St. Albans Town resident, and former town selectboard member Paul Larner Wednesday summed the opportunity perfectly: “We [the town] benefit substantially from this — we’ve never been in this situation before.”
Mr. Larner was referring to the proposed agreement between St. Albans City and St. Albans Town to be joint owners of Hard’ack and to build a community pool at the mountain’s base. It’s an agreement that shares both the responsibility and the opportunities of a natural asset that sits in the midst of both, and an asset that city and town residents would use in equal measure.
The agreement has been shepherded through by St. Albans Town Selectboard chair Brendan Deso, and it’s something that didn’t have to happen. Up until Mr. Deso’s involvement, it was the city that was working with Hard’ack trustees, and it could have remained that way. It was Mr. Deso who pushed for the partnership and it was the city and Hard’ack’s trustees who agreed it was an asset better managed if it were a shared responsibility and a shared opportunity.
It’s the wisdom of a town elder [Mr. Larner] that offers the perspective and the confidence St. Albans Town residents need when considering the town’s options, the town’s needs, and the town’s potential.
Mr. Larner’s observation, based on years of battling old demons, reflects decades of frustration, decades where the two municipalities went their separate ways, foregoing opportunities to coordinate their objectives and, in the process, giving the taxpayers less at a higher cost.
Thus, when Mr. Larner said, “we’ve never been in this situation before” he’s referring to the upside that comes from jointly owning and operating an asset as large and potentially valuable to the greater St. Albans community as Hard’ack.
This is what working together looks like, this was Mr. Deso’s objective as Town Selectboard Chair.
This sentiment was reinforced at the same Wednesday meeting by St. Albans City Mayor Tim Smith: “I think I speak for the whole city council when I say this is a project that’s going to benefit the entire community. This is something that will resonate with young families [and] senior citizens who want to locate in this community because of the amenities we’re offering.”
As executive director of Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation, no one speaks with greater authority on what businesses, and the people they employ, are looking for in a vibrant community.
Together — the city and town — will hopefully approve the construction of the municipal pool on Town Meeting Day, which will put this partnership in place.
As encouraging as this new city/town partnership is, Wednesday’s meeting included some of the regretful baggage from decades past.
Two members of the selectboard — vice chair Bruce Cheeseman and select person Stan Dukas — walked out of the meeting. The reason both walked out remains a bit muddled, but Mr. Cheeseman made it clear the two of them were somehow slighted in the process, that their roles should have been more prominent, that the process was going too fast for their liking. They were less than respectful to their colleagues as they left the room.
It’s a democracy and Mr. Cheeseman and Mr. Dukas have the right to say what they would like. They were elected to do so, but in session, not stomping on their way out. Mr. Cheeseman and Mr. Dukas shortchanged their constituents by picking up their stuff and leaving, essentially saying on the way out that if the others didn’t play the way they liked that they would leave.
When they stormed out of the meeting Mr Cheeseman and Mr. Dukas forfeited their voices. Their constituents lost their representation. They could offer no reasoning, no counters, to what was being said. As elected representatives, their fundamental responsibility was to remain and to contribute to the conversation. It’s not acceptable to walk out of a meeting because things don’t go your way. Ever. Not as an elected member of the St. Albans Town Selectboard.
Mr. Cheeseman and Mr. Dukas owe their colleagues an apology, and they owe their constituents a pledge that they will refrain from such behavior in the future. They weren’t elected to be drop-outs. If they cannot accept this, they should consider stepping down.
by Emerson Lynn