"Ready, Fire, Aim"
11/23/20 Joint Selectboard / Trustee Meeting
by Ken Signorello and Irene Wrenner
November 23, 2020
Pearl Street Park has a parking problem.
Although paved parking is accessible from the jughandle along Route 15 at West Street Extension, some park users leave their vehicles along Warner Avenue or Brooks Avenue. They use the path that meets the nexus of both streets to access pickleball courts and other amenities.
Residents complain about the traffic and parking that visitors to the 14-acre park have brought to their otherwise quiet neighborhood.
The proposed solution: a resident-only parking ordinance offered by police and staff at the Joint Board Meeting on November 23rd. Residents in attendance asked, why should we suffer the hassle and insult of needing permits to park in front of our houses, when the Town should simply provide adequate parking at the Park? It sounded like a case of the cure being worse than the problem!
One resident reported the Essex Parks & Recreation Director’s idea, which was not considered by the boards: simply trim back the brush, grade the siding, and install signage to notify visitors where off-road parking is permitted. Between 10 and 12 vehicles could easily park there and no longer impede traffic flow on Warner Avenue, which is fairly narrow and lacks sidewalks.
This discussion was one of several that night related to combining the Town and Village traffic ordinances. One confounding concern was why Village Streets are even listed in the Town’s version of the Traffic ordinances, although the Police Chief understood that streets in the Village are also Town streets.
In the end, the last minute changes and duplicative street listings were too much to move forward. The Traffic ordinance will need another revision and shall come back at a future date, after more public input on how to resolve the park’s parking issue.
The public is reminded, WINTER PARKING BANS are in effect between December 1 and April 1 from the hours of 12 midnight to 7 a.m.
Cannabis Tax and Regulation
With the State poised to pass new cannabis legalization legislation, Village Development Director Robin Pierce reminded the boards they’ll soon need to consider planning, zoning and regulation of businesses dealing in cannabis. It was suggested they have a statehouse rep come to a future meeting to keep the boards apprised.
CivicClerk 8 Purchase Sidelined
Town staff report that putting together agendas, minutes and packets takes an inordinate amount of time. They have been using a duct-tape conglomeration of Google drive, email, Dropbox and Office 365. The proposed solution: spend $8,500 up front and $7,500 per year on software from the company that hosts the (new) town website.
Trustee Raj Chawla suggested that staff learn how to better use the Office 365 toolkit more fully before spending on another software product.
Selectboard Member Andy Watts was concerned about adding a budget item off-cycle: We added headcount a few weeks ago. We are approaching budget season in a few more weeks. He also noted that there is a built-in 5% increase per year, although this had been brought to the sales agent’s manager and reduced to 3%.
The Selectboard was willing to pony up the whole fee to quell complaints about the Village paying twice for this. However, Village President Andrew Brown was willing to have the Village cover part of the fee, even though, as part of the town, Village residents would also pay through TIV taxes.
Members of the public questioned whether the current process and enforcement may be the problem, in which case buying more software to fix that may not have the intended effect.
In the end, the Selectboard vote was tied on approving this expense, so it goes nowhere for now. Unified Manager Evan Teich promised to bring the issue back at a future meeting.
Veterans Memorial Park at the Five Corners needs some repairs to its fountain. Selectboard Chair Elaine Haney noted that at the recent Veterans Day ceremony, wear-and-tear was obvious and needs to be addressed. Estimates will be garnered.
Planning for the next Election
The State legislature has not yet extended changes to voting procedures, and concern was raised about the cost of voting by mail for the March Election. A by-mail election can cost between $20,000 and $25,000 for a town wide vote.