Select Board race sees many contenders
By Dan Colton
Staff Writer | February 15, 2016
PROCTOR — Three Select Board members each face one challenger on Town Meeting Day.
The slate of challengers said they’re running on the collective platform of change and financial reform.
“The three (challengers) who are running, we are all working together,” said Carol Grace, a former selectwoman who was first elected in 1997, served two consecutive terms and was the town’s first female Select Board member. “We’ve all been paying attention, and we just realized there needs to be change. And, being that the three of us have really been paying attention, we all know we’re on the same page.”
Grace, who is launching a campaign against Selectman Bruce Baccei for a three-year term, said she takes issue with the board’s handling of finances. The town leases a Highway Department salt shed for $1,600 a year, an expense that Grace said is frivolous because the town previously allocated funds to construct its own shed.
Stan Wilbur, town manager, said the town has a salt shed fund but some of the money has been used for engineering studies. The fund amounts to $89,026, and Wilbur was able to find documents that traced the fund back as far as Oct. 1, 2007.
Baccei, the incumbent facing Grace, said negativity directed at the board holds the town back.
“It does make (progress) hard where there is a lot of negativity around,” Baccei said. “I would rather see that people … see us on PEG-TV and see we’re working … for the town to make it operate as efficiently as it can.”
After years of zero-funded infrastructure repairs, Baccei said measurable progress has been made as the Select Board proposes a budget with more than a 6 percent increase.
“We’ve got to take care of some of the things — some of the roads, some of the water and sewer lines,” he said.
He said other areas of town have grown, including the Vermont Marble Museum and the introduction of a College of St. Joseph nursing program.
In November, the Select Board proposed an $800,000 bond to move the town’s office into the former Omya lab building and share the space and costs with the CSJ. Voters rejected the proposal 208-50 in a ballot vote, and many skeptics said the board was unprepared and unaccountable.
Jeffrey Durkee, who was appointed to the board last year after Dick Horner abruptly resigned, faces a challenge from Joe Manning. The seat’s term is one year to complete the two-year term Horner began.
Durkee, defending his seat, said he’s concerned with keeping Proctor affordable for families such as his own. A father and coordinator at the Vermont Achievement Center, he’s concerned with shaving down the 6.23 percent budget increase because, he said, Proctor’s taxes keep young families from moving in. Young people are more likely to move out of town, he said, and he says lowering the cost of living would be an effective lure.
“I want to keep that voice in it,” he said in reference to his municipal goals.
Durkee said he still considers himself a novice, and pays close attention to how other board members conduct business.
“I’ve still got a lot to learn,” Durkee said.
His challenger, Manning, said he is qualified to serve on the board because of a background in finance.
“My background and experience, I think, will benefit the town,” Manning said. “I think the biggest issue is keeping the tax rate low. I think it’s being done, but I think more could be done.”
Manning declined to comment further.
Susan Feenick is challenging the board’s chairman for a two-year seat. She has previously served a three-year term.
Feenick, a retired business owner and current Pico employee, said the board isn’t accountable for its actions.
The Select Board recently became aware of a $100,000 or more surplus within its Highway Department. Feenick said the money could have been used for tax reduction if it were discovered earlier.
“They were saying they could not afford to pay to plow the school parking lots anymore,” Feenick said. “They were saying they didn’t have any money and that the School Board was going to have to put their parking lots out to bid.”
Wilbur, Proctor town manager, said the School Board paid the town $2,000 per season to plow the two schools’ parking lots. But the road crew was recently cut from six to three, he said, and the Select Board wasn’t certain the manpower existed to continue the school work. But when the School Board offered an extra $1,000, he said, the board changed its mind and accepted the job.
Feenick takes issue with that, she said.
“It’s all coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets,” Feenick said. “I have been going to a lot of the meetings and watching a lot of them on TV, and there are a lot of questions that get asked. There are no answers, so there seems to be a huge lack of responsibility.”
William Champine, the board’s chairman, is running to retain his seat against Feenick. He’s a retired construction worker and military veteran.
It’s Champine’s third consecutive bid after serving two terms back-to-back. He said the recently discovered surplus money can still be incorporated into the proposed budget, but that some should be saved for emergencies.
