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Ferrisburgh proposes city-town committee

FERRISBURGH — Although the plan has gone on hold as the two communities cooperate during the COVID-19 crisis, the Ferrisburgh selectboard on March 17 agreed to propose to Vergennes officials a Vergennes-Ferrisburgh Study Committee that board members hope can foster a stronger working relationship between the two intertwined municipalities.
Ferrisburgh selectboard members said that the move to open up more lanes of communication and cooperation were driven by both the unsettled atmosphere this past fall and winter around the shared Addison Northwest School District and the immediate needs this spring around the public health crisis.
There was an immediate priority “to cooperate with Vergennes with response to the coronavirus,” Ferrisburgh selectboard Vice Chair Clark Hinsdale said at the March 17 meeting, according to draft minutes. He added that a study committee could help Ferrisburgh and Vergennes work more closely on other issues, as well.
Ferrisburgh selectboard Chair Jessica James this week said board members recognized that the debate over the future of the ANWSD “really made us more divided.” The board wanted to focus again on the many things and mutual interests the town and city shared, she said.
James said the communities are already tied together closely, with shared first responders, schools, water district, shops and services, and geography. A joint effort could find more common ground, she said.
“It’s a study (committee). What are their issues? What are our issues?” she said.
James listed as possible points of mutual interest: growing the region’s economic base and population to help schools; sharing municipal resources; fixing the city’s sewer system, which has excess capacity to spark growth, but needs costly work to solve an overflow problem; working together on the proposed alternate truck route; and pinning down the communities’ boundaries.
“We just have to figure out what our strategy is and how we can grow together,” James said. 
Vergennes Mayor Jeff Fritz said he looked forward to discussing the idea with the Ferrisburgh board, especially with how well officials from both communities have worked together in the Vergennes-Area COVID Response Group.
“I think we’ve learned from this current crisis just how important working cooperatively on a local level is. I would personally welcome a more formal arrangement,” Fritz said. 

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