Wendell voters OK change to Municipal Light Board membership

About 60 voters attended Wendell’s Annual Town Meeting on Saturday at the Town Offices.

About 60 voters attended Wendell’s Annual Town Meeting on Saturday at the Town Offices. FOR THE RECORDER/LIESEL NYGARD


For the Recorder

Published: 06-10-2024 2:36 PM

Modified: 06-12-2024 9:31 AM

WENDELL — Although the vote wasn’t unanimous Saturday, the majority of Annual Town Meeting attendees supported a switch from appointed to elected membership for Wendell’s Municipal Light Board, which is tasked with overseeing the town’s fiber-optic network.

Passing this article now means that Wendell will vote on the first elected members of the Municipal Light Board during a May 2025 election. Each member’s term will last for three years.

Wendell’s Municipal Light Plant was created to develop, build and operate a broadband network in town. Plant Manager Ray DiDonato oversees operations, and the three-member board consists of Chair Lou Leelyn, Laurie DiDonato and Robert Heller.

During the meeting, which was attended by 60 Wendell voters, Heller said the purpose of this switch is to be independent of the Selectboard. Municipal Light Board members are currently appointed by the Selectboard.

“The board might be subject to potential interference from the Selectboard ... which could conceivably happen at some point in the future,” Heller explained. “This board is a very important service in town and it needs to have a certain level of independence.”

Voters also approved a roughly $3.91 million fiscal year 2025 budget, which is an increase from Wendell’s current $3.7 million budget.

Article 13, to allow the town to appropriate $246,122 from the special revenue fund designated for Connect America Fund Phase II disbursements for payment of the FY25 debt service in the broadband project, was put on hold.

According to Town Administrator Glenn Johnson-Mussad, the reason the town could not vote on the article on Saturday is because Wendell currently doesn’t have the funds in hand.

It was ultimately decided to hold off on voting on Article 13 until 7 p.m. on June 26, when another meeting will convene at the Town Offices. The town is expected to have received the money by then.

During the meeting, voters also chose to establish a Town Hall and Kitchen Revolving Fund for the fees received from cash donations or rentals of Town Hall, its kitchen and associated properties. Passing this article also gave Wendell’s Selectboard the authority to use these funds for the operation, maintenance and improvement of the facilities.

The following article was also passed, which pertains to transferring the balance of the existing Town Hall Kitchen Revolving Fund to the newly established Town Hall and Kitchen Revolving Fund. Town Meeting voters then eliminated the former account.

Other articles that were approved include appropriating $5,000 for Fire Department turnout gear, appropriating $5,000 for repaving work at the Wendell Recycling and Transfer Station and authorizing the treasurer to borrow up to $53,000 to pay Wendell’s share of the cost to install new interior doors at Swift River School.

This article was revised to more accurately reflect the action taken on Article 13.