“There’s a lot of things I started, and I need more time to take and finish,” Champine said, including installation of water infrastructure around town, a bicycle path and the acquisition of Beaver Pond.
He said claims of the board’s unaccountability and irresponsibility aren’t accurate.
“A lot of these people that complain, I hate to say it, but you have that in every town,” he said. “The main thing is, we try to improve our structure that we have, for piping, water, sewer — the infrastructure hasn’t’ been maintained like it should’ve. It’s something that should’ve been done years ago.”
Voters elect board members on Town Meeting Day, March 1.
City races shape up at filing deadline
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | January 27,2015
A Rutland man is running for mayor, alderman and city assessor.
Kam Johnston filed petitions Monday to seek all three seats.
“I’m willing to serve the city, and I think I have attributes that would work in any of them,” he said. “While I realize it would be a stretch to be mayor, I think that would give me a platform to get known.”
For mayor, he joins a field already occupied by incumbent Christopher Louras and fellow-challenger Alderman David Allaire. For city assessor, he challenges incumbent Barry Keefe. For alderman, he joins nine candidates seeking six seats.
Johnston made an unsuccessful bid for alderman last year. He said he recognized there was a risk this year’s strategy might keep some voters from taking him seriously, but he felt the increase in exposure justified the risk.
“If I’m not willing to spend the money on yard signs and Facebook, I hope people will take the time to look me up so I don’t have to send them a mailer to be a serious candidate,” he said.
In the unlikely chance he wins all three seats, Johnston said he would prefer to serve as mayor, and that he would take the assessor’s position over alderman, though he was not sure if holding the latter two positions simultaneously was forbidden.
Allaire, who is president of the Board of Aldermen, unsuccessfully challenged Louras in 2013.
This is the first time in recent memory Keefe has faced a challenge. He did not return a call seeking comment late Monday afternoon.
The Board of Aldermen will have at least two new members. Appointee Abby Brodowski and incumbent Jon Kiernan both decided not to run again. Appointee Matt Bloomer and incumbents Melinda Humphrey, Tom DePoy and Ed Larson are all seeking new terms.
Among the challengers, Kam Johnston is joined by his mother, Marge Johnston, who also mounted an unsuccessful campaign last year, perennial candidate Dan White and political newcomers Jon Skates and Chris Ettori.
Rutland County races take shape
STAFF REPORT | January 27,2015
Some residents heading out to vote on Town Meeting Day will find a ballot full of races while others will find few choices.
The following is a look at candidates running for contested offices in towns around the county:
Brandon — Incumbents Ethan Swift and Doug Bailey will face Dennis Reisenweaver for two one-year seats on the Select Board. Seth Hopkins, a member of the Budget Committee, will face Richard Baker, former chairman of the Select Board, for the remaining two years of Maria Ammatuna’s Select Board seat. Incumbent Town Moderator and School Moderator Arthur Doty will run against Hanford “Skip” Davis for the two positions.
Castleton — Joseph F. Bruno is running unopposed for a three-year term. Bruno has a one-year seat on the Select Board but is now running for the seat held by Thomas Ettori who is not running for re-election in March. For a one-year term on the board, incumbent Robert “Bob” Spaulding is running against challengers Jim Leamy and Zack S. Holzworth. Neither Leamy nor Holzworth is an incumbent, but Leamy has served on the board in the past. Town Clerk Katy Thornblade, who has been clerk for nine years, is not seeking re-election. Nedra A. Boutwell is running unopposed for the position.
Chittenden — Deborah A. Singiser and Elana Svoren are running for the three-year position of School Board director.
Clarendon — Incumbent Selectman Arthur Knox will face off against former Planning Commission member Marjorie White Southard for a two-year term on the Select Board.
Danby — Michelle Bushee, Margot Stone, and Douglas R. White will face off to fill a two-year unexpired treasurer position. Janice Arnold, the current town clerk, and Selectwoman Hope Blucher will compete for a three-year Select Board term. Chip White, chairman of the Select Board, will face Byron Battease and Steve Haines for a two-year Select Board term. Colleen Battease, J. Cassandra Bender, and Terry Parker will compete to be the delinquent tax collector. Charles O. Davis, Thomas O’Brien, and Maureen Staples will compete for a one-year lister job.
