Not yet, CVSD: Selectboard declines to sign election day security agreement

The Town of Charlotte, VT

Monday’s Selectboard meeting featured one agenda item: the memorandum of agreement between the Champlain Valley School District and the town of Charlotte for election day security. The topic was debated for nearly an hour among Selectboard members, with Chair Matt Krasnow calling in remotely. Town Clerk/Treasurer Mary Mead started off the discussion asking to review the MOA from the beginning and Selectboard Member Louise McCarren provided a written list of suggested changes. The updated MOA included changes incorporated from a previous meeting with school district officials, Mead, and Selectboard members Krasnow and Fritz Tegatz.

They only got to the fourth line in the MOA: WHEREAS, the Town would like to hold various municipal, state and federal elections (Election Days) at the School, before the discussion centered on the history of the building and voting in Charlotte.

“The town has the right, that’s really my issue,” said McCarren. “The town has used the facility so far back Mary didn’t know.” Mead responded, “The town gave the lands and building to the school district in 1966. That’s where the town hall was, in that building. We need to assert that the town of Charlotte has used the facility for municipal and voting purposes forever.” Carrie Spear agreed. Fritz Tegatz observed the MOA was “written from the district standpoint” and “looks like ‘it’s ours now, these are the rules’.” Krasnow said, “The way I read this it was just for election security on Town Meeting Day.”

McCarren and Tegatz raised concerns about implications of signing the agreement. “It changes the dynamics of who’s in charge there,” said McCarren. “We are no longer allowed to use it without permission,” said Tegatz. Vice Chair Frank Tenney asked about the intent of additional security “to protect the school, that’s already supposed to be protected?”

McCarren said, “While I am sympathetic to school security, we need a short term solution and a long term solution.” She proposed drafting a global MOA and offered up a previous idea discussed by members of the Selectboard: moving Town Meeting Day to a Saturday. Spear replied, “Saturday would be more favorable now, than maybe seven or ten years ago.” Mead said changing meeting day was a separate topic and suggested having an agreement first, but didn’t think the town should have an agreement for minor elections (identified in the MOA as less than 300 voters). “Charlotte is the only town that votes in a school. No other district has to pay for security on election days,” she said. Krasnow proposed signing the MOA and executing the termination clause, “I have a concern going into town meeting without an agreement,” he said.

McCarren motioned to “decline to sign the MOA, but want to work cooperatively with the consolidated school district to come to an agreement about the use of the facilities.” Tegatz seconded  the motion. During discussion, McCarren expressed the need to communicate the decision to the two Charlotte school board representatives as well as CVSD Chief Operating Officer Jeanne Jensen. “No one should be surprised. We need to communicate this to everyone involved,” said McCarren. Spear suggested putting it on the agenda for the end of March. Tegatz said, “I think this should be a group meeting. There’s no one here [from the school district]. The players all need to be in the room at the same time.” The vote was 4-1, with Krasnow against.

The next scheduled Selectboard meeting is March 9 at 6:00 p.m.