The chair of Charlotte’s zoning board asked the selectboard to remove one of its members, but the selectboard punted the decision back to zoners.
On Monday, June 28, zoning board chair Lane Morrison asked that Ronda Moore be removed because she violated the conflict-of-interest policy. Two nights later, the selecboard reconvened for a special meeting to consider the issue.
Moore has actively opposed an application by the Charlotte Family Health Center to construct a new building at 251 Ferry Road. Much of the opposition is over concerns about wastewater runoff from the project’s parking lot.
Moore, who lives close to the planned medical center building site, circulated a petition against the project and rallied town residents to attend meetings to oppose it. Yet, when she interviewed to join the zoning board, she said she would recuse herself from issues in which she had a conflict of interest.
Although Moore asked to comment on her alleged conflict of interest and removal from the board at the June 30 meeting, selectboard chair Matt Krasnow declined her request before the board went into closed session to consult with the town attorney.
When the board emerged from the secret session, Krasnow said the town’s attorney told selectboard members to let the zoning board address any ethics issues concerning Moore at its next regularly scheduled meeting.
That meeting is set for Wednesday, July 14.
“Also, upon advice of the town attorney, this in not the right time for the selectboard to be taking comments, so we will be moving on to the next item on the agenda,” Krasnow said.
Energy committee questioned
Energy committee chair Rebecca Foster responded to questions board member Louise McCarren raised earlier about some of the committee’s expenditures.
McCarren said she was sure all of the expenses were legitimate but felt it would be fiscally irresponsible for the selectboard not to get more specifics. She said her questions were not a big deal.
However, Foster said, “It’s a big deal for us because we keep getting called back to the selectboard to defend our budget.”
One of the expenditures McCarren questioned was a $975 fee for the energy committee to join Co-op Power.
Lynn Benander of Co-op Power, described online as an organization promoting cooperative ownership of renewable energy in the Northeast, attended the meeting remotely to explain what Charlotte gained from membership in her organization.
Membership gets Charlotte access to the co-op’s knowledge, experience and help with such projects as solar roof panels, Benander said. The membership is a one-time payment and there are no annual fees.
Benander said her organization generates tax revenue, creates jobs and lowers the cost of electricity for members of the co-op.
Board member Jim Faulkner asked Benander to send the town a list of projects it’s worked on and its funding resources.
Krasnow complimented the energy committee for partnering with Co-op Power when other attempts to meet the town energy plan’s goals have fallen short. “I think the selectboard not being fully informed about the effort would be the missing link to having this really hitting the ground running.”
As a selectboard liaison to the energy committee, Lewis Mudge said he should have done a better job of clarifying discrepancies with the energy committee’s budget.
“The energy committee is a financial benefit to the town. That is a fact,” Foster said.
Town administrator Dean Bloch asked the selectboard to allow new employees to gain paid leave for illness or for family issues when starting employment instead of having to wait to accrue it.
Bloch said it was an inexpensive way for the town to make Charlotte a more appealing place to work.
“There’s been a history of turnover in the planning and zoning office,” Bloch said. “If we are trying to make this an attractive place to work, I don’t think we’re offering top dollar, but we could offer benefits that don’t cost very much.”
Town clerk Mary Mead opposed Bloch’s suggestion. She said the town’s benefits are very good.
“This is silly,” Mead said. “Our leave time is very generous. If you’re an employee and you can’t come to work, that’s just the way it is, guys.”
Board member Frank Tenney and Faulkner both worried about how it would affect the morale of employees who started work before the proposed change.
The town has hired a firm to review the town’s pay rates and that process should be completed before making any changes, Tenney said.
But board member Lewis Mudge countered, “I can tell you, if we have more employee turnover, it’s not going to go down well with people in this town who are sick and tired of employee turnover.”