Grange Notes by Tim Swartz, Grange President (with everyone’s help) November 21, 2022
Grange meeting discusses petition drive
As I described in the last Grange Notes, sent out just before our Nov. 5th meeting, we did get the abatement of property taxes, that the Selectboard had decided we should pay for the current year. Because of COVID, the last couple of in-person March Town Meetings have been canceled, so we’ve only been able to ask for 1 year extensions for the 2021 and 2022 tax years.
So: We have strong hopes that the Berlin Town Meeting on March 7, 2023 will be in person, so that the Selectboard will allow us to ask for a 5 year full tax exemption. To get that to happen, we now need to gather at least 106 signatures from Berlin voters, to get us on the ballot for the meeting scheduled for March 7, 2023. We need to get them in to the Town Clerk’s office by January 12th, but since we’d rather be out walking around the neighborhoods before it gets too cold, we want to get started NOW.
Some good news already: I have conferred with the Berlin Town Administrator, the Town Clerk and the Town Treasurer, to make sure that the wording is crystal clear, that we need a full exemption from property taxes. The text in the picture below shows exactly what the wording will be:
As you can see, we are spelling out that we are asking for exemption from both parts of the property tax bill, the “Town” and “School” taxes.
A PDF copy of the petition, complete with 20 signature lines is also available on the Grange website at this link: Grange Petition for 2023. You can download a copy by clicking on the link, so you can print your own. If that doesn’t work, get in touch and I’ll be happy to print some for you: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-225-8921.
I can also tell you where other canvassers have already gone to knock on doors, so we can be efficient, and not bother people twice! This is also a chance to remind Berlin folks that we do offer free use of the Grange Hall for Berlin residents and non-profit organizations (as long as it is not already rented for the time slot)! I have Grange brochures, and Grange Rental brochures you can take along, if you’d like.
We need your help! Please pitch in for this important project! If you’re reading these Grange Notes, we know you are interested and supportive–this is a great chance to be a part of keeping the Grange financially healthy.
Update as of Nov. 21: a few dedicated members, including Patty Giavara, Fran Mallery and yours truly have made a good start on getting signatures–you can join us!
More Grange meeting news: getting a lift, and getting “historic”!
Getting this work done will be disruptive for activities in the Hall. Stan will be working during “normal business hours” Monday to Friday, and will be closing up the construction when he’s done for the day, and before the weekends of course. We have spoken with the few daytime, weekday Grange Hall users, and have gotten great support.
The Friends of the Capital City Grange Hall have been looking at options to give the exterior of the Hall a major facelift. The old paint has been peeling–and shows no sign of stopping. Because of the age of the building, we know that lead paint is what was used for the first few decades at least, making scraping and sanding a major project that has to be done by certified contractors. We expect we will have to either have the existing paint scraped off and then repainted, or to consider new siding.
The VT Arts Council, which has given us generous grants for several major building improvements (including the lift we’re putting in this winter) does not give grants for exterior “maintenance” like scraping and painting. By consulting a friend of ours who works for the VT Preservation Trust, we’ve learned about at least one other grant program that might apply to us–but we have to be at least “eligible” to be recognized as a historic structure. So: Patty Giavara, the Chair of the FCCGH has been looking into this, and has submitted documentation to the State of Vermont’s Architectural Historian. She’s found out some cool stuff! For example:
- Our Hall, which was built largely by members of the Grange and the International Order of Odd Fellows in 1952, cost about $17,000 at the time, based on the fragmentary records she located in the attic.
- The Hall started out with a tax exemption from Berlin, in return for allowing Town Meetings to be held in the Hall. We’re not sure when this agreement lapsed.
- The Hall’s design and construction look very consistent with “Grange Hall Suggestions”, a booklet published in 1928 by the National Grange. Take a look at the picture on the cover (reproduced below), and see if it looks familiar…though maybe not the bricks.
Grange resolutions: results from the October Annual Session
One topic we didn’t get to in our November meeting was the resolutions which various Vermont Granges proposed, and which were discussed and voted on at the State Session. I’ve compiled notes about what happened to each of them, and the info is available HERE on our website.
Those that looked at the proposed resolutions will probably remember that there were 2 resolutions about Proposal 5. That Proposal was to put protections for women’s reproductive autonomy into the VT State Constitution. One Grange resolution expressed support, the other urged a vote against. The VT State Master ruled both of these as “out of order”, because he judged that these would involve the Grange in religious/political disagreements that could be divisive for the Grange. As a non-partisan, non-denominational organization, he decided it was better not to take the risk–as he said, we all have the opportunity to vote on this question in the Nov. 8th election–and as we know, Proposal 5 passed with a large margin.
Grange news–on Vermont Public!
In late September, Patty Giavara and I were contacted by a UVM Ph.D. student, Krizzia Soto-Villanueva, who asked if she could interview us about how the Montpelier Contra Dance community has been helping to support the Grange. Krizzia had come to do contra dancing, was there for the “Challenge Fundraiser” culmination on Sept. 3rd, and was curious. She is part of the student-powered Community News Service, as well as studying food systems at UVM, and thought “there’s a good story”! We agreed, of course, and she came to the Oct. 1 Grange meeting, program and potluck and spoke with Grange members. At the dance that evening, she interviewed a number of contra dancers, then interviewed Patty and me the following day via Zoom.
Finally, the story played during Morning Edition on Vermont Public (what some of us still think of as VPR) on Nov. 14th, and a few days later the audio+photo+written story got posted on the Vermont Public website. You can check it out by clicking HERE. We think she did a pretty good job bringing out the mutuality of the dance and Grange communities, including our shared commitment to making the Hall and the dance accessible to all types of people. Part of that is the lift we are planning to install (story above); part of that is the welcoming attitude of the contra dance to all kinds of dancers, of all ages, genders, backgrounds and abilities. All of that is about people getting together to do fun things! We’re glad to have our story out there, and appreciate Krizzia making that happen–and the people who spoke with her of course. By the way, if you search “Capital City Grange” on the Vermont Public website, you’ll find a few other stories which are about or mention our Grange–and other VT Granges!
December 3rd Program: The state of Vermont unions
Our Grange Lecturer, Carl Etnier has arranged for the Executive Director of the VT Labor Council, Liz Medina, to present a program on the current organizing work of the AFL-CIO affiliated Council. This includes the VT PRO Act, and the Worker Circle organizing project. She is inviting union members to join us for the discussion, to stay for the Community Potluck, and to come to the Montpelier Contra Dance afterward (they will be paying admission for that, of course).
The Grange has always been a voice for the working class–which was mostly farmers when the Grange was founded in 1867. The Grange helped farmers join together to counter the power of the large businesses (especially the railroads that controlled access to markets for agricultural products). Labor unions can be considered a similar counterbalance to the power of large organizations. Come and join us to learn more, from 5:00 to 6:00 PM on Saturday, Dec. 3rd!