DUXBURY — Voters rejected a 27 percent pay raise for the town clerk and treasurer Tuesday, spent a lot of time talking about road crew personnel and equipment, and approved a budget with a 17 percent increase — though they were assured the tax rate would be eased when federal aid comes through.
Those were some of the bigger items that sparked debate among voters who gathered at Crossett Brook Middle School for a meeting that lasted the full day as residents voted on all items from the floor.
It was the first town meeting since two flash floods — one in April and then Tropical Storm Irene in August — caused $1.8 million in damage to the town’s roads and bridges, resulting in a strong turnout of about 125 residents in the town of 1,300.
There were numerous references to how difficult 2011 was for Duxbury and how the flood strained some relationships in town, and Mary Welch kicked off the meeting with a plea for civility.
“My hope is that moving forward as a community we are able to come together, work together and remember Duxbury is Vermont Strong and continue to help friends, relatives and strangers in need,” Welch said.
Residents remained cordial as Welch requested, but they still showed passion on plenty of the issues, including the town clerk and treasurer’s request for a pay raise, which took the form of an article on the warning.
The clerk, Ken Scott, makes $18.41 an hour and would have made $23.50 if the article passed, a proposed raise of $5.09 an hour. The chairwoman of the Select Board, Joann Berno, said Scott’s pay has gone from $23,000 in 2002 to his current rate of more than $38,000.
Many residents were unhappy to see such a large request in their town reports and were unafraid to say so.
“I think it’s pretty disrespectful to the town of Duxbury,” said Ralph Davis.
Other voters pointed to what a tough year it has been for so many residents.
“No offense to Ken, who’s a great town clerk, but that’s an insane amount of money in a year like this,” said Paul Brusa.
Anne LaTulippe said she was “flabbergasted” to see the request. “Personally, I haven’t gotten a raise in four years,” she said.
The article was rejected easily on a voice vote.
Clark said he was somewhat disappointed by the results. He pointed to an addendum in the town report that shows other clerks in the area with his level of experience get better pay.
“All I was looking for was equity in the marketplace,” said Clark.
His salary was not the only pay scrutinized during the meeting. An effort was mounted to erase smaller pay increases for the road crew that were included in the budget, but the measure failed.
The road crew proved to be a source of controversy at the meeting, and voters ultimately rejected an article that would have had the town elect a road commissioner.
Some residents are unhappy with the current road foreman and argued adding a commissioner could help the road crew function better.
Adam Magee, one member of the three-person road crew, publicly criticized his boss, Steve Manosh, who was hired last year as road foreman. Magee said Manosh has abandoned his crew at key times and said that after one incident Manosh “got in my face and we had words.”
“We need somebody who will help this guy understand how to run a road crew,” said Magee.
Other residents said there may be personnel issues with Manosh, but that adding a commissioner wouldn’t help the problem.
When it came to the budget, Duxbury voters approved a $668,321 general fund spending plan, which appeared in the town report to help generate a tax rate of 47 cents, compared with 31 cents last year. But Selectman Richard Charland said Federal Emergency Management Agency money the town is expected to get should alleviate that, he said.
“There’s no way the tax rate is going to increase 16 cents,” said Charland.
The rate will still increase, largely due to a $42,000 rise in the cost of purchasing fire services from Waterbury. That increase is due to the debt service stemming from the construction of two fire stations in Waterbury and brings the cost of fire protection to $105,180. Residents discussed options for other services but decided to maintain the status quo.
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