Town Meeting results: Thetford voters support Gaza ceasefire resolution

By NICOLA SMITH

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 03-03-2024 7:00 PM

THETFORD — By a sizable margin, residents approved by voice vote a non-binding resolution, introduced on the floor by Duncan Nichols, calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the West Bank and a halt of U.S. arms sales to Israel.

The resolution came at the tail end of the Town Meeting at Thetford Academy on Saturday in which 19 articles on the warning passed with little discussion or controversy, including both $2.4 million for the Town General Fund and $1.5 million for the Department of Public Works Fund.

Deecie Denison, the town moderator, was ill; previous Moderator Sarah Martel stood in for Denison. Out of a town checklist of 2,273 voters, 235 people were at the meeting, said Town Clerk Tracy Borst.

The penultimate article on the warning to transact any other business of the town led to Nichols’ resolution. In his introduction, Nichols said he had been spurred by the high death toll of civilians in Gaza. The Hamas attacks on Israel in October killed 1,200 Israelis; the war in Gaza has killed some 30,000 Palestinians and 245 Israeli Defense Forces.

He had not tried to get it on the town warning in January because he wanted to see if the dire situation improved, he said. “If anyone wants to speak to this, it would be good to hear you,” he said.

In voting against the resolution, Bill Huff said he didn’t believe that “these types of issues are appropriate to Town Meeting. I think of it as a business meeting. I think it’s a complicated issue that doesn’t reflect the entirety of the town.”

“I supported the resolution. I’m very grateful that Duncan brought it up,” said Susan Borotz.

Thetford is not the only Vermont town planning to debate a resolution arguing for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza this year. Newfane, Vt., in the southern part of the state is also bringing a resolution to the floor on Monday. Last month the Lebanon City Council voted 4-0, with three members abstaining, to direct the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to draft a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and an end to the war. In January, however, the Burlington City Council rejected an attempt to place a pro-Palestine resolution on the March 5 ballot, by a vote of 7-5, according to Seven Days.

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Prior to the Gaza resolution, Thetford voters passed the major budget articles 3 and 4 after amending both to reflect changes in the amount of money to be raised by both taxes and non-tax revenues. The town passed an amended Article 3, which states that the town will raise a sum of $2.4 million for the general fund, of which $1,412,907 shall be raised by taxes, with $50,000 from the town’s surplus fund and $958,000 by non-tax revenues.

An amended Article 4 states that the town shall raise $1.5 million, of which $1,380,586 shall be raised by taxes and $237,900 by non-tax revenues for the budgeted expenditures of the Department of Public Works fund.

A voter asked why the surplus fund of approximately $500,000 could not be used to bring down the amount raised for taxes. Selectboard Chairwoman Sharon Harkay noted that if the town uses “additional funds to buy down the increase this year, that increase is still there next year.”

Town Manager Brian Story said that the remaining American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, surplus funds of approximately $500,000 will be used to make repairs to the town garage, the sand pit and the Timothy Frost United Methodist Church building.

“Asphalt and paving projects have become considerably more expensive,” Story said. “The dollar isn’t going as far.”

Voters approved raising $337,000 as an appropriation to the Thetford Volunteer Fire Department, although there were questions about the lack of a line item budget for the department. “Can we get an itemization of the amount they get every year?” asked resident Susanne Simon.

Story said that he “wants to work more closely with the Fire Department. But they are not a town organization. But I understand the request and will take it up.”

Town voters also passed articles raising money for the Thetford Library Federation, the Lake Fairlee Association, the town’s community nurse, for visiting nurse and hospice care, the White River Council on Aging, Tri-Valley Transit, Clara Martin Center, the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley, Safeline, Orange County Parent Child Center, Orange County Restorative Justice Center, WISE and The Family Place.

Voting for town and school officers, the $10.1 million school budget and the Vermont presidential primary, will be held Tuesday at the town hall; polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

David Forbes and John Piecuch are vying for one-year to complete a three-year term on the Selectboard. Li Shen is running for a three-year term and David W. Goodrich is running for a two-year term on the Selectboard. On the school side, Nicholas Cook is running for a three-year term and Stephanie Hareld for a two-year term.

Nicola Smith can be reached at mail@nicolasmith.org.