St. Albans Town And City Study Whether Merger Would Cut Cost

11/16/11 5:50PM By Kirk Carapezza
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If St. Albans Town and City were to merge, it would become Vermont's eighth largest community.
(Host) Cities and towns across the state are coping with dwindling tax revenue, and they're trying to do more with less. In Franklin County, the City and Town of St. Albans are exploring whether they can effectively merge the two communities into one in an effort to more efficiently provide services. But as VPR's Kirk Carapezza reports, opponents worry such a plan would increase taxes.

(Carapezza) Residents from both the city and the town have formed a committee that will evaluate the benefits of reorganizing as one community.

The city split from the town 125 years ago. The idea then was to provide police, fire, water and sewer services to the central city. Today, geographically, the City is the hub around which the town exists, and City Manager Dominic Cloud says the Town now also demands those services; it's increasingly costly for the City to deliver them under the existing organization.

(Cloud) "It's time to ask the question: could we deliver services more effectively by dissolving the boundaries of the City of St. Albans?"

(Carapezza) For years, other communities - including Essex and Essex Junction, Rockingham and Bellows Falls -- have debated the same question.

Cloud says there are now real incentives for cities and towns to grow together, especially in the middle of a recession.

(Cloud) "Development patterns that you see throughout the state increasingly require land. You can't develop without land. You can't develop without water and sewer. The town has the land and the city has the sewer."

(Carapezza) Supporters of the plan say that dissolving the boundaries of the city would lower taxes in both communities. But opponents argue that there's no way to dissolve the City without driving up tax rates in the town.

The so-called reconstitution committee will meet for the first time this week, and, after a study, it's expected to eventually make a recommendation to voters.

The St. Albans Town Select Board says it won't invest time or money on the issue until that study is complete.

If the City were to rejoin the Town, St. Albans would become Vermont's eighth largest community, with almost 13,000 people, but any merger proposal would have to be approved by the Legislature.

For VPR News, I'm Kirk Carapezza.

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