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Discussion proves lively at special select board meeting

KILLINGTON - A special selectmen's meeting on Nov. 15 to discuss an economic development proposal by Selectman Bernie Rome lasted two and a half hours and produced quite a few opinions.

At the regular meeting on Nov. 13, Rome outlined a list of things he believes should be done to boost tourism and business. He said he would like to support the Net Promoter Score program outlined recently by Killington Resort at the Killington Chamber Meeting, which rates success by how likely tourists are to recommend the town as well as the resort to family and friends, thereby promoting future visits. He would like to limit Economic Development and Tourism funding to the few summer events that have proven successful and focus instead on boosting winter business; phase the 1 percent options tax out; stockpile money from the options tax for the purpose of reducing town debt; and concentrate beautification efforts on the Killington Road commercial corridor rather than Route 4.

Rome also stated he would like to see the board of selectmen spend far more time discussing the town's future and less "from lengthy discussions of material that can be better handled at the Town Manager and Department Head levels."

Chairman Chris Bianchi said he agreed with the latter statement.

"It's pretty well known in Killington that we're light on policy," he said. "We should address that point in the coming year."
Haff said he never supported the options tax in the first place, "but some of the stuff in here doesn't add up to me," he said. "If we're going to put up a reserve fund, I don't think we should use it for past debt. We don't have the authority to create a reserve fund. We'd have to go through the voters."

Rome said the next generation of community leaders is coming along, and should be given leeway to innovate. He noted new management at the Killington resort, a new town manager, and the new publishers at The Mountain Times.

"We can encourage the town to do things that will help them," Rome said, adding that the town needed a "big idea" in order to develop a more diverse economy.

"When I proposed offering free college education, I felt that was an idea that would draw people," he said. "I never said we should do it. The Green Bay Packers are community-owned. That's a big idea."

"We want to be a four-season resort," Haff said. "Four or five months isn't the issue. It's how much business you do."

Phil Black argued that the employment base needs to be broadened beyond tourism. "In order to get people to live here, we have to have jobs" he said. "There has to be a system for people to make money. It's ridiculous to say 'let's trash it and try something else.'"

Town Manager Seth Webb echoed that sentiment.

"We need to attract businesses not related to tourism for year-round employment," he said. "We're looking at some tech firms."
Black also observed that local buildings and services are hard to find. "The only thing in this town that's in the right place is the elementary school," he said.

Billy Vines voiced his opinion that the options tax should stay. "If we do away with it, we won't get it back," he said. "It truly is a windfall."

Haff said the money could be replaced.

"If we add 3 cents to the tax portion, we could drop the sales tax option," he said.

Alice Siore said more needed to be done to give the town a stronger identity.

"I've lived here a long time and still don't get the feeling of a pulse," she said. "That can't be helped due to the topography. If you develop a gateway, you make it look like a town."

The board took no formal action before ending the discussion, but no doubt these discussions will continue allowing for on-going debate.