon request to keep offices from receiving invalid mail-in ballots.
“If the town clerk is doing their due diligence, that won’t happen,” Town Clerk Diane Judd said, before explaining how the system by which the ballot is sent out is designed to keep a void ballot from going to its recipient.
Mr. Labor then talked about a Right to Repair Act designed to allow people the right to fix their electronics. Specialized electronics usually must be sent away to authorized repair services when they break because access to schematics are guarded.
“Turns out tractors have a lot of electronics,” he said. The bill, if it becomes law, will allow farmers to maintain their machines rather than having to wait for a dealership to send a technician.
The last piece of legislature Mr. Labor wished to bring to the people’s attention was the Clean Heat Standard Act. The bill is intended to reduce reliance on fossil fuels to help cut pollution.
Mr Labor said that if the bill passes the price of gas is estimated to rise by 70 cents a gallon.
“These things are going to have a zero climate impact from 650,000 people in Vermont,” he said.
Once Mr. Labor was done, the meeting moved on to Holland’s regular business.
No major changes were made in town officials. Andrew Bouchard retained his seat on the select board on Jennifer Harlow’s nomination. A few members of the community volunteered to be on the planning commission, but it seemed that no one wanted to deal with Holland’s trash as nobody stepped forward for the solid waste district representative position.
The budget — $849,843.23 — passed quickly, but that wasn’t the only large financial issue on the agenda for the day.
Select board member Trevor Gray told residents that some years there is a surplus at the end of the year. In the past that exra money has been used to offset the cost of paving or lower taxes. Mr. Gray suggested that the town use such money to establish a reserve fund to help to pay for a new town garage.
“A lot of our equipment is parked outside right now,” he said. “Expensive equipment. The measure attracted no opposition, and the fund was started with the $79,726 left over from 2022.
Scheduling next year’s meeting stirred up a lot of discussion. One citizen said that while it seemed the Saturday scheduling had drawn a larger crowd in 2022, the crowd present for the meeting was small this year.
“I can remember having 120 to 130 people here,” town resident Ernie Emmerson said. Whether due to inclement weather or the scheduling, only 37 people attended the meeting.
Tom Scherer, another resident, said that he felt a meeting earlier in the day was harder for people with jobs to attend. Some conversation centered on holding the meeting later in the evening as other towns do. It was suggested that Monday night may be a good option, but that was quickly shot down.
Eventually, a motion to return the meeting to Tuesday was put forward. A voice vote was too close to call and raised hands produced a difference of only three votes.
Mr. Bouchard suggested that the vote go to a paper ballot. In the end, 19 people voted to move the meetings back to Tuesday, with 14 voting for different options.