Middlebury selectboard gets first new chief in 15 years

MIDDLEBURY — At the Middlebury selectboard’s Tuesday meeting, members elected a new chairman for the first time in more than a decade and a half.
Longtime vice chairman Dean George was elected chairman, a position previously occupied by John Tenny, who retired last week after more than 16 years of service. George had held the vice chair position for more than a decade, and the board chose Victor Nuovo as its new vice chairman.
Some also questioned selectmen about community input on the town’s new business development fund. At town meeting taxpayers allocated $72,000 to the fund, and Middlebury College has also pledged $72,000. The Middlebury business community has agreed to help fill out the fund once a budget is drawn up, and local business leaders are in the process of soliciting commitments for this portion of the budget.
The aim of this fund is to attract new businesses to the area and help current businesses grow. An economic development director will be hired to guide this process.
Over the upcoming months, a five-person advisory board will be chosen to draw up a budget for the fund, select candidates for the director position and create guidelines for the fund.
The selectboard will appoint two members of the board, one of whom will be the town manager, and Middlebury College will choose two. Those four will recommend a fifth member for appointment by the selectboard. Fiscal control of this fund will remain in the hands of the selectboard, said Selectman Craig Bingham.
Citizens in attendance, including Town Clerk Ann Webster, voiced two main concerns on Tuesday about the advisory board and the fund.
Some wondered if the board might choose a development director who does not understand and does not have a personal investment in the local community. Townspeople in attendance proposed choosing a qualified member of the community.
Webster said she wanted local townspeople and businesses to add input throughout the development of this fund and director position, and that she believed it would be important for the community to have a voice in the fund’s use.
“I think as a community we do want to have some input into what (businesses) we are trying to attract,” said Webster. “Who’s deciding what? And where is the process?”
Thursday, a committee created to do groundwork for the proposal of the fund consisting of town, college and business leaders was scheduled to meet for what Town Manager Bill Finger said was the last time. The committee will talk on Thursday about the business development director position and wrap up its work.
In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, the selectboard:
• Met with Amy Sheldon, who is a Middlebury planner and a consultant for a Middlebury River remediation project in East Middlebury. On Thursday, March 22, at 7 p.m. in the East Middlebury United Methodist Church a public meeting will be held to discuss issues and opportunities surrounding the river work.
•  Approved a $977,665 bid from Champlain Construction for infrastructure improvements to Butternut Ridge Drive. Director of Operations Dan Werner said that fee would cover the costs of replacing the water main, storm sewers and the road base. The funds will also cover a complete repaving of the road from end to end.
• Approved a $22,674 bid to Signals RYG out of Burlington to replace the traffic signal sensors at the intersection of Cross Street and Court Street. The loop sensor system that detects cars from underneath is malfunctioning and will be replaced by a microwave sensor that Werner said that is widely used in Vermont and is a cheaper alternative to replacing the entire system. The funds will come out of money left in the Cross Street Bridge Fund.
•  Heard from Assistant Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay that the town’s budget is on target to come out even for this year on both the revenue and expense side.
• Met with Fire Captain Pat Shaw to talk about the upcoming fire station renovations. The engineers are looking into some slight design revisions to accommodate parking during the construction process. Shaw hopes to proceed with the project as soon as possible.
• Accepted Gary Baker’s resignation as a town lister. He was just elected to a one-year term on the selectboard.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]

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