ST. CITY OF ALBANS – To encourage inclusion in its government and community, the City of St. Albans is examining the possibility of hiring a consultant specializing in equity and diversity.
City selection committee is exploring ways to be more inclusive after community members proposed organizing a city membership, equity and inclusion (BEI) committee in October .
Since then, talks have stalled mainly due to a lack of resources.
“Although this is an important topic, you will need to either [selectboard] put more resources in [hiring a consultant] or delay other projects in the community, ”said Corey Parent, city operations manager, at the November 15 selection committee meeting.
The lack of municipal resources for the inclusion initiative first manifested itself in late October. At the time, the selection committee chairman, Brendan Deso, said that if an EIB committee was set up, the limited time of city staff would force the police advisory committee to cut its meeting schedule by at least half to balance the needs of the BEI.
Members of the Police Advisory Committee hesitated at the idea. Dr Jen Williamson, chairman of the committee, said the newly formed police committee hadn’t traveled much ground yet, and cutting it now would hamper it even more.
Franklin County Sheriff Roger Langevin echoed the sentiment Monday night.
“Whatever we do, I want to make sure we don’t get into the police notice [Committee]Langevin said.
As another option, the city’s selection committee discussed working with the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, an inclusion consultancy firm, at its Monday night meeting.
Selectboard vice president Jessica Frost said she met with executive director Curtiss Reed Jr. about a year ago to discuss the ins and outs of a long-term inclusion plan in the city.
If the selection committee decided to use Reed’s business, she said the council would write the city’s mission and vision statement and then let the community take over.
Reed declined to comment.
“They set the standards that are meant to benefit the whole community, and the community really drives the work,” Frost said.
Again, resources could hamper the initiative. The city currently has $ 5,000 in its consulting engineer budget line that could be used to hire Vermont Partnership for Equity and Diversity.
For comparison, Parent pointed out that the Town of Bennington hired Reed at a cost of $ 21,700. If the city decided to send out requests for proposals for similar consultants, he estimated they would be between $ 15,000 and $ 25,000.
Other options on the table include using existing municipal resources to find avenues where inclusion could be encouraged, which selection committee member Bryan DesLauriers suggested.
“There are things we can maybe do now with the things we have,” said DesLauriers. “And before we can design a specific solution, we have to identify the problems with specificity. ”
The city of Franklin, he said, adopted an inclusionary statement that condemns discrimination. The town of St. Albans could do something similar.
Another idea could be to limit the scope of work done by an outside consultant, said Erin Creley, a member of the selection committee.
Frost said she plans to meet with Reed to discuss potentials on Friday morning.
“I think we need a certain body of knowledge or a way to be able to look at the data in a meaningful way,” Creley said. “Having a committee or a consultant helps us understand that in order to then move forward, I think it will be useful. ”