Trustees Send Separation Conditions to SB, Stressing Tight Timeframe
Joint Board Meeting 7/19/21
by Irene Wrenner
July 20, 2021
At the July 19th Joint Meeting, the Village Trustees presented a dozen detailed "priorities" they would like the Selectboard meet in a forthcoming Separation agreement.
Among them were requests for:
- Town government to vacate 81 Main Street office building and sell within five years, preferably to the Village for 58% of its value (#10);
- Police Budget to be shared with the Village via discounted funding based on grand list proportions -- currently 42% for the Village (#1). Call volume in the Village is currently greater than in the TOV, and numerous special events in the Village require extra police coverage, according to Chief Ron Hoague; and
- Town Parks and Recreation department to offer resident season passes to Village residents for Indian Brook Reservoir (#11).
The list of presented Village priorities may be found in the Meeting Packet, page 4: https://www.essexvt.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_07192021-1195
Selectboard Chair Andy Watts, by far the most senior SB member, pushed back strongly on several of the Trustees’ priorities. He indicated:
The Town government should remain in the building it owns at 81 Main Street for as long as it pleases. (#10)
Prohibiting the Town from voting on any bond in the near future, as the Trustees requested, would be problematic. “That ties our hands.” (#2)
The Village should not attempt to limit how many Finance staff the Town may hire. (#7)
Selectboard Clerk Tracey Delphia questioned the request (#1) for contributions to the Police Budget as unrealistically low.
Acknowledging the complexity of separating the recently-consolidated Finance functions, SB member Pat Murray asked if the Trustees would consider continuing to share the Finance Department instead. Village President Andrew Brown was the only Trustee to reply and simply said no.
Contrary to prior back-and-forth discussions on sharing Parks and Recreation, that department was not included on the Village wishlist beyond Indian Brook Reservoir and senior services.
In addition, the Trustees failed to acknowledge a number of bills paid solely by the Town: Green Mountain Transit, Winooski Valley Park District, Essex Rescue, and the Health Officer.
Photo: Google Maps
The Trustees wish for the Village to pay for less than half the police budget, despite the Village having a higher call volume than the rest of the Town, as well as several large events needing an extensive police presence.
The Trustees suggested the SB put together proposals to deal with any missing topics or counter-proposals.
It might take SB members the rest of the summer to hammer out an acceptable path for the Village / Town-inside-the-Village (TIV) to secede, even though they have no townwide charge from constituents to do so.
Meanwhile, the Trustees have a self-imposed deadline, targeting an autumn vote on Separation and hope the SB will accommodate them, proceeding without public input if necessary.
Despite the precipitous timeline, the Trustees plan to honor the non-binding suggestion for a November vote from their constituents this past April.
They had previously asked the Selectboard to join them on July 26th to continue talking about the details of a Separation plan.
After returning from an executive session to discuss the proposed priorities, the Selectboard opted to not discuss Separation plans again this month with the Trustees. They prefer to hear from the public before negotiating further.