PLYMOUTH, Vt. – On Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, the Plymouth Selectboard held a special informational meeting for public discussion of three articles that will be put to the voters on Election Day: the proposed building renovation and bond issue, the Inclusion Statement, and the Second Amendment sanctuary town designation.
Approximately 40 people were in attendance at the Plymouth Municipal Building, with another half-dozen attending online. Speaking on Article 1, the Municipal Bond, Board member Rick Kaminski presented the details of the additional funding request. Kaminski restated the problems requiring repair and renovation that were included in the bond proposal, such as major roof leaks, lack of insulation, heating, and ventilation issues.
The language of the article created some confusion about whether voters would cast a yes or no vote on only one, or both of the proposals. The initial bond of $950,000 was previously authorized by voters, and the additional $800,000 requested is on the Nov. 8 ballot. The decision for voters is, “Shall the town take on the extra debt, to be paid back over a 25-year period, or shall the town go forward with only the projects covered by the original bond of $950,000.”
Kaminski detailed the fiscal impact to taxpayers, explaining that the increases for homeowners amortized over 25 years would be $57.10 per year, or $4.75 per month for a home worth $200,000 home, and for a home with a value of $300,000 those costs would be $85.74 annually, and $7.14 monthly.
Kaminski stated, “If we’re going to fix it, let’s fix it right, and move forward.”
Resident Carol Goodwin, who has been working alongside the board on the bond measure, asked if the initial estimate of the cost is still valid. Kaminski confirmed that it is, and said that the contractors are ready to “hit the ground running” around March 15, 2023 with consideration for delays that all contractors are currently experiencing.
Goodwin asked Kaminski about the plan for the reduced $950,000, to which Kaminski replied that the new roof system, heat pumps, and ventilation would be addressed, but new windows, wall panels, and vestibules would not be completed without approval of the additional funds.
Goodwin expressed her concern that a total of almost $1.8 million in bonds was “a lot of cash,” saying, “It seems to me it would be prudent to wait before taking on another $800,000 bond issue.” Referring to the town’s unspent ARPA funds, Goodwin said, “Those are substantial, unrestricted funds. So, I’m wondering why take on additional debt?” Goodwin requested to see the revision of the budget with the inclusion of the ARPA funds prior to the start of the project.
Article 2 asks voters to decide if the town of Plymouth should adopt the Declaration of Inclusion, as signed by Governor Scott in 2021 to condemn racism and welcome all persons to live freely and express their opinions.
Several residents presented compelling arguments for the proposed declaration. Todd Menees spoke about the African philosophy of ubuntu, “An ethical responsibility of humanity. Hold the door open for everyone.”
Article 3 asks, shall Plymouth declare itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary town?
Resident Terry Bascom said, “This originally came up in 2019, when the state legislature was going to implement new gun restrictions. Proposals were for various towns to make a non-binding, legal affirmation of existing gun regulation and an opposition to increased gun regulation. This is where the term ‘sanctuary city’ began for Vermont, as a response from the Vermont Gun Owners Association to put political pressure on Governor Scott to not sign any new regulation on guns coming across his desk.”
Several residents in attendance pointed out that this happened just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, when everything shut down, leaving some people feeling they were not given proper notice or input before the decision was made. People disagreed with the board making a unilateral statement at that time, so the issue was put on the November ballot to give the voters a voice.
Bascom and others felt the vote would either reaffirm or restrict the current language in the state constitution. They mentioned it is not legally binding, but an opportunity for the town of Plymouth to affirm the current state law is sufficient, and would not want to implement additional gun regulations.
Resident Bruce Pauley disagreed, saying, “A ‘Yes’ vote says you do not believe in any gun regulations at all, and that everyone is entitled to gun ownership, including people convicted of crimes, etc. without restriction.” He brought up several school shootings, and said the legislation signed by Governor Scott, increasing the minimum age from 16 to 21, banning bump stocks and high capacity magazines, and putting so-called “red flag” laws in place is reasonable. “I was initially trained on gun ownership by the NRA, I served in the military, and I stand as a believer in certain, common sense gun restrictions and background checks. There are a lot of legitimate reasons to own a gun, but I believe there are necessary regulations.”
A separate article that will appear on the ballot addresses the proposed sale of recreational cannabis in the town of Plymouth. Board member Jay Kullman explained that Vermont is one the few states to work the roll-out of any retail cannabis establishments as an “opt in” or “opt out,” allowing each of the municipalities to vote on the sale of recreational cannabis. A vote “Yes” means the town approves retail sales within town limits. A “No” vote prohibits retail cannabis sales in the town of Plymouth.
Voters nationwide go to the polls on Nov. 8, 2022. The results of Plymouth’s election will be published in next week’s Nov. 16 paper, and on the Vermont Journal’s website as soon as made available to us.