Representative Peter Welch descended on Bove’s manufacturing plant in Milton last week for lasagna with local business leaders and a tour of the facility.
Town Manager Don Turner and selectboard chair Darren Adams joined the congressman for a tour of the plant led by company president, Mark Bove. The crew donned white coats and hair nets, exchanging jokes and exclamations about the warm smells wafting from the kitchen.
Bove is the third generation to carry on the sauce line following the closure of his family’s iconic cafe in Burlington in 2015. Bove’s Cafe opened in 1941 serving authentic Italian recipes passed down over generations but closed after Mark Bove’s father passed. The Milton location produces the iconic Italian sauce and has offered special event dining since 2018 in a nostalgic dining room complete with the original booths, sign and jukebox.
“It smells so good in here,” said Welch, as they embarked on the tour.
One wall of the location in Milton’s Catamount Industrial Park displays portraits of Bove matriarchs and patriarchs as a memorial to family history.
“Memories with food are just so sacred,” Bove told the Independent when the dining space opened. “That’s something I wanted to nurture and cradle up here in Milton.”
Welch ended his visit chatting with local Milton business leaders over a lasagna lunch served by Bove himself, complete with the iconic red sauce.
There are three candidates for Milton’s two one-year seats on the selectboard. Incumbents Michael Morgan and Dana Maxfield are seeking reelection. John Fitzgerald is running for the board for the first time. The seats will go to the top two vote getters.
Fitzgerald has been doing volunteer work in the community with Cub Scouts, youth soccer and the community Facebook page. He sees joining the selectboard as “one more way I can help the town.”
He has been attending the board’s meetings for the past year. “I think the town runs things fairly well,” he said, with town leaders doing a good job of balancing costs with needs.
Fitzgerald said he would like to see the town manage costs so there aren’t big changes in the tax rate, citing the need for a paving bond last year as an example. “We were definitely behind on paving,” he said, adding that the issue now will be “how to keep us on track.”
He really enjoys helping the community, Fitzgerald said, and he’s “super-excited for the opportunity” to serve on the board.
Dana Maxfield joined the board last year.
“It can be a steep learning curve,” Maxfield said. “”There’s a lot more to what goes into running the town and governing the town than you realize.”
The board handles everything from the budget, contractual obligations and legal issues to approving bird houses proposed by the Girl Scouts, he noted.
Maxfield said the town has had a “bit of a lull in business” growth and needs to “promote the town as being open for business and bring the right businesses to town.”
At the same time, Maxfield said, “It’s important to me that Milton not lose that hometown feeling.”
On one of the board’s largest responsibilities — handling the town’s money — Maxfield said the board should “budget responsibly and spend within our means.”
He cited the fact that the town was able to save enough money on the East Road bridge replacement project to fix a failed culvert on Lake Road as an example. “That could’ve turned into a serious hazard concern, but luckily we were able to take care of that,” he said.
“The town does have needs, there’s no doubt about that,” Maxfield said of the town’s infrastructure, but the majority of residents he’s spoken with are happy with the town’s efforts to address those needs.
The town, said Maxfield, has been implementing long-term fixes, not just band-aids. He cited the East Road bridges as a place where the town spent more money upfront to put in bridges that would last longer.
The current board is a good team, in Maxfield’s view. “I’ve learned a lot from them... and I feel we all work very well together.”
Michael Morgan was appointed to a vacant seat on the board last year. Now he is running for the seat outright. He previously served on the board from 1989 to 1998.
Morgan retired as a colonel from the Air National Guard. “I’d almost call myself overqualified,” he told the Independent, citing his experience managing budgets and staff, and public speaking.
A lot of his experience in the military parallels running a municipality, he said.
“We kept this thing as close to the bone as we could,” Morgan said, speaking of the town’s budget. The board is “not acting responsibly” in his view if it doesn’t try to keep costs low.
At the same time, “if your infrastructure is not good, the town will suffer as whole,” he said.
Noting the town is working on improving roads in poor shape, Morgan said, “We’re in pretty darn good shape.”
“One of our strong suits is who we have on our staff,” said Morgan, citing in particular Public Works Director Dave Allerton and Finance Director Jessica Morris.
Morgan, too, spoke of the need to bring business to town and the Route 7 corridor. The town’s goal, he said, is to “make that our focal point for new business and growth.”
The election will be held on Town Meeting Day. Polls will be open at the town office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early and absentee voting is open now. Results will be available at miltonindpendent.com on Town Meeting Day.
Former selectboard member Brenda Steady and current selectboard chair Darren Adams are vying for a three-year seat on the board on Town Meeting Day.
But Steady is clear that she isn’t running because she has any complaints about Adams or the job he does, she simply wants to serve. “It has nothing to do with opposing anybody,” Steady said. “I wanted the community to see I wanted the three-year term.”
Steady, who previously served a one-year term on the board ran against Chris Taylor for a three-year seat last year. “I was disappointed I wasn’t re-elected,” said Steady. “I feel the year before that was very successful.”
As for her views on the work of the board, Steady said, “I am frugal with taxpayer dollars, but I would never compromise what people need.”
The one thing Steady sees as a need is paving, but she added, “that’s only due to money.”
“Otherwise everything looks on track,” she said.
In addition to her previous time on the selectboard, Steady served on the school board for nine years and was a justice of the peace for 16 years.
“I’ve lived in Milton all my life and I really enjoy being active in the community. I like being involved,” Steady said.
Adams has served on the selectboard for ten years, eight of them as chair.
Economic development is the town’s top priority in his view. Attracting businesses, he said, will help to ease the tax burden on residents. To that end, the town has invested in improving infrastructure along Route 7 to attract investment.
Milton’s population is pushing toward 12,000, making it the eighth largest community in Vermont. But the lack of a historic downtown makes it hard for people who might want to open a store or restaurant, even though the population supports it. The work at Route 7 is intended to “create a new version of that historic downtown,” Adams said.
Not having shopping and dining options available in town is “really a hidden tax on everybody in town,” said Adams. Not only do residents have to travel for those things, but the money they spend isn’t spent in the town.
“It’s starting to come together,” Adams said. “A bit more slowly than I would like.”
With more than 100 miles of roadway, maintenance is a challenge in Milton. “Simply repaving isn’t the answer to a lot,” said Adams, several of the town’s roads need a new base, which costs more than the town can afford.
The challenge for the town is balancing needed road maintenance against what the town can afford, a situation exacerbated by the lack of state roads in the town.
“If you look around the other communities, yeah we have our challenges, but our roads are actually in good shape considering the number of roads we have,” Adams said.
Public safety is also a concern, said Adams, particularly the need to recruit volunteers for the fire and rescue departments. It’s a challenge many towns are facing. Certification requirements can be a challenge for volunteers, he said.
Staffing a rescue department requires two people on shift 24 hours per day, every day of the year. When he was on the rescue service in the mid-1990’s the town would receive around 375 calls per year. Now the town is pushing 1,000 rescue calls per year.
While rescue can bill for its services, that billing doesn’t cover the costs, Adams said.
The future for emergency services is in cooperation with neighboring communities, in his view. “Each town can’t have their own separate fire and EMS service,” Adams said.
Polls will open be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 3 at the town offices. Absentee and early voting is now available.