Grange Notes by Tim Swartz, Grange President (with everyone’s help) January 27, 2022
Berlin votes on full tax exemption on March 1st
At our January meeting–held on the 15th, as the first Saturday matched up with New Years’ Day–we had a good discussion of the prospects for campaigning to get Berlin voters to support full property tax exemption for the Grange.
Since then, we’ve found out that the Berlin Selectboard has decided it will not be safe enough, given that the ongoing high COVID infection rates, to hold an in-person Town Meeting this year–for the 2nd year in a row. Town Warrant Articles, including our tax exemption will instead be voted on by “Australian Ballot” on March 1, following an informational town meeting, held via Zoom, on Feb. 21st. Furthermore, they have decided that because there can’t be live discussion of our tax exemption, they are limiting the length of our exemption request to one year, instead of the 5 years we planned for.
While we wish that we did not have to campaign every year, we hope and expect that Berlin voters will support us again this year. I will be taking part in the informational meeting on 2/21. At our January meeting, we discussed other ways to make sure that voters appreciate the benefits that the Grange brings to the town. Now that we know that we won’t have the opportunity to speak directly to voters at a live Town Meeting, it will be even more important to reach out beforehand. Here are some of the ideas:
- Finding Berlin residents to write letters to the editor of the Times-Argus–following a “template” we can provide.
- Getting an article into the Washington World.
- Putting ads on WDEV, a widely-heard station n Central VT.
- Postings in the Berlin Front Porch Forum (the Grange has an account).
- Posting on the Berlin Facebook page–an unofficial page maintained by Corinne Cooper.
- Gathering testimonials from Berlin residents who have used the “Free Rentals for Berlin residents” we offer.
It probably isn’t news to any readers of the Grange Notes that having this tax exemption is very important for the Grange! Our budgets have always been tight, even more so with the continuing impact of COVID on our rental calendar and the income that rentals provide. Since first getting property tax exemption from the Town in 2016, we have been able to catch up on some–but not all–deferred maintenance, and even contribute to the lower-level renovation which was completed in 2020–just before the pandemic closed events down. We want to concentrate on our community service mission, rather than scratching to pay taxes, on top of bills. So please help if you possibly can!
Other highlights from the January meeting
In my “promo” email for this meeting, I asked readers to think about “Resolutions” that our Grange might like to support as VT State Grange policy. Each year, Community Granges like ours suggest policies that they think would benefit the state, or even the country as a whole. These get discussed and voted on at the VT State Grange annual session in October.
Sue Morris came up with one which stimulated good discussions at our meeting. She proposes one which calls for government-funded programs to help farmers convert to organic farming methods, through financial incentives and hands-on assistance. The reasons to support this include:
- Reducing pollution impacts on the Vermont environment.
- Helping to mitigate climate change.
- Improving the health of people and wildlife, including bees and other pollinators.
Those of us at the meeting were very supportive of this idea, and talked about ways to make the resolution more focused. These included:
- Looking into what UVM Ag Extension already offers to support organic agriculture.
- Are there existing financial aid/grants/low interest loan programs to help farms transition to organic?
- Are there education programs about the financial aspects of getting certified?
- Are there existing programs about marketing aids to help with entering organic markets?
- Based on what we find out, we could provide specific programs that deserve added support, in the Resolution.
February 5th program: How can Vermonters work to keep our republic democratic?
- Ben Horton is a lawyer at Free Speech for People, and a Harvard Public Service Venture Fund Fellow. Prior to law school, Mr. Horton worked in secondary higher education in the Boston area. Free speech for People is engaging in a campaign to bar members of Congress who participated in the January 6 insurrection from running in 2022, and to prevent Donald Trump from running in 2024, using the 14th Amendment’s ban on insurrectionists holding office.
- Ginny Sassaman lives in Calais, and is a founder and facilitator for Indivisible Calais, formed in the week after the November 2016 U.S. Election. They have been busy attending rallies, making phone calls and writing postcards for progressive candidates, organizing fundraisers for progressive causes, and building community.
Join Zoom Meeting
Grange meeting from 4:30 to 5:00 on February 5th
Once again, we will be meeting by Zoom only. COVID rates of infection, hospitalizations, etc. are expected to continue high past the date of our February meeting. Even though projections indicate a significant reduction in case counts soon, we don’t feel that it will be soon enough to ask people to gather in person, unfortunately.
Because of these factors, our Grange meeting will be held solely on Zoom. Here’s the Zoom info:
To join the meeting, audio only from your phone, dial this number: 646 558 8656
For either way of joining: Meeting ID: 873 4417 5524
As always, this Zoom info is also posted on the Grange website Calendar listing for this meeting, which will be from 4:30 to 5:00 PM on Saturday, February 5th.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised that we also won’t have a potluck dinner this month. As usual, I will also remind you that the Grange (from National to State to Capital City Grange) supports and encourages vaccination for all people who are eligible–let’s all keep working together to get past the domination of COVID.
So what we will be talking about this month?
First of all, we need to remind all Grange members (and all those that would like to be!) that annual dues are now….due. The amount remains $30 for 2022 membership. Please send checks to:
Charles Martin, Secretary
Capital City Grange
639 Minister Brook Rd.
Worcester, VT 05682
While we are happy to welcome anyone to be part of our meetings and activities, becoming a member shows a greater commitment to supporting the Grange in its activities. Members are also allowed to vote on Grange policies. We encourage all members to attend meetings (live or via Zoom) and help us figure out the best ways to be a Grange in the 21st century!
Speaking of the 21st century….if there is someone out there who could help us set up a Venmo or Paypal link to receive membership dues and other payments, please get in touch!
For more info, please feel free to call me, Tim Swartz at: 802-225-8921, or email me at: email@example.com.
We’ll also be checking on our finances, as usual, as the snow-plow bills have started to pile up with the recent large storm. And we’ll get an update on our contacts with HVAC contractors, Efficiency Vermont and the VT Arts Council about ways to provide ventilation to our Grange Hall during the cold months–possibly combined with upgrades to our heating system. Our time will be limited in this half-hour meeting format, so all will be done expeditiously!
Snow, snow at the Grange…
…where the entrances don’t shovel themselves! The plow trucks that clear our driveway and parking lot can’t help us with clearing the emergency exit, or the stairs at the entrances, or the ramp.
So I really appreciate the person or persons who cleared those areas after the big snow on Jan. 18th! Often I’ve shoveled these out myself–but I’d really like to find someone who could help out when snowstorms happen. Not all of our renters are capable or have time to shovel. If you live near the Hall, and would like to help out, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Order from Just Food Hub to get fair-trade organic food and support the Grange!
Just Food Hub is a Marshfield-based volunteer organization promoting access to authentically fair-traded organic food, and to raise funds for local nonprofit community groups. Check out the website they made for us: capitalcitygrange.justfoodhub.
They work with Equal Exchange and other organizations distributing ethically-sourced organic food products. They also give all profits to community groups: 30% of all sales. Just Food Hub believes in investing back into our community. This fundraiser could be a really significant contribution to the projects at the Grange and support general site maintenance too.
By eating well and supporting organic, sustainable, and cooperatively farmed organic food from the Global South, you can help reduce climate change, improve working conditions for farmers, and contribute to the Grange at the same time. It’s a win/win for all and the planet!
The original plan was to set up food pick-ups at the Grange. Due to Covid, this plan has changed to Just Food Hub mailing or delivering food to you and your loved ones (mailing charges apply). You can place your order for February at: http://capitalcitygrange.