All posts by Joan Devine

City Council Minutes 08-08-2017

VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL

AUGUST 8, 2017

MINUTES

Mayor Michael Daniels called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. Alderman Mark Koenig said he is a resident of South Water Street and felt that should be disclosed since there is an agenda item involving his neighborhood. Those in attendance were:

 

Mayor Michael Daniels                                        Shannon Haggett

Senior Alderman Renny Perry                         David Crawford

Alderman Mathew Chabot                                Erik Alling

Alderman Mark Koenig

Alderman Lowell Bertrand

Alderman Jeffrey Fritz

Alderman Lynn Donnelly

City Manager Mel Hawley

City Clerk Joan Devine

 

MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of July 18, 2017. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry. On the second page under Planning Commission appointments, Senior Alderman Perry requested that comments made by him at the last meeting be included. He reported he thanked Jason Farrell for his ten years of service on the Planning Commission and for filling in as the Acting Zoning Administrator when Zoning Administrator Mel Hawley was out on a medical leave. Planning Commission Chair Shannon Haggett also asked for the minutes to reflect his acknowledgement that they only have five members now and will be recruiting more members upon completing their proposed amendments to the zoning and subdivision regulations. A vote on the motion to approved the minutes with the requested corrections showed all voting in favor.

WARRANT: City Manager Hawley advised there are two Warrants again. The Warrant totaling $180,685.08 was for current fiscal year expenses. The other Warrant, totaling $6,653.53, was for previous fiscal year expenses. Both Warrants were circulated for review and signatures of approval.

PUBLIC ASSEMBLAGE PERMIT – SOUTH WATER STREET: City Manager Hawley reported he has the authority to approve most Public Assemblage Permits but does not take the liberty of closing streets other than Park Street. Residents of South Water Street are requesting permission to close South Water Street from Roberts Street to South Maple Street on August 27 from 5-7 p.m. for their annual block party; this is their 4th year. He advised not all the residents on South Water Street support the street closure but the majority support it. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to authorize closing the street as requested, seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry, with all voting in favor.

GRASS CLIPPINGS IN THE STREET: Alderman Lynn Donnelly provided copies of ordinances from other towns that address grass clippings in the roadway. After the storm last week, on Bowman Road, they had to clean the catch basins of grass to allow the water to go down. She stated that she likes the one that says ‘one cannot deposit anything in the right-of-way’ because that would address everything; it can be as complicated or as simple as desired. Conversation then became focused on enforcement of such an ordinance. Senior Alderman Perry felt it would have to be major, like with the snow, before the police would enforce it as they have plenty to do. City Manager Hawley advised he and Chief Merkel take care of bad situations with snow removal but felt educating the public regarding grass clippings might be the way to go. Information could be dispersed through the City’s website, the Annual Report, Facebook, and Front Porch Forum. Mayor Daniels asked Alderman Donnelly to check with the Agency of Natural Resources who may already have pamphlets made up.

SANDWICH BOARDS/TEMPORARY SIGNS IN THE RIGHT OF WAY: City Manager Hawley advised he was out on medical leave when the Planning Commission talked about sandwich boards and ultimately proposed a change in the regulations. It used to be that sandwich board signs were allowed only in the Central Business District and the Northern Gateway District; currently they can go in any district. He advised there is a state law that prohibits off-premise signs. He feels our regulations need to be clarified. Planning Commission Chair Shannon Haggett advised the City right of way is out of their jurisdiction. Manager Hawley advised he routinely picks up signs for yard sales, St. Peter’s Closet, Your Turn Consignment, Addison County Field Days, community dinners, etc. that are in the City right of way. Senior Alderman Perry stated we have had this discussion when he was the City Manager and it wasn’t worth the effort to regulate them. The City Council has the authority to remove signs in the City right of way at any time, he advised. Alderman Chabot suggested reviewing this at the next meeting. Alderman Donnelly reported, as realtors, they are allowed to put out “open house” signs 12 hours prior to the event but must pick them up immediately after.

