March 5, 2013

Jericho voters use refund from police scandal to reduce tax burden

Written by Terri Hallenbeck, Free Press Staff Writer | Burlington Free Press | March 5, 2013 |

JERICHO – When the state police return nearly $80,000 you paid them to patrol for speeders after the officer on the beat failed to do the work, what do you do?

In Jericho, residents opted to put the money back in their pockets.

Some 200 residents at town meeting Tuesday decided to use the $79,827 the Vermont State Police refunded just this week to lower the amount to be raised by taxes. Residents voted unanimously for the $3.5 million town budget, which is up 2.55 percent.

A much smaller crowd at the afternoon school meeting approved the $3.8 million school budget, up 5.36 percent.

By secret ballot, residents also re-elected Kim Mercer to a three-year term on the Selectboard. She defeated Don Messier, 396-284.

State police refunded Jericho’s money after Sgt. James Deeghan admitted in January he had fabricated time sheets and traffic tickets during on the job, including as part of a state police contract with Jericho.

Resident Dave Schuler said the money should go back to the taxpayers. The Selectboard hadn’t determined what to do with the refund, because the money wasn’t in hand until Monday, Mercer said.

Nancy Karlson unsuccessfully tried twice to have all or half the money used to pay for more road safety measures. A bicyclist, she said she finds Jericho’s roads among the most dangerous.

Selectboard members said the town has several road safety measures in the budget, including hiring the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department to increase patrol roads by 10 hours a week for $12,000, in addition to continuing the state police contract.

Roads continued to dominate the meeting as local residents applauded planned paving of Skunk Hollow Road (if the town receives help from a state grant), while others reminded the board not to forget their road needs.

In one of the few departures from road topics, residents voted 49-37 as the meeting ended to advise the Legislature that environmental impact and community input be given greater consideration in siting mountaintop wind projects, an issue Bill Butler raised from the floor. Former state Rep. Gaye Symington, who serves on a state energy siting commission studying this issue, argued that communities and the enironment are considered.

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