Next stop for Essex Junction-Essex split: Vermont Statehouse

Local News

ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. – On Tuesday, voters in Essex Junction voted to separate from the Town of Essex, marking the latest chapter in what’s now been a 63-year debate between the two municipalities.

Because the Vermont Legislature will have to weigh in on the charter change, it remains to be seen whether the vote is just another doomed attempt, or the beginning of a long-awaited conclusion.

The engaged citizens who have taken up the cause for years would certainly like to know.

“I just hope the Legislature meets really fast and approves it, in fact I wish they’d have an emergency session to do so,” said Irene Wrenner. “Let’s just get this over with!”

Wrenner served on the Essex Selectboard for 12 years, and she’s been with the Merger Task Force since 2005. She views Essex Junction’s vote to separate from Essex as a significant moment, and a chance to break out of a cycle that’s been spinning both communities in circles since 1958.

“It’s the same old arguments every ten years, it’s just different people using them,” Wrenner said. “It’s never going to resolve itself if we just pick merge or not merge, it really has to be more creative thinking.”

She’s one of many citizens that have dedicated a lot of spare time to the debate. Ken Signorello helped launch a Facebook page dedicated to the merger with the intent of keeping people updated on the issue. He borrowed the name from William Shakespeare.

“I started it off with ‘To Merge or Not to Merge’… Later on when the merger failed, I just changed it to ‘To Separate or not to Separate,” Signorello said. “And the answer is.. Yes!”

It might’ve been a resounding ‘yes’ for Essex Junction voters, but unless the Vermont Legislature agrees, it may be all for nothing.

“There’s an issue here, right?” Signorello said. “You have half the town voting to separate, to secede. You have the other half, no vote whatsoever. How would you vote if you were a legislator in that scenario? This sets a precedent, right?”

Either way, Essex Junction Board of Trustees President Andrew Brown said turnout for the vote was impressive.

“I mean this turnout compares very well to our annual budget and annual election, so for a single-issue vote, I’m quite impressed with the turnout,” Brown said.

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