PUBLIC INFORMATIONAL MEETING – City Manager Hawley introduced David Crawford, the Main Street Sidewalk Project Manager, and Eric Alling, a transportation engineer at Stantac Consulting Services, Inc.; both will be providing information regarding the project. He advised holding this public informational meeting is a requirement of the grant so that the City Council can get public comment and answer any questions about the project that is funded through the VTrans Bicycle and Pedestrian Program. A slide show of the conceptual plans for extending the sidewalk at the north end of Main Street was given. The project will connect the existing sidewalk with new construction beginning at Amy’s Hair Design and extending north to Champlain Discount Foods. A crosswalk will be installed in that area, with a proposed rapid flashing beacon, that will connect with the existing sidewalk on the other side of the street leading to the police station. The design calls for a 5’ wide concrete sidewalk to be installed with a 5’ wide greenbelt. Alderman Matt Chabot inquired if any consideration has been given for bulb-outs in that area. Senior Alderman Perry asked if the abutting property owners have been contacted. David Crawford advised he has met with representatives of DR Power and Kennedy Bros. City Manager Hawley reported Amy’s Hair Design building is owned by Kennedy Bros. and has a virtual sea of pavement in front that provides parking. This grant doesn’t cover improvements to private property but will provide some aesthetic and safety improvements in the right of way. David Crawford advised it is their goal to get this project underway in early 2018 but are using federal money so it requires reviews and sign-offs that can take time. Stantac Consulting Services is engineering the project and is projecting it to be $20,000 under budget based on the conceptual plans. Once the conceptual plans for the project design are submitted to VTrans it can take up to 6 months for approval, he stated. Mr. Crawford advised the pending issue is the flashing beacon at the crosswalk. If the City Council wants to have it, he suggested they adopt a resolution that may offer some help for the State to approve it. Keeping this project on schedule is out of the City’s control, he advised, as that will belong to the State. The $30,500 local share has been allocated from the Water Tower Fund by the City Council, he advised, but now is the time to look at traffic calming devices like a bulb-out. The flashing beacon at the crosswalk needs certain warrants met but felt there was some value in it being the first crosswalk as one drives into the city. He felt it is worthy and can be supported with letters from himself, the police, and a City Council resolution. It was a unanimous consensus by the City Council to have a flashing beacon at the crosswalk. Shannon Haggett reported the Planning Commission is strongly in support of flashers, bulb-outs and any other calming devices and is willing to supply a letter of support also. Mayor Daniels closed the public information meeting at 6:35 p.m.

CORRECT OMISSION IN 2017 GRAND LIST: Manager Hawley advised no value was determined for a parcel owned by Glenn and Kathy Rossier that was created as part of a subdivision in 2016. The parcel is a .34-acre lot. The Board of Listers has calculated a value of $45,400 based on the same methodology used in the city-wide reappraisal in 2007. The Board of Listers is requesting the City Council approve this correction. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the correction as requested by the Board of Listers, seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig, with all voting in favor except Alderman Donnelly who abstained.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS AND SPECIAL FUNDS: City Manager Hawley reported he is reducing his request for action to involve just two funds. He would like the Fire Department Vehicle Replacement Fund to be closed and its balance of funds put in the Fire Department Fund effective June 30, 2017. He would also like revenues from land recording fees that are being put in the Records Computerization Fund suspended through June 30, 2018, retroactive to July 1, 2017. He advised there is $55,000 in that fund with no plan in place for use of the funds. City Clerk Devine advised she will be going to the annual meeting of Vermont clerks in September and will bring back some estimates to begin this process. Senior Alderman Perry moved to authorize the suspension of funds to the Records Computerization Fund effective July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018 and to close the Fire Department Vehicle Replacement Fund as of June 30, 2017. The motion was seconded by Alderman Fritz with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley distributed an updated fund balance projection report. He projects a General Fund year-end fund balance of $161,000 of which $73,500 has been used in setting the City tax rate for FY2018. He reported the Fire Department fund balance was originally projected at $29,000 and is now projected at $40,000 given the transfer from the Fire Truck Replacement Fund. He advised the Fire Department is expected to request a vote on a $500,000 bond in the near future to purchase a new fire truck. As for the Sewer Fund, he advised, a deficit currently exists and suggested discussion be held in September to determine if and when the rates are to be increased.

