Update 3/2/2016, 11:06 a.m. By the slimmest of margins, chicken proponents prevailed in Barre City. Residents voted against increasing the required setbacks for chicken coops, a step that could have made it close to impossible for many people to raise chickens within city limits. The vote total: 960 against the setbacks; 955 for them. The Times Argus reported that selectboard member John LePage spent 12 hours outside the polls campaigning on behalf of poultry.
10:38 p.m. Town Meeting Day results are still trickling in but most of the big ticket items have been reported.
In Burlington, voters expressed support for the North Avenue pilot project planned for this spring. By a margin of roughly 2,000, they voted against keeping one section of the street four lanes. However, the results suggest that city officials still need to overcome skepticism in the New North End, where the majority voted to keep the four lanes.
The Burlington school budget won wide approval. Rutland City voters rejected an attempt to remove fluoride from the drinking water. Vernon residents expressed strong support for the potential arrival of a natural gas plant. At least two towns — Montpelier and Hartford — approved a local options tax; Barre City shot it down. Sill no word on the fate of Barre City chickens. A handful of towns have approved school district mergers as part of Act 46.
Burlington Backs North Ave Pilot
9:51 p.m. Burlington voters have rejected an effort to stop the North Avenue pilot project. A question on the city ballot asked residents whether they wanted one section of the street to remain four lanes — voting yes would signal opposition to the project, which will reduce North Avenue to three lanes, while adding two bike lanes. Residents voted 6,932 to 4,998 against the question.
But the two New North End wards that will be most affected voted yes. In Ward 4, it was approved 1,288 to 1,021. The margin was larger in Ward 7, where it was approved 1,197 to 765.
Reiterating his support for the project, the Mayor Miro Weinberger said that the results "indicate strong interest throughout the city for improving North Avenue." But he also noted, "I am concerned that so many New North Enders have reservations." Weinberger said he hopes they will reserve forming a final opinion until after the road configuration has been tested.
A $84 million school budget won wide support in Burlington; it passed 8,303 to 3,672. The budget is 2 percent higher than last year, but the increase wasn’t large enough to trigger the financial penalties passed as part of Act 46.
Speaking of Act 46, another merger has been approved: The towns of Clarendon, Shrewsbury, Tinmouth and Wallingford, which make up the Rutland South Supervisory Union, voted to combine their school boards, according to Jeff Francis, executive director of the Vermont Superintendents Association.
Montpelier and Hartford both approved local options taxes, in contrast to Barre City, which rejected one.
8:49 p.m. Still reeling from the closure of Vermont Yankee, Vernon voters appear eager to bring a different kind of power plant to town. Vermont Public Radio is reporting that residents voted 677 to 153 to support a natural gas plant proposed by local investment banker Don Campbell. The project must clear multiple hurdles, but Tuesday’s vote will likely encourage Campbell to continue to pursue his plan. If he pulls it off, the $750 million project could re-energize the local economy.
Meanwhile, up north, all three districts in the Franklin Central Supervisory Union have voted to merge their school boards, according to Northwest Access TV. The districts are Fairfield, St. Albans City and St. Albans Town.
Rutland City Votes for Fluoride; Barre City Rejects New Tax
8:00 p.m. Fluoridation prevailed by a healthy margin in Rutland City, according to the Rutland Herald. Sixty percent of residents voted to continue adding it to the city water supply to prevent tooth decay. Anti-fluoride activists mounted a feisty campaign, accusing local officials of “drugging” residents, but they failed to garner a majority.
Vermont Public Radio is reporting that Barre City voters have turned down the proposal to levy a local options tax.
Channel 17 is reporting that Winooski passed its school budget.
X Chromosomes Make Comeback in Pomfret; Londonderry Hires Law Enforcement
7:30 p.m. The Valley News is reporting that for the first time in 40 years, a woman has been elected to the Pomfret selectboard — actually, two women.
Like many small Vermont towns, Londonderry doesn’t have its own police force. But at Town Meeting, residents concerned about drug addiction-fueled crime approved an $86,000 contract with the Vermont State Police. Read the story on VTDigger.org. Out of a sense of journalistic duty, Seven Days will have reporters in the field documenting Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) homecoming and some event called Super Tuesday.
But we know the questions that are really keeping readers on the edge of their seats: Will Barre City embrace or shun chickens? Will Rutland City buck the medical establishment by voting to remove fluoride from its drinking water? Will Burlington residents reject a contentious pilot project for one of the city's thoroughfares? Town Meeting Day business may play second fiddle to Sanders mania, but plenty of important local items are up for a vote. A number of towns will decide whether to combine their school boards into a single board in response to Act 46. Officials in Montpelier, Ludlow, Hartford and Barre City are hoping residents get behind a local options tax. We'll be posting results as they trickle in. We'll also have a live stream from Channel 17 featuring interviews and analysis.