As part of its development of a new charter for an independent City of Essex Junction, the Village Trustees are proposing to share some services with the Town of Essex.
At a joint meeting on June 15, the Trustees formally proposed the sharing of the Essex Police and Recreation and Parks departments to the Town Selectboard.
“Our vision is an independent City of Essex Junction, with the services to support itself and with the autonomy to make decisions on behalf of the Village,” Trustees Chair Andrew Brown said.
Though the Trustees are looking to separate as much as possible, Brown said sharing these two departments would be beneficial to both communities.
Village taxpayers have already put many resources into the police department, Brown said, and though the Trustees were not unanimous about the sharing of Recreation and Parks, the majority thought a united department would be able to offer more programs to the community.
“The larger the area, the wider diversity of programs you can offer,” Trustee George Tyler said.
In addition, the Trustees are interested in sharing the clerk, finance and IT departments for a number of years after, and if, separation occurs. Brown said the Trustees would look to town staff for help in determining if the transitional period is necessary, and if so, how long it would last.
“We made an assumption that a transition period may be necessary given how intertwined [these departments] are,” Brown said.
At the joint meeting, the Trustees wished to decide how the two boards would discuss and negotiate these shared services, but the Town Selectboard said it wanted to discuss the proposal independently first.
“I think the Selectboard needs to go back and have its own discussion, potentially with our legal counsel, to see how we want to proceed,” Chair Andy Watts said.
Brown proposed a discussion between the two full boards at another joint meeting, or the formation of a subcommittee made up Town board members and Village trustees. A third option, he said, could be the hiring of a mediator or facilitator, who would guide the boards through the conversation.
“Regardless, it would be very helpful for us in the Village to know how we can have these conversations with you so we don’t make things up on our own,” Brown said.
Watts reiterated that the Selectboard would discuss the sharing of services on its own first, before broaching any of these other options.
The Selectboard did have a discussion about the topic at its June 21 meeting, albeit during an executive session, citing Vermont law.
“In order to have a complete and thorough discussion about this topic and the topic of the Village’s proposed separation in general, it would appear that an executive session would be necessary because the premature disclosure of the information may put the Selectboard and the Town at a substantial disadvantage,” a memorandum from Assistant Town Manager Greg Duggan to Unified Manager Evan Teich stated.