The Fire Department will be purchasing a 40’ roll-off container they would like to locate just past the Vergennes-Panton Water District leased land. Mayor Daniels advised the roll-off will be used for offsite storage for props they use for training. Manager Hawley advised the entire floor at the fire station has been resurfaced and sealed with epoxy at a cost of $31,000. In his opinion, he advised, it is not perfect but it is a garage floor and it is now protected.

COMMENTS: Mayor Daniels reported he brought the City Voice to the printer today. He has also met with Green Mountain Power regarding improvements at Falls Park in their right of way and has not made any progress. He felt that if the City can’t use the land it should be deeded back to them and let them pay taxes on it. He went on to thank Manager Hawley and Alderman Bertrand for joining him at the open house at Valley Vista. Mayor Daniels reported his brother Matt Daniels has tracked 200 boats at the City docks so far this year.

EXECUTIVE SESSION: At 7:05 p.m., Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to go into executive session to evaluate the City Manager and the City Clerk/Treasurer and to set their respective compensation. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry. City Manager Hawley and City Clerk/Treasurer Devine departed at this time. At 7:35 p.m., Alderman Bertrand moved to adjourn the executive session, seconded by Alderman Matt Chabot, with all voting in favor.

REGULAR SESSION: Senior Alderman Perry moved to compensate the City Manager with an increase of 3%, including the same adjustment in his compensation as Zoning Administrator and Administrative Assistant to the Board of Listers. The City Clerk/Treasurer will be compensated with an increase of 3%. Alderman Lowell Bertrand seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

ADJOURNMENT: At 7:40 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk

City Council Minutes 07-18-2017

VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL

JULY 18, 2017

MINUTES

Senior Alderman Renny Perry called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. An amendment to the agenda was made; an application from American Legion Post #14 requesting an Outside Consumption Permit will be taken up as 5.i. and item 5.i will become item 5.j. Alderman Jeff Fritz advised he failed to disclose, at the last meeting, that he is on the Board of Directors of the Addison County Economic Development Corporation. Those in attendance were:

Senior Alderman Renny Perry                             Robert Trepanier

Alderman Mathew Chabot                                    Rena Trepanier

Alderman Mark Koenig                                           Cheryl Brinkman (6 p.m.)

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                                    Mike Winslow (6:18 p.m.)

Alderman Jeffrey Fritz                                            James Amblo (6:30 p.m.)

Alderman Lynn Donnelly

City Manager Mel Hawley

City Clerk Joan Devine

 

MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of June 27, 2017. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz. Amendments made: Grammar corrections were made and Mark Bellinger from UTC Aerospace Systems was added as an attendee at that meeting. A vote on the motion with the corrections showed all voting in favor except Alderman Lynn Donnelly who abstained due to her being absent.

WARRANT: City Manager Hawley explained there are two Warrants. The Warrant totaling $106,409.94 was for current fiscal year expenses. The other Warrant, totaling $34,480.98, was for last fiscal year expenses. Both Warrants were circulated for review and signatures of approval.

VISITORS: Robert Trepanier inquired about the status of delinquent property taxes and sewer assessments. Delinquent Tax Collector Mel Hawley reported there are a number of people who have delinquent sewer assessments but their taxes are current. This happens because the property taxes are paid through their bank’s escrow agent, he advised. Generally if a property is more than three years in arrears for sewer assessments a tax sale is initiated. He advised that the delinquent property tax account that goes back to 2012 is the result of a tax sale that was initiated and had to be cancelled due to wrong information on the mobile home. He advised the tax sale notice referenced a mobile home that had been replaced with a newer mobile home without the mobile home bill of sale being recorded in the City Clerk’s office. Mr. Trepanier inquired about a discount for the elderly who are on the City sewer system similar to that offered by Vergennes-Panton Water District or based more on water usage. City Manager Hawley advised state statutes that govern the way to charge sewer allows various methods but, in his opinion, does not allow for age-based rates. Billing people fairly is the goal, he advised, and the revenue needs to be about $680,000. Commercial properties that have a history of using more than 6,000 gallons a month are billed based on water usage. He said the Northlands Job Corps Centers is also billed for excess flow as measured at the wastewater pump station that serves the facility. Manager Hawley advised the base rate needs to cover infrastructure and operation so billing can get very complicated based on the variables but we try to eliminate discrepancies.

