Claudette Brochu is running for the 2-year Selectboard seat. Her responses to the five-question mini questionnaire are below. The responses of her opponents Robert Gere and Leah Romano are here and here.
1. The Valley News published a column by Jim Kenyon on January 28, 2018 about Selectboard members attending meetings via video chat. Some Norwich residents prefer in person attendance by public officials, even though electronic attendance is allowed by statute. Question: Absent unforeseen circumstances, do you plan to attend in person all or almost all regular and special Selectboard meetings?
I absolutely plan on attending in person. Having said that, I think when a member needs to attend remotely, we should look at how we can improve remote access. We also need to acknowledge that people take vacations (and should probably take more), travel for business, and have personal emergencies. In my opinion, attending remotely is better than not attending at all.
2. On January 10, 2018, the Selectboard voted to recommend to the voters a FYE 2019 Town budget of $4,502,386. Questions: How would you have voted at that meeting on that budget? Why?
I would have voted NO. I believe some of the Designated Fund appropriations were not justified given the balance in the fund as well as a lack of clear understanding what the funds are being set aside for. I also believe there were specific line items in many departments that were not justified. For specifics, see my memo to the board
3. Multiple Choice Question: What would you like to see happen to the population of Norwich? Please select one and if you want, explain your choice.
A. Reduced significantly
B. Reduced some
C. Remain relatively stable
D. Grow some
E. Grow significantly
D. Grow some but be very clear where and to what scale. One of the subjects raised at the forum was to investigate limited growth in our hamlets (use the term neighborhood vs hamlet). The struggle will be on how we plan the growth so that we can keep our open spaces open as well as maintain large forested tracks of land. I would like us to investigate how we can adapt existing structures vs. building all new structures. I am not a land use expert but I believe we should look outside the box for solutions that work best for the current and future taxpayers of Norwich.
4. Question: What are your views regarding the possible establishment of a new mixed use zoning district in the Route 5 South and River Road areas?
Any proposal that would put commercial development on Rt 5 South (western side) and River Rd would NOT get my vote. I also think that "mixed use" may mean different things to different people. Are we talking a multi-story building with retail space on the ground floor and living space above? Stand alone retail space combined with stand-alone housing? Any River Road discussion of mixed use zoning should not be considered where it does not already exist. For Route 5, I do not endorse changing the current zoning on the western side of Route 5.
5. Other than the adoption of a town plan, what are several issues that you think the Town or Selectboard should or must address in the next 12 to 18 months? Why? Do you have any specifics on how to address?
a. Revision and adoption of Personnel Policies and Financial Policies. I believe we need to "de-couple" how union employees and non-union employees are compensated with regards to wage increases and benefits. Our current policy was written prior to the Affordable Care Act. Our Town Manager submitted a red lined revision to the board for review that addresses some of my concerns. To date, revisions recommended by Herb have not been addressed. Financial policies should be reviewed in some set time-frame, whether yearly or every other year.
b. Church Street sidewalk project. If the plan goes forward as it is currently designed, I believe the character of Church Street will be changed forever. Think of a NYC sidewalk from the church to Carpenter Street. For Church Street, continue to investigate how we can meet the safety and needs of the kids walking to school without turning Church Street into a suburban street with a 5 foot sidewalk. If the state says no to any proposal, cut the ties with the state and pay them back the money spent. Then we can come up with a plan for Norwich by Norwich.
c. Establish better communication strategies between the selectboard and town residents. Not everyone reads the Listserve, the newspaper, or the town website. For issues that might be contentious, I would like to see town wide mailings informing the public of the issue. I also think the selectboard should have develop a formal liaison with the schoolboard and have all town committees and commissions periodically submit or present their work to the board. We need to work to eliminate silo thinking. I do not think the town manager's report to the board provides this sharing of information.
d. Improve the Selectboard meeting process. Having sat through many meetings, I leave without a clear understanding of the action the board has decided to take, by whom, and in what time-frame. I would like to see the board review, preferably at the end of each discussion or at the end of the meeting, the final decision made so that each member and the public has a clear understanding of the decision. From attending the meetings, there seems to be material presented at meetings relevant to the discussion that have not been shared with the board members prior to the meeting. I would investigate how this process could be improved.
Photo is screenshot from CATV video of Norwich Candidates Night 2/27/18. Watch that video on the CATV website by clicking here