Castleton bond vote talk creates a buzzBy Darren Marcy
Staff Writer | January 20,2014CASTLETON — For more than a week, social media and discussion around town have focused on an alleged threat by supporters of the town office building renovation against the fire department if firefighters didn’t stop opposing the bond to renovate the building.
But the two men at the focus of the stories both say there was no threat and one says it may have all been a misunderstanding.
Fire Chief Heath Goyette, who is also a town employee, was running a Bobcat compact tractor near the Birdseye Diner when John Rehlen, a vocal supporter of the renovation plans, came out to talk to him.
Both men agree on the conversation to a point.
During the meeting, Rehlen asked Goyette if the town’s volunteer fire department was going to actively oppose the renovation bond, which will be voted on Jan. 28, and Goyette said the department had no official stance on the issue and wouldn’t be opposing or supporting the measure.
Goyette also said individual firefighters had their personal opinions, but the department was staying neutral.
“When the fire house was done and we had our own project to work on, I wanted nothing more to do with the town office debate,” Goyette said. “I said, ‘I haven’t even made up my mind which way I’m going to vote on it.’ I said to him, ‘as you well know, there’s a couple of the members who have been very vocal about 556. They do not represent the fire department as a whole.’”
Rehlen said he has no problem with individuals standing up for what they believe in.
“Any individual can do whatever they want,” Rehlen said. “I have no concern about that. That’s their individual right.”
Rehlen said the confusion likely stemmed from his statement to Goyette about a group he is part of that opposed the previous effort to put the town office with the fire department on Route 30.
Rehlen is part of the Supporters of Castleton Town Office Renovation group and Rehlen said he wanted Goyette to know that the opposition was to the town office part of the project, not the fire station.
But Goyette heard it differently.
He left the conversation believing Rehlen had said his group was going to oppose the fire station’s Act 250 permit.
“I didn’t take it as a threat. I just took it as, I was being advised it was going on,” Goyette said. “I went to the town manager and told him there might be opposition.”
Rehlen said there has been no discussion about opposing the fire station’s Act 250 permit among his group of 556 supporters.
“Absolutely not, period,” Rehlen said Friday. “Our group has always been focused on 556 Main St. The vocal opposition of 556 Main St. have tarred us with opposition to the new fire house. Most of us voted for the new fire house. Our opposition has always been to moving the town office.”
Goyette said he’s worried about people believing that he or the fire department is choosing sides.
“I really don’t want to be in the middle of this,” Goyette said. “I just got my 25-year pin as a firefighter. I don’t want any problems.”
And Goyette said because he works for the town, he tries to stay out of politics and out of the spotlight.
“I’ve got a wife and three kids,” he said.
Rehlen praised Goyette.
“I like Heath, and I think he’s doing a great job,” Rehlen said. “He has really kept (the fire department) on a high plane.”
Both men say working together for the good of the town should be the goal.
“What the town really needs is working together to get something done, not beating on each other,” Goyette said.
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