July 27 meeting

Chair Andrew Brown, Trustee Dan Kerin and Essex Junction Recreation and Parks Director Brad Luck at the July 27 Village Trustees meeting. 

In less than four months, Village residents will vote on the creation of an independent City of Essex Junction. 

The charter which will formally enact the City is currently being prepared by the Village board of trustees. Here are three decisions the trustees made recently: 

  1. In case negotiations for sharing Essex Police with the Town do not work out, the Village decided to create two backup plans. 

Plan B includes asking other area police departments if they are open to starting a conversation about providing services to a City of Essex Junction. 

“I certainly do not hope we have to go down this road,” Chair Andrew Brown said at an Aug. 10 meeting. “I hope we can work with the Selectboard to maintain the Essex Police force.”

At a joint meeting on June 15, the Trustees formally proposed sharing the Essex Police department to the Town Selectboard. The two boards have not yet come to a consensus, and so the Trustees are preparing for the worst.

In the event that a contract did not come to fruition, the City would need to seek full law enforcement coverage, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for its 4.6 square miles and approximately 11,000 residents. 

Village staff drafted a letter to send to six departments: Colchester, South Burlington, Williston, Winooski, the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Office or the Vermont State Police. 

“I think it’s great to be thinking about it and anticipating it, but it’s a very big conversation that probably wouldn’t get resolved in time for us to put something on the ballot in November,” Tyler said. 

Plan C would be to create a City of Essex Junction police force. 

This process would not only be multi-year, but costly to residents who have already invested in the Essex Police Department, the board determined. 

“The time it takes to establish a department, get it up and running, create the infrastructure...it’s not worth spending the time on,” Klein said. “It’s already hard enough filling the vacant positions in existing police departments.”

The board of trustees and Town Selectboard will meet jointly on Aug. 23. The sharing of Essex Police is expected to be a topic of discussion. 

  1. The trustees examined a list of current Village committees and potential future City committees and commissions. 

The Village currently has three committees which meet regularly and are staffed by community volunteers. 

Two committees are run solely by the Village: the Bike/Walk Advisory Committee, which encourages bicycling and walking and advances sidewalks and bike paths, and the Capital Program Review Committee, which examines municipal needs in areas like vehicles and buildings.

The Tree Advisory Committee, which plants, maintains and protects the community’s public trees, is shared with the Town. 

“Everything that we are currently doing, I would like to see continue,” Brown said during a July 27 meeting. 

Staff presented a list of potential new city committees including: 

  • Arts Committee

  • Cemetery Commission

  • Climate Committee

  • Committee on Racial Equity & Inclusion

  • Conservation & Trails Committee

  • Downtown District Committee

  • Economic Development Commission

  • Energy Committee

  • Police Advisory Committee

  • Recreation & Parks Advisory Board

This list was generated by reviewing the committees of other area communities. 

“Hopefully we can find good champions to help move that work forward,” Brown said. 

The Trustees also reviewed a list of intergovernmental relationships the city would maintain, like the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, Essex Rescue, Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.  

The city could gain a seat on the boards of Green Mountain Transit and the Winooski Valley Park District, but would need to vote on the matter at a later date. 

  1. Trustee George Tyler recommends an independent City of Essex Junction seek Vermont Designated Downtown recognition. 

The Village is currently recognized by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development as a Village Center and a Neighborhood Development Area. Both distinctions come with benefits like tax credits, priority consideration for state grants and technical assistance.

If and when the Village becomes the City, Trustee George Tyler recommends seeking Designated Downtown status. 

“There is an expanded realm of benefits if you become a Designated Downtown,” said Tyler during an Aug. 10 meeting. 

Those benefits include exemptions and credits aimed at making it easier to improve and develop Vermont’s new and historic downtowns. Other nearby municipalities with Designated Downtowns include Winooski, Burlington and St. Albans. 

Becoming a Designated Downton is multi-stepped. The City would need to create a Downtown Committee consisting of community members, business owners, investors and elected officials. 

The ACCD provides financial assistance to communities seeking Designated Downtown status through an application process. The trustees plan to pursue this application if and when the separation process is complete. In the meantime, the Village will renew its Village Center and Neighborhood Development Area distinctions. 

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