Barre considers survey of town residents on several issues

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 December 2022 at 9:49 am

BARRE – The town may send out surveys to residents, gauging their opinions on many issues, from industrial wind turbines to tiny homes.

Town Council George McKenna presented a list of issues on he would like to hear from residents about, including whether they would support a dollar store, an electric charging station, term limits for Town Board members and other boards (Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals).

McKenna, speaking at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting, also wants to hear from residents on whether the town should pay for announcements in the local media, consolidation of justice courts in the county, marijuana dispensaries, the use of agriculture land for solar projects, and whether the town should adjust its zoning law to not allow industrial-sized turbines.

He would like the Planning Board to take the lead in crafting the survey, and that board could add more questions to the survey.

McKenna said it would make the Town Board’s job easier to know how residents feel about the many issues that could confront the board.

“We can start the ball rolling,” he said about getting a survey in motion.

Town Supervisor Sean Pogue said Planning Board could work on the survey with the Town Board getting a final look at the document before it’s sent out.

Pogue and the board members said residents may need more information on some of the issues, such as “tiny houses.” Pogue said those could be patio homes that are more affordable to senior citizens and younger families.

The Town Board voted to have the Planning Board begin work on the survey. McKenna also suggested an open-ended question for residents to offer ideas to improve the town and also to lower taxes.

In other action at Wednesday’s board meeting:

Supervisor Pogue said Verizon is looking for a site in Barre for a tower to improve coverage in the community. Pogue said the tower would likely be somewhere near the town hall. The town property at the town hall doesn’t have enough room for a “fall zone” for a tower, Pogue said.

Town employees are well aware of the struggles to get a strong signal.

“It should improve our reception so the guys in the highway don’t have to step out of the garage into the parking lot to talk to somebody,” Pogue said.

The board voted to advertise for a town attorney. Bridget O’Toole has worked the past year in the position, following Lance Mark who served the town for 37 years.

Board members said O’Toole has done a good job for Barre. However, the majority of the board wanted to give other attorneys a chance to apply for the position.

Councilman McKenna questioned spending the money to put out advertisements when the board is satisfied with O’Toole.

Councilwoman Kerri Richardson also said she didn’t think the advertisements were necessary, when the board is happy with O’Toole.

But Pogue said Richardson wasn’t being consistent with her thinking because she insisted the board advertise to fill vacancies on the Planning and Zoning boards. (There weren’t any new applications from the community for those positions and the board on Wednesday reappointed Tom Keeler to the Planning Board and Larry Gaylard to the Zoning Board of Appeals.)

Richardson said that was different because the Town Board was trying to reach out to community members to serve on those boards.

Councilwoman Margaret Swan said advertising for the attorney position may give someone in Orleans County a chance to apply for the post.

The board approved a modified contract for ambulance services with Monroe Ambulance. Barre was the first of seven towns in eastern and central Orleans to approve a contract with Monroe on Nov. 9, calling for Barre to pay $8,000 towards ambulance services.

The original contract called for seven towns to pay $200,000 to Monroe to have ambulances based in Albion and Holley in 2023. But the Kendall Town Board didn’t vote to be in the agreement, saying Kendall was already covered through a contract between Monroe and two fire districts.

The revised contract without Kendall is among six towns for $181,200. Barre’s share remains at $8,000.