All posts by Joan Devine

City Council Emergency Meeting Minutes 02-13-2020

VERGENNES EMERGENCY CITY COUNCIL MEETING

FEBRUARY 13, 2020

MINUTES

Mayor Jeff Fritz called the emergency meeting to order at 5:00 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Jeff Fritz Alderman                      David Small (via speaker phone)

Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly               City Manager Daniel Hofman

Alderman David Austin                             Tim Cook

Alderman Mark Koenig

RECREATION COORDINATOR: City Manager Hofman stated there was an article that was released by the Addison Independent. He stated that at the last meeting, Council gave him the authority to appoint a recreation coordinator. He stated that he was still in the process of identifying where the funds were going to come from and what type of offer he was going to make prior to the Addison Independent printing an article stating that the individual was hired. The individual reached out stating that she felt obligated to give a two week notice at her current job because of the article and that she is looking to start the recreation coordinator position on March 9th.

City Manager Hofman stated that he emailed everyone about the proposed use of Watershed funds for this position, however, if this was to be used, the Watershed Fund policy would have to be amended to allow for personnel costs. He stated that he has had some mixed reviews from Council for amending the policy.

City Manager Hofman handed out a breakdown of the General Fund recreation line item. He stated that the recreation General Fund line item began with $11,500. Year to date, $5,945 has been used. He stated that last year, $1,600 was spent in June, and that this is the only forecasted expense that will be needed in the remainder of the year. He stated that this leaves this line item with $3,800. He stated that if the City were to hire this individual at $21 per hours at 10 hours per week, for the remainder of the year, this will equate to $3,600, which will keep us within budget. City Manager Hofman stated that Kim Buckley, the candidate, is requesting 25 hours per week. He stated that there are two options: (1) amend the Watershed policy and take personnel expenses out of the Watershed Fund, or (2) make it work in the recreation line item. He stated that he believes that he can get the position in next years’ budget, but that is 4 months away.

Mayor Fritz asked when the candidate asked for the 25 hours per week. City Manager Hofman stated today; to maintain benefits. Tim Cook stated that the candidate stated that 20 hours would work in her interview. City Manager Hofman stated that he is skeptical to start out a position at such a high number of hours in a week when he does not completely know what the job entails because it is a brand new position. Alderman Koenig asked if 25 hours per week would require the City to give benefits. City Manager Hofman responded no, and the threshold for benefits is 30 hours. Alderman Small stated that that sounds like a high number of hours for a position that we do not really know about right now. Alderman Austin stated he agreed even though this will be a position that the candidate will build. Alderman Koenig asked if she needed a contract to show how many hours she works. He asked is we can give her a certain amount of hours for the remainder of the fiscal year and she can allocate the hours per week as she chooses, in part, to maintain her benefits. City Manager Hofman and Alderman Austin acknowledged that this is a great idea. City Manager stated that this equates to 160 hours remaining in the fiscal year and there may be more of a need in the hotter months for hours used.

Tim Cook stated that we assumed that this position would have hours that vary from week to week. City Manager Hofman handed out sections of minutes from last summer.

June 11, 2019 minutes: Tim Cook stated “[t]hey would also like to hire a part-time coordinator who will attend a lot of meetings and get a handle on what’s already out there in the first year. They are asking for $15,000 that will cover 11.25 hour work-week at $25 an hour.”

June 28, 2019 minutes: “Deputy Mayor Donnelly advised with a $91,000 Fund Balance there is no need for a reduction in police officers if we use $50,000 of that surplus and take $13,000 from the Watershed Fund for the recreation position and leave the $72,500 for the police station bond coming from the Water Tower Fund…. She also suggested $13,500 be taken from the Watershed Fund to be used towards a portion of the cost of the new recreation director position.:

July 23, 2019 minutes: “[Matt Chabot] appropriated $13,500 from the Watershed Fund to be used to offset the cost of a new recreation director position.”

City Manager Hofman stated that the Watershed policy explicitly stated that the Council shall approve expenses from the Watershed Fund and he could not find where Council approved this appropriation. He stated that Council would have to amend the policy and approve the expense.

Alderman Small stated he feels on the defensive. He stated that it is unfortunate that is was printed in the paper but 10 hours a week sounds much more appropriate. Mayor Fritz stated that he thought that the Watershed Fund usage was approved. Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated that it was a budget workshop. Alderman Koenig stated that he thought that the Watershed fund was a temporary fix.

Alderman Koenig and Deputy Mayor Donnelly asked if we can loan ourselves the money out of the Water Tower Fund. Alderman Austin stated that we just do not know what the position is going to require per week for hours. City Manager Hofman stated that there is money in the recreation line item to start off with right now. He stated that he does not know what the job entails and wants to start from the bottom up for number of hours; not the other way around.

