READSBORO- Teddy Hopkins vacated his position as chairman of the selectboard earlier this month but that hasn’t stopped town residents from keeping his name the tip of their tongues.
At Tuesday night’s selectboard meeting, Hopkins was again the major topic of conversation after the board announced that he and Arthur “Junior” Passardi were to remain on the windmill negotiating team. According to Chairman Raymond Eilers, the board’s decision was fueled by the progress the current team had made over the last year and the impending conclusion of negotiations.
“It’s almost a done deal. We shouldn’t change the team this late in the game,” said Eilers.
Several residents, including selectboard critic Peter Chesbro, questioned why Hopkins should remain in that position when the town had been advised to place a board member on the team. The board did not feel it was necessary to appoint a new member to the team, an action they felt would stall negotiations.
“It’ll set back the process if one of us joins the team,” said board member Charlotte Clark. “We’re going to have to back-track and that’s just counterproductive.”
The windmill project, which will see seven new windmills in Searsburg and 10 in Readsboro along the same ridgeline that currently boasts 11 turbines, is still in the permitting process but will see progress this summer, when a series of state hearings are scheduled. Clark was quick to note that the negotiating team is not responsible for the final decisions; the issue will come before the selectboard for a vote.
Hopkins was again the center of controversy when Chesbro demanded the board answer questions, brought to the March 18 meeting, about his recent appointment as a third selectboard clerk. When Eilers stated that he had not kept track of the exact hours each clerk had dedicated to specific tasks because he hadn’t known he needed to, Chesbro accused the board of “circumventing the town charter.”
“At Town Meeting, people in town were smelling something here and I asked if there was money for a new position. You said there wasn’t going to be a new position,” said Chesbro, who added that the town charter does not mention a position for a selectboard clerk.
Clark and Eilers clarified that they had not created an administrative position, as discussed at Town Meeting, and the clerk position was not specifically restricted per the town charter.
“If we had hired anyone else but Teddy, you’d be all right with it?” asked Clark. “Are you an X-Files fan? Because you have a lot of conspiracies.”
Calling the board an “aristocracy,” Chesbro also asked that the town develop a better reimbursement plan for work done between town departments.
Hopkins, who attended the meeting for the first time since he left the board, said he didn’t know why people were so angered by his involvement in town politics.
“There’s just this division between those who voted for me in the write-in and those who voted for Tony (Caruso). But, from my perspective, it just makes sense to keep someone on who knows this stuff. I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes. I just want to help the town,” he said.
In other business, the board also discussed the possibility of acquiring a sewer department vehicle and tabled discussion about the sale of two Alpenwald Village lots and the relocation of the town’s dog kennel.
By Jen Thomas
27 March 2008
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