Town Budget Public Hearing Re-Do on Feb. 1st
1/19/21 Selectboard Meeting
by Ken Signorello
& Irene Wrenner
January 20, 2021
While the public may not often feel heard, Finance Director Sarah Macy credited Walt Adams, a former Selectboard and Planning Commission Member, with persuading her to put more fund balance toward tax relief in the projected budget.
Adams came fully prepared to the January 19th Selectboard Meeting with an even longer list of comments than last year, after spending “16 hours” studying the proposed FY22 budget.
Among his complaints: the Town and Village now need three full-time Managers (Unified, Deputy and Assistant) to get work done.
Andy Watts brought this oversight to the board’s attention: the Front Porch Forum meeting announcement neglected to mention the scheduled public hearing on the budget. Members agreed to postpone its adoption and offer a second budget hearing on February 1st.
This will make for a long meeting, as the first public hearing on the Plan of Merger will be placed on the same agenda. Chair Haney implored Unified manager Teich to keep the agenda light. He chuckled and demurred.
Director of Public Works Dennis Lutz reviewed the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission’s Unified Planning Work Program Projects (UPWP) for Essex. The long-anticipated installation of a traffic light at the juncture of Sand Hill Road and Route 15 should begin soon.
Lutz also reviewed the capital spending plan for FY22. The total is estimated to be $1,479,856. The two biggest items for FY22 are Road repair $280K and $235K on water line replacement.
Haney asked for clarification on how the Capital Spending Plan is put together, manifesting concern the Village wasn’t getting its “fair share” of Town Capital.
Her unexpected question seemed to blindside Lutz, who, off the cuff, acknowledged that priorities weren’t set according to location but on which roads or buildings need repair most urgently. He noted that allocations were not always clear-cut nor based on geography, and the actual number “was much, much higher” than her estimate.
Board members were at odds over sending the 48-page merger info packet off to the printer so it can then be sent to all households by mail. Watts again noted that it contained errors and could be viewed as biased. His concern is that merger opponents will use these flaws to discredit the entire publication. He and Dawn Hill-Fleury voted no, desiring more revisions.
Unified Manager Evan Teich mentioned that "upwards of 5 or 6" municipal employees have tested positive for COVID. "It's 3 this week."