ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. – Elected officials from the Town of Essex and the Village of Essex Junction are taking another attempt at merging the two communities.
The possibility has been floated several times since the 1950s, most recently in 2006. The town and village share the same police department, clerk’s office, public works department and finance department. However, elected and appointed boards, capital planning and community development are currently separate.
A recently released survey of residents shows slightly less than half of respondents are in favor of the merger. Two-thirds of the village support it, while less than half of the town does.
“I think it’s basically unfair,” said Bruce Post, an Essex resident and former selectboard member. “There’s been no attempt that I see to minimize costs to find true financial efficiency. I haven’t seen that will from the crew that’s pushing this.”
Post and other residents against the merger cited tax hikes as their main reason for opposition, while those in favor claim it would create a stronger, more unified community. They also believe municipal services would be more effective under that structure.
For Post and other town residents who spoke out at a meeting on the survey results on Tuesday, longstanding concern about their representation in local government affected their outlook on the merger.
“I like to call Essex the town where democracy goes to die,” Post said. “You have over fifty percent of the population in this town (Essex), but eighty percent of the government in Essex, trustees, and the selectboard are from the village.”
A vote on the merger would take place on Election Day in 2020. The next steps will be drafting a preferred governance model, drafting a charter proposal, and engaging in a public outreach process.