WALLINGFORD — A recount held at the Town Office on Monday confirmed that John McClallen defeated incumbent Select Board Chairman Bill Brooks in a race for a three-year Select Board seat.
Town Meeting Day results had McClallen with 190 votes to Brooks’ 180. After the recount, it was found McClallen only won by nine votes.
Town Clerk Julie Sharon said this is the first time she’s had to oversee a recount. Sharon has been town clerk since 2013, and had been the assistant town clerk since 2002. She said she contacted the Secretary of State’s Office to make sure proper procedures were followed after Brooks requested a recount in writing.
Members of the the Board of Civil Authority did the actual counting. The Board of Civil Authority consists of Justices of the Peace and Select Board members. Among them were Judy Edmunds, Gary Fredette, Rose Regula, Nelson Tift, Bruce Duchesne and Lynn Edmunds.
Fredette, Regula, and Tift are sitting Select Board members. Duchesne was recently elected to the Select Board, defeating incumbent Mark Tessier.
Neither Brooks nor McClallen were present for the recount.
McClallen is a longtime resident of Wallingford. He said Monday in a phone interview that he’s been retired for the past nine years, having been a machinist with General Electric for 33 years.
“I don’t think I bring any huge change to the board, I’ll just go there and do the work for the town,” he said.
McClallen said he volunteered in a number of small roles for the town over the years. For years people have been telling him to run for the Select Board, he said, but this was the first year he decided to do so, mainly because he grew tired of going to vote and seeing only uncontested races.
Brooks said Monday he’ll continue to serve on the Development Review Board and the Economic Development Committee, and will be happy to answer questions anyone on the Select Board may have for him.
Tift said Monday that Brooks will be missed on the board, as he was familiar with the workings of town government.
“He is very familiar, he’s on the DRB. He’s a mailman, so he knows everybody in town. He’s a great resource,” said Tift, adding that he doesn’t think McClellan is planning on pushing any major shifts in policy or approach. “I don’t see a large shift. I think John was pretty straight up, he’s not looking to change much of anything.”
Tift said he suspects he’ll be asked to serve as the Select Board’s chairman and will likely accept if offered.
Fredette said he hopes Brooks will serve on the board once more, but also thinks it’s good to have new voice.
“All the times I’ve run, there’s always been uncontested races,” he said. “We’ve got new people interested in being on the board, I think it’s a great thing. I think it’s great to have new ideas.”
He said people often complain about things the board does, but no one ever runs against its members. He said oftentimes people stay on the board for years because they’re worried no one else will step up.
“Now, people are ready to jump in. It’s great,” he said.
The Wallingford Select Board meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Hall every first and third Monday of the month.
MONTPELIER — A bill starts its journey to become a law when it is introduced in the Legislature. Many bills, though, don’t go any further than that.
“Crossover” day is approaching in Montpelier — the date after which bills that have not made it out of whichever committee they were sent to upon introduction stay there, doomed to be discussed no more this legislative session. Several bills that received media attention upon their introduction appear destined for just that fate.
House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, wrote in an email last week that the deadline is March 15, though bills with budget or revenue impacts have to be out of the “money committees” by March 22. However, she also said bills that don’t make the deadline this session aren’t quite dead yet.
“As this is the first of a 2-year biennium, bills that do not meet crossover will still be considered next year,” she wrote. “It’s a deadline with more significant consequences the second year of the biennium, as at the end of the biennium bills that do not become law ‘die’ and the process starts all over again with the new legislature.”
Johnson said the purpose of the deadline is to pace work between the two chambers.
H. 57, the much-discussed abortion rights bill, has cleared the House and is in the Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee. A bill raising the age to buy tobacco products to 21 that started in the Senate cleared that chamber and has passed a third reading in the House. The Senate bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 over a period of five years is out of the Senate and in the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs.
