Essex Junction residents vote to separate from Essex Town

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 6:01 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2021 at 9:49 AM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Essex Junction residents on Tuesday voted in favor of independence from the town of Essex. The vote comes after several failed merger attempts, with the latest one being this past spring.

Independence from the town has been a point of conversation for more than five decades. When the results were announced on Tuesday, there was cheering and hugs at the polling location.

Those living in the village overwhelmingly voted in favor of separation. Just over 88% of the 3,481 votes counted were in favor.

“I wish we had done this way sooner,” said Elizia Meskill, an Essex Junction resident for 17 years., She says she couldn’t wait to cast her vote. “I think it’s only fair we pay for amenities we need, not being forced to pay for services we don’t need.”

With the separation vote approved, village residents could see a 7% drop in property taxes. Meanwhile, the town of Essex will lose 42% of its tax base.

Some living in the village said the savings aren’t worth the headache. “I like the way things are now and I think breaking things up will really put the hurt to Essex Town,” said Joe Chaffer, a village resident. “I’m not really in support of that.”

While separation is likely, it’s not yet official. Andrew Brown, the chair of the Essex Junction Board of Trustees, said it will probably happen around May 2022. “What happens next is the Legislature will take up the same proposal and they will need to pass this,” Brown explained. “It can be a bit of a process as the House and Senate will need to take up the charter change.”

Just under 50% of the village’s registered voters turned out on Tuesday.

Essex Junction Board Member Dan Kerin said people are making their voices heard. “It’s an incredible turnout and incredible numbers,” Kerin said. “It’s a message, one I hope Montpelier will listen to.”

The village is already in the process of hiring its own town manager and staff.

Brown says if the charter change isn’t approved, he isn’t sure what they would do next.

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