All posts by Joan Devine

City Council Minutes 05-09-2017


MAY 09, 2017


Mayor Michael Daniels called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station meeting room located at 50 Green Street. Following the pledge of allegiance, Mayor Daniels advised there is an amendment to the agenda adding item 5f to discuss grass clippings put in the highway when property owners are mowing their lawn. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Michael Daniels                             Alderman Lynn Donnelly

Senior Alderman Renny                           Perry City Manager Mel Hawley

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                    City Clerk Joan Devine

Alderman Jeffrey Fritz                             Andy Kirkaldy

Alderman Mathew Chabot                    David Crawford

Alderman Mark Koenig


MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of the April 25, 2017. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lynn Donnelly. Senior Alderman Renny Perry recommended a sentence structure correction. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $66,258.50 was circulated for review and signatures of approval.

VIDEO: Vergennes Partnership President Renny Perry showed a brief video entitled “A New Vergennes” to its first public audience. He reported Red Barn Productions produced the video at a very reasonable price and Matteo Palmer provided the background music. The video will be available on their website and will be distributed free to everyone who wants to use it or share it. Promoting anything today needs to be done on social media, he advised, and this is one of the Partnership’s attempts to promote Vergennes. The video will also be used for the renewal of the Downtown Development District, he stated.

CITIZEN’S COMMENTS: Lynn Donnelly reported the outside instruments have been chosen for so-called Harmony Park and have been approved by the Vergennes Rotary Club and the Basin Committee. They will be installed and ready for use before July 4th at the park that is located on property owned by Green Mountain Power Corporation adjacent to Vergennes Falls Park, she advised.

MAIN STREET SIDEWALK EXTENSION PROJECT: City Manager Mel Hawley reported the Main Street sidewalk extension project goes back a decade when the City received a planning grant to study extending the sidewalk to the Ferrisburgh Park & Ride. The City applied for a grant in July 2015 for the first phase of the project and received a $274,500 grant from VTrans. A $30,500 local match from the Water Tower Reserve Fund was authorized by the City Council at the time of the application. He advised in March 2016 a grant agreement was signed with VTrans for this $305,000 project which is required to be completed by October 15, 2020. He reported he does not have time to coordinate and oversee this project and would like to hire David Crawford on a part-time basis to be the project manager; there is $27,000 included in the project budget for this position. Manager Hawley advised the grant requires that there is a project engineer, project manager and project compliance officer. Senior Alderman Perry moved to authorize use of up to $27,000 of the grant budget to hire David Crawford as proposed. Alderman Lowell Bertrand seconded the motion with all voting in favor. Mr. Crawford advised he was the municipal manager of the Village of Essex Junction up until he retired four years ago and has only worked part-time since. He was actually in the process of looking for work that was not fulltime and that offered him a challenge when City Manager Hawley contacted him, he stated.

CITY GREEN TREE REMOVAL RECOMMENDATION: City Manager Hawley reported there is a lack of grass on the City Green due in part to a lack of sunlight. He advised he had True Green assess the situation and for $650 they will treat the entire park. We had a similar problem with growing grass at the police department and True Green was able to correct the issue. To allow more sunlight into the park would involve removing five large trees. As the tree warden, he stated, he can remove dead or diseased trees under his statutory authority; two of them would likely fall into that category. To remove the remaining three trees would require a public hearing unless they are also found to be diseased. Senior Alderman Perry suggested getting the State forester in to do borings and determine the health of the trees. City Manager Hawley will make arrangements for that to be done before taking any action.

WAIVER OF PETITION POLICY: The policy for articles for social service agencies requesting City funds to be on the ballot was adopted in December 1994 and reaffirmed as a policy in November 2010. City Manager Hawley stated if the City Council desired amending the policy now is the time to do it since it is well before petitioning starts. Alderman Koenig advised, as written in is email dated April 21, 2017, he would like to add a clause that to maintain a waiver a representative from the social service agency must attend the previous year’s Annual City Meeting to provide an overview of how prior funds were used and how requested funds will be used. Alderman Koenig reported he received several complaints from voters that no one was present to address the articles with information on what the organization does. He then motioned to amend the policy as stated in his email. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.

PROPOSED FY2018 FIRE DEPARTMENT BUDGET: City Manager Hawley advised the proposed budget is for expenditures only. The increase in the proposed budget is attributed to the increase in building maintenance which will cover re-doing the steps from the street level parking lot on Short Street to the entrance on Green Street. It also includes installing a railing on top of the retaining wall along Short Street for safety reasons. He advised the revenue portion of the budget is not ready yet as he is waiting for information from the Town of Ferrisburgh for the portion of their town the City is contracted to cover.