While bills in each chamber on expunging marijuana convictions appear stagnant, the Senate has approved its version of a bill creating a regulatory structure for cannabis. The House’s effort on that subject remains in the General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee.
Some proposals aimed at dealing with less hot-button issues, though, seem to have been pushed aside.
A bill aimed at banning freak shows is sitting in the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs. A measure to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax has yet to emerge from the House Ways and Means Committee. A bill that would ban non-compete clauses in contracts languishes in the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee.
A bill by Sen. Anthony Pollina, D-Washington, to expand the deposit law to all beverages other than rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, hemp seed milk, actual milk and “dairy products,” and to boost the deposit on everything that isn’t liquor from 5 cents to 10 cents, is stuck in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
The Legislature appears to be done with the gun debate, at least for the time being — every new firearm bill introduced is sitting in committee.
That means last year’s restrictions on high capacity magazines won’t likely be reformed by any of the bills introduced early in the session by Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, which would have allowed such magazines to be transferred between family members or brought into the state for shooting competitions. However, also stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee are bills by Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, to establish safe storage requirements and a waiting period while banning 3D printing of guns.
Several House proposals mirrored Baruth’s efforts — a waiting period bill, a negligent storage bill and a safe storage bill all sit in that chamber’s judiciary, along with a bill making it illegal for anyone subject to an abuse prevention order from owning a gun.
Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, attempted to legalize suppressors — more popularly but less accurately known as “silencers” — in an effort to match most other states and protect hunters’ hearing. That bill and a Senate version offered as “an act related to hearing protections while hunting” are stuck in their respective chambers’ natural resources committees.
A bill by Sen. Brian Collamore, R-Rutland County, to name Rutland’s courthouse after the late Judge Francis McCaffrey is proceeding. It emerged from the Senate Institutions Committee and was approved unanimously by the Senate late last month. It is now in the House Committee on Corrections and Institutions.
Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman told Rutland County voters that if they want to be heard, they just have to speak up.
“Please take this opportunity to recognize you can reach out to your legislators with ideas, with points of view,” he told an audience of about 30 at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday. “Your voice can be disproportionately loud if you choose to use it.”
The event was a town hall meeting sponsored by the Rutland Branch of the NAACP and the Rights and Democracy Education Fund. Zuckerman led the discussion backed by a panel of activists and several members of the Rutland County legislative delegation.
Sen. Cheryl Hooker, D-Rutland County, serves on the Institutions and Economic Development committees, where she said lawmakers have been working on the minimum wage, affordable housing, privacy and school curriculum issues. Rep. William Notte, D-Rutland City, is on the Judiciary Committee, where he spent a lot of time on the abortion-rights bill and is now looking at a measure making it easier for people to get criminal records expunged and another increasing the statute of limitations on certain crimes. Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, P-Middletown Springs, said that on the Energy and Technology Committee, he has been working on a proposed moratorium on fossil fuel infrastructure, incentives for electric vehicles and weatherization funding.
Discussion from the floor was opened by a Clarendon man who argued against an earlier comment that the United States was the richest country in the world by pointing to the multi-trillion dollar debt. He then said that many people in Rutland grew up poor but went on to do well for themselves, decrying the “welfare state.”
“The opportunities are here,” he said. “What we need to do is find a way to motivate people to get off their butts.”
It would help, he said, if Vermont’s youth received a more sensible education.
“Schools should be teaching reading, writing, arithmetic,” he said. “The other stuff that’s being injected into our schools needs to stop. We need to be preparing kids to go out in the world.”
The remarks drew pushback from members of both the panel and the audience. One woman said that because wages roughly rose alongside cost of living until 1974, it was easier for members of earlier generations to make ends meet, even when on the lower end of the income spectrum.
“What you made in 1974, you could live on that,” she said. “You can’t live on what a worker makes today.”
