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Morgan Town Meeting — Next act for old school considered

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by Paul Lefebvre

MORGAN — About 40 residents turned out for the Annual Town Meeting Monday night held here at the E. Taylor Hatton Elementary School.

At some point the fate of the building itself arose during an informal discussion on how the former school will be used after its present tenant leaves in August.

“Our intention is to use the building in a similar fashion,” advised Board Chairman Eric Pope.

The Turning Points School is moving to Newport because of expenses and because of water contamination issues, a continuing issue that has also adversely affected other properties in town.

Board chairman Pope said the town presently is looking at three alternative sites for sources of water, including a spring and a well.  He offered no plans as to how the former schoolhouse will be used, but the board reiterated its commitment to find the building a new tenant.

The meeting lasted roughly an hour.  No one objected to the ten articles before voters, and incumbent town officers won re-election, running opposed.  Among them was Mr. Pope for a three-term on the select board, as well as a three-year term as school director for Tammy LaCourse.  TammyLee Morin was returned for three-year terms each as town clerk and town treasurer.

Nearly $10,000 in appropriations was passed for non-profit organizations.  The Orleans Essex VNA and Hospice garnered the highest appropriation at $3,000; while nearly $1,500 was awarded Northeast Kingdom Human Services.  Closer to home the Dailey Memorial Library received $1,200, while $1,000 was awarded the Morgan Historical Society.

Voters will vote by Australian ballot Tuesday on three education-spending articles.  They include the North Country Union High School budget; the junior high school budget; and the North Country Career Center budget.

The proposed budget for North Country Supervisory Union is slightly over $2 million.

Not surprisingly, what appeared to be the most controversial issue discussed Monday was never brought to a vote.  The question of whether to return to a traditional Town Meeting held during the day on the first Tuesday in March was discussed and left open for future negotiations.  No action was taken because a vote Monday night would have been non-binding and have no legal effect since the proposal was not listed as an article on the 2023 Warning.

Discussion was initiated by Selectman Pope who said the board had been having discussions on bringing back Town Meeting “to the way it used to be done.”  He added an article to that effect could not be placed on the Warning before 2025.  Debate is likely to dog the proposed return.

Annual Town Meetings are woven into the fabric of Vermont history, and citizens of Morgan and elsewhere are known to tread softly when considering change.  One resident, Roger Stoddard, who works during the day, noted a night meeting allows him to participate in town affairs.

Another taxpayer questioned a return to a schedule that in years past was thought to accommodate farmers during their slow time of year.

Voters Monday approved a $679,622 budget to meet town expenses, and agreed to pay an increase for services provided by the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department.  The town will pay the department an annual sum of $24,128, a hike from last year’s appropriation of $22,929.  The town will also erect four flashing digital signs to alert motorists traveling through town of posted speed limits.

Newly elected State Representative Larry Labor, also a Morgan select board member, warned voters of bills pending before the Legislature that he said will increase heating and fuel costs.  He said he supports  electric, battery charged vehicles, but questioned if the vehicles can be effectively used in rural Vermont.

NOTE:  This post was edited to correct an error.  We originally said Tammy LaCourse was elected treasurer and clerk.  TammyLee Morin, in fact, retained both posts.

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