I write to ask the citizens of Barre City for their support at the polls on Tuesday.
In his remarks at the recent grand opening of Accuworx USA in Barre, Gov. Peter Shumlin said, “The renaissance that you see taking place here in Barre is one of the greatest municipal turnaround stories in recent history.”
I thank the governor for his kind words and support. I couldn’t agree more with his assessment. With the completion of our North Main Street reconstruction project, the reconstruction of Summer Street, the continuation of our successful 10-year street reconstruction plan and the construction/renovation of City Place, the Central Vermont Community Action Council campus, the Blanchard Block and the Aldrich Block, Barre has and continues to accomplish more in the previous few years than we had in the previous few decades.
As proud as I am of these accomplishments, I take more satisfaction from the change in attitudes toward Barre and our future. Quite simply, the turnaround in Barre seems to be the buzz everywhere I go. From the Statehouse and “fifth floor” in Montpelier, to virtually every city and town I visit, people congratulate us on our successes and want to talk about everything we’re doing in Barre and how we’re doing it. That’s a refreshing change from just a few short years ago.
Looking back, I suppose people had reason to doubt us. Our plans were ambitious. Others had talked about a new Main Street and urban renovation. Unfortunately (and while I don’t doubt their good intentions) they failed to deliver on promises. We haven’t.
At the budget forum Monday, I opened my remarks by asking the citizens who had assembled to hear our budget presentations a question. I asked if those assembled who believed that Barre was better off now than we were five years ago would please raise their hands. By rough estimate, approximately 95 percent of those attending raised their hands, signaling their belief that we as a city are better off today than we were five years ago.
As I continued my remarks, I told the audience the same thing that I tell well-wishers every day: “We’re not done yet — not even close.”
I believe that Barre has a very bright future as long as we continue to grow and develop as a community. With your support, we’ll clean up and rehabilitate Depot Square and Merchants Row. We’ll implement one of only six state-supported tax increment financing districts in Vermont. We’ll plan for and build Summer Street Center, which will provide housing and recreational activities. Most importantly, we will attract businesses, young professionals and families and provide them with a community that they’ll be proud to work in, live in and raise a family in — just as we are.
I’m fairly certain that there are still those among us who read these words and scoff that it can’t be done. They’re just waiting for the wheels to come off. To the naysayers, I hear you. I heard you six years ago. I heard you four years ago. I heard you yesterday. I just don’t think like you. I’m proud of Barre. I’m proud to live in Barre. Most importantly, I believe in Barre, and I believe in the people I serve with. With the help of many, many fine people, we’re going to honor the trust of our fellow citizens and work as hard as we can to make everyone proud again.
One of our greatest strengths is the team we’ve assembled. Unlike most municipalities, we don’t have an assistant city manager. We don’t have a director of finance. We make do with what we have. What we don’t have, we make up for with hard work and enthusiasm. It really is just that simple.
On May 14, we need your help and support in order to continue our progress.
The revised municipal and education budgets being presented call for a total tax rate increase of 2.67 percent (roughly the rate of inflation). On the municipal side, we’re asking for nothing new. No new programs. No new positions. The proposal to increase our police force by two officers has been eliminated. At the request of the citizen budget committee charged with developing a new budget, every department and program was reviewed. On the municipal side, we have reduced our original budget request by approximately $236,000. On the school side, the School Board has stepped up and done its part, eliminating hundreds of thousands of dollars from its budget.
The combined increase of 2.67 percent is reasonable, affordable and sustainable. Most importantly, the proposed budgets maintain the programs that are integral to our continued development and success.
In closing and with all due respect, I believe that the results we’re producing justify and support a 2.67 percent increase. I hope you all agree.
The polls at the auditorium will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday. Please take a moment to support our community with your vote. Thank you.
Thomas J. Lauzon is mayor of the city of Barre.
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