PLYMOUTH, Vt. – At the June 20 meeting of the Plymouth Selectboard, council appointed Beth Graves-Lombard as the new acting town clerk until the next election, with Jaclyn Olmstead having recently stepped down from her post. The sheriff’s contract was also approved.
Board member Keith Cappellini suggested appointing three members for their Cannabis Control Board: a selection committee member, a zoning board member, and a citizen. He said they can always add members to the council if they see fit, but establishing one now will help the City of Plymouth regulate, approve and “monitor” cannabis retail establishments according to regulations. zoning of the city. Mike Coleman from the zoning board volunteered.
Debra O’Loughlin brought up the Amherst Dam, which was discussed earlier this year. It is owned by O’Loughlin and her husband Michael, and the structure is deteriorating and could fail, washing houses downstream in the event of a major storm. Removing the dam could cost the O’Loughlins around $400,000, while repairing it would cost even more. It was previously discussed that state funding would eventually be available. Although removal is the most cost effective, it will not help maintain the water level of the lake. O’Loughlin asked if the city would like to take over the dam, because the state wouldn’t. Chairman Jay Kullman said it was “a long-term liability that we’re not interested in.” O’Loughlin announced that they had “no choice but to take action to remove it”.
Todd Menees asked the city to adopt a statement of inclusion – a few paragraphs that say the city of Plymouth promotes equal treatment for all, and “officially [condemns] all forms of discrimination. Governor Scott made this declaration last year for the state of Vermont, but each city must choose whether or not to adopt it individually.
Cappellini asked if the city needed this resolution. He referenced the new movie “Top Gun: Maverick,” noting that it showcases American values, and in the Constitution it says all men are created equal. Kullman countered, saying systemic injustice still exists. Passing an inclusion resolution costs the city nothing and is not a binding contract, “But it’s a welcome statement.”
Al Wakefield, a Mendon resident and former US Air Force pilot, provided a personal experience for those in attendance. He visits the cemetery each year for the July 4 ceremony and has requested land to be buried next to Calvin Coolidge’s site. The caretaker offered another location, “Next to [a] black man. Wakefield said he “was not personally offended” but “graciously declined”.
The residents unanimously decided that they would like to vote on the matter. Menees must start a petition to get the declaration on the November ballot and the city will notify the vote.
The council passed the Mecawee Pond Road stop, city highways 39 and 70. Tina Fletcher read a proposal from the six affected landowners: Tina and Mark Fletcher, Clifford and Elizabeth Harper, and Sam Giddings and Cheryl Davis. They respected the advice of the city at the previous meeting and, in order to maintain the city’s right of way while protecting the privacy and rights of landowners, they made the following demands: to only interrupt the small portion of Highway 39 that leads to the Fletcher estate, about 1/10 of a mile which is their driveway; the city provides signs and barriers at the bottom of the road and in washed out areas preventing people from attempting to drive up the road; and a sign at the intersection of Fletcher Road and Lane that indicates where Mecawee Pond Road continues to the right. The Fletchers have already put up a sign indicating that their private property goes to the left, and they are willing to pay for additional signage or fencing around their surveyed property. The Fletchers and other owners want no legal or moral liability for people who decide to hike in this dangerous area.
Most residents and council members agreed that these requests were reasonable, but a small parking area should be designated for those who need to turn around safely or want to hike in the area. Board member Rick Kaminski suggested a few hundred yards up the road that would impact part of the Fletchers’ property. Fletcher suggested the base of Highway 39 and the intersection of Hale Hollow Road; “If they want to hike, they can do anything, and there’s already a decent parking area there,” on the city right-of-way.
Kaminski, also a road commissioner, has scheduled another site visit for June 21 to determine the best location for a rotation so they can finalize overall decisions for the road.
The discussion turned to the use of Johnson Farm Road and part of the town’s 60 acres of forest following a recent request from the mountain bike club, whose parking lot at the trailhead in Reading is limit. Kaminski said the city would not invest in this project; the ATV or snowmobile club should organize it.
Debra Pool expressed her disinterest in the ATV club “trumps the residents who live [there]saying it would bring a lot of unwanted noise and that she didn’t want a parking lot attached to her property. Other residents agreed they liked the quiet area and didn’t want to attract more people, not just from Plymouth, traveling on the road. Pool said he should be open to the city to discuss this, and that there may be other opportunities for the location that are less disruptive.
Bruce Pauley then spoke about Plymouth being a gun sanctuary city, and his concern that the resolution was never put on the agenda, warned or put to a vote at the community level. town.
The resolution in defense of the right to keep and bear arms was presented by Cappellini in March 2020 and was adopted by the members of the selection committee at the time, consisting of Rick Kaminski, Jay Kullman and Shawn Bemis. It states that Plymouth recognizes the right to bear arms as described by the Constitutions of Vermont and the United States, including: “The lawful use of firearms in defense of life, liberty, property and for the defense of the State; the safe and responsible use of firearms for hunting and utilitarian purposes; and the safe and responsible use of firearms for sporting purposes, including Olympic sports. It declares that federal and state laws attempting to restrict these rights are void under this non-binding resolution.
Although Pauley is a gun owner himself, he still worries about the state of the country and all the mass shootings that have taken place. He recommended overturning the resolution and putting it to a vote on whether residents want Plymouth to be a Second Amendment sanctuary city.
Cappellini said the same resolution had been passed in other cities in the state, and he disagreed that it should be overturned because it is already part of the Constitution. Kullman said that as a resident and gun owner, he did not feel consulted before the resolution was proposed.
Kaminski said he didn’t think it was an issue whether Plymouthians owned guns or not. He said, “Before I overturn a vote I made, I need to hear from the townspeople.”
The council did not rescind the resolution, but agreed to seek more input from residents on whether or not Plymouth should remain a Second Amendment city in a future ballot.
Kaminski then gave an update on the building’s renovation project, which is well over budget. At the last meeting, Cappellini suggested using the community center for municipal offices, as it could help reduce the budget. After investigating this proposal, Kaminski encountered many problems.
If they tear down the office portion of the current building, they still have to rebuild the highway roof and the fire department garage. By eliminating the offices, they must find another location within the garage for the toilets and a room for the training of the emergency services. Emergency and fire service personnel were reportedly “extremely unhappy with the proposals”.
The current community center houses the historical society and a day care centre, both of which would have to move, and they were very unhappy about the possibility. This building is also the only place that was not flooded during Irene, has a generator, and is the only emergency shelter in town. Kaminski said, “To move forward with a plan like this, we’re stepping back as a city.”
The only two viable options are to renovate the current building with the initial approved construction budget of $843,000, or to obtain a bond and increase the budget to fully renovate the building as planned. The partial renovation would include the roof, mechanics, and other smaller items, but would not include replacement of doors, windows, special insulated wall system, or foundation. To do everything on the list, the city would need over $800,000. They can secure that amount with a 20-year loan and pay about $60,000 a year at 3.9% interest, but the city would also save about $15,000 a year in energy efficiency.
The city will vote on the project in the November elections.
Plymouth Selectboard meetings are held the first and third Mondays of each month at 6 p.m. at Town Hall and on Zoom.