Woodstock won't make donation for Mollyockett Days; OKs wind ordinance
Woodstock voters Monday said “no” to giving $1,596 to support what Arla Patch called an effort to change attitudes about Native Americans through the annual Mollyockett Days event in Bethel.
They also turned down a fireworks ordinance amendment, but approved property maintenance ordinance amendments and (barely) approved a new wind ordinance.
The Mollyockett funds were requested by the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the 55-year-old celebration. Patch, who has been active in other work to raise awareness of Native American issues, presented the proposal to town meeting voters.
She said BACC is changing the event to make it more respectful, and also wants to draw in the larger region where the Native American Mollyockett lived in the 1800s.
“We are not going to have a parade with a girl who’s dressed up pretending she’s an Indian, with a costume and waving to everybody,” said Patch.
Plans call for more involvement by native peoples and their art, music and other culture, in order to make them more visible and a part of the larger community.
But that plan is more expensive, Patch said, and support is being sought from Bethel and other area towns in the form of $1.25 per person per town, collected through taxes.
Newry approved funds at its town meeting earlier this month.
Woodstock Selectman Steve Bies offered an amendment that would have reduced his town’s contribution to $596. He said the event takes place in Bethel, and the proportion donated by other towns should be less.
As the discussion began, resident Mike Nadeau offered to donate the entire amount personally. “I think it’s a good cause,” he said to applause.
Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the BACC, thanked Nadeau. But the request to the towns is also symbolic, she said.
The lion’s share of the celebration, said Zinchuk, “has been supported by the business community … What this signifies by voting something from each of the taxpayers is that you truly believe it’s the people of the region that benefit from Mollyockett Days … We still have yet to speak to the town of Greenwood and the town of Bethel. I would hate to have people say, ‘Well, Woodstock didn’t give, so why should we?’
“It’s a symbolic shift that people recognize that the people are the ones who benefit from Mollyockett Days, it’s really not the businesses. It’s not a business event, it’s never been a business event. It’s been a homecoming. We’re trying to do something very different and very important, and it costs more than it has in the past.”
Nadeau said he would still contribute to make up the difference between any amount the town voted and the requested figure.
But many residents were skeptical of making any contribution, including Cathy Morgan.
“I think that with the way the economy is, we have many town members who are out of work, they’re struggling to eat. I’d rather see $1,500 go to our General Assistance fund,” she said. “If people want to celebrate, then people can celebrate, but I don’t think it’s up to the town to pay for that.”
Others said they didn’t think tax money should go to an effort they said has a political connotation.
But looking back at history, Nancy Willard said she supported doing something to recognize “that we regret killing people needlessly, taking children away from their families and putting them in foster homes, all the things that were done to the Indians.”
The amendment was easily defeated, however, and voters went on to defeat the main motion for the full amount.
Fireworks, property, wind
Also turned down was an amendment to the fireworks ordinance. It called for restricting fireworks use to only a handful of days each year. But Fire Chief Geff Inman argued against it. “I think it’s a waste of time and energy,” he said. “There’s no penalty to go with it and no enforcement.”
It was overwhelmingly defeated.
Voters were more receptive to changes to the property maintenance ordinance that give Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman a more solid base for her enforcement work.
Some residents worried it might impinge on their property rights.
Corey-Whitman said she typically does not actively seek out violators. She said most enforcement happens as a result of complaints.
The amendments were approved.
The proposed new commercial wind ordinance prompted nearly an hour of discussion.
Some neighbors of the new Spruce Mountain Wind project have complained about noise, and supporters of the ordinance said it would prevent problems in the future.
The ordinance imposes minimum sound decibel requirements stricter than state law, as well as a one-mile setback from property boundaries.
Selectmen supported it, citing a need to protect the “health and safety” of all residents. Selectman Rick Young said, “It gives us a baseline” from which to work, and possibly make changes in the future.
But Dennis Poland, a member of the committee that crafted the ordinance, opposed it. He said it was anti-business because there are currently no properties in town large enough to provide the needed setback for new projects. Poland said the ordinance should have focused on limiting the noise without such restrictive setbacks.
The ordinance was narrowly approved, 48-44, in a secret ballot.
Voters went on to approve the remaining money articles, with one change. They amended the Capital Reserve Account down by $5,000 to raise only $15,000 toward improvements at the Lake Christopher dam. The town already has money set aside and will have enough without the full $20,000 originally proposed, selectmen said.
The estimated amount to be raised from taxes (including an estimate for the school share) is $2,130,397, Town Manager Vern Maxfield said later. The projected mil rate is 11.72, up from 11.45.
In town elections, all incumbents were returned to office unopposed. The three-hour meeting was moderated by Steve Wight.