Meeting Begets Meeting
8/13/20 Selectboard Rundown
There were three issues that appeared in a letter from two members of the House Government Operations Committee, dated May 29th.
Information from the petitioners, which was included in the meeting packet, must have satisfied two of the concerns because the only thing discussed by the board was what to do about redistricting, if and when needed. Board members unanimously agreed to direct staff to draft a letter of clarification on 3+3 to be sent to Gov Ops.
The rest of the nearly two-hour meeting was dedicated to public input. Lots of ground was covered -- from taxation, to services, to merger, to voters understanding what they were voting on to explaining how our community works, to how the Village and Town relate to each other, to some history. There were lots of statements and many corrections. Misinformation seems to be the bane of Essex.
Public Input Highlights:
At a prior Governance Subcommittee meeting, Bruce Post had asked about the 12-year tax transition proposed in the merger plan. “Again, I ask the question: Can I absolutely be guaranteed that the 12-year time period has no possibility of being shortened?” The response, in a word, from Elaine Haney was “no”. A future Selectboard can do whatever it wants.
Lorraine Zaloom noted that it was odd for them to address a letter that wasn’t warned. No public comment allowed. But they discussed it at length anyway. Why are we talking about Merger on Nov. ballot, after all the discussion about not holding a merger vote?
Brad Kennison recalled a prior Joint Meeting at which the boards talked about combining ordinances and bylaws under merger. Per language in the merger charter, the new Town Selectboard would be authorized to amend or repeal any ordinance subject to normal procedures.
The Village Trustees will hammer out a new draft at their meeting on August 17th. Stay tuned!
by Ken Signorello & Irene Wrenner
August 14, 2020
The Special Selectboard Meeting on August 13th was scheduled to be about a single-agenda-item: “Discussion and potential action on charter change language in support of 3+3 Selectboard composition”.
But there was a last minute letter from the Village President requesting that the Selectboard schedule an additional special meeting on August 20th.
That would make it the 37th meeting thus far this year, compared to 40 for all of 2019. The request is to consider a merger charter draft the Village Trustees will have completed at their own special meeting on August 17th.
This was quite a distraction, being asked just hours before the meeting via email and not included in the meeting packet.
Andy Watts balked: “I have concerns about talking about something that the Trustees asked us to talk about, without having warned the fact that we’re gonna talk about it.
Watts continued: “We intentionally didn’t talk about several of the sections because we thought they were going to be controversial. I don’t understand why now they’re not considered to be controversial.
"Do we want staff to work every night next week, including the holiday on Monday?
"I’m not in favor of going forward with this at this point with little to no input. And the time pressure of having to get it done in one night, I think, is inappropriate. The Trustees walked away from the table when we needed to talk about this.”
Dawn Hill-Fleury noted six things that required negotiation the last time the charter was discussed by both boards. “I feel that we have abused the Town Staff enough. ... I also feel that by the Trustees proposing this, they’re trying “to push us into a corner”. She wouldn’t mind meeting with the Trustees, but was not sure they’d be ready for a vote in November.
When asked if the Trustees should also be present, Watts acknowledged, “There’s no way to come to an answer without them there, but I don’t wanna get beat up by them in that meeting.”
Despite their misgivings, all members agreed to meet jointly with the Trustees next Thursday night.
With the Village Trustees’ last-minute request satisfied, attention turned to the 3+3 charter change.