copyright the Chronicle July 9, 2014
by Joseph Gresser
BARTON — Proponents of opening some Barton roads to all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) traffic may have gotten the vote they wanted, but they were disappointed in the ultimate result. About 50 residents showed at the Barton Municipal Building at 1 p.m. Tuesday, for a special Town Meeting called in response to a petition signed by 115 town voters.
The only item of business on the agenda was the question of whether Class Three and Four roads should be open to ATVs.
Selectmen Paul Sicard and Terry Nye were seated at a table on the stage of the theater along with Moderator William May and Town Clerk Kristin Atwood. At precisely 1 p.m. Mr. May called the meeting to order and asked if everyone in the room could hear him.
When the answer from many was no, Mr. May invited everyone to sit closer to the front of the hall. The modest laugh that engendered was the last sound of good humor heard at the meeting.
Mr. May read the warning, told the assembled citizens the vote was being held for advisory purposes only, and called for a vote without first asking for discussion.
One observer judged by the sound of the response that those in favor of opening the roads outnumbered those against by a margin of about three to one.
“The ayes have it,” Mr. May declared.
With the business at hand attended to, Mr. May called for a motion to adjourn.
One was heard, but at the same time Jeff Harper, one of the authors of the petition that resulted in the meeting, objected.
Mr. May recognized Mr. Harper.
“I have two questions for the selectmen,” he said. “Now that this has been passed, what action do you plan to take, and how soon?”
“The board has taken no action,” Mr. Sicard, who is chairman of the Barton Selectmen, said. “We have heard the vote.”
“A lot of people took the day off to come here at 1 p.m. on a Tuesday,” Mr. Harper continued.
“Me, too,” said Mr. Sicard. “You gave us a petition, we answered the petition by what we’re required to do by law.”
After the meeting Mr. Harper said he remained unsatisfied by the result.
“We were going to amend the article to open Class Two, Three and Four roads,” he said, noting that the unpaved part of Burton Hill Road is a Class Two highway.
He said he thought the will of the people was made clear at the meeting.
“I don’t think they represent us,” Mr. Harper said of the selectmen.
“It was an effort in futility,” said Jeff Cota.
“They didn’t give us a chance to discuss anything,” Mr. Harper said.
Mr. Cota suggested the next meeting should be devoted to removing the selectmen from office.
While Mr. Harper stood in the audience speaking with a couple of reporters, Mr. Sicard was on stage talking the meeting over.
“We don’t control the village roads,” he said. If townspeople want to be able to gas their ATVs up they’ll have to petition the Orleans and Barton village trustees, he said.
He suggested the organizers of the petition had adopted a faulty strategy.
“They should have held an informational meeting,” Mr. Sicard said. At such a meeting the issue could have been discussed fully.
Asked what the selectmen will do with the results of the meeting, he was noncommittal.
“We saw the vote, we’ll see what happens. I imagine we’ll probably discuss the vote.”
Mr. Sicard pointed out that Vermont law gives the selectmen the authority to set rules for the use of town roads. Voters cannot make such decisions themselves, he said.
“I personally feel you guys are going to go back and say eh,” Donna Perron told Mr. Sicard. “When you do, think of snowmobiles.”
Snowmobiles, she pointed out, have trails and are able to move more freely than ATVs.
Mr. Nye agreed. He said he can’t ride his ATV unless he gets permission from his neighbors to use their land.
Ms. Perron suggested that the selectmen speak with their counterparts in other towns that have allowed ATV traffic on their roads.
Mr. Sicard seemed uninterested in the idea.
Asked if he personally opposes allowing ATVs on town roads, Mr. Sicard professed neutrality.
“I have no opinion,” he said. “We haven’t discussed it.”
The Barton Selectmen will have their next opportunity to talk about the issue at their regularly scheduled meeting on July 21 at 7 p.m.
contact Joseph Gresser at [email protected]