Town Installs Ballot Deposit Box
by Ken Signorello & Irene Wrenner
September 22, 2020
Sept. 21st Selectboard Meeting Summary
Hands down, the most exciting news from this early autumn Selectboard meeting was not on the agenda. During Board Member Comments, Dawn Hill-Fleury announced the installation of a new, secure box into which early voters may deposit their ballots. It replaces a much smaller receptacle at the Town Offices at 81 Main Street that wasn’t user-friendly.
The Secretary of State’s office began mailing out ballots earlier that day, so the new drop box should be filling up in no time! It is under video surveillance and will be emptied regularly.
Route 15 Waterline Project Bond
From the agenda: the Selectboard authorized staff to prepare the documentation needed to warn a $750,000 bond vote in March toward the VT15 Waterline Project. But wait, this money is not really needed; sufficient developer impact fees have been collected to cover the project cost.
If voters choose to approve what seems to be an unneeded bond, the state is offering a grant opportunity to cover as much as 75% of the project, said Public Works Director Dennis Lutz.
He explained the bond vote would indicate public support, which is a prerequisite for obtaining the grant. If voters commit to the entire amount, the remaining 25% can come from the impact fees. The bond, although approved, need not be executed.
The only hesitation came from Pat Murray who was concerned about having to educate the public about a merger plan as well this winter.
No one asked if the COVID crisis might affect the state’s ability to distribute this money as intended, or if the town should even be asking for it, when it has already collected and set aside impact fees to pay for exactly this sort of project.
Police Chief Ron Hoague has compared Town and Village ordinances with an eye to reconciling them into a single set of rules for a merged town.
There are five ordinances that need work: alarms, animals, parks, public nuisance, and traffic / parking. Chief Hoague said the unified Traffic/Parking ordinance may be ready to discuss at the next Selectboard meeting.
Dawn Hill-Fleury suggested finalizing these combined ordinances before the actual merger vote. That would allow voters to understand the repercussions of merger in advance.
On the other hand, the draft merger charter suggests delaying this reconciliation. An Interim Selectboard (5 Trustees + 5 Selectboard members) would work to combine these ordinances during the 1-year period between when a merger vote passes and when it would go into effect. Because of the way this merger charter is currently written, that reconciliation process wouldn’t require any public hearings.
New Drop Box for Ballots at 81 Main Street
Elaine Haney suggested the firearms discharge ordinances won’t need much reconciling since they refer to specific geography that would not change.
At the other end of the spectrum, without a current Town noise ordinance, would the Village ordinance eventually govern the entire town? Tweaks to recognize differences in geography or density might be needed.
If the merger charter passes and an ordinance needs to be changed or introduced, how would that work? The Town charter currently requires two public hearings. The Village Trustees have proposed deferring to state statute, which requires zero public hearings before the board can adopt an ordinance. Only publication is required.
The Selectboard acquiesced to the Trustees’ proposal. Therefore, the days of our high school cafeteria packed full of interested parties, some sporting camo or blaze orange, debating the merits of a firearms discharge ordinance may be behind us for good, COVID aside, unless this changes soon!
Merger Charter Draft
The Village-proposed merger charter got another round of revisions. Trustees have indicated they are willing to defer to the Selectboard on most any remaining issues except representation. They will not accept the 3+3 model approved by voters townwide in March. Their current charter includes a 3+3 +1 (at large). The Village version of the merger charter to be voted on in November will be finalized at the Trustee Meeting on September 24th.
Proposed Policy on Flags and Murals
Allowing the raising of flags and painting of murals on Town or Village property was discussed. This makes two selectboard meetings and one Trustee meeting in which no action was taken, with more revisions to come.