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Dalton officials resign in protest

May 19, 2010
DALTON — Three conservation committee members resigned last week in protest following the selectmen's appointment of Chick Ingerson to the committee, rather than the commissions' recommended member, Ed Craxton.

"This was the last straw," said former acting chair of the committee Doris Korst who resigned – along with Helen Delage – following Mr. Ingerson's appointment. A third voting member of the commission, John Paquette submitted his resignation the following morning.

The resignations were not solely due to the appointment of Mr. Ingerson, Ms. Korst wanted to make clear, but rather the result of months of frustrations with the Board of Selectmen. "I think the selectmen disregarded the commissions' policies and went ahead and did what they wanted," said Ms. Korst.

The board voted 2-1 to appoint Mr. Ingerson a full member of the conservation committee, as well as his wife, Amy Ingerson, as an alternate member, at the May 10 meeting. Selectmen Crosby and Victor St. Cyr voted for Mr. Ingerson, while Selectman Brian Hardy voted against the nomination.

The conservation committee had recommended Ed Craxton to be the new full member, as he has served as an alternate on the commission for the past three years and therefore knows the policies and procedures of the commission.

Ms. Korst said that the selectmen told the conservation commisson members present that night that they had done a "great disservice to the Ingersons." She said that the board would not say exactly what this disservice was, instead telling the conservation commission that they should ask the Ingersons.

The most recent interaction between the Ingersons and the conservation commission came when the board opposed wetlands permits applied for by the Ingersons as part of plans to build a drag racing facility on their property. The issue drew local attention and outcry from residents of neighboring towns since the property is near the town borders of Littleton, Bethlehem and Whitefield. The permit application was later withdrawn and the racing facility is being redesigned to avoid wetlands.

"I question the effectiveness and ability of the commission to work as a team when one or two members hold a grudge against the commission. I feel it could only cause friction and discord among the commission," Ms. Korst said.

Selectman Mike Crosby, however, disagreed and said he felt it was important to have a member of the business community on the commission.

"[Mr. Ingerson] has the most experience with wetlands permittance. He was the most interesting out of all the candidates," said Selectman Crosby, adding that Mr. Ingerson regularly attends selectmen, planning board, and conservation committee meetings.

Criticism of the appointment centers around the view that Mr. Ingerson's business interests may interfere with the values of the conservation commission, which works to protect the town's natural resources.

"I think there's a big conflict of interest there," said Ms. Korst, who said she believes Mr. Ingerson would be a great addition to the planning board.

Selectman Crosby, however, maintains that the thorough selection process that involves not only the recommendation from the conservation committee, but also interviews with the candidates, ensures a solid selection.

"Rather than rubberstamping members, we go through an interview process to make sure they're really interested," said Selectman Crosby. "I was the one who went out and looked for the other members," added Selectman Crosby, saying he was sad to see them go.

Mr. Craxton is currently on vacation, said Ms. Korst, and will most likely make any decisions about his future with the committee when he returns to town.

"We're such a small, little town," added Ms. Korst. "We should be working together."

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