This page is maintained by Swanton Village, Inc and is intended to be the official online posting of public meetings and minutes in accordance with Vermont’s Open Meeting law (Amended July 1st, 2014).

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

July 27, 2020







Monday, July 27, 2020

7:00 PM


PRESENT: Neal Speer, Village President; Chris Leach, Trustee; Adam Paxman, Trustee; Reginald Beliveau Jr., Village Manager; Lynn Paradis, Assistant Village Manager; Dianne Day, Village Clerk; Suzanne Washburn, Mark Rocheleau, Joel Clark, David Hemingway, Sandy & Ron Kilburn, Bill Malboeuf, Richard Rowden, Chloe Collins, Terri O’Shea, Anna Roy, Fred Wiseman, Meaghan Conly, Joe Wolske, Gary Pouliot, Susan Kelleher, Nicole Nappi, Priscilla Connelly, Shane Collins, Gordon Winters, Michelle Monroe, St. Albans Messenger and Channel 16.


Unless otherwise noted, all motions carried unanimously.


  1. Call to Order:


Neal Speer, Village President, called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.


  1. Pledge of Allegiance:


Everyone stood for the Pledge of Allegiance.


  1. Agenda Review:




  1. Approve and Accept Minutes from Monday, July 13, 2020:


Adam Paxman made the motion to approve and accept the Minutes from Monday, July 13, 2020 as presented. Chris Leach seconded. Discussion: None. Motion carried.


  1. Approve and Accept Village Warrants through Friday, July 24, 2020:


Chris Leach made the motion to approve and accept Village Warrants through Friday, July 24, 2020 as presented. Adam Paxman seconded. Discussion: None. Motion carried.


  1. Discuss and Sign Water Fund Engineering Planning Loan for Missisquoi River Crossing for $12,400:


Reg Beliveau, Village Manager, stated that after the flooding in January 2018 the Board discussed the importance of having a redundant water line that crosses the Missisquoi River. He said the line they have now was almost taken out by the flood waters and ice. Lynn Paradis, Assistant Village Manager, stated that engineer Aldrich & Elliott will do this study for $12,400 and if they decide to go out for a bond vote the cost of this study can be rolled into that bond. She said right now they only have this one water line going across the bridge and the engineers will look at the best avenue for another line. She said the new line will be the primary line and the line on the bridge can become the back up line. Chris Leach made the motion to authorize Village Manager Reginald Beliveau and the Village Board of Trustees to sign the Vermont State Revolving Fund Loan RF3-405-1.0 in the amount $12,400. Adam Paxman seconded. Motion carried.


  1. Discussion on Removal of Swanton Art Boards:


Neal Speer stated he had a timeline of events regarding the Art Boards that led to the decision to remove the boards from Village owned property. He read the following timeline: Approximately 4 years ago the Arts Council came to us asking if we would be willing to put up Art walls on our property. We said yes and saw a lot of positive and wonderful murals.
We had a conversation around how the rules were developed and should they be more structured. 

A few weeks before the painting of the walls and repainting, we had a deadly shooting in Swanton which shook our small community. We were concerned with having another situation arise after seeing the activities on social media getting out of hand.

May 31st
1) A mural was painted which caused some concerns over its meaning

June 3rd

Chief Stell was interviewed by Heather Buczkowski and before the artist of the original painting could be interviewed, her image was painted over.
First request to strengthen the rules over painting of the walls was made.

The local news showed up to film our walls and interview local artists and others.

June 5th
2) Painting was covered up “reset” then someone else painted another fist.

Again, met with opposition and the controversy. Many social media posts were observed and were becoming harsh.
We had a period of calm during the virtual graduation of our MVU Seniors where a beautiful mural was painted commemorating the graduation.

3)More paintings and more covering over.
Even more activities on social media which caused us to become concerned over the volatility of the posts. Had discussions around fear that someone was going to get hurt due to the harsh social media postings.

June 12th

A Patriots Front was tagged on boards. The Boards were “reset”, painted over.

4) Another painting was done, this time a confrontation happened at the wall during painting over the image that was freshly painted. Episode was videoed and posted on social media.
Again, we raised major concerns over the path these events were leading to, and concerns over public safety.

July 13th
5) During public comment at the Trustees meeting, people said the issue was getting out of hand and thought the walls should come down, so we took the walls down.

Attempts were made to have stricter rules around the painting of the walls, but nothing happened.

We are in the process of planning a community forum along with the Town around diversity, social acceptance and racism.

