By Inge Schaefer
Town Meeting and the election are next week on Monday, March 2. A free community dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. in the high school cafeteria followed by budget discussions at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. On Tuesday, March 3, voting for everyone in town will take place in the high school gymnasium (Village residents take note – no voting at the Town Meeting House on Main Street). Absentee ballots are available at the Town Clerk’s office. The only contested election for any board membership is between incumbent Marc Landry and political newcomer Shirley Meier for a two-year seat on the Colchester Selectboard. With thanks to both for running and being willing to serve, here are their answers to my questions — that I asked to be kept brief.
But first, some background: Marc has been on the selectboard for 15 years, a resident for at least 45 years or more. He owns an insurance agency in town and “is active with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission as our representative (past chair of both CCRPC and CCMPO). He is a charter member of the Board of Holy Cross Senior Housing (and Vice Chair), Board Chair of Housing Vermont, board member of Vermont Rural Ventures, and past member and Chair of CCDC (Colchester Community Development Corporation).
Shirley is very active with the Colchester Community Food Shelf as a board member and volunteer (since 2011). She is on the Colchester Reparative Board, Burlington Court Diversion Board and Burlington Reparative Board. She is a published author, and has the distinction of beating a chess master at his own game (Robert James Fischer). She says of that: “I have not played since – why ruin a perfect record?” She has lived in Colchester for 20 years, worked professionally at developing start-up programs and services and is now retired.
Why are you running?
Marc – I enjoy being involved in the town. Colchester has a lot going on. With recent additions to the board and town staff, no one has more than five years involvement. It is good to have someone that can bring to the table the perspective of past decisions.
Shirley – To provide a more balanced playing field for retired citizens. Presently, the selectboard consists of four members who are employed and only one retiree.
Do you support the Local Option Tax (LOT)?
Shirley – Sections of it, yes, but I am waiting for more details as I think Colchester residents will be carrying more of a cost than we are being led to believe.
Marc – Yes. LOT makes economic sense. This is a revenue source that has been totally successful for 14 other communities in the state. The result of a successful vote is an immediate 5 percent reduction in town property taxes and the ability to pay off all town debt in four years. Voters will decide how next to use the funds in the future. I trust the voters; there is no downside.
What is Colchester’s best asset, and how do we capitalize on that?
Marc – If recreational opportunities go hand in hand with quality of life, then Colchester has the best location in Vermont. The problem is we are attempting to capitalize on 21st Century opportunities and values using 1950s infrastructure. Our people, our lake and rivers deserve better.
Shirley - Lake Champlain, Parks and Recreation as well as Lake Champlain International are doing a commendable job along these lines.
Colchester’s biggest liability and how do we minimize that?
Shirley – Property taxes. By doing away with our multiple forms of government – town, school, fire districts – and creating one government managed town. There are too many cooks stirring the pot and all of them want taxpayers to dig just a little deeper into our pockets in order to accommodate their wishes.
Marc – Our biggest liability is the responsibility that comes with having 27 miles of lakefront as our western boundary, rivers as our northern and southern boundaries, and Colchester Pond to the east. The state has already come down on the MS4 communities with added storm water responsibilities. Plan on things getting worse, not better as our politicians try to avoid serious attempts to deal with agricultural runoff by putting more pressure on municipalities like Colchester. The lake needs attention and the solution needs to come from all fronts.
What one town historic event is good to be remembered so as not to be repeated?
Marc - Where does one begin? The 1973 vote to not do sewers in Malletts Bay, with 95 percent federal funding? Not to be repeated decisions are in the eyes of the beholder. (Marc went on to list good decisions that were made which he “would prefer to concentrate on,” but, in fairness, that was not the question).
Shirley – Purchase of the Hazelett property and then allowing it to sit idle for far too many years – definitely not a productive nor profitable investment.
If you could have a magic wand for a day, what one change would you make to benefit the future of our town?
Shirley – Entire town gifted with a sewer system with no cost to the taxpayers.
Marc – There are no magic wands. Most things that come before the selectboard come with a cost – it could be dollars, it could be development of areas that some would prefer not to be developed, it could be a restriction of development in areas or in a fashion that some feel would benefit their town. Navigating to a fair solution is an important part of the selectboard’s job.
In your life, of what are you most proud?
Marc - Pam and I are parents of three children and four grandchildren. It doesn’t get any better than that. It is our hope that they all know they are the most important parts of our lives.
Shirley – Aside from my daughter and son, the “start-up” programs I have started – all three are successful and still operating today and all three have received state recognition, two have national recognition. I have also been recognized in the World’s Who’s Who of Women.
There you have it – please vote on March 3.
Stay warm – the end is in sight. God Bless! email@example.com