Town manager Scott Murphy presented an updated business plan. “The old plan was an effective document to begin with,” Murphy said. “So the board and I sat down and hashed this out. I’m not saying it’s the Magna Carta or anything, but it’s an agreement.”
Murphy said the new plan specified that a key purpose of the hall was as a “nondenominational” memorial to Wilmington’s war veterans. The plan also would give the Memorial Hall Board a chance to weigh in on applications for use of the hall. “The board wanted to review applicants,” Murphy said. “What we agreed to was that we’d accept applications (at the town office), notify the Memorial Hall Board, give them a copy of the application, and they’d have 36 hours to weigh in. The town manager would have the final decision.”
Murphy said the communication would be done by email. Administrative assistant Mary Towne warned that the Memorial Hall Board wouldn’t be able to take any action by email because it would violate Vermont’s Open Meeting law.
“The problem is they don’t know who’s renting until after the fact,” Murphy said.
“I don’t either,” said board member Meg Streeter.
“The board might have a strong opinion against a group, and if it were brought to my attention it might change things,” Murphy said.
“If they have a strong opinion as a board, how do they have it without a having a meeting?” asked board member Susan Haughwout.
Murphy said he didn’t foresee that the Memorial Hall Board would weigh in on many applications. On the occasion they do, they could warn a meeting.
Streeter expressed concern about several references in the plan giving preference to local people. “Maybe I don’t care, maybe I want it to be open to all,” she said. “It has a weird tone to it. Could we take another stab at it?”
“I’m concerned that ‘local people’ means ‘not second-home owners,’” said board member Diane Chapman. “Second-home owners have really stepped up this last year.”
Haughwout said the process outlined in the plan seemed excessively complex, and she said she wasn’t sure the plan reflected the selectboard’s vision, particularly in light of the flood and recovery.
“We’re in tough times now, and trying to come out of tough times,” Haughwout said. “In the retail world, you’d run a sale. I’d like to open the hall, at almost no cost, and do what Dover does, which is not too complicated.”
Haughwout said that past fees and requirements for insurance had been “off-putting” and, although fees had been reduced, she’d like to see a nominal fee with a deposit large enough to ensure users leave the hall clean and in good condition. “I’d like to see the (Memorial Hall) board’s take on it,” she said, “but I’d also like to see how our board feels.”
Chapman said the building was historic and should be respected, but it should also be used. Consolino said he was concerned about modeling a Memorial Hall usage policy after Dover’s. “Their hall is not a historic building,” he said. “And they don’t hold theater performances there. We don’t have a kitchen. If we want to find another example, I think we should find a different one. Historically, the main activities have been cultural and civic events.”
“And religious services,” said Haughwout.
Board members agreed to work with Murphy and the Memorial Hall Board to write a new draft of the business plan.
In economic development matters, the board discussed options for replacing economic development consultant Bill Colvin. At their last meeting, Murphy had offered a list of options ranging from hiring a full-time economic development person, to hiring consultants for individual economic development projects.
Streeter said her preference was to hire a part-time economic development specialist to replace Colvin, rather than hiring on a project-by-project basis. She said it was the best use of the $40,000 the town has budgeted for economic development personnel. “Part of the job is to help people in business,” she said. “I think we were fortunate to have Bill and to have him doing the work he was able to do while working solely for us, and after the flood when he really became our Irene recovery person. I think we’re going to have a lot of difficulty with continuity as we’re getting things going in town.”
Chapman agreed, and said she was concerned about having consultants who come and go with different projects. Consolino said he agreed with Streeter and Chapman.
Haughwout said her first instinct was to hire project consultants, but that she “could be convinced” that a part-time position was the way to go. “One of the reasons I had no problem with consultants was the prospect that the consultant we might be using most often is Bill (Colvin),” she said. “There would be no learning curve. But there might be times when he couldn’t be our consultant. But when I see some things happening, town committees and Long Term Recovery committees overlapping, some having less direction than they should, I’d like to make sure everything is funneling through the town manager.”
Board members agreed to create a draft job description, the next step in hiring a part-time economic development specialist.
In other matters, the board agreed to create a long-term recovery steering committee, meet with the school board to discuss the disposition of the town garage, and continue pursuing downtown designation.
Murphy told board members that, after discussing issues surrounding the rebuilding of the Haynes Road Bridge with state and FEMA representatives, he’s hopeful the construction can be completed before winter. In a worst-case scenario, he said, if winter hit early, the project would be ready to start in the early spring.
Murphy also told board members that the town’s plan to move back into Wilmington Town Hall has been postponed from August 2-3 to August 13 so that the move won’t interfere with the deadline for paying property taxes. The police department will be moving back into their building August 6-9.
Wilmington Fire Chief Ken March told board members that the town’s new fire apparatus is “dead in the water.” March said the vehicle’s electronics had gone haywire, and had started the truck several times with no driver in the seat. “We turned everything off, and it started again,” he said. “We had to disconnect the battery and take it out.”
March described a frustrating exchange of emails and phone calls with the salesman, mechanic, and factory, and an overnight shipment that came up one part short. March said he was outraged by both the failure of the new equipment, and the company’s failure to rectify it immediately. He said the loss of one piece of equipment could compromise fire protection, and the department would hesitate to depend on the equipment even after it was fixed.
“It was under warranty, right?” asked Chapman.
“It was mentioned that it was 22 days out of warranty,” March said. “When I looked at him, he said ‘This repair will be covered.”