CAPITAL PROJECTS FUNDS AND SPECIAL REVENUE FUNDS: A one-page report of the various reserve funds was provided. City Manager Hawley advised he wants to familiarize everyone with the various funds. Some of these accounts have associated policies, he advised, and some do not. A couple of the accounts have not been used in years and should be spent and closed out to save on auditing cost. Mayor Daniels advised he has been speaking with residents about what improvements they would like to see at Vergennes Falls Park. Several items mentioned were Frisbee golf, a new entrance gate with handicapped accessibility, and a pavilion. He reported he is trying to find ways to raise funds without using taxpayer dollars such as a Go Fund Me page or other means for donations. Senior Alderman Perry, who is also the President of Vergennes Partnership, offered the ability for donations to go through the Partnership as they are a 501(c)(3) corporation and donations could be tax deductible. It would also be in line with implementing the Downtown-Basin Master Plan. Mayor Daniels inquired about who the Basin Committee reports to. City Manager Hawley stated that they are an ad hoc committee and do not report to the City Council. Senior Alderman Perry suggested funds in the Pumphouse Fund could also be used towards the restoration of the Flanders pump that is in the building and it could possibly quality as a historic site as there were only nine Flanders pumps built.

GRASS CLIPPINGS: Alderman Lynn Donnelly inquired if we have or could create an ordinance that would prohibit grass clippings from being blown into the roadway. She felt it would be a simple thing to do to help keep our discharge cleaner from pollution and nitrogen as well as help with the water run-off. City Manager Hawley stated a post on front porch forum would help and he will check with Vermont League of Cities and Towns to see if they have a model ordinance.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised he is looking at fund balances at this time of year and does not see anything alarming in Administration, Police or Public Works. The Sewer Department is a little concerning and will definitely go over budget.

He reported the Environmental Court affirmed the conditions contained in a decision by the Development Review Board involving the so-called Norton Grist Mill Island that was appealed by Mahaiwe, LLC. He noted that Mahaiwe, LLC has filed for reconsideration. The hearing before the State Appraiser involving the appeal by VV II Housing Associates, LLC of the appraised value by the Board of Civil Authority was held last week. Manager Hawley advised he represented the Board in the appeal and suspects that it will be months before a decision is issued.

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Daniels advised he has spoken with Senior Alderman Perry regarding the proposed Vergennes Senior Citizen Council and both feel the City Council should not appoint them as a committee because of the public meeting laws. He advised the municipal development plan speaks to involving our senior citizens so he is trying to address that. It is his intention to hold his Cracker Barrel in June at the senior housing on Armory Lane to get some ideas from them. Alderman Mark Koenig advised he likes the general idea but suggests that it not be limited to seniors. He suggested a wider umbrella that would accomplish more with different groups. Senior Alderman Perry advised the Vergennes Partnership is trying to get a Garden Club going again and then they will be on their own. They have a meeting at 2 p.m. at City Hall on Thursday, he advised.

GREEN UP DAY: Alderman Lowell Bertrand, Chairman of Green Up Day, reported the weather did not cooperate this year for them. They still had 116 volunteers, picked up 63 bags of trash, recovered two tires and one surveyor strip, he advised.

COMMENTS: City Manager Hawley advised the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on May 22nd for their proposed amendments to the municipal development plan. The plan was adopted in 2014 and remains in effect five years; these are just interim amendments. He explained the process once the proposed amendments are forwarded to the City Council for their two public hearings that are required which would be held in June or July.

ADJOURNMENT: At 7:06 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Senior Alderman Perry, with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk

City Council Minutes 04-25-2017


APRIL 25, 2017


Mayor Michael Daniels called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station meeting room located at 50 Green Street. Following the pledge of allegiance, Mayor Daniels advised there is an amendment to the agenda under item 5B involving an application for a taxicab license. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Michael Daniels                                       Erin Roche

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                               Robert and Rena Trepanier

Alderman Jeffrey Fritz                                       Christopher & Sandra Reck

Alderman Mathew Chabot                              Andrew Fritz

Alderman Mark Koenig                                     Christine Bradford

Alderman Lynn Donnelly                                 Paula Moore

City Manager Mel Hawley                            Shannon Mahoney (5:50)

City Clerk Joan Devine                                   Cheryl Brinkman (6 p.m.)

