Manwaring updates selectboard on legislation session
by Jack Deming
Jun 06, 2013 | 2736 views | 0 0 comments | 100 100 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WILMINGTON- At Wednesday’s meeting Rep. Ann Manwaring provided the selectboard with an update on key points of the legislative session that adjourned on May 14, and listened to the board’s frustrations on what they feel is a lack of effort on the state’s part to help southern Vermont.

Manwaring explained that she had voted against a bill that would mandate 10 hours per week of pre-K for three- and four-year-olds in a school or qualified child care setting. While Manwaring said she was for the educational value of the bill, she could not vote for a state mandate that increases education spending, and takes power away at the local level. Manwaring said the bill would also allow tax dollars to be taken out of the area, as parents place their children in pre-K programs that are closer to their work, sometimes out of their school district, and other times even out of state.

Selectboard chair Meg Streeter told Manwaring that she was angry with the Legislature for raising the state spending budget by 4% as well as introducing a fuel tax. “ This makes regions like ours look poorer,” said Streeter. “The Legislature as a group isn’t addressing recovery and growth. The state is in trouble any way you want to slice it, and they’re in la-la land. Why is New Hampshire growing? There is no comparison. I feel very discouraged because it seems they never think of reconfiguring how we do things.”

“There is a lot of growth in Vermont” said Manwaring. “Just not here.”

“We can’t keep spending,” said selectboard member Susie Haughwout. “Our town has managed to have been level in funding for years, but I don’t have the confidence that our Legislature is any better than Washington.”

“We down here feel we have no help coming and have to do it on our own,” said selectboard vice chair Jim Burke.

Manwaring agreed with the selectboard on their spending concerns and gave the $1.4 billion education budget as an example. “This is a $1.4 billion line item no one asks any questions about, and you don’t know who to ask the questions. One of my agendas is to get this issue on the table.”

Manwaring also reminded the board that business owners only have until June 10 to take advantage of a bill she and other legislators introduced (and passed) that provides relief for business owners who saw their unemployment taxes rise as a direct result of the three federally recognized floods of 2011. Business owners can apply through the Vermont Department of Labor’s website, www.labor.vermont.gov.

Isaak Wagner and Connie Snow from the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust asked the selectboard to sponsor a community development block grant application of $250,000 to perform renovations on the Lattiere House at 24 East Main Street. Wagner and Snow said the seven-unit building needs repairs and updates to its kitchens, bathrooms, floors, furnace, and windows, as well as painting. The board scheduled a public hearing for July 3 to hear opinions on the matter.

Town economic development specialist Gretchen Havreluk discussed the commercial buildings inventory and assessment tool project she is developing with the Windham County Redevelopment Group. The project would take an inventory of empty and available buildings in Wilmington and all of Windham County, and complete assessments on properties to gather statistics such as square feet, as well as a list of upgrades needed and their costs.

“This would give us our own master list of what buildings are empty and what we can do with them,” said an approving Burke.

Havreluk said part of the process was code inspections, and research into which tax credits were available for the individual properties. Havreluk said this process was being conducted on empty buildings throughout town, not just the downtown.

Jeanne McDougall and Alice Greenspan from Friends of Historic Memorial Hall Inc., discussed the group’s plan to apply for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. McDougall said the purpose was to create a fund for monies dedicated to the numerous maintenance, construction, equipment, and personnel costs of running the hall.

Streeter asked McDougall if the creation of the nonprofit group would be redundant with the current existence of the Memorial Hall board.

“The board will still have a place as a guide,” said McDougall. “If we were to get a concert together and use the hall it would be town sponsored but paid for by the Friends group.”

Town manager Scott Murphy said the nonprofit group could benefit the town, which has a $3,500 line in the town budget for Memorial Hall marketing that could go away because of the efforts of the nonprofit group. Murphy also said it may cause redundancy, however, to have both the nonprofit group and the Memorial Hall board should the 501 (c)(3) application be approved.

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