Voters In Jamaica Complain About State, Federal Interference

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(Host) Voters in the southern Vermont town of Jamaica reflected the state on Town Meeting Day. They passed both town and school budgets, while they complained about interference from Washington and Montpelier.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Coleman) "All those in favor of Bonny West serving one year as tax collector please say Aye."

(Crowd) "Aye."

(Coleman) "The motion is carried."

(Keese) Jamaica is one of those rare remaining towns that still elect its town officials in a floor vote on Town Meeting Day.

Selectboard Chair Lexa Clark says it’s a well-run town.

(Clark) "People seem to be happy with everything that’s going on. We own our own equipment. We don’t have any debt."

(Keese) There was frustration among voters, though, with Washington and Montpelier.

State government, for example, controls education spending. Even though Jamaica’s school budget was down by a hundred forty thousand dollars, taxes were up.

Ralph Coleman is the town moderator.

(Coleman) "They’ve tried like anything to cut back as much as they can cause enrollments gone from 100 down to 50 or 60 or something like that but you do that and the way the state formula is your still seeing a little increase in taxes and that’s just so frustrating."

(Keese) Another frustration has been with the U.S. Post Office. A year or so ago the town bought an historic brick bank building. The hope was that the post office would move into the building.

But since the news of postal deficits and consolidation, the Postal Service hasn’t shown much interest.

But several residents said they feared that if they pushed too hard, Jamaica might lose its post office altogether.

Valerie Pantorno is a part time postal worker in town.

(Pantorno) "I was told that if we made too many waves about our post office they just might close it down, that’s what I’ve been told."

(Keese) The bank building currently houses the town’s historical foundation.

Jamaica voters also expressed misgivings about accepting state money to repave a back road between Jamaica and the Stratton Mountain resort.

Tom Morris, who lives on Pikes Falls Road, said improving it would encourage drivers to speed through his rural neighborhood.

(Morris) Because there’s free money coming from the state, which we pay to the state anyway, we’re going to spend 25,000 from our town budget. To pave a road that doesn’t need paving.

(Keese) In the end the towns decided to apply for the state money, and look for other ways  — possibly speed bumps –to slow the traffic down.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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