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Town Meeting Day Reports Offer Snapshots Of Vermont With PM-Socialist Mayor

March 5, 1985

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ The news in Starksboro: Tickets for using the dump now must be purchased at the town clerk’s office.

In Braintree townspeople are being told, ″We had an unusual amount of lawyering in 1984.″

And at Vershire Day in June, ″residents ate an enormous amount of pie.″

The annual town reports are out, and they provide snapshots of life in Vermont - 1984.

The reports are prepared by local officials for today’s town meetings, the one day of the year set aside for residents to grill their elected and appointed officials about town affairs. They are must reading in every community.

How else could residents in Bellows Falls learn that their community used 145,308,000 gallons of water in 1984? And without a town report, Braintree residents might forget which of their neighbors hold offices like coal weigher, pound keeper, fence viewer and inspector of wood.

The reports originate in a 1894 state law that asked communities to provide annual auditor’s statement.

Readers can thus find a complete listing - right down to a $20 battery charger - of Rupert’s capital assets, totaling $76,300.

But over the years the reports have evolved into more than a string of figures. They are detailed paintings, from the raw data of births, deaths and marriages, to the simple descriptions of what happened to the town in the previous year.

″The Brook Bend Store changed hands, from Lois and Francis Rowell to Kevin Ricker, who has continued to dispense dog food, diapers and warm Pepsi in cans,″ reads a section in Vershire’s report.

At the West Rupert School, ″the children raised money for their landscaping project and then prepared the beds for planting. This was a learning experience as well as a job well done.″

The town reports also provide local communities with a opportunity to trumpet accomplishments.

Selectmen in Starksboro boast that the bridge across Lewis Creek was replaced last year. In Vergennes, residents are told that they have close to 1,500 feet of new concrete sidewalk. In Braintree, the news from the highway crews is that the town truck was sold for $2,556.98 and that in 1984 ″we crushed 9,300 yards of gravel and screened 1,200 yards of sand.″

The reports offer an opportunity to say thanks: ″This past fall Sandy Griffis and her Girl Scout troop painted the salt shed at the town garage,″ says the report in Addison.

And they offer a great spot for tired and unappreciated officeholders to let off a little steam.

Tucked in the report of the tiny town of Vershire is a cry of help from the elected town auditors, carrying the headline: ″Ought one audit? Report from the three who did, but won’t anymore 3/8″

″With a collective total of one year’s accounting experience between us and an accounting system unknown to anyone outside the Town Clerk’s Office, we hammered away at an unfamiliar keyboard until on Feb. 12th we got things in balance,″ the auditors tell their neighbors. ″We can report that to our knowledge, no one has embezzled money this year, but let’s underline ‘to our knowledge.’ ″

Vershire folks weren’t the only ones to use the town report to admit things were not ideal. Braintree Town Clerk Janice Thresher used it as a chance to sigh, ″Town affairs seem to get more complicated.″

Most towns dedicate their reports to someone special, as a way of calling attention to the unsung heroes.

Bradford tips its hat this year to Ruth and Charlie ″Chimes″ Barton. ″Both have a near perfect sense of right and wrong, both are extremely caring people and both are very charitable, industrious people,″ reads a part of the tribute.

Starksboro officials dedicated their report to the 25th anniversary of the local volunteer fire department. A long poem written by Rena Tobin details the origin of the department and then says:

″Since then they’ve fought fires, large and small

″And answered many a firecall.

″There have been many criticisms - thanks were few.

″But for 25 years they’ve stuck it through 3/8

″So now we thank them for all they’re giving,

″To make Starksboro a safer place to live in.″

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