We at Swanton Village understand that we have racism and diversity issues in our community.  We have reflected on what had been going on and what has happened after the walls were removed.  The insight that we gained from both events gives us a better understanding of the racism, biases and diversity issues in our community.  We are currently working with the Town on putting a forum together so that our community can grow and learn. 

We all hope that you, the Swanton Community, will join together with us to address this issue of concern.


  1. Public Comment:


Neal Speer, Village President, then asked who would like to speak during public comment. Sandy Kilburn read a quote from the Burlington Free Press. Part of that quote stated “if my neighbor hurts, I hurt.” She encouraged everyone to listen respectively without judgment.


Suzanne Washburn stated she was concerned about the limit and number of people allowed in the meeting. Reg Beliveau stated we are right at the limit now.


Chloe Collins introduced herself and said this panel has called her a lot of things such as a bad apple, divisive, disgusting, her art was called “hate speech”, she was called an outsider and Mr. LaBombard questioned if she was even an American citizen. She said she is an American citizen and a Swanton homeowner. She said she is a very active member in this community and drives weekly to Richford where she gets overflow from their Thrift Store and then distributes it to families in need in Swanton. She also drives weekly to the food shelf so she can distribute that to families in need as well. She said she has run restorative panels in Swanton for five years and helped hundreds of residents give back to this community. She said she is also the president of a large non-profit building a childcare enrichment center for Swanton children and has raised $750,000 in funds. She said she is a featured author at library events and does the Arts Spectacular every year. She said this body bent over backwards to somebody who spent six weeks whiting out community murals that depicted a black and white hand holding. She asked when do the people of color in Swanton get an apology? When does this body start to care about their safety? What about her safety? She said she had trucks following her for six weeks, gets shouted N lover when she goes grocery shopping at Hannafords and has received death threats. She said but yet this body when hearing that citizens have covered up more white supremacy tags then her black and white hand holding they decided to support the man who whited out her murals. She said she is here to tell them she isn’t going anywhere, the people of color in Swanton aren’t going anywhere. She said the attitude that basic human rights is a divisive, political agenda is what needs to go. She said they should apologize for sending a message that makes people of color feel unsafe in Swanton and change their actions to demonstrate support for minorities in their community. She said they should join the equity forum she is creating, watch the documentary “13”, educate themselves on how these power dynamics have been playing out in Swanton and in this country. She said the problem is not her artwork around racial unity but rather her character and citizenship being questioned simply because her artwork depicted the theme of racial unity and that she would not give in to whitewashing and white supremacy. She said the problem is racism is here in Swanton and it won’t go away just because this board pretends it is not here. She thanked them and said she also wrote a letter about how their last meeting violated the Open Meeting Law and handed them each a copy.


Terri O’Shea said she appreciated what the Board said about recognizing some of the things that may have been wrong and appreciates that they are working on creating a community forum addressing diversity, social acceptance and racism. She said the beautiful art boards took on a much bigger meaning than they had six months ago. On the surface it’s possible and normal to have controversy but not the amount we have been seeing. She said most of us would agree there are deeper issues involved. She said starting with the first couple of Black Lives Matter paintings on the wall outside the complex here raised so much emotion and conflict. She asked what was it about the art that sparked so much controversy and how can one person cause such an eruption? She said then for so many to apologize to that person she didn’t get it and that really bothered her. She said the board saying the people who painted the Black Lives Matter murals were troublemakers and from out of town seemed blindsided but she also doesn’t get people sending hate mail and hate messages to the Trustees, to the artist and other people involved in the controversy or just broadcasting rude comments on Facebook. She said at this point it would be easy to say “can’t we all just get along and be more loving and kind?” However, she doesn’t support the status quo. She said it’s obvious to her that we have some changes to make if they want their community to be safe and welcoming to all. She said they are not going to accomplish this by trying to change each other or scream over each other or broadcasting their beliefs and not listening to anyone else. She said we need to change ourselves and try everyday to be better and do better to try and end intolerance and institutional racism. She said it would be great if they could commit to doing something as a community like other towns in the State are doing and she would be in full support of this. She said all of us have implicit bias. She said if you try and not see it as character weakness but as a societal institutional issue they will have a better chance of working together toward a solution. She said she understands the boards had to come down to prevent physical violence but just saying that means they need to do something about the reasons they need to come down.


Anna Roy said this might be a good forum to get things going but the diversity board is where the real work is going to happen. She said the temperature in the room doesn’t need to go up tonight and is hoping everyone has calm heads and waits, takes a deep breath and they get something going with the diversity forum.


