ST.ALBANS – A joint meeting between the St. Albans City Council and the St. Albans Town selectboard, an idea pitched by St. Albans City Mayor Tim Smith and town selectboard chair Brendan Deso, appears to have won tentative support from their respective boards.
The two leaders initially pitched a possible joint meeting when they sat down with the Messenger late last month, considering it the first step in mending the relationship between the two communities’ governments.
Since then, they’ve brought that same pitch back to their respective governing boards and, in both cases, it appeared warmly welcomed.
“Anything we can do to improve our relationships with anybody I’m for,” selectboard vice chair Bruce Cheeseman responded during their most recent selectboard meeting. “It’s only beneficial.”
Members of the selectboard, including Cheeseman, aired some skepticism, however.
“Everything you mention in the paper pertaining to that, has been thought of more than once,” Cheeseman said, referring to the Messenger article that resulted from that meeting between Smith and Deso. “But we never follow through on anything.”
“The last time we met… was right in this room,” selectperson Stan Dukas said. “We have never been invited back, either.”
In St. Albans City, the council also responded positively to a possible joint meeting.
“I’m all for it,” said Marie Bessette, the councilor representing Ward 3.
“For a few months, I did go to their third Monday meeting and I found that really helpful, too,” Ward 6 councilor Chad Spooner said. “Maybe we can do that on a rotating basis every other month.”
Smith asked that the council brainstorm small goals the town and city could work together on, starting places he could bring back to the town so he, city manager Dom Cloud and town manager Carrie Johnson could begin building an agenda for that meeting.
He also shared his own suggested goal with the council, one he shared with the Messenger last month.
“The one I suggested was getting a sidewalk from where it ends in the city up to Hard’ack,” Smith said. “Traffic on Congress is getting… faster all the time, and a sidewalk would be beneficial.
“It could be a small success we could build off.”
Animosity between the town’s and city’s governments stems largely from a feud over the town’s access to the city’s wastewater system. That feud led to the town filing multiple court cases against the city in the past decade, the most recent of those cases concluding in the city’s favor last December.
While those past feuds were noted by Deso as he brought the meeting to the town selectboard, he appeared confident the relationship could improve even with those past disputes over the city’s municipal wastewater system.
“I think there can only be good from talking to one another,” Deso said. “We’re not going to agree on everything but if we can find some common ground on certain issues, I think we could have more lobbying power in Montpelier and have more opportunity to apply for mutually beneficial grants.”
Skepticism aside, the town selectboard seemed to share his optimism about a joint meeting.
“Let’s make it beneficial, though – make it something worth meeting on,” Cheeseman said before adding, “Just meeting is beneficial.”
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