Trustees discuss low meeting turnout

The BF Village trustees discussed the low attendance at Town Meetings on Tuesday, may 24, 2022. Photo provided

ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – The Bellows Falls Village trustees met on Tuesday, May 24, and discussed increasing attendance at the annual meeting, following an attendance of 24 people at the May 10, 2022 meeting.

Wade Masure said he had heard great ideas from residents and suggested they start planning earlier, set the schedule to hang the banner, post information on the website, and get the report out sooner.

Jeff Dunbar said the meetings were as “important as we make them.” He suggested working with the media to hold and post interviews weeks before the meeting and utilize local businesses to hang posters.

James McAuliffe said, “I’m skeptical.” He was surprised the annual meeting was held the week before the election, noting that that was different than in the past.

McAuliffe said it was a typical meeting, with people against the Australian Ballot issue holding the majority. He said that, with the exception of a rising budget that led people to participate and reduce the budget, the numbers of attendees were similar each year.

McAuliffe said, “The idea of a Saturday Carnival…is not in keeping with what we’re trying to do.” He reminded the board that there were five or six budget meetings and said, “I don’t believe there was a single resident [there].”

Dunbar said he understood that Westminster holds a Saturday town meeting with a decent turnout and suggested they consider following suit.

Masure was not convinced that Saturday meetings “will do the trick,” and that it was a process to change the day of the meeting.

Village President Deborah Wright agreed. The Village Charter dictates the meeting and election dates and must be changed to accommodate the Saturday option.

Dunbar suggested creating more focus on budget meetings so the public was better informed on the agenda for their regular Tuesday meetings. He said that if residents didn’t know about the budget discussion, they would not come to the meeting.

Masure said he preferred to leave it as-is for 2023, and utilize everyone’s suggestions before any changes were made.

Wright said having something controversial on the ballot encouraged voter participation, and that “controversial doesn’t necessarily mean negative…it could be an opportunity” that causes debate.

Parking enforcements are back in effect. The Bellows Falls Police Department started posting warnings last week and Chief David Bemis said he noticed a marked difference in the parked cars downtown.

The Village Trustees set their summer schedule. After the joint board meeting on May 31, they will meet once per month on Tuesdays: June 14, July 19, Aug. 16, and Sept. 13. Trustee meetings are at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theatre of the Bellows Falls Opera House.

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