March 4, 2010
By Tim Simard
Despite some community ire over the town’s decision to not include a proposed ambulance service as a separate ballot item, voters approved a municipal budget on Tuesday. A community resolution on a proposed roundabout in Williston Village, however, was soundly defeated.
The $7.7 million municipal budget passed by a 1,191-809 margin. Factored into the budget is a $231,910 ambulance service, which includes the hire of two rescue personnel, the lease of a new ambulance and the purchase of a used one.
Observer photo by Tim Simard
Election Day volunteer Mike Coates inserts absentee ballots into the voting machine Tuesday morning. Town Clerk Deb Beckett said 2,043 residents cast ballots for the Town Meeting Day vote.
Observer photo by Tim Simard
Flanked by South Burlington firefighters, Williston firefighter Ryan Prouty (center) stands in front of a giant ballot outside the Williston Armory on Tuesday. Williston fire personnel and firefighters from other departments urged voters to pass the municipal budget, which included a new ambulance service.
The proposed roundabout project for the intersection at U.S. 2 and North Williston and Oak Hill roads, however, failed by a wide margin — 370-1,651. The result is nonbinding. Opponents of the roundabout successfully petitioned last year for the question to go to town vote.
Williston voters supported the town’s $16.5 million school budget by a 1,201-790 margin. The $21.4 million Champlain Valley Union High School budget, voted on by residents of Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Williston, passed by a tally of 3,084-2,144.
Tuesday’s vote also featured uncontested races for Selectboard, School Board and other town positions. Selectboard members Jeff Fehrs and Chris Roy were reelected to their respective three- and two-year terms. Voters also reelected School Board Vice Chairwoman Holly Roulle to a three-year term and board member Keith Roy to a two-year term.
A steady stream of voters turned out at the Williston Armory during the 12-hour voting period on Tuesday, said Town Clerk Deb Beckett. Of the 7,460 registered voters, 2,043 voted. She said the 27 percent turnout was not as high as a presidential primary year, but larger than typical Town Meeting elections.
“For a March vote, it was definitely an exceptional turnout,” Beckett said.
Reactions to results
Throughout the day, Williston firefighters greeted voters outside the polls, urging them to support the town budget and ambulance service. Williston firefighter Ryan Prouty, who spent the entire day at the Armory, breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the election results.
“Not only is this is a great step forward for the fire department, but this is great step for the community,” Prouty said.
Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig also said he was pleased that voters supported the town, although he admitted to having some concern about a possible budget defeat.
As for the roundabout, Macaig and other Selectboard members said they were not surprised by the result. Fehrs said the debate on improving the intersection will remain an issue with the town since it involves a state highway.
“I think people have to remember that, in the end, it’s not our intersection and not our decision,” Fehrs said.
Selectboard members have said the state will ultimately make the decision on whether to install the roundabout, though the state has said the town has the final word.
At the polls, many residents interviewed by the Observer said the roundabout would destroy the historic character of Williston Village and exacerbate the traffic nightmare.
Matt Krauss said he hated the idea of the intersection impacting the Korner Kwik Stop.
“It would ruin that business,” Krauss said.
As for the ambulance service and the municipal budget, there was a wide range of opinions. Resident Betty Packer believes Williston needs an ambulance to help reduce response times.
“There’s a lot more people in this town today,” Packer said. “Of course, I think it’s very important.”
A few residents at the polls expressed anger at the Selectboard’s decision to not allow residents the chance to vote separately on the ambulance issue.
“When they sneak something in there like that, I’m going to say no,” Steve Luchini said. “If they had put it as a separate item, they would have gotten a real and honest response.”
Resident Tim Platt said he didn’t oppose the idea of an ambulance service, but disliked the process leading up to the vote.
“If it was a separate item, which it wasn’t, I might have been in favor,” Platt said.
Boards for the Williston School District and Champlain Valley Union High School attempted to keep budget increases low this year due to continuing economic struggles, although residents’ taxes are still expected to climb.
The struggling economy weighed heavily on the minds of many voters. Craig Sampson, a small business owner, said he voted against the municipal and school budgets.
“The economic times aren’t getting any better and I think it’s going to get worse,” Sampson said. “We’ve all got to tighten our belts.”
CVU School Board Chairwoman Jeanne Jensen said although she understands the difficult decisions voters faced, she’s grateful the school budgets passed.
“The community trusts CVU with its children and its tax dollars and the board is committed to being good stewards of both,” Jensen wrote in an e-mail.
APPROVE A $7.7 MILLION MUNICIPAL BUDGET?
APPROVE A $16.5 MILLION WILLISTON SCHOOL BUDGET?
APPROVE A $21.4 MILLION CVU HIGH SCHOOL BUDGET?
INSTALL A ROUNDABOUT AT THE INTERSECTION OF U.S.2, OAK HILL ROAD AND NORTH WILLISTON ROAD?
ALLOCATE $50,000 IN FUND BALANCE FOR THE WILLISTON SCHOOL BUDGET?
BORROW $105,000 TO PURCHASE A WILLISTON SCHOOL BUS?
ALLOCATE $225,000 IN FUND BALANCE FOR THE CVU SCHOOL BUDGET?
BORROW $86,000 TO PURCHASE A CVU SCHOOL BUS?
NOTES: CVU budget and bus votes include ballots cast in Charlotte, Hinesburg and Shelburne. All numbers are based on unofficial tallies as of Tuesday night.