Vergennes to televise May unification forum

VERGENNES — In scheduling a televised public forum in advance of the city’s May 17 revote on Addison Northwest Supervisory Union unification, Vergennes aldermen and an ANwSU representative agreed on Tuesday that the school district should make a full presentation describing what the school governance change would mean.
The forum will be held at 7 p.m. on May 10 in the Vergennes Opera House. It will then be broadcast locally on cable channel 17 on Wednesday, May 11, at 1 and 7 p.m.; on Friday, May 13, at 8 p.m.; and on Sunday, May 15, at 3 p.m.
In addition to the revote in Vergennes, residents of Addison will also revote the issue on May 17.
ANwSU unification committee member Cheryl Brinkman asked aldermen at their Tuesday meeting what sort of presentation they would like ANwSU officials to make at the forum.
Brinkman said the committee could provide a quick overview, leaving more time for discussion and comment, or a presentation including slides that would more fully review how the one-board system would work, how legislation passed in 2010 would affect local school tax rates, and why school officials chose to make the proposal.
At this point, ANwSU officials are projecting a level school tax rate in Vergennes in the first year of unification, and then slight increases over the next four years. If unification had passed in 2010, a 5-cent increase was expected in the first year. Addison is projected to see a drop of about 7 cents in its school tax rate in the first year.
Mayor Michael Daniels suggested with the potential for many local residents to view the broadcast that the full presentation would be best.
“Is your audience the people who show up, or the people who watch TV?” he asked.
Daniels also said he planned to moderate the meeting, which he hoped would focus on adding light, not heat, to the issues.
“I’m trying to get people, rather than debate what you put out there, to give you a chance to respond,” Daniels said.
Brinkman said that format would also meet ANwSU’s goals.
“We’re trying to get information out to people,” she said.
Daniels also said he would make sure residents of Vergennes were heard first, and that he would limit statements and comments from attendees if necessary.
“We don’t want people to ramble on,” he said. “It’s about asking questions and getting answers.”
Petitions in both Addison and Vergennes asked for revotes after all five ANwSU communities backed unification on Town Meeting Day. Votes in all five towns were at least 60 percent in favor except in Addison, where 54 percent said yes.
The Addison Central School board has scheduled a public forum on unification in Addison for May 12; it will be held at 7 p.m. at ACS.
All five ANwSU communities passed unification by wide margins in 2010, but the result was petitioned in Addison and Vergennes, and unification was defeated in a May revote in Addison.
Because all five ANwSU towns must approve any governance change, the plan was halted. A no vote in either community on May 17 would have the same effect.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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