Need for Social Service Committee charter opens larger debate

Selectboard Meeting, May 22
by Margo Callaghan
The Selectboard meeting held Tuesday evening, May 22, dealt early on with approving the Chittenden Solid Waste District 2012-13 budget, and the appointment of John Zicconi to a two-year term on the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC). George Schiavone was appointed as an alternate representative to the CCRPC.
Shelburne Farms was granted a license for a force main under Harbor Road, near the junction of Depot Road, connecting to The Arbors pump station.
Managers Report: Town Manager Paul Bohne addressed recent reports of bicyclists being pulled over by Shelburne police for failure to stop at stop signs. He said that this initiative has been ongoing, with the goal of enhanced safety for both bikers and drivers. “Comments of our ‘overzealousness’ have been overstated,” Bohne offered.
Bohne also reported that a water main on Webster Road was in the process of being replaced. Residents could expect delays on that road due to construction over the next week.
Tom Moreau, representing the Chittenden Solid Waste District, presented information on recent studies conducted to assess the costs to residences and businesses for trash removal and recycling. The study provided analysis of three possible options:
-weekly collection of all residential waste and recyclables
-weekly collection of all residential and commercial waste and recyclables
-bi-weekly collection of all residential waste and recyclables
The study estimated cost savings of up to 22 percent, but recognized further attention is warranted to address questions such as how changes would affect local small trash haulers, whether route consolidations would be for residential and/or commercial accounts, and should a pay-as-you-throw rate be implemented.
Following comments pertaining to whose responsibility it would be to bill customers (haulers? CSWD? 3rd party?) Board member Al Gobeille stated, “My concern would be having a third party payment model–it’s when costs go out of control.”
Selectboard Chair Bill Smith requested that Moreau provide the Board with updates on decision points going forward.
As a separate agenda item, the CSWD 2012-2013 budget was reviewed and unanimously passed.
Social Services
A proportionally large part of the meeting was spent discussing the role of and funding for the Town’s Social Services Committee. As listed on the evening’s agenda, the Selectboard was to consider adopting a charter for the committee. “We have less definition of this committee than any other committee in town,” Smith stated. The three current members of the committee were present in the audience, and heard member Tim Pudvar open the discussion by asking about the goals of the committee, and questioning the benefit of having a group of people to review requests for funding by local social nonprofit organizations. “That’s easy to do, without a committee,” he stated, adding “I’m not seeing the value of how this helps people.” Gobeille continued in a similar vein, saying “If all the Social Services Committee is going to do is simply pick charities to give money to, we can come up with a better way to do this, or not do this. The Selectboard has to figure out our role in this.” Committee Chair Fred Koch was in the audience, and offered a historical perspective on the committee, having been a member for what he estimated was 20 years. He explained that the committee had operated under a “verbal charter’ and was responsible for dispersing the money budgeted to the committee each year. “A couple of years ago, our role changed to an advocacy role,” Koch explained, adding that the committee started by making “fair and equitable” determinations of which organizations should receive how much funding. Those recommendations were then made to the Selectboard. Committee member Sally Wadhams stated she felt that the committee “has not enjoyed the last couple of years and our relationship with you [the Selectboard],” saying that some of that could be traced to the Selectboard not communicating to the committee that the Social Services budget would be cut. The Selectboard reminded the Committee that the budget meetings are open to the public, as are their regular meetings every other Tuesday night. More than one Selectboard member offered that there was a communication gap from the committee to the Selectboard, yet it was obvious at the Town Meeting in March that “citizens have been drawn into that gap.” Smith stated that the Committee needed to operate on a factual, not emotional basis.
Gobeille stated he felt the role of the Social Services Committee should be one of leadership – with Smith following up by stating the next step in discussions would be one to discuss the scope of the committee. When that is scheduled, it will be placed on the agenda.

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