July 28, 2014

Landfill answers expected at next Selectboard meeting

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By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

Most of the 25 people crammed into the Selectboard meeting Monday night left after learning the town had no new information regarding a proposed Chittenden Solid Waste District regional landfill off Redmond Road.

At the meeting, members of the recently formed landfill-opposition group, the Williston Neighborhood Coalition, requested a status report from the board. Town Manager Rick McGuire explained that the town had compiled a list of legal questions for town attorney Paul Gillies. The questions were based on those posed to the board at their Sept. 19 meeting, which was attended by about 200 residents.

McGuire pointed out that the questions were merely clarifying legal issues, and would not necessarily dictate what the board would eventually do.

Coalition President Steve Casale said he had faith in the board, and hoped that it would keep communicating with the public on the issue.

“I think it’s important that that bidirectional conduit of information continues,” Casale said.

On Wednesday, McGuire confirmed that the questions had been finalized and sent to Gillies. Some of the questions include:

“If the town cannot void the contract [with CSWD], but breached it anyway (somehow), what would the consequence be?”

“Does the host town agreement compel the Selectboard to support the landfill or limit their ability to speak out against the project?”

“What is the factual basis and legal consequence for the claim that the Town government should have been warning buyers of homes in the proximity to the proposed landfill?”

McGuire said he expected the answers to be available at the next Selectboard meeting Oct. 16, which might take place at the Williston Central School due to the high level of interest in the issue.

CHARTER CHANGES

Williston voters in November will be voting on proposed revisions to the Town Charter, one of which could eliminate official positions that have existed for nearly a century.

A proposed ballot item that was to be finalized by Friday eliminates the positions of Fence Viewer, Grand Juror, Town Agent, Trustee of Public Funds, Surveyor of Wood and Timber, and Weigher of Coal. The same item would also change the Cemetery Commission and the Old Brick Church Trustees from elected to appointed positions.

Town Clerk Deb Beckett voiced opposition to the proposal to change the elected positions to appointed ones, especially for the Cemetery Commission, which she said has existed since 1917.

“I have a real concern with one elected board voting to eliminate another elected board,” she said.

The proposed Charter changes would have to be first approved by voters before going to the state Legislature for approval.

The three-part ballot was expected to be finalized by the Selectboard by Friday, even though there is another public hearing on the changes Monday, Oct. 9. One item asks voters to authorize a local option tax for the town, in the event that the state law authorizing the tax is repealed or if the current 70 percent allocation of the tax revenue to the town is reduced. The other item would clarify language in the Charter and authorize the town to make employment agreements with the police and fire chiefs.

The proposed revisions were based on the research of a Charter Revision Task Force, which reported its findings to the board several months ago. Residents can attend the public hearing Monday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall to express their views or hear more about the changes.

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