Craftsbury Focuses on Town Business, Settles with HED on Billing Issue

CRAFTSBURY – After a COVID outbreak in mid-December infected 15 residents and 14 staff, the Craftsbury Community Care Center (CCCC) went nine days without a new positive test in the facility, according to board member Penelope Doherty. The Craftsbury School Board met with Equity Counselor Hilary Maynard at a January board meeting to participate in an equity training session. At an early January meeting, the Craftsbury School Board approved a $4,059,065.98 budget for FY2022 to operate the Craftsbury School District. The proposed budget raises the homestead tax rate to 1.7653, representing approximately a 4-cent increase over FY2021. Also in January, the Craftsbury School District and Hardwick Electric Department (HED) had been at odds over a $143,927.83 billing disagreement since October 2010. The issue went before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). An evidentiary hearing was held by the PUC on January 21 via GoToMeeting, with hearing officer Michael Tousley, staff attorney. The next step was awaiting his findings in a proposal for decision and conclusions of law with final recommendations. No recommendations on settling the issue had been made to date.

Julie Higgins’ third-grade class set out on one of its more ambitious outdoor learning experiences in January: building a “quinzhee hut” on the school’s woodlot.

In February, it was announced that Craftsbury’s municipal budget was up by $10,799, but taxpayers were asked to raise $105,909.22 less than the previous year. The 2021 budget approved by the select board totaled $804,331 for operating the town’s offices and road department. Also, with no new positive cases since early January, the Craftsbury Community Care Center was deemed to have weathered December’s COVID-19 outbreak. Residents were doing well, and some restrictions were eased. The seven-article warning from the Craftsbury School District was discussed at an informational meeting held in February via Zoom. About 20 attendees were present. Town Moderator Jeanine Young, select board chair Bruce Urie, and Town Clerk Yvette Brown, all anticipated a larger-than-usual voter turnout with this year’s ballot voting. Brown reported that, as of Monday night, 316 absentee ballots had been requested with a return of 183 before the polls opened on Tuesday morning. She anticipated 375 to 400 voters; the town has about 900 registered voters.

Craftsbury residents voted yes on all 44 articles on the warning at Town Meeting 2021 on March 2. Three hundred and sixty-three voters participated by Australian ballot – double the usual number at previous in-person town meetings. A draft, multi-year vision plan was presented to the Craftsbury school directors by Craftsbury Schools Principal Merri Greenia at a March meeting. The plan presented as the “Small School, Big Opportunities” vision for the next five years. Also in March, Craftsbury Schools Principal Merri Greenia was awarded the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ “National Distinguished Vermont Principal of the Year” for 2021-2022. She was selected by the executive council of the Vermont Principals Association. The Equity Coalition moved one step closer to obtaining funding after the last meeting of the select board. The board approved a $1,300 budget for the group, pending definition of the open meeting law component.

In April, the board of trustees of the John Woodruff Simpson Memorial Library selected Kristin Urie to lead the institution as it begins its next century of service to the community. The select board dispatched a multi-faceted agenda, ranging from emergency management, highway state aid, and open meeting law to approving weight and liquor licenses and Common permits. The board met in-person and via Zoom. Following an executive session at its April meeting, the Craftsbury School Board voted unanimously to pay Hardwick Electric Department (HED) $141,865.80 to settle a dispute of HED’s underbilling for electricity used between 2010 and 2019. The dispute had moved from the Department of Public Service to the Public Utility Commission (PUC).

At a select board meeting in May, the board addressed the Open Meeting Law to giving its support to the Craftsbury Community Care Center’s (CCCC) grant application. 

[Editor’s Note: The Gazette’s coverage of Craftsbury was limited in 2021 due to the retirement of our correspondent. Please consider joining the Gazette’s citizen journalist initiative in 2022 to get our coverage of Craftsbury back to where it should be. Contact the Gazette if you need help or have any questions. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!]