By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
GRAND ISLE -- The Grand Isle Selectboard has agreed to proceed with the annual town meeting vote on Tuesday, despite the town failing to follow all the proper pre-election steps.
Residents had raised several questions in recent weeks and at the Selectboard meeting on Monday about whether Grand Isle was in compliance with all the laws for the annual town meeting.
It turned out Grand Isle appears to have failed to follow at least one legal requirement, but the town has been told it will be able to take steps later in the spring to validate the votes on Tuesday, the Selectboard said Thursday night at a special meeting.
Under questioning, Chairman Jeff Parizo said research showed Grand Isle voters agreed at the annual 2010 town meeting to notify all taxpayers through the Islander newspaper each year about when the printed town report would be available.
The three public locations at the time were the town clerk's office, the U.S. Post Office and the Grand Isle School.
Selectboard member Adam White read the 2010 ballot item into the meeting record that said the newspaper notice would be done instead of mailing the town reports to all taxpayers.
Parizo said it was his understanding that the town never posted a Public Notice this year in The Islander for taxpayers about obtaining their annual report.
State law mandates municipalities provide advanced public access to annual town reports to allow taxpayers a chance before Town Meeting Day to have adequate time to review the past financial reports and the upcoming budgets on the ballot.
Some Grand Isle residents complained that they were unable to find copies of the town reports as recent as last Saturday. The report was not on the town's website and it was hard to find at the current designated pick-up locations: the town clerk's office and the town library were not due to have open hours for most of Saturday, while the transfer station had copies for part of last Saturday.
Local taxpayers stopping by the town clerk's office last weekend and on President's Day (Monday) found no printed copies outside as has been the tradition in Grand Isle and other towns across Vermont when offices are closed.
Boutin explained during the Monday night meeting she had been unable to get the town report online. It is now available on the town website.
According to White, a town attorney said in an email that he thought Grand Isle should still proceed with the annual vote next week as warned. The lawyer said there is a provision to hold a vote later to validate the actions taken at town meeting if and when questions surface about certain procedures.
The town attorney also wrote he had spoken with Boutin, the town clerk, for the steps she needs to take going forward.
The town attorney said he thought the Selectboard did not have to take any steps now to get retro-active approval for failures to comply for any past years.
It was unclear what years Grand Isle had conformed to the voter-mandate from 2010, or may have failed.
White suggested The Islander do an investigative article to see what Public Notices that Grand Isle had posted since 2011 about the town reports being available. The newspaper promised to seek from the town the years Grand Isle had paid for public notices alerting taxpayers about the availability of the town report.
The Islander subsequently filed a public records request with Boutin, who is the treasurer and clerk.
The Selectboard also agreed to follow up with the town attorney about the steps Grand Isle needs to take.
The town’s informational meeting is still planned for 6:30 Saturday night at the Grand Isle Elementary School and will be available also on Zoom.
In other action, the Selectboard voted 5-0 to continue talks with Carol Eagan of Turn to Joy Day Care about re-establishing day care and pre-school in Grand Isle in the Annex Building owned by the town.
Eagan made two five-year offers to the town and the Selectboard said it was inclined to take the first offer. It would include Eagan making $25,000 in improvements to the building in lieu of rent for the first two years.
Selectboard member Ron Bushway said he had crunched all the numbers for the improvements and rent over 5 years and they were essentially the same. He moved to proceed with the first option, which provides $6,000 in rent the third year and $7,500 in both the fourth and fifth year.
The lease will address various issues, including lawn mowing and snow plowing, officials said.
Eagan hopes to be open in June.
Bushway had added to the agenda at the start of the meeting a separate discussion item about the misinformation posted on Front Porch Forum since the Selectboard discussed the day care issue Monday night.
It was falsely reported multiple times that Grand Isle taxpayers will vote on Town Meeting Day on Tuesday about possibly approving the day care facility.
The Selectboard said the day care issue is not on the ballot on Tuesday.
During the meeting local resident Shannon Bundy repeatedly questioned if Grand Isle taxpayers would be subsidizing a for-profit business.
The Selectboard members said they believe it is a valuable service that the town needs to provide following the departure of another daycare from the site.
Chairman Jeff Parizo stressed any lease would be reduced to writing and would need to be approved at a future public meeting.
Before the meeting closed Parizo said he does not use Front Porch Forum but hoped if more misinformation was circulated about the day care that those with the facts would step in to correct the record.
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