PLANNING COMMISSION APPOINTMENTS: Senior Alderman Renny Perry advised four Planning Commission members have terms that will expire on August 1, 2017. Two of the members did not wish to be reappointed; Jason Farrell and Morgan Kittredge. He advised the re-appointments would be two-year terms expiring August 1, 2019. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to reappoint Michael Winslow and Timothy Cook to the Planning Commission. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lynn Donnelly with all voting in favor.

DEVELOPMENT REVIEW BOARD APPOINTMENTS: Senior Alderman Renny Perry advised the Development Review Board has four members and an alternate board member whose terms will expire on August 1, 2017. These are two-year terms as well expiring on August 1, 2019. Alderman Matt Chabot moved to reappoint Brent Rakowski, Jason Farrell, Don Peabody, Steve Rapoport and Lowell Bertrand (Alternate) to the Development Review Board. Alderman Lynn Donnelly seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER AND CITY CLERK/TREASURER APPOINTMENTS: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to reappoint Mel Hawley as the City Manager, seconded by Alderman Matt Chabot, with all voting in favor. Alderman Jeff Fritz moved to reappoint Joan Devine as the City Clerk/Treasurer, seconded by Alderman Lowell Bertrand, with all voting in favor. Compensation for both positions will be discussed at the next meeting of the City Council.

APPOINTMENT OF CITY ATTORNEY: Senior Alderman Renny Perry advised James Ouimette has been the City’s primary legal counsel and suggested the City Council appoint the firm of Ouimette & Runcie as the City Attorney. Alderman Lowell Bertrand made that motion. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lynn Donnelly with all voting in favor.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS AND SPECIAL FUNDS: City Manager Hawley presented a report of capital improvement and special funds. He recommended closure of some of the funds, indicated which funds have been voter-approved, as well as the history of the various funds. The reserve funds that are sewer-related do not need voter approval, he advised, and there is no current policy for those three funds. He recommended the $10,823.24 in the Fire Department Vehicle Replacement Fund be closed out and returned to the Fire Department fund as of June 30, 2017. He also recommended closing the Tree Planting Reserve Fund ($2,146.70) and the Pumphouse Restoration Fund ($436.46) and that those dollars be put in the General Fund. The West Main Street Improvements Fund is an account required by the State for resurfacing West Main Street when needed. He recommended looking at that portion of the highway to ascertain if it will need work within the next two years and determine if there are sufficient funds. The Records Restoration Fee is required be statute; he recommended restoring more books in the vault. The Lister Education Fund was created with State funds for training for the listers. Vergennes Recreation Events Fund used to be for Vergennes Day but has since been combined with other events. He was not sure that it was even needed any longer. The Records Computerization Fund was created when the State raised recording fees and the City Clerk asked the City Council to set the additional fees aside to help cover the costs to computerize the land records. He questioned the legality of this fund and proposed that allocations to this fund cease until a plan in place as recommended by the City Clerk and approved by the City Council. Alderman Lynn Donnelly suggested no action on these accounts until the next meeting so we have more time to consider.

ZONING AND SUBDIVISION PERMIT FEE STRUCTURE: City Manager Hawley reported the fee structure is fine but it is silent on what to do with fees for permits that are denied. Following discussion Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved that any fee involving an application to the Development Review Board, regardless of outcome, is retained. Any application fee for a zoning permit, if denied, is to be returned to the applicant. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.