Mayor Fritz asked if Council could formally approve the use of $13,500 from the Watershed fund for the position. City Manager Hofman stated that the Watershed Fund policy would have to be amended. Alderman Austin stated that they have received pushback for administrative costs rather than capital projects. Alderman Austin and Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated they were against amending the policy.

Alderman Koenig and Deputy Mayor Donnelly suggested reallocating existing general fund recreation expenses to the Watershed fund to have more money in the General Fund for this position.

City Manager Hofman asked how many hours do we want this position to be. We need to figure that out and then all other capital funds for recreation can come out the Watershed fund. He stated that right now, we have the funds for 10 hours per week.

Alderman Austin asked Tim Cook, what he wants this position to do. Tim stated that this position would network and plan events. Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated that the position would create programs. Mayor Fritz asked if 10 hours per week is enough. Alderman Austin stated that we want this person to succeed and we want to set this person up for success. Alderman Koenig stated that we should structure it by hours per month. Alderman Austin asked if we know what the goals for this position are. Tim stated that the recreation committee established goals in a meeting. Deputy Mayor Donnelly asked if City Manager Hofman foresees any surplus in the budget. City Manager Hofman stated that if there is a surplus in another department, and if you want to move extra funds to another department, then a budget amendment must be done.

Deputy Mayor Donnelly asked about deficit spending. Alderman Austin and Koenig disagreed. Mayor Fritz asked if we could do a month to month agreement, and then review the budget and the candidate’s performance. City Manager Hofman stated that she is going to need a lot of hours in the beginning, but that he likes the idea of a set number of hours for the year. He stated he could write an offer letter to that effect. Mayor Fritz stated that that setup will encourage her to find another part-time position to maintain her hours for coverage. Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated that she is against changing the Watershed Fund Policy, and that the fund was established before her time for a specific purpose. City Manager Hofman stated that there is $350,000 in the fund accruing interest, and the interest can be spent.

Mayor Fritz asked where is the $13,500 located. City Manager Hofman stated that it doesn’t exist. Alderman Koenig asked if City Manager Hofman can talk with Matt Chabot to find out what he meant in the minutes from July 23, 2019. City Manager Hofman stated that he originally saw a problem with funding the position from the general fund when making ice rink purchases and notified Tim Cook. He stated that Matt Chabot reached out to him and stated that it would come out of the Watershed Fund. He stated, however, the policy has to be changed to do so.

Alderman Koenig asked if the Bambini and the hockey goals were paid through the Watershed Fund. City Manager Hofman stated they were not. He stated that if those expenses were moved to the Watershed Fund, it would get the hours per week for the recreation coordinator position up to 15 hours per week most likely. Mayor Fritz stated that we should move expenses that were already incurred to the Watershed Fund. In addition, he asked for the motion to offer her 160 hours through the end of the fiscal year.

Alderman Koenig stated that if you move expenses to the Watershed und, then the offer can be higher than 160 hours. Deputy Mayor Donnelly reminded that the majority of the work from the recreation coordinator would need to occur in the summer. Alderman Small stated that this situation may not leave a lot of confidence in the candidate and the candidate may not take the job. City Manager Hofman stated that you can make the same argument if you make the best offer because the City has gone back and forth regardless. Alderman Small stated that he likes the idea of moving funds from the general fund to the Watershed Fund to free space for this position, however, if we cannot confidently say that this job will be in the budget, then that is irresponsible. Mayor Fritz asked how much the job would be for a year at 25 hours. City Manager Hofman stated $30,000. Alderman Small stated that the candidate seems great but the request for a number of hours does not seem right. City Manager Hofman stated that these are all good faith negotiations and that he is fine having those conversations about the number of hours with a candidate, however, the Addison Independent article threw this all out of wack.

Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated that when we originally talked about the position, it would be at 10 hours a week. City Manager Hofman confirmed that this was in fact consistent with the minutes from last summer. He continued that he explained to the candidates that this is a position that you, as a candidate, could build into something if ambitious enough. Alderman Austin suggested throwing a dollar figure out as an offer, like a salary. He stated, if he was a candidate, he would establish his value with the organization. City Manager Hofman stated that he is not 100% certain that this will be in the budget, but he is 99% certain. He continued that he does not know what tomorrow will bring and the budget is 4 months away.

Alderman Koenig stated that we have been talking about this position for a long time and if we’re going to have a sustainable recreation department, we must give the person the time and space to do that. He stated that we need to find the money to make her the best offer. Alderman Koenig stated that we need to make this happen. He stated that if we do not make this happen we should stop pretending that we’re the best little city and that we are just going to exist. Alderman Austin stated that we need someone to be successful or we do not need the position because we cannot afford to waste money for nothing.

