Ludlow Selectboard talks West Hill cameras, adds Juneteenth as paid holiday

LUDLOW, Vt. – The Ludlow Selectboard addressed concerns over cameras at West Hill, approved an assessor contract for the Lister’s office, and added the federal holiday, Juneteenth, to the list of paid holidays for town workers as part of their Monday, July 12 meeting.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Venissa White, who runs the summer camp, “Camp Go Wild” at Ludlow’s West Hill location, said that she was not informed beforehand about the security cameras that were recently put up at the West Hill location both outside and inside the building.

Although she said having security cameras when the kids and staff are not there is great, surveillance of the children is not allowed under her agreement with Vermont’s Agency of Education and her childcare licensing. She said that if she had had a conversation about the cameras videotaping children, she could have made other arrangements, perhaps even moving the program. Her concern stems from cameras inside the building being able to see which students are being tutored, and that billing information could also be compromised. A main concern was also not knowing who had access to, or was monitoring, that footage.

White said she now will need to get signed permission from all parents concerning the cameras midway through her program, which ends Aug. 6.

Municipal Manager Scott Murphy countered that White found out about the cameras because he had communicated to her about them via email. He also noted that other locations that White operates out of, such as the old high school, the community center, and Ludlow Elementary School all have security cameras.

Board Chair Bruce Schmidt responded, “I’m surprised this is an issue, Venissa, for what we’ve done to support your program. To bring it to us like this, I’m surprised.”

Justin Hyjek suggested maybe they could work out something as a compromise such as turning off the inside camera or turning on the cameras after her program was finished for the day.

Schmidt agreed to have Murphy work out a compromise with White since there were enough board members who wanted to find a solution to get through the rest of the camp season.

FEMA’s final report on a Commonweath Avenue project was received, denying their financing of the second phase, which would have replaced an existing culvert with a larger one, thus alleviating ongoing flooding issues. The project, which has been delayed over nearly 10 years, has seen cost increases that made the project cost analysis fall outside their approval parameters.

Based on the board’s direction and commitment to no longer kick the project down the road, Murphy will move forward to consider options for fixing the issue as well as other funding sources.

The board agreed to approve the recommended option for hiring consultants to work with the town’s Lister’s Office. The $53,800 contract would hire a consultant to perform the duties of an assessor, one full day every two weeks but available by email, completing all assessing and evaluation work. Listers will still be involved, approving the grand list and handling grievances. One lister will also act as assistant with office hours.

This contract will go through July of 2022 and give the town and the lister’s office time to consider other options. Schmidt expressed some interest in exploring the benefits of hiring a full-time assessor, employed by the town, in the future.

The board added Juneteenth, which is now a recognized federal holiday, as a paid holiday for town employees. Schmidt said that the cost of the added holiday, which would be approximately $1,800 for Ludlow, is not a lot of money and is a deserved benefit for the “hard workers of the town.”

The board approved a revised Municipal Solid Waste Ordinance concerning junk and junked vehicles and other solid waste accumulating on town residents’ properties. The new language will allow the town to clean up the property and bill the owner.

Three residents were at the meeting to discuss adding additional speed bumps to the set recently installed on Red Bridge Road. The residents talked about speeding issues and had obtained matching speed bumps to eliminate that cost for the town, asking only that they be put in. Any decision by the board was tabled since the subject was not officially on the agenda.

The next Ludlow Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. at the Ludlow Town Office.

This article has been updated, July 21, 2021.

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