“We are moving into in-person activities outdoors, including resuming the summer corn hole league, baseball, golf, basketball and cheerleading clinics.” — Bill Moore, Rec Director
“The important thing to remember about systemic racism is that perfectly good people can be stuck in a system that is unjust and so it’s not a matter of saying ‘We have bad people in Vermont.’ It’s saying that systemic racism has been around for a long time.” — Tim Guiles, Brandon Selectman
I would caution you to be very careful about depending on state revenue in your next fiscal year. We have no idea what’s happening… Be careful where you go because there is no surety on state funding upcoming.” — Rep. Butch Shaw, R
HED: Brandon Select Board weighs issues from racism to recreation
By LEE J. KAHRS
BRANDON — The Brandon Select Board handled everything from racism to dumped tires, and broadband to state budgeting at the regular meeting Monday night.
Rec Director Bill Moore submitted a report, saying that the Brandon Recreation Department is ready to move into Phase II of the careful re-opening of activities during the COVD-19 pandemic.
Most of the online activities that have been going on since March when the pandemic hit, such as Bingo, Facebook trivia and Paint and Sip are coming to an end. The department will continue to promote its community art project and will host another online fishing derby. But sports are coming back.
“We are moving into in-person activities outdoors,” Moore wrote, “including resuming the summer corn hole league, baseball, golf, basketball and cheerleading clinics.”
Moore said he and assistant rec director Colleen Wright are planning to hold a drive-in concert for the next Brandon Idol round, either at Estabrook Park or Wyman’s Campground on Basin Road.
“Colleen and I are working tirelessly to come up with safe and creative ways to deliver programming to our residents,” Moore said.
Board chair Seth Hopkins announced that Wayne Rausenberger has resigned as the Brandon representative to the Brandon Leicester Whiting Salisbury Goshen (BLSG) mosquito control district. Rausenberger served as BLSG treasurer for the number of years.
Anyone interested in the appointed position can contact town manager Dave Atherton for more information, 247-3635, ext. 210.
Selectman Tim Guiles said he wanted to comment on the current state of affairs in the U.S. right now as protests continue in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody (see accompanying vigil story, this page). Floyd, who was black, was handcuffed and lying in the prone position, died after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes, rendering Floyd unconscious. Floyd died of asphyxiation. Chauvin has been charged with murder.
“I think it’s appropriate to recognize the huge issue that’s happening in our country right now and how it’s affecting the community,” Guiles said.
He mentioned an email he received from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“It reminds us that systemic racism exists in Vermont, too, and the important thing to remember about systemic racism is that perfectly good people can be stuck in a system that is unjust and so it’s not a matter of saying ‘We have bad people in Vermont.’ It’s saying that systemic racism has been around for a long time.”
Guiles also mentioned an email from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns Executive Director Maura Carroll.
“Gov. Scott observes that we really need to take action here and make changes,” Guiles said. “It makes sense to educate ourselves about the history of racism in our country so we really understand the depth of our problem. Maura Carroll says ‘Silence is neither an option nor a strategy.’ I’m bringing it up here because it make sense in Brandon for us to search out anywhere where we might have participated in this unjust system.”
Guiles added that he was also looking inward to see what he himself could change.
“I know I’m looking at my own life for any sort of way that I might be contributing to the problem, and I think it’s fair to say we all must be part of the solution.”
State budget warning
The board then heard from Rep. Butch Shaw (R), who represents Brandon, Pittsford and Sudbury. Shaw had some critical fiscal information, saying that the House passed an abbreviated General Fund budget, H.961, for the next three months while the state waits to see how the pandemic will affect revenues and COVID-19 funding from the federal government. The bill is now in the Senate.
“The budget that passed is very austere,” Shaw told the board. “It’s a three-month budget so we can understand what’s happening with the COVID money and to understand the revenue projections. They’re pretty much up in the air on budgeting.”
Shaw said as the next few months unfold and budget season approaches, towns should tread lightly on state funding expectations.
“I would caution you to be very careful about depending on state revenue in your next fiscal year,” he said. “We have no idea what’s happening. We do know we’re taking a hit in the Education Fund. We’re about $150 million in the hole. We have taken some steps to fill that hole, but we have used all of our reserves to stay afloat. Be careful where you go because there is no surety on state funding upcoming.”
Shaw added that even though a large sum of Federal money is expected, “there are a lot of strings attached to that and we’re still trying to figure that out.”
Brandon Town Clerk Sue Gage asked if there was information about where the state education tax rate would fall for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. He said tight now, the project Homestead tax rate for Vermonters is at $1.54, and $1.63 for non-resident property, a roughly 4 cent increase.
“All I can say is, ‘Hang on,’” Shaw said.
The board unanimously approved signing a letter of support for a Broadband Innovation Grant through the Vermont Department of Public Service. The grant, which is being applied for through the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, would pay for a feasibility study to improve broadband internet service in Rutland County and southern Addison County.
SUBHED: DUMPING TIRES
Brandon has a tire problem and now officials have to figure out how to pay for their disposal.
Town Manager Dave Atherton told the board he received a letter form the Rutland County Solid Waste District just before Green Up Day, saying they don’t want the town to bring them any more dumped tires.
“There’s a cost associated with getting rid of tires,” Atherton said. “We obviously don’t want them on the side of the road and I want to put a bug in your ear when we start budgeting for next year, to allocate some money for this because people are going to leave tires anyway.”
It’s a big issue in Brandon. Atherton said 200 tires have been collected from roadsides in Brandon since January. Forty tires were collected just on Green Up Day. He said just before Green Up Day, the town got a call about 50 tires dumped at the end of Steinberg Road.
“With eh change in recycling laws, a lot of stuff that was cheaper or free is no longer,” Atherton said. “It’s frustrating because a lot of it is on private property and has gotten out of hand.”
Selectman Tracy Wyman runs the Brandon Transfer Station. He said he didn’t feel the town should pay to dispose of ties forum don private property, but Atherton said it’s a difficult call.
“I don’t know the right answer,” he said. ‘We can’t just leave them out there.”
“It’s definitely something that needs to be added for another year,” he said. “It’s just an expense that goes to the town that doesn’t need to go to the town.”
Selectman Doug Bailey added that people have learned to wait until Green Up Day to dump items they know usually have a fee but will be taken away for free.
“I don’t know how we break that cycle,” Bailey said. “It’s tough to work that into our budget but I believe Dave’s right and we need to start thinking about a number to put in the budget to be prepared for this.”