Alderman Koenig asked how much money could be moved from the recreation general fund line item. City Manager Hofman stated that the Bambini was $1,500 and there was a light installation that can be moved, which probably totals around $2,000. He stated that this would increase the hours to 15 per week possibly

Mayor Fritz stated that we can all probably agree that we will never be able to afford 25 hours per week. Alderman Koenig stated that if we can get the offer to have increased hours, at like 15-17 hours per week, that would be preferable. City Manager Hofman stated that all governments are fiscally constrained and there is no problem in making an offer stating this is what we have. Alderman Koenig agreed and added that we should try to maximize the hours/offer. He stated that we should give her a lump sum of hours for the rest of the year. Alderman Austin stated that she sounds like a go-getter that would understand this dynamic. Tim Cook stated that the candidate experienced defunding failures at a prior place of employment, which would help her be motivated even more to find funding.

Alderman Koenig asked what City Manager Hofman needs from the Council. City Manager Hofman stated that he would need action from the Council only if the decision was to use the Watershed Fund for the candidate’s salary. He stated that he will work to maximize her hours in the general fund, and he does not need any action at the moment. Mayor Fritz stated that City Manager Hofman should bring before the next Council Meeting what needs to be reallocated to the Watershed Fund from the General Fund recreation line item. City Manager Hofman agreed and stated that he currently sees the Bambini for $1,400 and Glen Peck Electric for $1,100 that can be moved to the Watershed Fund. He stated that he will then make the candidate the best offer of aggregate hours for the rest of fiscal year. Mayor Fritz, Deputy Mayor Donnelly, Alderman Small, Alderman Austin, and Alderman Koenig all agreed this is a good idea.

Mayor Fritz asked for a motion to adjourn. Alderman Koenig made a motion to adjourn. Alderman Austin seconded to motion. Deputy Mayor Donnelly asked if City Manager Hofman needed any other action. Multiple individuals stated that he did not. Tim Cook apologized for his role in getting us in the position and thanked everyone for their help. Alderman Austin stated that this was great team work in coming together tonight. The motion passed unanimously.

Meeting adjourned at 6PM.

__________________________

Daniel Hofman, City Manager

 

City Council Minutes 02-11-2020

VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL MEETING

FEBRUARY 11, 2020

MINUTES

Mayor Jeff Fritz called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Jeff Fritz                                            City Clerk Joan Devine

Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly              Ass’t Clerk Morgan Kittredge

Alderman William Benton                      Alderman Mark Koenig

Alderman David Austin                           Alderman Lowell Bertrand

City Manager Daniel Hofman             Police Chief George Merkel

Rainwalker Winterpainter                    Robert Trepanier

Drew Gordon                                                Tim Cook

Absent: Alderman David Small

WARRANTS: The Warrant was presented for review and signatures of approval.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve the minutes to the January 28, 2020 City Council meeting. Motion was seconded by Alderman Austin with all members voting in favor.

ADOPT NEW JOB DESCRIPTION FOR RECREATION COORDINATOR: City Manager Hofman, with assistance from the recreation committee, put together a job description for the new Recreation Coordinator position. Alderman Bertrand moved to approve the job description. The motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig, with all voting in favor.

APPROVAL OF APPOINTMENT OF RECREATION COORDINATOR: City Manager Hofman reported that they received 7 applications and interviewed 2 of those applicants. Tim Cook, member of the Recreation Committee, was present and reported that she is a great candidate and has great enthusiasm. He further reported that during the interview she was able to switch gears from talking about child related activities to activities for the elderly and answered the questions very well. Alderman Benton asked about her residency and was informed by Tim Cook that she was indeed a Vergennes resident. City Manager Hofman indicated that he is looking for someone to grow the recreation department and thought that she was an excellent candidate. Manager Hofman was looking for approval from the City Council to hire Kimberly Buckley as Recreation Coordinator. Alderman Bertrand moved to approve the hiring of Kimberly Buckley as the Recreation Coordinator. The motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig, with all voting in favor.

