Thursday night, the Rutland community got the opportunity to learn more behind the plan to bring 100 Syrian refugees to the city this fall.
It’s a meeting Mayor Chris Louras held amidst controversy for not initially including the public in the decision.
“We do not have a TD Garden anywhere in the County of Rutland, and if I were to engage in a public and answer dialogue and a broad forum with everyone in the county invited, I would have to plan for a 65,000 capacity.” Louras said.
Before the meeting, about 20 people gathered outside Rutland Free Library with signs, showing their concern for a plan they say was a surprise. Matt Howland and David O’Brien expressed their opinions.
“The city is not just gonna roll over and take this without asking the hard questions, without holding people accountable and making them put forth the answers and making a plan and let the community know what’s going on,” Howland said.
“Something like relocating 100 refugees, especially from a rough part of the world, in Syria, in a war-torn place, is something you would just logically think you would have a discussion about first,” O’Brien said.
Louras says his experience with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program helped him make the decision.
“They would not be looking to expand into Rutland if they knew they were not going to be successful,” Louras said.
While some of those demonstrating outside said they are not necessarily for or against refugees living in Rutland, resident Bill Jalbert says the city needs to do more for its long-term residents.
“A lot of people are not against helping the refugees. I personally am not against helping the refugees; I just think that we have a lot of people in the state that we need to help before we help the refugees,” Jalbert said.
Mayor Louras expects Thursday night’s meeting to be the first of several public meetings.
The Board of Aldermen will eventually meet with Vermont Refugee Resettlement members for further discussion, but no date has been set yet.