Too many volunteers leads to dilemma (5/28/09)

More applicants than openings for boards

May 28, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The Selectboard appointed two new members to sometimes hard-to-fill boards and commissions. But with more volunteers than openings, it delayed a decision on another pair of applicants.

“It’s a nice predicament to be in, to have more volunteers than openings,” said Selectboard member Judy Sassorossi. “Usually we’re begging.”

Three Williston residents applied to serve on either the Development Review Board or the Planning Commission. Michael Alvanos, an architect, and Heidi Auclair, a small business owner, each indicated they would serve on either panel. John Bendzunas, a federal probation officer, applied only for the Development Review Board.

Also seeking appointment was Carol Weston, a project engineer for the city of Burlington, who applied to be Williston’s representative on the Winooski Valley Park District. Kristen Hankins, a University of Vermont student, applied for a seat on the Recreation Commission.

The conundrum for the Selectboard was that there was only one opening on each of the boards and commissions.

It was the first time in recent memory that there were more applicants than vacant seats. In fact, the town has at times struggled to find volunteers. On at least a couple of occasions, boards and commissions have been left without enough members to reach a quorum.

The Selectboard has over the past couple of meetings interviewed applicants and discussed appointments. At its May 18 session, the board settled on a potential solution to the too-many-applicants problem.

Town Manager Rick McGuire noted that Bendzunas had applied for only the Development Review Board. McGuire suggested that Bendzunas be appointed immediately because a full complement of members was especially important for the quasi-judicial DRB, which rules on proposed developments.

Selectboard member Chris Roy wondered if either Alvanos or Auclair could instead be steered toward serving on the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, which has an opening but no volunteers.

That option appealed to the Selectboard, which voted to appoint Bendzunas to the Development Review Board and Weston to the Winooski Valley Park District. Each will serve a one-year term.

Kevin Batson was reappointed as an alternate on the DRB.

The board delayed a decision on Hankins, who has yet to appear before the board, until she could be interviewed. It directed McGuire to ask Alvanos and Auclair if they would instead serve on the Regional Planning Commission.