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Residents weigh decisions and discuss priorities

HINESBURG The Hinesburg Town Meeting on Monday night was filled with debate, respectful disagreements, and often punctuated with humor. Although each item on the agenda generated discussion and lengthy debates, residents of the town who filled the auditorium at Champlain Valley Union High School, carefully weighed their priorities. With a town budget increase this year of 14 percent and several large town agenda items, many residents felt they could not have everything this year. Several motions were made to amend the towns general fund budget in order to have other articles pass, namely the LaPlatte Headwaters Conservation Initiative. Town residents decided that although theyd like to cut expenses where they could, the town fund budget was not the place to do it, and the original proposal of $810,451 was approved. An article that asked residents to appropriate $103,260 to pave a portion of Pond Brook Road was rejected by residents for the second year in a row. During a discussion of safety and traffic speed, one resident said, I think pot-holes are a great speed bump. Although the police budget article generated many questions from residents about the drastic increase--almost 32 percent over last year--the addition of one police officer and the budget of $472,349 was passed. Directly after the Pond Brook Road Article was defeated one resident asked Police Chief Chris Morrell why the police force needed Jeeps and other four-wheel drive vehicles when other neighboring towns were getting by without them. He responded in jest that it was because you people wont pay for roads. There was some discussion about whether there is a regional solution to curbing costs for town police forces and why other neighboring towns, such as Charlotte, do not have a police force, but instead rely on the state police for coverage. Hinesburg State Representative Bill Lippert said he had introduced legislation to look at policing throughout the state. Lippert said he believes there is a way to more rationally provide policing in the state of Vermont. The system developed historically is no longer rational, he said. For many residents, the Laplatte Headwaters Conservation Initiative on the Bissonette Farm was the big event of the evening. The Hinesburg Land Trust asked the town to contribute $100,000 to a conservation project with estimated costs of about $3.7 million. The contribution of about 3 percent of the total project was needed from the town both to cover expenses and to secure other grants where a show of local support is needed. Selectboard member Jonathan Trefry said that this was an opportunity for the town to put their money where the mouth is, noting the towns stated goals of conservation and preserving agricultural lands. The initiative would preserve 300 acres of land for public use and guarantee the preservation of prime agricultural lands. Trefry asked the question, Is the town willing to make a commitment for something it says it has wanted for 15 years? Dawn Taylor responded, I think our mouth is going a lot of places where our wallets cant follow. We cant have everything. Taylor made a motion to reduce the towns contribution to $50,000. Bob Link from the Vermont Land Trust requested that the town appropriate the full $100,000 to the conservation initiative. He said if the land is not conserved, the costs incurred to the town will be much higher- It will be developed piece-meal over time. With the discussion growing long and the time nearing 11 p.m. when asked if there were more comments, a groan went through the crowd. Hinesburg resident Catherine Ryan assured the full room, Im putting my money where my mouth is. Ryan then calculated that a $250,000 household would see an increase in taxes by about $50 with the original request of $100,000 for the project. By carpooling into Burlington twice a month, Ryan said residents would be able to save that amount, and offered to provide the ride to any interested resident. Ryan sat down to the cheering of supporters and soon after the town voted overwhelmingly to approve the $100,000 tax increase to support the project.

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