Andy Kirkaldy


BIXBY MEMORIAL FREE LIBRARY: Paula Moore, Christine Bradford and Andrew Fritz, Trustees of the Bixby Memorial Free Library Board of Trustees, were in attendance to provide facts and figures about the library. Paula Moore, President of the Board of Trustees, gave the presentation. She advised 49 percent of children in Addison County come to kindergarten unprepared. The library is the gap between school and home and is a place where children come to learn, she stated. There are 150 volunteers at the library that contributed 3,239 hours of their time last year, she reported. This year they have reduced their budget by 4 percent in part by relying on volunteers and applying for grants; other major sources of revenue include town appropriations. Funds from the City of Vergennes support the operating budget, staff, programs, books, utilities and supplies. Paula Moore advised it has been four years since they have asked towns for an increase in support. Currently the City of Vergennes pays $43,965 annually in addition to $5,000 in in-kind services which include lawn care and snowplowing. They are proposing an increase to $51,936 plus continued in-kind services that is calculated using the 2010 census population of 2,588 for Vergennes multiplied by $22.00 per capita ($56,936). This proposal will be considered at budget time in June.

VERGENNES FARMERS’ MARKET: Resident Christopher Reck announced that he and his wife Sandy have taken over the management of the Vergennes Farmers’ Market and its location will be moved this summer from the City Green to Kennedy Bros. That decision was based on struggling vendors, parking not available downtown, lack of restrooms, heavy traffic, the visibility challenge, and getting rained out. The new location will solve some of these problems. He advised the farmers’ market now has insurance for its operation and its Board of Directors and will have proper advertising and offer live music. By moving the farmers’ market to that location they will also be promoting businesses on the north end of the city, he stated. They may need permission to use the parking lots that are located in the city’s right-of-way as well as some green space once they decide on how they are going to lay out the vendors. They will also need approval for temporary signage, he advised. City Manager Hawley, who is also the Zoning Administrator, explained that if the farmers’ market was proposed as a permanent use it would have to go before the Development Review Board. This proposal is a change of use but is not permanent so a public assemblage permit is needed. He advised he would need more information to determine which class permit they would need and who would have authority to act. He pointed out that Kennedy Bros., Inc. will have to be the applicant on the public assemblage permit as well so Robert Feuerstein, President of Kennedy Bros., Inc., will need to sign the application. He explained that half of the parking lot is on Kennedy Bros., Inc.’s land and the other half is under a City issued public land use license for Kennedy Bros., Inc. Zoning Administrator Hawley advised he will determine what they can do for banners and temporary signage once more details are provided.

MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes as written for the March 28th City Council meeting. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry with all voting in favor.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $100,608.46 was circulated for review and signatures of approval.

CITIZEN’S COMMENTS: Robert Trepanier inquired on the number of federal grants the City has received that are currently in place. City Manager Hawley advised approximately ten at this time. He spoke of the 2015 VTrans grant for the Main Street sidewalk extension projects in the amount of $274,000 with a $30,000 local match. The Police Department has several State grants that are supported by federal funds like the $3,350 grant for bulletproof vests. Mr. Trepanier then asked the City’s position on so-called sanctuary cities. Mayor Daniels advised he has spoken to Chief Merkel on this topic and the City does not have any procedures in place. He reported he supports the Chief’s philosophy in that we do not single out illegal immigrants; only if they are seen breaking the law will they be confronted. Mr. Trepanier then inquired how delinquent taxes were able to go from $51,000 to $25,000 in a year; how would one execute that. Delinquent Tax Collector Mel Hawley detailed his collection efforts. With the modified accrual basis of accounting that the City operates under, the collection of delinquent taxes in the first 60 days are treated as being on hand at fiscal year end which increases the fund balance.

Cheryl Brinkman advised she works in Colchester and does not get back to town in time to attend meetings beginning at 5:30 p.m. She asked the City Council to consider scheduling their public hearings further into their meeting to allow people with a travel factor the ability to attend.

VUES COMMUNITY GROUP: Erin Roche, a committee member of the Vergennes Union Elementary School Community Group, reported their volunteer organization comprised of parents, teachers, administrators and community friends. This year they will host the student talent show and hope to feature a family pass to the Sam Fishman Memorial Swimming Pool in the “Family Fun” raffle prize. In return for this donation from the City they will include a quarter page ad in their talent show program and two tickets to the show. Alderman Lynn Donnelly moved to donate a family pass as requested, seconded by Senior Alderman Perry, with all voting in favor.

VENDOR’S LICENSE: Shannon Mahoney represented an application for an itinerant vendor license that was submitted by Adam Hineman, d/b/a Taco Truck All Stars, of Burlington. Mr. Hineman proposes to park his food truck on the street in front of City Hall on Saturday April 29th where they will sell tacos and other items to guests attending an event in the Vergennes Opera House. Senior Alderman Renny Perry moved to approve the itinerant vendor license, seconded by Alderman Lowell Bertrand, with all voting in favor.

