Goshen Voters Hold Traditional Town Meeting
03/05/02 12:00AM By Steve Zind
(Host) Today is the traditional day for Vermont's town meeting. But voters in many communities got down to business on Monday night.
VPR's Steve Zind visited the small Addison County town of Goshen, which was one of them.
(Zind) The Goshen town meeting begins the civilized way, with a pot luck supper. Voters help themselves to macaroni and cheese, quiche, pie and something called "seven-layer-dip." They sit on folding chairs, benches, and on an aging sofa in one corner of the Town Hall. Then they get down to business:
(Sound of gavel being lowered) "...call the Goshen town meeting to order...."
(Zind) Two hundred-twenty seven souls live in Goshen. About 40 attended Monday night's meeting. In a community this small, many people do double, even triple duty on town boards.
(Bishop) "Myself, I'm on school board, mosquito control, building committee. Did I say mosquito control?"
(Zind) David Bishop chairs the Goshen School Board. He's expecting to be grilled on this year's school budget. The school tax rate is going up 22%. Bishop says last year, the tax rate went down 24%. In a town this size, small changes can make for big increases:
(Bishop) "Our count is growing by three students. And the total school count is going down. And that raises our percentage of the pie that we have to pay for."
(Zind) It turns out that the discussion of the school budget is brief. Most of the meeting's questions are reserved for the Select Board and the road commissioner:
(Sound from meeting) "Yeah, I'd like to ask a question about the trucks that we have on the road, the Goshen trucks."
(Zind) The town meeting discussion is casual. People address each other by first name, rarely waiting to be recognized by the moderator. Diane Mott came to Goshen in 1949. She's seen some lively debates:
(Mott) "I used to be the constable and I had to throw somebody out once. (Laughs) That was back a bunch of years ago."
(Zind) Mott says Goshen has always held its town meeting on Monday night. Now that they've had their say, voters return to the town hall today to cast their ballots on the school and municipal budgets.
For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Steve Zind in Goshen.