by Ken Signorello
July 16, 2020
In light of the Village Trustees’ perceived “Slap in the Face” from the Town Selectboard the week before, at their July 14th meeting the Trustees considered, among other things, whether or not they want to continue down the Merger highway toward a Vote in November.
The conversation was refreshingly frank with a common refrain: Maybe it’s time to put joint meetings on hold.
All Trustees expressed doubts about a possible merger vote in November, although George Tyler still held out “a little flicker of hope that maybe we can do that.”
To go forward, a fully fleshed-out new Town charter and warning for the vote would have to be done by August 21st. No decision, on continuing or not, was made.
However, more than one Trustee noted the Selectboard’s lack of enthusiasm toward merger. George Tyler summed it up colorfully: “Asking them to participate in merger is like asking them to get a root canal. It’s something that I guess they gotta do, but they’d prefer to be anywhere else.“
Trustees seemed genuinely puzzled by this reticence. Tyler put it this way: “If Essex Junction detached itself from Essex Town right now, we would be the 4th largest city in Vermont”.
"They say If we merge what are you guys going to give up? We can’t give anything up. ... We have to be accepted for what we are.”
Dan Kerin seemed to recognize the revenue problem: “The reason we have great parks, great schools, a great community, it happened . . . when IBM came here. That was the Goose that laid the golden egg. . . . We need to look at development that’s going to bring in revenue.”
No Stomach for Merger?
Another strongly voiced concern was the future of the Village in a merged town? Tyler is “under the assumption that a post-merger Community Development office would maintain the same staffing level and the same work commitment that the separate offices currently have”.
Raj Chawla stated, “We really need to know where the TOV sees the Village. Especially with ETC Next going in. I get the feeling they’re trying to turn a couple of strip malls into another downtown or something. . . .There’s not a lot of understanding of what the VIllage brings to the table. And I’ve heard a lot of concern over the last few months . . . from VIllage residents very concerned about maintaining that quality of life.”
Dan Kerin shared his thoughts: “Colchester and South Burlington are trying to develop a downtown” . . . “A downtown is not something you create overnight” . . . “Williston, South Burington and Colchester would love to have a downtown, but they don’t have it. We have it! . . . It’s a diamond. “ . . . “The residential portion outside the Village I’m not so worried about. I’m concerned about the Village Center and maintaining the quality of the developments we have here in the Village Center.”
Village President Andrew Brown hopes for some solid protection in the new Town Charter: “I would love for there to be some sort of Fail Safe . . . to really ensure that in any merged community we are able to maintain that (Village Center).” Tyler promised potential solutions at a future date.
By the end of the meeting there was contradiction in the air. On one hand there was an expressed feeling that the Town is lukewarm about merger as currently proposed and there are real fears of losing unfettered control of Village development. But at the same time the status quo is “Not Tolerable”.
Dan Kerin: “I would prefer merger to Status quo. The reason this topic has come up over the past 60 years: Status Quo . . . is not Tolerable for many people - especially in the VIllage. We really need to address it . . . either you’re Pro Merger . . . or you’re for Seperation. One or the other . . . no status quo, make your choice.” Dan would equate an anti merger vote to a vote for separation.
George Tyler: “Status quo is not acceptable. We cannot continue to pay 72% of the bills here in this community. I will not accept that VIllage residents are lesser citizens and not entitled to the same municipal services that their neighbors in the Town are entitled to. And the only way to break that logjam . . . is with Merger. “
Hear the entire Meeting here: https://youtu.be/gs2uzo0rJhA
“I just see the Village as such an amazing and excellent community right now. We’re thriving, we’re the fastest growing community in the state.” ... “I would think the Town would be thrilled with the prospect of merging with us. The fact that they are not is concerning to me.
Essex Jct, Vice President George Tyler
at July 24th Village Trustee Meeting