Board member Tom Baltrus welcomed new board member Joe Mahon, who narrowly defeated incumbent William “Buzzy” Buswell in Australian balloting at Town Meeting. “Until yesterday, I was the newcomer to the group, so I feel like a veteran today. Welcome to the board, Joe. We’re going to continue to work to move the town forward, and make our town the best town around.”
Town administrator Nona Monis asked for nominations for selectboard chair. Board member Tom Baltrus nominated Randy Terk for the position, offering his explanation to the previous chair, Linda Holland. “Thank you, Linda, for your help and your time,” he said. “But I understand your life is busier now, and I’ve seen your truck outside here when you’ve been left to turn the lights out. I feel that it’s incumbent on the board to, maybe, lighten the load a bit and give you some opportunity to take care of business.”
Board member Vicki Capitani seconded the nomination, and Terk was unanimously elected chair. Finding a vice chair wasn’t as easy, however. Holland declined a nomination for the position, as did Baltrus. Baltrus nominated Capitani, who was eventually elected to the position, despite her own “opposed” vote.
After the reorganization, the board plunged into an issue that is considered the bane of selectboards everywhere: a dog issue. But rather than the usual “dog bites man” complaint, board members discussed a complaint about the way the town handled the matter of a stray dog in East Dover.
According to board members, the original owner of the dog was upset that, after a substantial period of impoundment, her dog was awarded to another local resident, John Sprung. The original owner had allegedly posted a number of signs around the area claiming that the dog had been stolen. Sprung was at the meeting seeking official word from the board as to the status of the situation.
Board members said that the dog had been impounded after several complaints that it was wandering free. The animal control officer had discussed the dog’s impoundment and the fees that were accruing with the original owner of the dog. “The parties have not come forward,” said Terk. “They’ve been notified that there’s a process, and it has been weeks.”
Board members questioned whether the efforts of the animal control officer and the town were sufficient to justify confiscation of the dog under the policies in the town’s animal control ordinance. Eventually, board members agreed that the owner was informed of the violations, the impoundment, and given ample opportunity to address the violations and seek the return of the dog.
Sprung told board members he was “very offended” by the original owner’s actions, specifically the notice alleging that he had stolen the dog. Sprung said the dog had wandered into the East Dover General Store on numerous occasions, and in at least one instance, he met with the owner to return the dog. “I went to a lot of trouble to get that dog back to them, and they made very little attempt to get the dog back,” he said. “I made attempts to get the dog back to her, and offered to buy a harness. They never looked for the dog until three days after it was gone.”
Sprung said he was also present when the animal control officer informed the owner of the fines she owed for the dog’s impoundment. “Without another word, she turned around and walked away,” Sprung said. “I would have helped her if she wanted the dog and would have taken care of the dog.”
Sprung urged the board to think about the dog’s welfare. “I love this dog,” he said. “It has become part of my family. You’re concerned about a legal threat. I’m concerned about someone posting slander about me on walls around town. The local vet won’t even look at this dog because of all this. I’m stressed out about this.”
Buswell, sitting in the audience, offered his understanding of the matter. “The dog was left (in the pound) for over 20 days,” he said. “I think this is making a mountain out of a molehill. If the owner wants to come in and file a formal complaint with the board, let them. Until then, I would say it is a dead issue.”
“I heard the selectboard say once, if not twice, that the dog had been abandoned,” agreed Holland. “Now it’s settled in with a pack at a home off the road and is being taken care of. I think we’ve made our decision.”
Terk noted that the previous owners had been contacted about the meeting, and hadn’t appeared for the discussion. “If they come before the board, we’re going to say we’ve made our decision and it’s too late.”
In economic development matters, the board approved funding for two popular local events returning again this year. Economic development specialist Ken Black said the Vermont Wine and Harvest Festival was seeking $6,800 in funding, part of which would be used in an effort to expand the event through a marketing campaign. “Last year they had 2,200 people, and this year they’re trying to get that up to 3,000,” he said. “They showed a profit of about $10,000 last year, but my recommendation (to grant the full amount of their request) is because they’re trying to revamp the event. I think it’s a good idea for them to apply the money to advertising and try to expand it.” Upon a motion by Holland, the board approved the request.
Black said Mothers for Daughters, an annual breast and ovarian cancer charity event for motorcyclists, has already received funding from the town on five occasions. Although five grants is usually the limit, Black recommended the board consider a waiver for the event. “They also show a bit of a profit,” he said, “but it’s important to recognize that some of the money goes to cancer research. They project 450 visitors here this year, up from 400. Many of the folks who come for Mothers for Daughters keep coming here all summer long.”
Mothers for Daughters requested $7,500, but Black recommended approving $6,000. “We want to be a little conservative, and see what kind of attendance there is.”
But Holland said she’d like to see the group get the full amount, and made a motion to approve the $7,500 request.
Carina Thorsson, owner of the Gray Ghost Inn, where the event originated, said she had recently been in contact with organizer Bob O’Keefe. “He said we have more preregistration this year, and there are new people participating. We’ve added three more inns, Nordic Hills, West Dover Inn, and the Inn at Sawmill Farms.” Thorsson said 5,000 flyers for the event will be distributed, and $5,000 of the request was to help pay for event T-shirts.
Holland said that, from her perspective, money spent on Mothers for Daughters is an investment in the community. “These people don’t come just for this one event, they come for this event, fall in love with the valley, and return over and over again. They promote our valley for us. They feel welcome here, and are welcome to return again and again and support our inns and restaurants.”
“I have to agree with Linda,” said Terk. “We get a lot of repeat visitors from the event, and it’s, perhaps, an easily moved event. All they need is a place that has an appropriate amount of lodges and restaurants.”
The board unanimously approved the full request.