Library gets trustees after 117 years
by Laini Fondiller
WESTFIELD — Dear Reader, a week ago I received an email from my good friend Joseph. He needed someone to report on the Westfield Town Meeting as he had no one who could cover it for the paper. I reluctantly agreed, letting him know that I can hardly write a proper email let alone a report. Being desperate, he found that not to be an issue and that he was an editor and encouraged me to carry on.
On Tuesday, Jacque Couture, our longtime select board member brought the meeting to order beginning with the Pledge of Allegiance. Following that, he asked for a show of hands from those that were attending a Westfield Town Meeting for the first time. Many hands were raised and he thanked the first-timers for coming.
In order to proceed, a moderator was needed. Pat Saqui, our current moderator was nominated and re-elected unanimously.
First article of the day was to elect a director to the Westfield school board as Kevin Amyot was retiring after 12 years. Mary Gagne was nominated and elected. The next order of business was to elect a Westfield representative to the North Country Supervisory Union board one year of three-year term position that had been vacated. Mr. Amyot was nominated and voted in.
Before proceeding any further, Anne Lazor was presented with a lovely bouquet in recognition of her six years of service on the select board, as she had announced that she would be stepping down and would not seek reelection.
The meeting proceeded to article 4 — which was to approve the Jay/Westfield school budget. There was a 6 percent increase from 2022. Mr. Amyot explained the increase comes from salaries, insurance, administrative and heating (which was up 22 percent). There was a ballot vote and the budget was passed by a margin of 41 in favor and 9 opposed.
With that work done, the moderator adjourned the school district meeting and moved on to the Town Meeting Warning.
Before hearing the reports of the town offices, Sue Scott asked to address the issue of the empty congregational church in the village. It was decided to proceed with this item of business and Denis Lister was asked speak on the church’s behalf.
He said the church was built by the town in 1905 and 1906. The cost was $33,000. $30,000 for the building and $3000 for the land it sits on.
The church’s membership has declined to eight members and the congregation has had no minister for several years. So, the building was offered to the town.
Discussion opened and covered the areas of recent repairs, current issues, parking etc. Finally, after many opinions were heard, voters decided to form a committee to look into the pros and cons of the town taking ownership of the church.
The committee’s findings will presented to the select board which will then make the final decision. A sign-up sheet was passed around to see who would be willing to be on the committee.
Next piece of business was to elect important town positions. The results were: first constable, Jerry Bouchard; second constable, Mike Piper; delinquent tax collector, Joyce Crawford; lister, Danny Young; and finally, a select board member to replace Ms. Lazor.
There were two nominations — Dennis Vincent and Jennifer Grace. Both accepted the nomination and a ballot vote proceeded. The result was Mr. Vincent 38 votes and Ms. Grace 13.
Ms. Lazor then asked to address an issue that she felt had long been neglected and needed to be resolved. She said the Westfield library ( also build around 1906) has not had a board of trustees for perhaps decades (if ever, there was some speculation about the matter). Ms. Lazor said a board is needed in order to work with the Vermont Department of Libraries (VDL).
The library, for one thing, has never had a trained librarian overseeing the workings and management of the facility. As long as anyone could remember it has been operated by local paid staff who have done their best. With a board of trustees the VDL could work with this board to hire a trained librarian and increase the functioning of the library.
It was decided to nominate five trustees. The result was: a one-year term to Theresa Rudolph; a two-year term to Ms. Grace; a three-year term to Elizabeth Bechick; a four-year term to Karen Blair, and a five-year term to Jenn Stelma.
Mark Higley, our representative to the Vermont House, was given the floor to present his legislative work and the legislation that is going on down at the State House.
One of the committees he is on, is working on cannabis regulation, propagation, licensing, and sports betting. The most important issue is the tainted cannabis that had sickened some folks a few months back. It was found to have had pesticide residue. This is not allowed and the result will be more required testing.
Other legislation he presented was the Affordable Heat Act, which he said will result in higher fuel costs. This brought up concerns from voters as to where the electricity would come from to switch from fossil fuel to electric.
Representative Higley said he is trying to address this issue before it goes to a vote. It is a concern for him also and remains to be determined. Other bills on the floor are paid family leave to a cost of an estimated $2 million, bill S.5 the Child Care Bill with an estimated $179-$279-million dollar cost and bill H.165 the free lunch program which was funded federally during COVID and now will be paid for by the state should it get put into law. The last of those bills could perhaps raise property taxes if passed.
There was little discussion from this report as folks were absorbing this info, it seemed. The moderator thanked Mr. Higley for coming in and he told voters to please get a hold of him if they want more information.
The meeting then proceeded to the town’s many appropriations. There were 27 requests. All but one were approved and one was increased and amended.
Following all these votes, the issue of ambulance service was brought to the floor. With a change of an ambulance provider, Mr. Couture said the town would be in fine hands with the Newport Ambulance Service. The town budget for emergency medical coverage will remain the same and the coverage, efficiency, and care would be preserved.
The town budget was presented and approved with little discussion.
The final vote of the day before voting to adjourn was to authorize payment of property taxes on October 10, 2023, by physical delivery before 4 p.m. Town Clerk LaDonna Dunn said that if checks are mailed to the clerk’s office the check needs to be there by this date. Mail/checks received after this date and even with a postmark of the of the tenth would still be delinquent and accessed an 8 percent penalty. The article was approved by a unanimous vote.
And then one last topic before adjourning was the issue of speeding vehicles on North Hill Road. There was a lot of agreement on this and one dissenting opinion. The select board agreed about this speeding problem and said it will try to address it.
The meeting was then adjourned.