DISCUSSION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT SERVICES WITH THE TOWN OF ADDISON: The Town of Addison approached Chief Merkel and City Manager Hofman about providing non-emergency services, such as motor vehicle law enforcement. Addison indicated they are looking for about 12 hours per week of coverage. City Manager Hofman reported that currently there are 2 officers on duty in Vergennes about 90% of the time. He believes that shared services are the way to go. Manager Hofman is seeking approval to engage in further discussions and formulate a draft contract for the review and approval of City Council. Rainwalker questioned if services would occur more frequently in busy tourist seasons. Hofman responded saying that it would just be the 12 hours per week regardless of the season. Likely it will be an officer doing an hour at a time during various shifts. Hofman further indicated that he will ensure that within the draft contract there will be a clause that states that either party may exit the contract easily. Alderman Benton questioned Chief Merkel on if Chief had any concerns over having just 2 officers on duty, with one potentially being out of town for a time. Chief indicated that he approves of assisting Addison, he further indicated that typically there are 2 officers plus himself on duty during the day. Therefore, if one officer is covering Addison during the daytime hours, there are still 2 officers within the City limits. The Town of Addison would like Manager Hofman and Chief Merkel to go to their meeting in a week to discuss logistics. They will draft a contract for approval in both municipalities. All members were in favor of the Manager entering into further discussions with the Town of Addison.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hofman went over several items contained in the City of Vergennes Finance Report prepared for the Council Meeting. He went through his notes while referencing page numbers. On Page 2, the Fund Summary, he indicated that the City should be at around 58% as an average without general government and voter appropriations at this point in the year. He took those out of the average because the amount of those expenses are paid out early in the year. On Page 4, he brought attention to the lower than expected tax penalties and indicated that he will investigate the reasoning and review Matt Chabot’s notes. Excess weight permits are due April 1 so that figure should be increasing. Police fines show as $38,840, however Manager Hofman noted that there are approximately $30,000 in fines pending from a couple overweight tickets that have been issued. That brings the police revenue to nearly $70,000 which is over budget. On Page 6, he noted that he will be analyzing the penalty and interest payment plans to determine why that number is lower than expected. Line 4 of the Sewer Fund Revenue shows $79,325 as Non-Budget Sewer Revenue, this is money received from the State as a loan/grant to pay for an Engineer Study. He received a preliminary engineer report pertaining to the upgrades needed at the sewer facility. The report indicated that the costs of the work needed to bring the facility into compliance are between $6-10 million. On Page 9, the amounts on Lines 4 and 5, 4 will be Morgan’s salary, line 5 will be Abbie’s. He is advertising for an Administrative Assistant. These lines are higher than expected because the City paid Melissa Wright out her accrued vacation time when her employment ended. Hopefully those lines will even out after all the transitioning is done. Item 36 for Information Technology is for the new computers and the cloud. It is expected that in the new budget that amount will be lower. Item 10 shows the Police Department expenditures which will be increasing due to a new Administrative Assistant at the Police Department. On Page 11, item 39 and 37 got switched around. Item 39 is a payment that happened last year that accidentally was on this budget. That will allow for more flexibility for the budget next year. Spending in the Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) is below average.

Alderman Benton asked if the new heating system was up and running. Manager Hofman said that it was and that he has drafted up an agreement for a reimbursement plan between the City and the Opera House for the Opera House to make payments toward their share of the cost of that heating system. A BTU meter still needs to be installed to be able to delineate how much is used by the Opera house and how much is used by the City. This new system should be incredibly cheaper.

Main Street project pre-construction meeting in mid-March with the State. Hofman hopes to be involved in that. Still waiting on the public relations officer.

There is a public hearing on the Municipal Plan at the same time as the next City Council meeting.

Manager Hofman is in receipt of a preliminary engineer report on the sewer treatment plant. The engineer report came back with the recommendation to spend $10 million on a stormwater system and $6 million on a new treatment plant. He’s trying to find funding which is very difficult. He’s working with the engineer to scale back the project a bit so we can have some quick wins and get into compliance with the State.

Chief Merkel is nominated to receive an award from Project Safe Neighborhoods, one of three people in Vermont. Chief will be attending an all-expenses paid conference to represent the State of Vermont at the awards banquet.

There is a local concern meeting about the salt shed project on Thursday, March 5, at 6 p.m. located at Vergennes City Hall.

The Annual Report is complete, printed and available for the public. Copies were distributed to Council members. The Clerk’s office is in the midst of processing Absentee Ballot requests and mailing out ballots.

We are in the process of adding Manager Hofman and Abbie Farrar to the accounts at National Bank of Middlebury. This is different than what has happened in the past, though he sees it as him being back up to the Treasurer. The person who cuts the checks, can’t sign the checks. This is a standard operating procedure he wants to implement. Manager Hofman wants access to all bank and investment accounts, with the council’s approval, so he can more easily know what is going on with the accounts.

Alderman Benton asked if Hofman was anticipating transferring the accounting into a GASB 34 acceptable format. He realizes this is big issue. The main thing is capital inventory, along with a Capital Plan and analyzing our investment dividends and planning those dividends 5 years down the road. To analyze assets, purchase prices, depreciation, etc. We will have to go to that accounting format at some point because it can affect grants and the charter among other things. Alderman Donnelly wondered if it were possible to have each department head inventory their own assets. Manager Hofman agreed and added that it is a big project and he is hoping to make steps toward it.

MAYORS REPORT: The Succession planning Committee met and discussed the transition of the Clerk/Treasurer. Since that transition is coming to a close, they are looking to widen the scope to standard operating procedures. Rainmaker wondered where we find those standards. Hofman indicated that they may be found with VLCT, as well as other associations and organizations.

ADJOURNMENT: At 5:57 p.m. Alderman Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Alderman Koenig with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Assistant City Clerk

Morgan Kittredge