Is a flier misleading voters in Middlebury? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Is a flier misleading voters in Middlebury?

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With Town Meeting Day one week away, some Middlebury residents are fired up about a last-minute flier sent out to voters. Town officials say the mailer informs residents about a $6.5 million project for new town offices. The bond vote will be on the ballot next week.

"I don't like people lying in my face," said Ron Kohn of Middlebury.

Some Middlebury voters are outraged after a selectman spoke out against his own board Tuesday night. Craig Bingham is raising concerns about the accuracy of a town flier promoting an upcoming bond vote.

"Looking at the outside of the mailer I noted that there are several errors on the 'Tax Impact' portion of the mailer," said Middlebury selectman Craig Bingham.

The pamphlet was sent to thousands of Middlebury voters detailing the plans and costs of a major project for downtown. The $6.5 million proposal would demolish the current town offices and build a new facility across town. A recreation space would also be created.

"I think it's a total win-win for the town of Middlebury. And I think that we desperately need to do this. This is an energy efficient hog," said Nancy Malcom of the Middlebury Steering Committee.

Malcom helped drafted the flier and is standing behind its accuracy. She says it is standard procedure for every big town project. Malcolm says Middlebury hired a third party to calculate the professional estimates. Residents will then have to vote if they support a bond to foot the bill. But Bingham says the numbers are wrong and misleading.

"I am deeply disturbed that false information has been published under the name of our town. I am disappointed that my taxpayer dollars have been spent on what comes off as a flagrant attempt to mislead the voter," said Bingham.

The flier also highlights problems with the existing facility, like code violations and issues with asbestos, insulation and crumbling bricks.

But Bingham says town records from April show a fire marshal determined the building was up to code.

"While they are not specific violations that the towns been charged with -- if you were to do a renovation -- all these codes violation issues would have to be remedied and resolved," said Select Board Chair Dean George.

George says the town has been surveying the building for years and experts advised them that renovations simply were not worth the huge costs.

Some residents say they appreciate the flier, while others claim it was an attempt to sway their votes.

"The scare tactics that are being used are probably the most egregious part of this. The idea that they must take the money and sell this piece of ground -- which for a lot of people, represent the family jewels," said Kohn.

The total price tag for the bond vote is $6.5 million, but town officials say Middlebury College will be paying for $4.5 million of that in order to have the land where the town offices currently are. That leaves taxpayers to foot the remaining $2 million.

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