Budgets, honors and exporting crime at Johnson town meeting


Dylan Archbold

Mark Woodward addresses the assembly at the Johnson Town Meeting

There was a full turnout at this year’s Johnson’s Town Meeting, with the entirety of the seating setup filled as well as every table set aside for the PTA-provided lunch, full with citizens of the town. On top of the seating arrangement, there were a few people standing during the several-hour proceedings, as quite a few people had issues that they wanted raised with the select board, and they apparently did not mind staying on their feet the entire time. These people certainly got their chance to speak, but they did so after a truly interesting Town Meeting, in which lot more than yearly budgets were passed.

The morning did start with a headlong dive into the world of town finances. The school budget in particular was heavily vetted on, as after the town made their proposal, there were several hard questions over the spending and acquisition of funding. At the head of these questions, a gentleman by the name of Harland Ellis brought up the past budgets, and wanted to make sure of the exact expenditure that the town had made, and he wanted to make sure that what spending had occurred was actively improving the education of Johnson students, to whom said funding was going to. The select board assured Ellis, as well as other people in the crowd who seemed to share his concerns, that they do feel that the quality of education and efficiency had improved.

“We are constantly in flux…No assurances are concrete, but we will try to meet this budget,” the select board assured the crowd.

And despite the concerns raised, the school budget passed.

After the necessities of budgets and reports had run their course, Town Meeting covered a different kind of business, honoring the service of Gordon Smith, a forty-year veteran of the Fire Department. Gordon was escorted to the podium by a full entourage of fellow firefighters, and stood with him during his entire time addressing the crowd. They also left with him in formation. The Town Meeting was not done with civil servants yet however, as right afterwards two officers from the Sheriff’s Department came forward to discuss a motion approving the creation of a new position within the local force, namely that of a dedicated detective. One of the officers, Chris Watson came up to speak on the matter. He said that they do work with state troopers on major crimes that require investigation, but if they had a full time detective, they could handle more things in-house, and more efficiently. Things would be handled faster, with more follow- up. Chris Watson followed-up on this, and described his daily routine, showing that he cannot do in-depth investigation on a regular basis.

“The officers on staff respond to emergencies first, and as such, some cases are not followed up on,” said the officer.

Some people spoke against the motion, as there has been no recent rise in crime statistics in the town of Johnson. People still had questions about funding this position, but seemed to come around when it was explained that such a move could have a preventative measure on crime in the Johnson area.

“Do you have a bumper sticker that says ‘Johnson Exports Crime?’” asked a man from the crowd, much to the amusement of everyone in the meeting.

The motion carried, however people asked if it could be renegotiated at a later date, if the detective did not work out. It was revealed, in answer, that it is a year-to-year contract, and the position could certainly be changed if the detective did not work out for the best.

Subsequent events of-note included the Exchange coming forward to discuss their healthcare reform changes for the next year. They broke down federal interactions with them. This opened up the floor to discuss their particular situations with healthcare, and their views on healthcare in general. Budget concerns were brought up. This seemed like much more of a monologue portion than any sort of question time. As any question asked of the men from the Exchange could be summed up in one-word answers.

If you are interested in getting the minutes from this year’s Town Meeting, or you are looking for any specific information as it relates to this years various budgets and motions, please go to http://www.townofjohnson.com/ and go to their “Government” section to learn more.