Chesnut-Tangerman said that when people talk about “the old days of education when it worked,” they forget that many people fell through the cracks because schools were not yet trying to make sure students succeeded regardless of race, class, learning disabilities or emotional issues. A woman who identified herself as a teacher said that more and more students were coming to school less prepared to learn, in part because of economic stresses at home.
Hooker said that social services are necessary to the people who rely on them, but that increasing the minimum wage would reduce that need.
“One of the saddest things I see is when I volunteer at the food shelf, people who wait on me at stores downtown have to come to the food shelf,” she said.
Rep. Larry Cupoli, R-Rutland City, arrived about halfway through the event and took a seat in the audience, but rose to answer a question about the status of a bill creating a civics requirement in public schools. He said he sponsored such a bill last year, but it came crashing to a halt when the Agency of Education said it “could not proceed” with the proposal due to cost issues. He said an ethnic studies bill currently in the Legislature was likely to hit the same wall.
“It’s a big strain on our school system to introduce all these classes that have to be provided,” he said. “It’s needed. There are kids who think General Eisenhower fought in the Civil War.”
Other comments in the course of the meeting included a call to arms against the stationing of nuclear-armed F35s in Burlington, suggestions that Rutland had an opportunity for economic development in manufacturing with recycled plastics and pleas for the state to spend more on higher education.
What becomes of a deceased veteran’s remains when no next of kin claims them?
Tom Giffin, Rutland’s cemetery commissioner and president of the Vermont Old Cemetery Association, figured they would be automatically sent somewhere like the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Randolph. He was surprised to find out he was wrong.
Working with the Rutland County delegation, he got a bill introduced to the Legislature — cosponsored by more than 40 representatives — that would allow veterans’ ashes to be sent to the memorial cemetery and interred alongside other veterans.
Giffin said he learned from a local funeral home that unclaimed cremains wind up stored at funeral homes unless next-of-kin come to claim them. Giffin said that while the bill doesn’t do anything for other cremains that funeral homes might be compelled to hold on to, the solution for the veterans seemed too obvious not to enact.
“For the vets, we have a place where they can go,” he said. “You have a place to put them.”
The bill has the support of Robert Burke, who oversees the cemetery as the director of the Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs.
“We worked with the medical examiner’s office back in December to inter two vets who were unclaimed,” he said. “We’re always interested in providing an honorable and respectful final resting place for veterans.”
Burke said the bill would cost the state nothing because the cemetery is reimbursed by the federal government for veteran burials. Burke said there is plenty of room because the cemetery just expanded with 1,640 burial plots.
Just how many unclaimed veterans’ remains are out there? Giffin said nobody knows for sure, but he was led to believe it could be hundreds or even thousands. However, Chris Palermo, owner of Perkins Funeral Home in Waterbury and president of the Vermont Funeral Directors Association, said he did a survey of the organization’s membership and found almost no stored veterans.
“As it turns out, there is one funeral home with the cremated remains of a vet,” he said.
Palermo said he still sees value in the bill, but has a few questions about specific provisions within it. For example, he said he thinks the 30-day waiting period before funeral homes can send remains to the cemetery is too short and should be expanded to 180.
“I think 180 days is a much better window to research people who may be related,” he said. “The broader question is what happens to (unclaimed cremains of people who are not veterans). I’m not sure any legislation is going to fix the problem unless there’s funding attached.”
“Our infrastructure seems as rowdy as a funhouse without the fun.”
— Editorial, A4
Vermont’s record-low unemployment rate for January is not entirely good news, according to labor experts. A2
City officials say the uptick in zoning permits in 2018 bodes well for the local economy. A3
Act 46 deadline
The Vt. secretary of education urges school districts subject to merger to heed the statutory July 1 deadline. A3
Milwaukee will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention, highlighting the battleground state of Wisconsin. B4
Bobby Jo Valentine
A multi-faceted songwriter and storyteller. Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. followed by a concert at 6:30 p.m. Free will offering, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Grace Congregational Church, 8 Court Street, Rutland, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-775-4301.