Fred Wiseman said he wanted to add something to what is going on as a longtime Swanton resident. He said he remembers in the 1970’s the indigenous community of this town were coming out of the closet. He said the racism at that time was very fascinating and on a different scale entirely. He said his cousin Ken Ouimette was one of the first organizers of the Abenaki Nation. He said he came back to Swanton in the 1980’s and they were dealing with several issues. He said he remembers working with Jeff Benay on the issues of prejudice the Abenaki school children were having. He said there was also harassment from the local police. He said in 1995 the terrible attack by the State of Vermont against Missisquoi Abenakis claiming they were genetic and political frauds. He said he can remember the Monument Road crisis and sitting on the line there blocking the traffic. He said this is the context of racial issues in Swanton that he can remember. He said after the Monument Road issue they sat down and began working together having endless discussions and hashed things out. He said it was a great triumph when Abenaki Heritage Days moved into the Village Green. He said Swanton accepted the indigenous people as an integral part of the community and honored it. He said in return the Abenakis have given back to Swanton through the food shelf, Heritage days, adult and children programs and the Abenaki museum as well as events at the library and at the schools. He said this is a unique partnership that was formed over the last 40 years. He said he is working with a group on racial bias programming and is handling the historical part of it.


Meaghan Conly said she is there tonight to show her support of the art walls and the Black Lives Matter movement but also to challenge the notion that those of us in support are merely keyboard warriors hiding behind Facebook as stated by Trustee Adam Paxman. She said she assures him that she is no keyboard warrior. She said she is an active member of this community who is extremely concerned by the Trustees blind willingness to remove structures clearly important to the community after hearing from no one but the one responsible for defacing the structures. She said perhaps it wasn’t their intent to shut down the conversation before it could begin, but the action they took at their last meeting sent a very clear and powerful message. She said they would rather move to silence them then admit they are afraid by others expression that may shine a light on the racism in their community. She said they would rather pretend it doesn’t exist. She said the Board said instead of the art boards people should get involved and she agrees with that. She said those who claim they are not racists because they have bi-racial children or have friends that are black and feel it’s ok to cover up a painting because it’s offensive and they can’t explain why. She said she can guarantee that David Hemingway and others like him will not participate. They believe in their heart that there is nothing wrong and there is no reason to discuss their implicit bias. She said they believe the history they were taught by white men is true and all encompassing. She said art has always been a powerful medium that allows them to express themselves when words fail. She said the art boards were a powerful vessel that allowed community members to express solidarity, compassion, love and yes the importance of black lives. She said by removing them they have chosen to endorse racist sentiments in this town instead of allowing unrest to open the door to dialogue and change. She said she is not going away, her voice is not going away and she will use it to speak up for equality and freedom of expression. She said she will continue to call them out and call them in for decisions they make, and words they utter systematically limits those rights of members of this community because Swanton should be better than that.


Joe Wolske said he supports the art walls, he does not support the art walls being removed, he supports Black Lives Matter and does not support racists.


Susan Kelleher stated she has resided in Swanton for 40 years and is a US Navy veteran. She said she has never been so disappointed in this board and is shocked at the way they conducted their last meeting. She said she is shocked at the utter failure to identify and call out racism, she is shocked that this board would intentionally create a forum for only one side of this issue. She said originally she thought the Board was violating the artists freedom of speech with their comments but said now it’s much more about racism within this board. She said racism is more than outright hatred for a group, it’s calling artist “others” and “outsiders” for depicting racial unity. She said these are huge concerns for her and her friends. She said they held a meeting on the art boards without adding it to the agenda, without notifying the community members this was going to be discussed and that is a violation of the Vermont Open Meeting Laws. She said they were going to remove the walls and leave the posts there so they could be reinstalled in January but instead they were removed with a backhoe. She said this manner of removal shows your ultimate content for the art boards and telegraph to everyone that they have no intent on reinstating them. She said this now goes beyond art boards and it’s the failure of every single one of them to do their jobs. She said they all chose to be Village Trustees and thus should make themselves available to their constituents. She said they have an obligation to engage with the residents of Swanton Village in discourse and solutions. She said it is reasonable and a basic expectation that the first time a constituent emails them they reply back to them. She said she wrote two emails to Mr. Paxman before they had a conversation, she wrote three to Mr. Speer, wrote four to Mr. LaBombard and wrote six to Mr. Leach before she learned he doesn’t do email. She said this is unacceptable and they all failed to do their jobs properly, have failed to allow forum for all voices to be heard and have perpetuated the fear that people of color feel here. She said as a resident she demands they all resign effectively immediately.


