Irene Effect Sways Town Meeting Outcomes

03/07/12 5:50PM By Kirk Carapezza
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(Host) Tropical Storm Irene devastation lingers in many of the Vermont communities it overwhelmed more than six months ago, and it influenced voters' decisions this week. VPR's Kirk Carapezza has our story.

(Carapezza) On Town Meeting Day in Windsor, Irene made voters think twice about whether they wanted to approve a $1 million bond that they'd previously refused to support.

(Marsh) "When the dam went through Irene it was a very tenuous time for everybody and it really did bring the issue to bear."

(Carapezza) Tom Marsh is Windsor's tech-savvy town manager. He provided updates throughout Town Meeting Day via Twitter. And he says up until the vote it was really uncertain whether there would be enough support to repair the aging Ascutney Mill Dam.

But on this day voters could easily recall how the August 28th storm made their small dam look like Niagara Falls, exacerbating damage to its already broken release gate. The bond passed with 75 percent support.

(Marsh) "And I think we can attribute that to what it would mean not to fund it - what would the ramifications of that be. It was well-documented what a failed piece of infrastructure like that would do. We were all holding our breath for several hours that day."

(Carapezza) Irene seems to have also affected decisions in Braintree.

The town's current treasurer, Jocelyn Stohl had issued what some described as a scathing town report blaming the Select Board for mismanaging 25 percent of the money spent on Irene repairs.

Stohl says she knows her message wasn't welcomed by many in town.

(Stohl) "I'm sure it made people uncomfortable but the treasurer stands alone [unlike] a board."

(Carapezza) In her report, Stohl said that Braintree has been in serious financial trouble since the storm. And she quoted a friend who suggested it could become a "ghost town" if the Select Board didn't get its act together.

(Stohl) "It's a tough thing to do, but my job was to give this information to the voters. How they choose to use it was entirely up to them."

(Carapezza) It appears Braintree voters didn't like what Stohl had to say. They ousted her Tuesday, just two weeks after she released her critical report.

For VPR News, I'm Kirk Carapezza.

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town_meeting_2012 tropical_storm_irene windsor braintree politics
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