PUBLIC HEARING: The second scheduled public hearing by the City Council was called to order at 6:30 p.m. for the following purpose: Pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 4384, the Planning Commission proposes to amend sections 1.3, 3.1, 3.2, 5.1, 5.2, the Land Use Map and the APPENDIX of the Municipal Development Plan. The public notice was read by Senior Alderman Perry. Property owner James Amblo advised he was present to address residential use in the Central Business District. The last change in the municipal development plan allowed for residential use on the ground floor provided it was not more than 20 percent of the building footprint, he advised, yet when he applied for such he was denied. He requested the percentage be increased this time. Cheryl Brinkman stated, as she understands it, Mr. Amblo would like the proposed change prohibiting residential use on the ground floor in the Central Business District (on page 96) to revert back to what we presently have yet increase the maximum percentage of the ground floor for residential use to a higher percentage than 20. City Manager Hawley advised the Development Review Board conducted a site visit and determined Mr. Amblo’s proposal exceeded the square footage so his application was denied. Senior Alderman Renny Perry closed the public hearing at 6:37 p.m.

AMENDMENTS TO THE MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the amendments to the municipal development plan as proposed by the Planning Commission. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lynn Donnelly. Senior Alderman Renny Perry, speaking as the President of the Vergennes Partnership, stated that he wanted to be supportive of a local business trying to sustain their building. He informed Mr. Amblo the apartment could still be established under current zoning but would have to comply with the 20 percent figure. He also reported having researched other designated downtowns and some do not allow anything but retail on the ground floor. Alderman Lynn Donnelly felt the downtown has such a limited area and we should not lose that space to an apartment if they were allowed in the Central Business District. Alderman Jeff Fritz said he agrees with both Senior Alderman Renny Perry and Alderman Lynn Donnelly. James Amblo pointed out that his proposed apartment is in the back of the building but it subsidizes the front retail space. Alderman Mark Koenig felt the flip-flopping means there is no solid foundation either way as it was switched last time to what the regulations reflect today and now we are reconsidering going back to what we had. City Manager Hawley explained the process Mr. Amblo went through up to the point of the application denial. At that point, he advised, he could have appealed the Development Review Board’s decision to the Environmental Court. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor except Alderman Mark Koenig opposed.

CERTIFICATE OF NO APPEAL OR SUIT PENDING: The certificate of no appeal or suit pending for the 2016 Grand List was passed for signatures. Once signed by the Board of Listers and the City Council the grand list is sealed and its validity shall not be an issue by any party in any hearing or trial in any court going forward.

OUTSIDE CONSUMPTION PERMIT: American Legion Post #14 requested a one-day outside consumption permit for their annual family picnic on August 13th. A space approximately 150’ x 200’ of the upper parking and some lawn area will be roped off. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the application. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised he didn’t print and distribute a budget report for the current fiscal year because there has been little activity. He informed the City Council the June 30, 2017 numbers will continue to move a little as bills get paid for prior fiscal year purchases and journal entries are made. Delinquent property taxes that were deferred were $24,016 for FY2016. Currently, delinquents total $57,818.98 for FY2017. He reported the year-end fund balance for the Fire Fund is strong but the balance of the Sewer Fund is headed toward a small deficit without a rate increase. He suggested the City Council have a discussion by October 15, 2017 on whether they want a rate increase for the quarterly billing that will be due on November 15, 2017 or wait until the first quarter in 2018. Alderman Lynn Donnelly felt that delinquent sewer accounts need to be addressed. Manager Hawley agreed but stated collection of delinquent sewer assessments will not change the projected deficit in the fund balance.

COMMENTS: Senior Alderman Renny Perry advised Mayor Michael Daniels will have his first Cracker Barrel on July 25th at 11:15 a.m. at the senior housing on Armory Lane.

City Manager Hawley reported there will be a public hearing on August 8th at 6 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station for the Main Street sidewalk extension project through VTrans Small-scale Bicycle and Pedestrian Program grant. Stantec Consulting Services will present the proposed project and solicit comments from the public.

ADJOURNMENT: At 7:05 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk