Decision on Essex merger ballot question to be finalized Thursday

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 1:36 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2020 at 8:28 AM EDT
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ESSEX, Vt. (WCAX) - The question of whether the Essex merger will appear on the November ballot will finally be answered Thursday night.

The Essex Select Board and the board of trustees are holding a joint meeting to decide if they want to ask the voters this November if they want to merge the town and village. The two municipalities currently have their own charters. In order to merge them, voters would have to approve a brand new charter. That charter must first be approved by both the Board of Trustees and the Select Board. The Legislature would also have to review the charter change.

Select Board Chair Elaine Haney says it appears the trustees are ready to do so, but she says she can’t say the same about the Select Board. She says they are still looking over the 25-page document and the revisions the board of trustees made on Monday night.

“They did a fine job. It’s just that we have to talk about all of them and there are still some legal questions remaining and we have to settle some areas in which we disagree,” Haney said. “Even though there is a final draft charter before us, there’s still some discussion to be had and we are very anxious to make sure we do it right.”

Some of those remaining questions are about development, representation in government, and the taxation structure.

Some people say their biggest concern is whether they’ll have to pay more in taxes as a result of the merger. They’re also worried a merger is a complicated topic, and they say the clock is ticking on educating voters and stopping the spread of misinformation by November.

“I’m a little concerned about putting it on the November ballot because -- and I’m so glad ballots are being mailed. I think that’s incredibly important but it means people are going to start voting much sooner and I’m worried about people not having enough time to get the information that they need,” said Kelly Adams of Essex Junction.

“I think, again, tough road to get the information out there to everyone so that they really understand and to walk into the polls or vote absentee and go, ‘What the heck is this about?’” said Bridget Meyer of Essex Junction.

If the boards agree to put the merger on the November ballot, Haney says they must send the draft charter to the clerk by Friday afternoon so that she can prepare the ballot.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The public is invited to virtually attend to weigh in.

Haney says if the item doesn’t make it to the November ballot, they will consider adding it to the March ballot.

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