Town Gearing Up For Review Of Significant Annexation Pursuits
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
Even though the town of Green Mountain Falls may be setting a new standard in slicing their scheduled meeting schedule in half, the new head skipper of GMF operations contends the initial community response has supported the change.
Recently, the town’s board of trustees signed off on a staff proposal to only hold one regular meeting a month, along with only one monthly planning commission forum. The change was facilitated by a desire for more efficiency and better use of staff and volunteer time. In essence, this calls for a 100 percent reduction in the town’s schedule of regular meetings.
The change has turned a few heads among long-time residents, and marks a change from what other municipalities and governments in the area are doing. Some, meanwhile, question the practical reality of such a schedule.
But new Town Manager Angie Sprang says the proposed change has received good support in the initial review stage.
“All input received from the public has been positive,” said Sprang in an email statement. “I’m happy to report that the reduction in meeting times has made operations more efficient on the staff end, reduced costs, and refocused staff time on achieving goals.”
The town manager also cautions that this reduced schedule is not set in stone, and that the trustees and planning commissioners can have an additional meeting (per month), if necessary. In their staff recommendations, Sprang has suggested having another trustees meeting, if it would require so much time. “The option to call a second or special meeting as boards/commissions may need is always available. With a reduced time commitment for our volunteers, we hope to see more involvement from our civically engaged citizens who may be interested in serving on an advisory board/commission (e.g. Parks & Recreation Commission, Planning Commission, etc.).
“At the January 7, 2020 meeting the trustees will be discussing and establishing our 2020 Advisory Boards/Commissions, and there will be many opportunities for citizens to get involved in the community. There are a number of fun and interesting potential projects upcoming in 2020. We do plan to recruit volunteers via social media, our website, and other news outlets beginning after the holidays. Any interested citizens are encouraged to reach out to me at their convenience.
A Big Turning Point
The Jan. 7 meeting will be a big meeting, as that also will mark the first time the trustees will address two annexation petitions, encompassing nearly 32 acres for commercial development, open space and trails uses.
Jesse Stroope, a representative of the Historic Green Mountain Falls Foundation and the Green Mountain Road, LLC, plans to make a presentation. However, not many details are expected to be unveiled regarding the commercial aspects of the project, with plans for a possible hotel and restaurant and enhanced infrastructure.
Stroope stressed that the initial phase of the project will consist of the trails and open space. He also noted that the annexation consists of two separate petitions.
The annexation requests, though, has raised some questions about the practicality of the monthly meeting schedule. Stroope, though, doesn’t believe the new meeting change will have much of an impact on the annexation process. The petitioners have not outlined any set time guidelines.
No Negative Impacts with New Schedule
On the upside, the new meeting schedule definitely has a common sense level of support. In the last year, the town has been hampered by many cancelled meetings and limited attendance. Some sessions also have only lasted for a little more than 30 minutes.
That marks a big change from previous years, when GMF was highly divided over key issues, such as law enforcement, emergency management, the concept of a town manager and road improvements. And during the previous administration of interim manager Jason Wells, the town dealt with some significant disasters.
The town also struggled in finding a permanent town manager, with GMF hosting several public forums, allowing residents to meet the prospective new town manager. But in most cases, the trustees couldn’t come to terms with the finalist for the position.
Sprang was the fourth finalist the town trustees recruited during the last year for the head manager position.
Sprang said she is quite enthused over efforts made to achieve their long-term goals. Several months ago, Clay Brown, the regional director of the Department of Local Affairs and the trustees and Sprang, had a public workshop over goals for the next year, with such issues as fire mitigation, public works staffing and road improvements/maintenance getting the most attention.
Sprang said she is happy with the progress made. “Projects are ongoing, and town staff has invested a great deal of time and energy working toward achieving our goals. As of December 11, we’re now officially fully staffed, and projects are moving right along.
She also believes the town is making headway in addressing the touch subject of road improvements and maintenance. In the past, this issue has attracted the most public comment, with many residents expressing growing frustration over what they describe as deteriorating maintenance work compared to the state of roads in previous years.
The manager’s most recent monthly report, though, contends the town is on the right track in grappling with this problem.