Avon approves wind power ordinance; new selectman elected

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Avon Selectman Bob Ellis, at right, gets a standing ovation from voters. Congratulating Ellis are, town officials, from left, Selectman John Calloway, Town Clerk Mary Dunham, and Selectman Jerome Gilchrist.

AVON – Voters unanimously passed all three ordinances for wind power development, subdivision guidelines and dogs; approved a frugal budget and elected Greta Espeaignnette to the three-member Board of Selectmen at today’s annual town meeting.

There was no discussion and the vote was unanimous among the 40 or so residents attending to approve the proposed Avon Wind Energy Ordinance. The wind power development ordinance was based on the same ordinance the neighboring town of Phillips passed last year which uses a formula developed by an acoustic engineer that provides setback regulations based on decibel levels and blade flicker.

Greta Espeaignnette was elected to the board of selectmen for a three-year term at today's annual town meeting in Avon.

In recommending the ordinance, the Town Report said, “The selectmen believe the town’s voters should have some say if a large company wants to put turbines on any of our mountain tops.” A similar wind power ordinance was also approved unanimously at an New Vineyard town meeting earlier this month.

When it was all said and done, the municipal budget totaled a little over $160,000 which is down by $7,000 from last year’s total of $167,000. Residents were unanimous in voting to approve all of the budget proposals except two organizations’ request for money totaling $750.

Town Clerk Mary Dunham questioned the request of $250 from the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. “Why would we want to spend $250 for the Chamber? What do they do for us?” Another resident said businesses listed in the Chamber Guide already pay dues to the organization.

Voters also said no to a request from Safe Voices (formerly AWAP), an agency that provides help for victims of domestic violence. Voices requested $500 from the town of Avon. Selectman John Calloway, who also serves on the county budget committee, said he was against approving the money, because the county, he said, already supports the agency.

“If it’s supported by the county we don’t want to support it,” Calloway said. County Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong, echoed Calloway’s sentiment and called the request “double dipping.” Barker said the county will begin its budget review process next week.

After the vote to not fund Safe Voices, Lauri Silbulkin stood and asked if the town could vote to direct the county budget representative from Avon to recommend supporting Safe Voices at the county level since the town’s voters are assuming the county will pay for the support.

Calloway said he “didn’t believe there is a single mechanism that gets a directive from anyone.” He said of the committee members, “They are a free agent. In short, it can’t be done.”

Voters did support several programs such as $1,500 to the Phillips Area Food Pantry, $984 for Community Concepts, Inc. which provides transportation to medical appointments and such, $2,000 to the Phillips library, $252 to the Healthy Community Coalition and $504 to the American Red Cross.

Interestingly, six of the traditional municipal expenditure articles of the 58-article warrant, such as for the animal control officer, improvements to the Walli Ballpark and Rollins Playground, maintenance to the town office, recommended that no funding be raised and appropriated this year. Selectmen explained that frugality had netted numerous account carryovers from the previous budgets to comfortably cover the coming year’s needs.

In reading one “recommended: $0” after another, the meeting’s folksy moderator Richard Caton, Jr. quipped, “What’s not to like?”

Voters passed a dog ordinance for the first time that outlines dog licensing, barking issues and other dog-related issues. The need for an ordinance was expressed by the town’s animal control officer Laura White. White said she needed an ordinance “with teeth” so she can help enforce it better. Although the regulations on dogs aren’t as detailed as some towns, such as defining “prolonged barking or howling” by the length of time the dog can be heard, Calloway recommended passing the more basic version, because “we can see how it goes and can always amend it next year.”

With no discussion, subdivision regulations the same as the state’s, but will allow the town to administer developments locally rather than going through the state to process, was unanimously approved.

First Selectman Bob Ellis was applauded and thanked for his years of service. Ellis, who is moving out of state, was replaced by Greta Espeaignnette. A retired U.S. Air Force veteran, Espeaignnette, who has never served as a selectman before, said after the meeting that she grew up here and wanted to get involved.

“I am very interested in helping out,” she said.

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