Priscilla Connelly stated she didn’t write anything and said everyone has been so eloquent in their speeches. She said she is a new resident to Swanton and has lived here 9 months. She said because of this is has some objectivity because she doesn’t really know anyone. She said everyone is important to her. When she first saw the art boards she felt excited to be a part of Swanton. She said when the boards started getting painted over and the discussions started she could see things were not going in a good direction she wanted to have faith that the town would find ways to find solutions not for just one side but for everyone. She said there are issues right here in Swanton and she wants to support everyone and find a way. She hopes these art boards don’t stay down until February because they’re important. She hopes everyone can look at a piece of art and always see a meaning. She hopes everyone can come together and find their way to reinstate those boards with rules.


David Hemingway said he’s not a new citizen in this town as his parents lived in the same house for 68 years. He said he’s lived here all his life and never had anyone come up to him and tell him to leave this town because you’re not wanted. He said these people said it to him and he took the blunt. He said his purple heart was degraded and he was put on Facebook and in the newspaper. He said someone commented they should take his purple heart away from him and that he should have gotten killed in Vietnam before he got his purple heart. He said he served his country and he supports the Village Trustees.


Shane Collins stated he watched the video of the last meeting and was shocked by some things he heard. He said he’d like everyone to know that his wife and family are all American citizens.


Joel Clark said he’d like to say that the Selectboard is ready to talk about racial injustice, talk about biases and said they have a lot to learn, their employees have a lot to learn and they will work with the Trustees on setting up some forums to improve the situation. Neal Speer said he agrees with what Joel stated and said they are looking for a neutral moderator. He said it’s good to hear from people here in this room instead of outside and said he’s glad they came and stated their case. He said hopefully they can rise above this. Meaghan Conly said she agreed they should move forward but this could be difficult if there’s no statement from the Board. She said the things that were said at the last meeting were very painful and she doesn’t feel that the community can move forward unless there’s some sort of recognition on that. Suzanne Washburn stated that she hopes when these conversations take place that people speak with open minds. She said she had an experience with an individual in this room and she felt that if she wasn’t agreeing 100% with her she was being dismissed and she felt like she was being bullied. She said whatever meeting takes place people need to come to this without an agenda and everyone should come together and learn from one another. She said they need to respect one another as well. Terri O’Shea asked the Board if they planned to apologize and asked what they have learned since the last meeting. Reg Beliveau said other communities are going through the same issues so it will take some time to coordinate this forum. He said the Village and Town will hold this forum together possibly at the Town Garage. Terri said she heard some recognition that things need to change. More discussion took place about whether or not the Board feels they need to apologize and what their next steps will be. Terri said she was trying to bring both sides together. Neal Speer stated they wanted to start with a fresh slate and continue these discussions with civility. Reg Beliveau said he was working on a statement for the community. He said people say things in haste and words can be misconstrued in an email. He said they are working hard to get a forum together, they all have biases and he’s not pinpointing anyone out, he said they are all working on it. Anna Roy said when there’s two sides that can’t quite get together but decided they are going to go forward and have a discussion calmly with a neutral person that is better than an apology as it wipes the board clean and it says there are issues but let’s move forward, this forum is the best solution thus far. Instead of name calling or insisting someone apologize in public or on TV isn’t going to work, let’s have discussions instead. Priscilla Connelly said wherever they hold this forum it needs to be big enough to hold everyone. Neal said they are proposing holding it at the Town Garage. Sandy Kilburn said she wanted to end this where she started by saying that everyone has good intentions, they want to come together and these are not going to be easy conversations and might be uncomfortable. She said let’s concentrate on what we have in common and take it from there. Neal Speer thanked everyone for their comments and input and said he is hoping to move forward in a positive direction. He said as far as the damage to the art wall when it was taken down, the Village is repairing it for the Arts Council.


  1. Any Other Necessary Business:


Adam Paxman stated he wanted to thank the Public Works crew for the work they’ve done on York Street making more green space. He said they also added more green space by the NOTCH building.


Any Other Business: Chris Leach stated he wrote a letter to the Swanton Postmaster about a drive through window. He will update the Board if he hears anything.


  1. Executive Session (If Necessary):




  1. Adjournment:


Chris Leach made the motion to adjourn the Regular Board of the Trustees meeting at 7:53 p.m.  Adam Paxman seconded. There being no further business at hand, Neal Speer, Village President, adjourned the meeting at 7:53 p.m. Motion carried.




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Neal Speer, Village President                            Date





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Dianne Day, Village Clerk                                Date