Fair Haven — There are three candidates for two open one-year seats, Richard “Dick” J. Frazier, Sean A. Galvin and Mary McNeil. Incumbent Chris Cole, the board’s chairman, and David Ward are not seeking re-election. For a three-year seat on the Select Board, incumbent Robert J. Richards is being challenged by William Schaumloffel.
Hubbardton — The Select Board is seeing several races. Incumbent Janet Morey is being challenged by John Demgard for a three-year seat. For a one-year term on the Select Board, incumbents Dwayne Gibbs and Richard Grabowski are being challenged by Paul Martel and John Reed. There are two open one-year seats on the board.
Killington — Jim Haff is running against incumbent Chris Bianchi for a three year-term on the Select Board.
Mendon — Rhonda Bates and Erica McLaughlin are both running against incumbent Michelle Erickson for a three-year school board seat.
Middletown Springs — A single challenger is running for two seats on the Select Board. Former Selectman James Webber is running against incumbents Carl Haynes and Terry Redfield for a three-year seat and two-year seat, respectively.
Mount Holly — Three newcomers are competing for a seat on the Select Board left empty by James Heald who stepped down. Ted Crawford, Peter Berger and Brigid Sullivan are vying for the three-year seat.
Pawlet — Three candidates are running for two one-year seats on the Select Board. Incumbents Clarence Decker and Sarah Ludlam are facing a challenge from newcomer Edgar Cleveland.
Pittsfield — The town nominates officers from the floor at town meeting.
Proctor — There are no contested races in town this year. However, just before the 5 p.m. deadline, no candidates were seeking Select Board seats left open by Richard Horner and Vincent Gatti who are both stepping down.
Rutland Town — Two people are competing for the delinquent tax collector position left vacant by Richard Lloyd who retired in April. James Scholtz, who was appointed as tax collector in April, is competing with Christopher Howland for the three-year position. A race on the School Board, meanwhile, will pit two incumbents against each other. Board member Marnie Roussel is facing a challenge for her two-year spot on the board from Nichole McPhee who was appointed last year to fill a vacant three-year seat.
Tinmouth — Andy Gilmore is challenging incumbent Matt Patry for a three-year seat on the Select Board. Kevin Ruane is seeking to unseat 35-year incumbent Road Commissioner Hollis Squire. The position has a two-year term.
Wells — Appointee Mary Haskins and challenger Carole Duquette are vying for a three-year seat on the Board of Listers. On the Select Board, Ward Cyr and Paul Woodruff Jr. are competing for a vacant seat. The Planning Commission has four candidates for a trio of three-year seats — incumbents Edgar Corey and Felix Reed and challengers Paul Woodruff Sr. and Timothy Makepeace.
In the Rutland County towns of Benson, Ira, Mount Tabor, Pittsford, Shrewsbury, Wallingford, West Haven and West Rutland, there are no contested races. Information from Poultney and Sudbury was not available at press time.
In other towns around the region there are five candidates for two one-year positions on the Select Board in Dorset. Incumbents Ryan Downey and Steve Jones are being challenged by Henry L. Chandler, John “Jack” Stannard and Brad Tyler. For Dorset’s School Board, David Chandler, who has a three-year seat on the board, is running unopposed for a two-year term on the board that will be open because incumbent Robert Allen is not seeking re-election. James Mirenda, a newcomer to the School Board, is running unopposed for Chandler’s three-year seat.
Also, in Manchester, Carol Lattuga, an incumbent, is running for a two-year term on the board against newcomer Brian Marthage. For Manchester School Board, Katy McNabb, chairwoman of the School Board, is being challenged for a three-year term by newcomer Jon Wilson.
And in Middlebury, Elaine Hammond and Leslie Bodette will compete for a three-year seat on the ID#4 School Board, which represents Mary Hogan Elementary School.
PEGTV invites all Rutland County individuals interested in declaring their political candidacy for the November 2014 elections, to make their official announcements on our Government Station Channel 21. We are offering a five-minute time slot, either live or pre-taped, to any candidate that wishes to participate. Candidates can also do a 15-minute candidate profile. For more information call the station at 747-0151.