WILLIAMSTOWN — Paging Dr. Phil …
Apparently, it will take more than three lopsided elections for seats on the Select Board to cure what ails Williamstown. That was evident this week when one outside observer, who was invited to address the board about the prospect of forming an economic development committee, sensed friction in the community. The outsider left before a town resident tried to stick the F-bomb and a couple of other expletives in the mouth of Town Manager Jackie Higgins.
Though Sam Matthews, executive director of Central Vermont Economic Development Corp., missed the bizarre meeting-ending exchange between the board and resident Donna Blight, she heard enough in the prior 90 minutes to offer an assessment that may have been the understatement of the evening.
“Quite candidly, it seems relatively acrimonious (here),” Matthews said after watching residents spar with the board over everything from the bidding process for a water line project to what one characterized as the “horrendous” condition of town roads.
On a night when those in the audience were repeatedly reminded that elections have consequences and most voters — at least the ones who cast ballots last month — seem to believe that the board, as it is currently composed, is doing a pretty good job, they continued what has been a long-running and relentless public critique of how business is conducted in town.
Words like “bullying” and “unprofessional” were used to describe how town officials treat some residents, and before the meeting ended there were words not fit for print — the ones Blight accused Higgins of using when talking to a town employee she did not name.
Blight, a local lawyer, opened the meeting by stressing that she wasn’t representing anyone and preaching the need for tolerance. She ended it by lobbing a verbal grenade at Higgins after the two women angrily exchanged their versions of the conversations that led to Blight being placed on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting.
This one had to be heavily edited to appear on public access television, where it sounded something like this: “The next time I ever hear of you calling a worker a ‘(bleep)ing fat (bleep) (bleep)’ …”
Blight, who never finished the sentence, said she could provide four affidavits to back up a claim that was neither admitted nor denied and which prompted some board members to question her motives.
“And you’re trying to tell us you’re not representing anybody?” Rodney Graham asked as Matt Rouleau posed a question of his own.
“You believe your cause here is to bring this town together and you come up with that?” Rouleau asked. “That is enough.”
Blight fired back, suggesting the board was asking the wrong questions.
“You have a town manager that has behaved badly and you have allowed it,” she said, before being asked to leave by Chairman Larry Hebert and being accused of “blackmail” by Graham as she headed for the door.
“Miss Blight, I think you’ve worn out your welcome,” Hebert said.
“You wore out your welcome a long time ago,” Blight replied.
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