The hearing didn’t go off quite as smoothly as the commissioners had hoped. Glitches in word processing software and the copier feed wiped out the document’s pagination and left out several pages. Copies of the missing material were immediately provided to the hearing’s participants, and board chair Linda Smith promised that a complete, properly paginated version would be posted on the town website by Friday, with paper copies available at the town office.
Comments and questions that arise after the hearing can be submitted to the selectboard, or held for the selectboard’s public hearing on the plan, the next step in the lengthy process.
Despite the difficulties, the hearing proceeded in a lively and positive fashion, with all participants displaying an informed, thoughtful interest. Residents appeared to share many of the commissioners’ concerns. Smith identified some areas in need of a “deep dive” approach. The town, Smith said, needs to consider how to develop “pro-active” policies for coping with looming changes in education, the age and income distribution of its inhabitants, and the need for universal broadband accessibility. The commission intends to appoint sub-committees to work on these critical questions. Townspeople are asked and encouraged to volunteer for those committees. Smith pointed out that a new or revised section of a plan can be put through the adoption process at any time, and need not wait till the end of the five-year period mandated for new plan adoption.
Margaret Bartenhagen asked whether specific language on angling drainage cuts away from surface waters should be added to the surface water policy section. Selectboard chair Edee Edwards told Bartenhagen that the reference to the state road standards adopted by the town should cover that point, even if the language concerning erosion and sedimentation in the current surface water policy might be deemed not to cover it.
During a discussion of changing population trends (laid out in a number of graphs included in the plan), Smith remarked that it is “somewhat disturbing” that the overall population, projected to show an increase by 2010, had instead dropped slightly. Gretchen Becker asked, “Why would we want the population to rise?”
“Because it’s not fiscally sustainable,” Smith replied crisply. The costs of maintaining town roads and services will continue to rise, placing an increasing, ultimately prohibitive, burden on a shrinking, aging population, more and more of whom are living on fixed incomes.