TAXICAB LICENSE: An application for a license to operate a taxi was submitted by Rick Loyer, Jr., d/b/a Small City Taxi. A certificate of insurance, copy of his operator’s license and appropriate fee were presented. Alderman Lowell moved to approve the application as submitted, seconded by Senior Alderman Perry, with all voting in favor.

SETH WARNER-RHODA FARRAND CHAPTER OF THE DAR: Mayor Daniels reported the location of the bench being donated by the DAR, honoring Vietnam War Veterans, has changed. They have decided to install the bench at Macdonough Park instead of the City Green as was previously approved by the City Council. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the site relocation, seconded by Alderman Matt Chabot, with all voting in favor.

FIRE STATION FLOOR REPAIR: City Manager Hawley stated he never recommends overspending a budget but the concrete floor at the fire station is in dire need of repair. Pease Construction out of Skowhegan, Maine has provided two options. Option #1 would do repairs and apply two coats of epoxy coating to just the troubled area for $18,000. Option #2 covers the work in option #1 with the addition of epoxy coating being applied to the entire floor for $31,000. City Manager Hawley recommended that the entire floor be repaired and noted that only $15,000 of the approximate $49,000 year-end fund balance was used so there are available funds to cover Option #2. Senior Alderman Renny Perry moved to spend $31,000 for the repair of the floor at the fire station as recommended. The motion was seconded by Alderman Bertrand with all voting in favor except Mayor Daniels who elected to abstain due to being a member of the Vergennes Fire Department.

2017 SWIMMING POOL BUDGET AND RATES: City Manager Hawley announced Brad Castillo will not be returning as the Pool Director this summer. Jennifer Kingsley historically runs swim lessons and has been the Assistant Director at the pool, he advised. He has spoken with Jennifer Kingsley and she has agreed to take over the Director position but due to allergies cannot handle pool chemicals. Manager Hawley advised he has asked Rick Chaput, the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, to be in charge of water quality and he has agreed. The proposed 2017 budget for the swimming pool reflects projected revenue at $54,120 and expenses at $57,870 thereby creating a potential deficit of $1,751. Senior Alderman Perry proposed using an additional $2,000 from the Watershed Recreation Reserve Fund to cover the shortfall rather than raising rates so they can be kept affordable for all. Alderman Matt Chabot was comfortable with running the budget with the relatively small deficit without an additional allocation from the Watershed Recreation Reserve Fund. Alderman Koenig suggested renting out the pool for private parties as a means of increasing revenues. Senior Alderman Perry moved to adopt the fee schedule for the pool as presented by the Manager. Alderman Bertrand seconded the motion with all voting in favor except Lynn Donnelly who was opposed. Senior Alderman Perry then moved to adopt the 2017 swimming pool budget as recommended by City Manager Hawley but with an increase in the allocation from the Watershed Recreation Reserve Fund from $9,000 to $11,000. Alderman Lowell Bertrand seconded the motion with all voting in favor except Alderman Matt Chabot and Alderman Lynn Donnelly opposed.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLICY: The Conflict of Interest Policy was reviewed at the last meeting and City Manager Hawley was requested to prepare an amended version dealing with Article 6. Recusal. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adopt the Conflict of Interest Policy as presented, seconded by Alderman Lynn Donnelly, with all voting in favor.

CITY COUNCIL CALENDAR: A proposed City Council Calendar for meetings through March 6, 2018 was presented. Alderman Jeff Fritz announced he would not be available at all in May 2017. Senior Alderman Perry announced he will not be available to attend meetings in June but will participate by e-mail as it relates to the proposed FY2018 budget. Senior Alderman Perry moved to adopt the calendar, seconded by Alderman Bertrand, with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Mel Hawley advised the $30,000 shortfall with interest earnings in the general fund remains his major concern. He advised the upcoming project to rebuild the Route 7 at-grade railroad crossing could adversely affect traffic at the intersection of Main Street and Green Street. Work will begin May 1st and take about a week but traffic will be limited to one lane and controlled by flaggers. Beginning April 24th there were 25 high school students working with the Public Works Department to get a jump on spring clean up. The pool is now empty so the crew will begin making repairs.

MAYOR’S COMMENTS: Mayor Daniels advised we will defer discussion on the proposed Vergennes Senior Citizen Council until the next meeting. Alderman Lowell Bertrand reminded everyone that Green Up Day is May 6th.

ADJOURNMENT: At 7:50 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Senior Alderman Perry, with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk