Whiting Library, biomass plant dominate Select Board meeting

By Karen Zuppinger

Whiting Library chairman Bruce Parks and several members of the Library Board of Trustees voiced their concerns during the Select Board meeting of Wednesday, Sept. 19, about a memorandum of understanding that the Select Board wants the trustees to sign.

The main issue stems from the most recent outside audit that called into question the financial relationship between the trustees and the town treasurer. According to the trustees’ reading of the Vermont Statue Governing Public Libraries, a municipal library is a department of the town governed separately by its elected board of trustees. An unofficial online copy of Vermont Library Statue can be found here: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/sections.cfm?Title=22&Chapter=003.

One of the primary roles of the trustees is to manage the library’s finances. It has little or no input from the town treasurer.

The 120-year-old library and town government have the same federal employer identification number, which is basically a business’s Social Security number for tax purposes. The outside auditor thought this might cause problems for the town treasurer if there were ever financial discrepancies with the library. In an effort to resolve any conflict and concerns, both the trustees and Select Board agreed to craft a memorandum of understanding.

However, in the MOU’s fourth draft, the Select Board added a paragraph giving the town and the trustees the chance to terminate the agreement without cause. Trustee Shawn Cunningham later said that the building, its contents and investments earmarked for the library belong to the town – and since the library is part of town government, this could mean that the trustees would be unable to run the library. And it would in effect nullify the votes of those who elected the seven trustees to the library board.

The town, Cunningham said, cannot not sever its relationship with itself.

A library trustee questioned whether the intent of the termination clause was a way to separate the library from the town.

Select Board chair John DeBenedetti said, “No,” that the issue was to simply clarify what the outside auditor found to be a possible conflict.

Select Board member Derek Suursoo said, “I don’t think that this is a Select Board issue to begin with. It’s a matter that should be handled between the current treasurer Debbie (Deborah Aldrich) and the board of trustees.”

“I don’t think that this is a Select Board issue to begin with. It’s a matter that should be handled between the current treasurer Debbie (Deborah Aldrich) and the board of trustees.”
Select Board member Derek Suuroo

Town manager David Pisha said that Aldrich had come to him and expressed her concerns and that he agreed to handle it for her via the Select Board.

DeBenedetti asked if there was any other town in the state of Vermont whose public library had its own EIN. Pisha cited Cavendish.

Parks said that the outside auditor stated that he had no knowledge or understanding of the Vermont Library Statute. Cunningham said he thought bringing in a library consultant with experience in Vermont library law would be beneficial for the Select Board in understanding the law.

It was decided it would be in the best interest of all parties, including Treasurer Aldrich, to discuss how to come to an agreement regarding the financial clause.

Information on biomass plant lacking, resident complains

Chester resident Michael Currie made his third appearance before the Select Board meeting of Wednesday, Sept. 19, to voice concern about the planned Biomass Plant in North Springfield.

Currie’s concerns stem from the possible truck traffic that could affect him and others who live on Route 10 in Chester. He also expressed reservations about how the Select Board was handling the flow of information to Chester residents.

Currie told the board: “I would like the biomass project to be an ongoing agenda item, so that anyone in the community looking at the upcoming meetings would know that they have an opportunity to come in and voice opinions.” Currie also stated that he thought that “Big Money” interests were getting their way over the concerns of ordinary taxpayers.

Select Board chair John DeBenedetti said that the issue has been on previous agendas and that no one voice opinions or concerns. Board member Derek Suursoo also added that there was little else the Select Board could do to educate people regarding the plant, short of going door to door.

Currie said that he wished there was information available online from previous select board meetings so that he and others could go back and read over them. DeBenedetti said that the minutes of previous meetings were available online. But Currie said he had tried to look it up the Sept. 5th meeting minutes but they were not available. DeBenedetti apologized and said that a DVD of the meeting was available at Town Hall on the Monday after the Wednesday for the public to view.

Board member Tom Bock said that the residents have until Oct. 9 to contact the state Public Service Board about their concerns over the biomass plant.

Bringing in business

Piggybacking on V-Tel’s new high-speed broadband service, the Select Board decided this would be an opportune time to attract businesses.

One major point of emphasis would be to look for companies that would fit into the fabric of Chester. And be willing and interested in using available resources and real estate, such as the vacant armory building, as oppose to new development that would put a strain on current water and sewer systems.
Suursoo asked that Pisha to be in charge of putting together an outline of a plan. Bock also suggested that members of the community be involved in helping shape the vision. Arne Jonynas said that updating the town’s website should also be a priority. Suursoo added that the board should seek out local web developers – reinforcing the town’s commitment to keeping money within the local community.

Pisha said that he will continue to work on putting a plan in place with the hopes of getting something on the agenda in the near future.

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