CASTLETON — Three residents are on the ballot for two seats on the town select board.
Both seats are for one-year terms.
The candidates are Yvonne DeLance, Mary Lee Harris and Jim Leamy. Harris and Leamy are incumbents. Leamy is the board’s current chair.
DeLance said she moved to Castleton in 1978. She had lived in North Clarendon and married a man from West Rutland. Both attended Rutland High School.
After graduating, DeLance worked at a few local stores, then chose to be a stay-at-home mother, raising three children, a daughter and twin sons.
“It was cheaper to stay home than have a babysitter,” she said.
She was heavily involved in her children’s education and got involved with the local Girl Scouts when her daughter joined.
“I started off as a leader, and then I went into being the service unit manager, which helped organize all eight of the troops for Castleton, helped find leaders, made sure they were on track,” she said. “And I helped start the day camp for Girl Scouts out at Lake Bomoseen.”
She ended up becoming co-director of the day camp, along with her other roles in Girl Scouts. When her daughter left Girl Scouts, DeLance decided to go back to school. She went to Community College of Vermont, then to the College of St. Joseph, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
She went to work for an insurance company, then to Central Vermont Public Service, and was there when it was merged with Green Mountain Power. She was with the company during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping sort out financial aid for people behind on their electric bills. She retired in April 2022.
“Now I’m free again, and that’s basically what’s driving me ... I am now able to give back to my community,” she said.
DeLance said she’s not coming to the board with an “agenda.”
“I have more questions than I have answers, and that’s what I tell everybody,” she said. “I believe in knowing all of the facts.”
She said she feels her experience as an accountant would be a boon to the board, as would her background in customer service.
Regarding a proposal to treat Lake Bomoseen with herbicide to control milfoil, DeLance said she has many questions, but said she believes what the community wants done should be what happens.
“What are the health risks for humans, wildlife and aquatic life with the use of herbicides in our lake? Alternatives? Who has the final say? Town or State?” she stated in an email.
As for the Sand Hill Road project, she has questions.
“Is the assisted-living facility right for the town? Does it fit into our zoning laws? Will it accept Medicaid?” she stated. “Our children are our future, how does the community assist with their development? Economic development is needed in Castleton. What/Where? Shouldn’t we support our seniors? Keep our environment safe?”
DeLance said she believes more people should vote. She doesn’t like that only about 25% of registered voters show up to the polls. She said she would like to see more done to drive turnout.
Harris was elected to the board last year. She was born in Proctor, raised in Pittsford, got married, lived in Center Rutland for a few years, and came to Castleton in 1964 when her husband bought a dairy farm, which her son took over after her husband passed.
She said there were 16 farms in the area when they started. Now there are only three.
Harris has a range of work experience. She graduated from Castleton State College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, having gone back to school in 1989 when her children went to high school and freed up some of her time. She’s been a bookkeeper, a secretary, business manager at a law firm, a sales manager, and ran her own yarn shop in Poultney for about 12 years.
In the 1970s, she served a three-year term on a local school board. She’s currently the vice president of the cemetery association in Poultney, vice president of the American Legion Auxiliary, a Lion’s Club member, and keeps the books for the American Legion in Castleton.
“I may be old, but I haven’t stopped yet,” she said.
“What made me want to run last year was, I didn’t feel there was transparency, and I didn’t feel the open meeting law was being followed, and the open records were shabby at best,” she said.
She said some people have made public records requests that have gone unmet for more than a year now, a problem given that those requests need to be met within 10 days at the most, unless there’s a reason.
Harris said she wants to see more public participation in town government and not have every decision made by a handful of elected and appointed officials.
She said she’s against the proposed Sand Hill Road project, a four-story, 99-unit senior living facility with a memory care unit that’s caused a fair bit of controversy in town.
Harris said she’s biased on the issue as she lives next to the proposed site for the project, but has recused herself from board discussions on the matter. She has spoken out against it as a citizen. Harris doesn’t believe the claimed benefits of the project will be realized and feels it will harm the area’s aesthetics, as well as pose a traffic hazard.
“I know people feel that I’m anti-progress but that’s not the case,” she said. “I’m for senior living, and I would welcome a two-story building up there and have 50 units instead of 100.”
Regarding the former Castleton Village School, Harris said she doesn’t agree with putting its maintenance budget on the ballot as an appropriation rather than within the town’s general fund budget. She said the town will have to pay for the building whether voters approve of the article or not.
“There’s so many things that can be done with that structure, but they also have to realize there is maintenance to go along with it. It’s not a freebie no matter how you look at it,” she said.
As for herbicide in Lake Bomoseen, Harris said she can see why people want milfoil away from their docks, but there are long-term health impacts to consider; plus it seems as if most people in the community are adamantly opposed to using herbicide to treat the lake.
Leamy was born in West Rutland, but has lived in town for a long time. He’s been a selectman off and on for about 17 years, and currently serves as the town health officer, a post he’s held for decades.
“I was a teacher of history and civics at Rutland Junior-Senior High School,” he said of his non-government career. He’s now partially retired.
He became health officer in the 1960s.
“I was hired by the Lake Bomoseen Association to do a sanitary survey of the lake,” he said. “Locating septic systems, discharges and so forth. And as a result of that, the select board at the time appointed me as the deputy health officer, so I’d have access to the properties. And when the health officer retired, unbeknownst to me, they appointed me health officer.”
He said he’s enjoyed the role all the same.
He got involved in town government out of a sense of civic duty.
“I wanted to contribute something to the community where I lived, basically,” he said. “I’m interested in quality economic development, which will relieve, hopefully, some of the tax burden on individual properties and existing businesses.”
He said he wants to assist local businesses to help them stay in town, as well as attract new ones.
“I would hope we could bring along some of the points of economic development that I’m interested in,” he said. “I try to make decisions for the entire community.”
He describes himself as “fiscally conservative,” saying it’s the board’s job to deliver the services people want in the most cost-effective manner possible.
“I also believe that we should be looking seriously at expanding our sewage collection system,” he said. “And even though we don’t provide water, water comes from Fire District #1 and Fire District #3, which are separate entities, I’m supportive of expanding that and looking for state and federal funds to assist us.”
As for herbicide, he said he stands by his vote to oppose its use, saying the state needs to come up with a comprehensive plan for the lakes it controls that heavily features local input.
Regarding the former Castleton Village School, Leamy said he supported it being put up for sale, but wanted room left for recreation.
“We have an item on the ballot to ask the voters if they would approve $90,000 to operate the building,” he said. “Part of the building is 70 years old and the other part is 30. And it seems as though we’ve been in the business for about six or seven months and we seem to have one problem after another and there’s quite a bit of deferred maintenance there including a new roof, which will be extremely expensive.”
He said he supports the Sand Hill Road project.
“It’s a win-win situation for Castleton,” he said, claiming it will create between 50 and 70 jobs, some of them well-paying, and will alleviate the housing shortage. It will also improve the town’s grand list.
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