This Week

Newport City Annual Meeting

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Kevin Charbonneau and Rick Ufford-Chase win

by Kenzie Strange

NEWPORT — Newport’s city council election was one of the most closely watched in Orleans County this Town Meeting Day.  The race hotly contested with five residents competing for two seats, one held by incumbent Kevin Charboneau, the other vacated by retiring City Council President John Wilson.

In total, 815 Newport residents cast their vote to elect council members and vote “yea” or “nay” to the ballot measures proposed.

Four candidates received more than 300 votes apiece. Rick Ufford-Chase had the most, with 379 votes, next Mr. Charbonneau with 358 votes,  was second.  Candidates Andrew Touchette and Laurie Grimm nipped at the frontrunners’ heels.  Mr. Touchette garnered 345 and Ms. Grimm 333.  The fifth candidate, Carl King, had 76 votes at the end of the day.

All five candidates campaigned outside the municipal building greeting community members as they went inside to cast their votes.  It rained all day, and the group weathered weather to advocate for themselves.

“It’s the most relaxed people have been,” Mr. Touchette said about Tuesday’s election day. “We’re all going to sleep very well tonight regardless of who wins. It’s over.”

Mr. Touchette brought a portable canopy tent to keep everyone out of the rain, and community member Jennifer Bjurling brought the campaigners sandwiches, doughnuts, chips, and homemade desserts.

Newport’s Annual Meeting starts on the Monday before Town Meeting Day, and continues until all votes are cast.  Because all Articles are decided by Australian ballot, the only item taken up at the floor meeting was to act on any business that may legally come before the meeting and to adjourn.  That took about three minutes.

Monday night there was an informational meeting about the ballot measures being voted on.

Ballot counting this year took a little longer than last year, as the affiliations of Republican and Democrat primary voters had to be tabulated, and ballot counter Jennifer Hopkins said of the manual counting that “the pages were heavier” and harder to turn and flip, as she was used to the pages “going the other way” in calculating previous elections results.

The voting and counting of ballots took place in the municipal building’s gym.

Mr. Charbonneau lamented how few Newport citizens participate in local democracy.  Out of over 4,000 people who live in Newport, less than a fourth of them came out to vote.

He gave an example from a couple of years ago, when legalizing marijuana businesses was on the ballot, and failed to pass by only 12 votes.

There was no Town Meeting to talk about the pros and cons of having such businesses in Newport, and the cannabis investors didn’t do much advertising for the ballot measure before votes were cast.  As a result, THC users in Newport must travel to Derby, or other towns nearby, to purchase the cannabis they use.

Mr. Charbonneau thinks the measure ought to have passed, and there’s space on the west side of Newport, away from the schools, that would be good places for those businesses to sprout.

Newport’s voters approved all items on the Warning, including a nearly $5-million city budget and $8.2-million for the Newport City Elementary School.

The budgets for North Country Union High School, North Country Union Junior High School, and North Country Career Center also passed.

Voters also passed a measure to pay $110,000 for the city’s portion of operating expenses for the Goodrich Memorial Library.

They sent $11,000 to Rural Community Transportation, $7,000 to assist the Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging, $4,818 for Northeast Kingdom Human Services, $8,500 to support Umbrella Inc., and $3,000 to support Northeast Kingdom Learning Services Inc.

The last measures on the ballot approved include $2,000 for the Pope Memorial Frontier Animal Shelter, $4,000 for the Orleans County Historical Society, $2,000 to support those with developmental disabilities, and $8,000 to support Northeast Kingdom Community Action (NEKCA) to offer food shelf services.

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