The meeting was the group’s first after a joint meeting with the Dover Selectboard to hash out priorities and goals for the Dover Economic Development Specialist.
“Everything is in bitown,” said committee member Ken Black, referring to the goals and objectives in the Mullin Plan commissioned by the (then) tritown economic development committee.
“Not everything is covered in bitown,” said committee member Laura Sibilia. “But we were directed to go back to the survey.” Sibilia referred to a Dover survey conducted in 2007. “The statement was that this (one percent tax money) is going to be spent on what the community wants it to be spent on.”
Community member Kelly Pawlak asked the committee how much time they thought they should be spending on economic development, versus community development. She said people have different memories of what the town’s one percent local option tax was intended to be spent on.
“For me it was economic development all the way,” Pawlak said. “I was wondering, if you could pie-chart it, what percentage would be spent on economic development, and what percentage on community development?”
Although no one was willing to draw an actual or verbal pie chart for Pawlak, Sibilia said her recollection was also that the money was to be spent on economic development. She suggested that changes in the town’s understanding of economic development since the survey was administered may have superseded some of the priorities in the survey. “We’re not a community of professional planners and economic development folks,” she said. “Everyone says ‘This will develop the economy.’ Now we’ve got a mandate to survey the public again. That’s not economic development, that’s ‘How does the public want to spend the money.’”
Sibilia qualified the statement by noting that the public was entitled to decide how they want to spend the money. “What we’ve been trying to figure out is how we get the maximum benefit,” she said. “How does the community get what it wants, and what it needs?”
Black said the committee’s work was “overwhelmingly economic development,” but he said there are some instances in which economic development and community development are the same. “One idea is to have a community center where people might gather for things like a blues concert,” he said. “That would bring people out of their homes and into the community to spend money in various businesses. You could label it community development, but it really is economic development at a level. The label is ambiguous to a certain extent.”
Economic development specialist Patrick Moreland objected that the discussion was moving away from the morning’s agenda – to develop a work plan for the coming year with the committee’s assistance.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve spent way too much time on this,” said Pawlak. “Mount Snow sends a ton of money to the state, too much for me not to raise my hand and say I share the frustration. Everyone needs to stop, go back to the drawing board, and take the time to figure out who you are.” Pawlak said the group’s “organizational chart” was unclear.
Moreland agreed. He said he would be addressing the issue with the selectboard. “Frankly, I think it is time to get some of this established,” he said. “I can work under any arrangement, but I can’t work under a continuously changing arrangement. Whether I’m the mayor of economic development, or taking direction from the committee, I can operate any way except this way.”
“This is the Achilles’ heel of the DEDC,” Sibilia agreed. “It’s a frickin’ free-for-all, and it has been since its inception.”
In other matters, the board discussed a petitioned demand that the economic development committee meet during the evening. The current meeting time is at 8 am. Black said he could meet at any time, and noted that one suggestion was to meet an hour before the selectboard. “That would keep us to an hour,” he said.
Committee member Bill Anton said he would prefer to keep the 8 am meeting time. Sibilia said another evening meeting wouldn’t work for her. “I go to a (school) board meeting every Monday night, and most of the time nobody comes, unless they’re interested in something. And people come to this meeting when they’re interested.”
Dover resident Linda Anelli reminded committee members that there were 115 names on the petition. The petition, which was presented to the selectboard by William “Buzzy” Buswell at the joint selectboard/DEDC meeting more than a week earlier, made several demands, one of which was the change in meeting time. “I think it’s incumbent upon you to give it a chance at an evening time,” Anelli said. “I’m here to represent a lot of people who can’t be here at 8 am. If everyone could find a different day or compromise time, I think you owe the public that opportunity.”
“We’ve had this discussion so many times,” said Sibilia. “The selectboard said committees set their own meeting time, we said 8 am. The selectboard asked us to consider changing the time, we considered it.”