All Things in Moderation

After being elected moderator of last night’s school budget meeting, I have newfound respect for Carroll Ketchum and other town meeting moderators who have served before him.

Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure are thorough, and at first, quite confusing, but once you get an understanding of them, they actually start to make sense. However, when put to the test, under pressure in front of two hundred or so voters, I lost track of some of the basics which seemed so self-evident just a few minutes before.

Further confusing was the helpful but sometimes conflicting advice offered to me by the town elders. Recommendations, which at first made perfect sense when given by one person, suddenly seemed absurd when contradicted by another in a different light. I would like to thank the constructive input I received from Neal Fox, Barbara Wood, Chris Constanzo, David Allen, and others, who gave me their insights and experience from past meetings to help me muddle through the process.

Obviously, I will be examining Robert’s Rules in more detail if it looks like I’ll be called upon to moderate again in the future. Despite the fact that I felt fairly inept at the podium, I was told repeatedly that I did a good job. I have to think that some of the praise was simply people being nice to me, but maybe there’s hope.
Fortunately, the townspeople were tolerant as we went along, and did eventually vote for an amended budget that passed by a significant majority.

Also, I’d like to thank Carroll Ketchum for his phone call this morning. Carroll, rest assured that, as far as I’m concerned, the position of moderator will be yours for as long as you want it.

Bethel’s Roads

On April 10, 2006 I attended the meeting of the local selectboard to complain about the sad state of the roads in Bethel. I supported the presentation given by Michael Manning, who outlined, in graphic detail, just how poor the roads in Bethel have become. Chris Costanzo covered the story in an article in that week’s copy of the Herald of Randolph.

The following week, Michael McPhetres wrote a letter to the editor, which was published under the heading of “Drive a mile in their tracks.”

I have.

I would like to thank our road foreman’s cousin for sending in his opinion from Brookfield. Given that he does not live in Bethel, I’m sure he has limited understanding of the sad condition of our roads, and lacks the first-hand experience which drove me to the meeting in the first place. Knowing that, I suppose I can see why he would stand up for our road foreman as he has.

I have lived on a back road in Bethel for close to thirty years, and the condition of the roads has never been as bad as it is now. However, to prove that this is not just a fluke this season, the photos that I presented to the selectboard were from last year.

While the selectboard seems compelled to try to sweep this issue under the rug, or blame it on the fact that the town has not properly funded the road budget for a long time, the truth of the matter is that no amount of money will fix the problem if the road crew is not properly trained, and then follows through with proper execution of their duties.

I do not need to be a civil engineer to know that the roads in Bethel are pathetic, and that all one has to do is cross the border to any neighboring town to see an immediate improvement in their condition. This is not a factor of the weather, unless Bethel is subject to some strange environmental phenomenon which causes excessive wetness in the area, but is kind enough to stop at the Bethel’s borders so as not to inconvenience neighboring towns.

I have spoken with several Bethel residents who have informed me of their encounters with the road foreman, and his unwillingness to accept any sort of input or criticism on the job, even from other exerienced heavy equipment operators and civil engineers.

Mr. McPhetres, like the selectboard, suggests that the town should spend more on maintaining the roads, implying that they all believe the poor quality of our roads is due to poor materials. Michael Manning’s photo presentation clearly demonstrated that the town used good materials on the road in the past. So, what’s the problem? The problem is that all of the heavy materials put on the road have been graded off and now line the roads where we should have ditches! Why should the town appropriate more money to spend on better materials for the roads if it will just be graded right off?

What do you think of the condition of our roads in Bethel? Is it really not that bad? Is it a lack of proper funding? A lack of training? Or just a lack of know-how on the part of certain town employees? Please post your own comments below.

The Town Needs Voicemail

Here is a copy of a letter I wrote to the Town Manager today.
Delbert Cloud
Town Manager
Town of Bethel
134 South Main St.
Bethel, VT 05032

Dear Del:

I am writing to express mild frustration in the fact that, with one exception, every time I have called the town offices in the last three years, I have been greeted with a busy signal on my first attempt, and normally on subsequent attempts.

It would be a service to the community if your office had voicemail and multiple telephone lines so that we did not need to repeatedly call and get busy signals when we have questions or concerns that need to be addressed to your office.

Sincerely,

Peter C. Nikolaidis

CC: Selectboard