The board had been discussing an economic development matter and Holland pressed ahead to the next agenda item. But board member William “Buzzy” Buswell attempted to interject with a question about the economic development budget.
Holland ruled Buswell out of order. “No, you’re confusing the issue, Buzz.”
Buswell persisted. “But we have a budget from the DEDC that ...”
Holland tried to rein in the conversation and move forward. “Talk to me tomorrow,” she said.
Buswell ignored the chair and continued with his point. “We have money in the economic development budget. It’s already awarded.”
“The meeting is adjourned,” said Holland. “If people at this meeting are going to be rude and out of control, I’m going to adjourn it.”
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Holland agreed to reconvene the meeting, if the rules of order were followed. But board members weren’t sure if they could legally continue the meeting after it had been adjourned. Members of the public sat in stunned silence - no one left the room. Holland finally decided to continue with the agenda. “I’m going to reconvene the meeting, and anyone can challenge it if they want,” she said. “I will not recognize anyone who doesn’t raise their hand and ask for permission to speak.”
In economic development matters, economic development specialist Ken Black told the board about a proposal to develop a lot owned by the East Dover Fire Department into a public park. The lot, across the road from the East Dover Firehouse, was donated to the volunteer fire company by the former landowner. “It would have to be transferred to the town in some legal fashion, either through a deed or a long-term lease, or some other legal mechanism, so that the town would be able to build on it,” he said. “The (East Dover Fire Department) trustees were in favor of the idea, but wanted to make sure the person who donated the property agreed.”
The proposal was developed with Amiee Pritcher, an owner of the East Dover General Store, Black said. The general store is located at the same intersection as the proposed park. Pritcher and partner John Sprung plan to restore a formal garden that once graced a triangle of their property, which sits directly across the road from the proposed park.
Black asked board members for preliminary approval to pursue the matter, and develop a plan for the park, including projected costs. Board members approved.
The board also approved the economic development department’s “Do It” program. Black explained that the Do It program is a marketing effort that would encourage businesses on “well-traveled” roads to improve the aesthetics of their properties. Businesses could apply for grants of $500 to $2,500 for painting their buildings or making other qualifying improvements.
Buswell objected to the program’s guidelines, under which only “brick and mortar” businesses qualify, and excluded home businesses. Noting that his own home-based business, which is not on a “well-traveled” road, wouldn’t qualify in any event, he said the program would fail several local businesses. “I’m thinking of home businesses like Jim Martin’s,” he said. “He works out of his home and has a valid tax ID. I have a valid tax ID. I pay transportation tax. If you include rooms and meals, New England Vacation Tours (one of Buswell’s companies) paid $72,000 in taxes to the state of Vermont. This eliminates what are legitimate businesses in the town of Dover.”
Black said the distinctions were made to prevent people from using the funds for fixing up their own private residences.
“What about Sticky Fingers (bakery)?” Buswell asked. The bakery is located in a separate building at a residence.
“They don’t live in the bakery,” Black said. “If you had New England Vacation Tours at Mountain Park Plaza, that would be perfectly acceptable.”
Buswell made a motion to include home-based businesses in the program. Nobody seconded.
Pritcher said that the budget for the program, $25,000, was inadequate. “How many businesses do we have in this town?” she said. “Who’s going to decide who gets the money? They’re going to have to set severe restrictions. You’re not going to paint your whole building with $2,500.”
Black said the total budget was just a figure for the first year, until the town can gauge participation. He noted that there was still money in the town’s advertising support program budget, which also started with a $25,000 budget. He said the amount of the grant was not intended to paint an entire building, it was meant to encourage improvement. “Your (East Dover General Store) business would certainly qualify, being right there by Dover Hill Road.”
Local business owner Chris Helmstetter said that the grants were too small and the requirements too onerous to be bothered with. “The reason you still have advertising money left over is that people couldn’t get much of anything,” he said. “It was only 25%. You had to spend $5,000 to get $1,200. It wasn’t worth the work.”
“All you had to do was hand in an invoice,” said an incredulous Black.
Board members approved the program, with Buswell opposed.