By Chea Waters Evans, News Editor
This week’s Selectboard meeting included updates from the Vermont State Police, the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, and Gallagher Flynn consulting. And though it was discussed again, there was still no resolution to the ongoing debate and discussion of what exactly dogs should be allowed to do on Thompson’s Point and Whiskey Beach.
COVID-19 made life difficult for many in many ways, but one silver lining of the virus and the resulting Stay Home, Stay Safe directive meant that traffic tickets and incidents were lower this year than they were at this point in 2019. Lieutenant Bob Lucas from the Vermont State Police checked in with the Selectboard on Monday night to share his report about the state of traffic and patrolling in Charlotte.
Lucas said the yearly tallies for this year, Sept. 1 to Sept. 1, showed there were 25 fewer calls to the VSP, down to 472 from 505 last year. He said there were “no major surprises” as far as call volume and types of calls were concerned. Lucas also mentioned that they purposefully directed patrols in specific areas of town to reduce break-ins both within the community and at Mt. Philo State Park—specifically vehicle break-ins in the parking lot there.
Despite the fatal crash last month at the northern intersection of Church Hill Road and Route 7, Lucas said that the corridor of the highway in Charlotte is “not a designated high crash area…[but] we are cognitive of it and focusing a lot of attention in that area.”
He also said he couldn’t discuss the matter further because the crash is still an “ongoing investigation; we are preparing search warrants on vehicles and such so I don’t want to comment too, too much.”
Partly for safety reasons and partly for financial reasons, VSP troopers chose to ignore certain violations during the spring and early summer, like expired inspection stickers and vehicle registrations. “We didn’t want to put undue financial burden on people for fines,” Lucas said, “there was compassion there. We want to hold people accountable for their actions, but on the same token we understand we’re in trying times.”
Lucas finished his presentation by explaining how the VSP’s Fair and Impartial Policing Committee, which was created in 2009, is continually working to follow a 10-point initiative set forth by the police and the governor. Updated in August, the document “Law Enforcement Modernization in Vermont: A Partial Roadmap & Commitment by Law Enforcement Agencies to Work with our Communities” is available on the VSP’s web site. The report reads, “America has experienced a tipping point in the nationwide crisis involving police use of force. Awareness and acknowledgement of institutionalized racism throughout the criminal justice system has likely never been at a higher level. In Vermont, there must be a systematic approach to comprehensive police reform.”
The plan laid out by police focuses on hiring, training, data and data management, community oversight, and getting the community involved in police efforts, among other objectives. Lucas encouraged Charlotters to go to the VSP web site, look at the recommendations, and contact him directly with concerns and questions.
Thompson’s Point lease transfer
During a segment on a lease transfer for a Thompson’s Point property—these items are routine and done frequently—leaseholder Valerie Biebuyck publicly pleaded with the Selectboard for the third time that they assist her and her husband, who own lot 129 on the point, with a right-of-way issue relating to the two properties, lots 127 and 128, that were the subject of Monday night’s lease transfer. The right of way included in lots 127 and 128, she said, would infringe upon her lot and shouldn’t be considered valid because the property on the two lots has changed significantly over time. She said they are “in a conflict with a neighbor we haven’t even met yet.”
The Selectboard decided that the right of way issues were not germaine to the lease transaction and voted to approve the transfer of lots 127 and 128.
Thompson’s Point and Whiskey Bay dog decisions
The agenda item for tonight’s meeting was the question of whether or not dogs should be banned from Whiskey Bay Beach on Thompson’s Point; it was presented as such, based on public comments at the last Selectboard meeting. After a couple false starts with both Selectboard members and members of the community voicing their opinions on dogs both on and off leashes and dog behavior at the beach, Tenney reminded meeting participants that the parameters set by the agenda item allowed only a vote on whether or not dogs would be prohibited at Whiskey Bay Beach. Though all parties in the discussion agreed that dog poop should be picked up regularly and good use be made of the poop station at the top of the path to the beach, that was really the only agreement on the issue.
Kendall Frost voiced her support for dogs at the beach, Barbara Russ and Dean Williams expressed their fear of aggressive dogs at Whiskey Bay, and other public comments were made, but ultimately no one on the Selectboard wanted to ban dogs from the beach at this point, so the dog law remains as is for now. The issue will be taken up once more at the next Selectboard meeting; Selectboard member Jim Faulkner recommended that it be presented as an item to possibly amend the leash law exclusively for Whiskey Bay Beach.
Dan Lyons, with consulting firm Gallagher, Flynn & Company, presented his report on salary review for Town of Charlotte employees. The town currently uses a method of evaluation called the Palmer method; Lyons said his evaluation did not use such a system. He said he looked at data from similar positions in towns around the state in order to provide salary ranges that are appropriate for certain positions. The Selectboard will review the information and plan to discuss compensation issues at a later date.
Charlie Baker, the executive director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, made what he called a “customer service call” to the board, laying out their yearly report and discussed the issue of affordable housing with the Selectboard.
Selectboard member James Faulkner reported that things were progressing nicely with the Morningside Cemetery and Morningside Drive area.