Don Turner explains Route 7 projects

Town Manager Don Turner explains proposed change to Route 7 in this Independent file photo.

The shortest month of the year certainly felt like it. It’s hard to believe we’ve reached March, and with it, the one-year mark of life in the pandemic.

I recently thought back to last year’s Town Meeting Day, and how it was one of the last large, in-person gatherings we held. Of course, things looked very different this year.

As we have had to adjust so many facets of town operations, so too did we have to adjust Town Meeting Day. Nevertheless, our intent was for the day to be no less important, and for our community to feel no less heard.

Instead of an in-person meeting the night before the vote, we made an informational video providing a recap of 2020 and an outline of Fiscal Year 2022 proposals. We held in-person voting with social distancing, mask wearing and other safety precautions. Registered voters were also mailed postcards ahead of Town Meeting offering them the opportunity to request an absentee ballot.

As of Feb. 26, 1,700 absentee ballots were requested, 700 of which were returned. A total of 2,218 residents voted on Town Meeting Day. A big thanks to all of our poll workers and the Town Clerk’s Office for hosting another successful election. Thanks are also in order to our community for adjusting to a new way of voting. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sheryl Prince for her six years of outstanding service as Town Clerk and wish her our best as she pursues new endeavors.

Congratulations to our new Town Clerk Kristin Beers, Town Treasurer John Gifford, Selectboard members Mike Morgan, John FitzGerald and Darren Adams on winning their elections. We are very grateful that the voters approved all articles on the ballot. Thank you!

February was a big month for winter operations. Our highway division was busy plowing roads and clearing sidewalks, with plenty of truck maintenance in between. We are counting down the days until Spring and warmer weather. We are already making plans for it, as our recreation department and facilities team review baseball, soccer and lacrosse youth sports requests for field usage at Bombardier Park West.

But even when it’s snowy and cold, our town knows how to make the most of it. February traditionally means horse and carriage rides, dog sledding and all things frozen as we celebrate our annual Winter Festival. While we had to modify the celebration for safety, we were still delighted to offer our community an array of fun and unique events. Among the activities were Foodie Passports that provided discounts at local eateries, a nature walk and scavenger hunt, sledding at Sharp Park, a virtual trivia night and more. We’re eager to bring back the usual crowd favorites but think some of the new events will make a great addition to future winter festivals.

The fun didn’t stop there though. Last month, our Recreation Department also launched “The Great Milton Bakeoff.” The bakeoff is a competition open to Miltonians of all ages looking to try their hand at crafting culinary concoctions to be crowned Milton’s Star Baker. We had 11 residents sign up, ranging in age from 9 to 41 years old. We look forward to celebrating the winner on April 30 and encourage residents to vote for their favorite confections on our online voting poll.

Our library remained closed to the public in February due to rising COVID-19 case numbers. However, we continued to serve the community with curbside pickup for materials.

On the public safety side, the Police Advisory Committee met last month to take a look at our police department’s social media and media relations policies. It was a productive discussion and offered the department some new perspectives. I plan to have a joint SelectBoard and Police Advisory Committee meeting in the coming months.

Our planning commission also met last month to hold a public hearing for proposed amendments to the town’s Unified Development Regulations. The commission will continue to fine-tune sections of the UDR in future meetings.

As we look to spring, we’re excited for all the projects we hope to launch around town. We’ve applied for a grant to help create a new sidewalk on Bombardier Road between the town offices and Middle Road. This would be a wonderful opportunity to add to our bike and pedestrian paths. We are also working with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District to plan a new rain garden. Rain gardens are a natural way to help treat stormwater runoff. Our planning and zoning team has also submitted a grant application for town trail improvements.

We can’t wait to get started on these projects and more.

Thanks again to our community for getting out the vote and for supporting all of the ballot articles this Town Meeting Day. It is your voice that helps shape the future of our town.

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