Another town meeting day down

Town meeting day 2017 was a success. With a few exceptions, voters made the right calls on school and select board candidates as well as ballot articles.

In Bennington, Carson Thurber and Chad Gordon won seats on the Select Board. The Banner endorsed both of them for those positions. Each seem like they'll not only bring some needed freshness and energy to the board, but will also build upon the things the board has been doing right.

One of the seats up for grabs was held by board Vice Chairman Michael Keane. He'll continue to hold it until the board's reorganizational meeting in April.

Keane was elected to the board in 2014. We'd like to thank him for his service. Keane has a mind for numbers and statistics and his input was certainly useful in that regard. Unfortunately, his behavior on social media was sometimes less than stellar.

On a number of occasions he took swipes at locals he's had issues with. The worst moment came in August when he posted a photo of a downtown business owner and called him a "dybbuk," an evil spirit from Jewish folklore. Keane apologized, and given the context surrounding the situation, it's doubtful he meant the comment as an anti-Semitic slur, but in any scenario it was inappropriate behavior for a government official and it likely played a significant role in his defeat Tuesday.

We hope that all local public officials take note and understand that what they post on Facebook and Twitter does matter to others, and that the people they represent are paying attention.

Local schools are also poised to move in the right direction with the election of Robert F. Plunkett to the Mount Anthony Union District Board, and Daniel Monks, Christopher Murphy, and Chaila Sekora to the Bennington School District board.

The BSD election could end up having a significant impact on how discussions around Act 46 progress. The BSD board will be voting in the coming weeks whether or not to join the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union's new study committee, which will be exploring the concept of merging all the SU districts in a model that will resemble an expanded Mt. Anthony Union district.

During the campaign, both Monks and Murphy spoke favorably about the MAU model, and Sekora talked about the importance of districts working together. On the other hand, Gene Rowley, who lost his seat on the board, described expanding the MAU model as "disturbing," and called for "Bennington to take care of Bennington."

"The best method I've seen so far is to simply use the MAU model to consolidate," said Monks last month, "It's worked for this community for decades and I believe it will work as a K-12 model."

Voters in Bennington also approved a $207,459 appropriation to the Bennington Rescue Squad. It passes easily, which is surprising given the amount, but not so surprising given the importance of the service the squad provides. The Select Board should waste no time in meeting with the squad to talk about incorporating its financial needs into the town general fund, making the donation more predictable and hopefully finding a way to lower it some.

Most of the public works projects seeking voter approval across Bennington County were approved. Voters appeared to recognize the fact that the costs of deferring maintenance are high and that it's time to invest in our communities.

Where voters stumbled was in Pownal, when they rejected a plan to finally move ahead with a new town office. The debate over that project has gone on some 25 years.

At one point, after months of heated debate, the town demolished the former Bartels Lodge to make room for a building, only to propose a different site. Now, some are suggestion the American Legion post off Route 7 as an option. We hope it won't be another 25 years before a decision is made and followed through on.


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