Killington supports secession effort after divisive town meeting

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(Host) The town of Killington will push ahead with efforts to secede from Vermont. A resolution directing the town selectmen to stop efforts to join New Hampshire was defeated by town meeting voters 117 to 45. Local officials have been threatening to leave Vermont because of what they call unfairly high property taxes.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, debate on the issue got ugly.

(Keck) There weren’t any punches thrown, but the hostility was palpable when Killington resident Charles Wise halted debate on the secession issue by calling for a vote.

(Moderator) “Shall I move the question?”

(Keck) When the motion was seconded, Art LaMontagne, who had been waiting his turn to speak, was told to sit down.

(LaMontagne and others) “This is a sham! I’m tired of this town, tired of this town.”
“Good bye and don’t’ come back!”
“Who made you president of this town?”
“I want you to know you’ll be voting on whether or not to move the question.”
“Everybody vote no!”
“Everybody listen, you’re out of order, too.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“All those in favor of moving the question say ‘aye.’ Those opposed? The motion is carried.”

(Keck) After that outburst, the nearly 200 people attending the meeting voted 117 to 45 to continue with efforts to secede. Longtime Killington resident Charles Wise says he called for the vote because he felt the half-hour debate had gone on long enough.

(Wise) “It was pretty obvious to me that everyone’s mind was probably already made up and all continued discussion would do would get people angry and say nastier things and that kind of stuff.”

(Keck) But Art LaMontagne, who had stormed out of the school and was still fuming in the parking, lot felt differently.

(LaMontagne) “The real issue in my opinion is the divisiveness that I see in our own town. Charlie saw that I was there, he knew that I wished to speak on the issue and I thought it was a sneaky trick on his part to cut off debate.”
(Keck) “What would you have told the audience just now if you had the chance to speak?”
(LaMontagne) “I would have told them to vote to stop the secession movement. This town needs to have a development commission. This town needs to pull itself up by its bootstraps to determine how to move forward in the 21st century. And I don’t see them doing that. This town is dying. We need to come up with ideas to move the town forward, not pie in the sky ideas about trying to secede from Vermont.”

(David Lewis) “It’s not as if we spend all our time working on this New Hampshire thing.”

(Keck) That’s Killington Town Manager David Lewis.

(Lewis) “Property taxes are $10 million a year. That’s the number one thing that, as a government, we hear – that our property taxes are too high. Quite frankly, we don’t hear too many people wanting us to develop industrial development parks. I mean, the private sector does that quite well. We have to respond to the majority of the people and the majority of the people want us to do municipal services and property taxes.”

(Keck) With the voters’ show of support, Lewis says Killington will continue its efforts to become part of New Hampshire. While he admits it’s a long shot, he and many other local residents said it’s important for those in power to see just how upset they are with the state property tax situation.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Killington.

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