All posts by Joan Devine

City Council Minutes 11-14-2017


November 14, 2017


Mayor Michael Daniels called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung by Octavia Devine (grand-daughter of City Clerk Joan Devine). The agenda for the meeting was revised to include Item “6.k. – Pool Filter Covers”. Those in attendance were:


Mayor Michael Daniels                                       Police Chief George Merkel

Senior Alderman Renny Perry                       Officer Mark Barber

Alderman Lynn Donnelly                                  Officer Mark Stacey

Alderman Mathew Chabot                             Patricia Merkel

Alderman Mark Koenig                                    Amanda Bodette

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                             Carrie McFarlane

Alderman Jeffrey Fritz                                      Tim Clark

City Manager Mel Hawley                              Andy Kirkaldy

City Clerk Joan Devine                                     Fire Chief Jim Breur

Robert Trepanier                                                 Captain David DiBiase

Rena Trepanier                                                     Captain Matt Crowley

Shannon Haggett                                                Captain Christopher Dion

David Austin                                                          Firefighter Liam Casey

Shannon Mahoney                                             Cheryl Brinkman (6:30 p.m.)

Hillary Devine                                                       Danelle Birong

Octavia Devine

STATE OF VERMONT IMPAIRED DRIVING ENFORCEMENT AWARD: Police Chief George Merkel advised the Vergennes Police Department was the recipient of the 2017 State of Vermont Impaired Driving Enforcement Award. He explained the award is given to the most productive police department in terms of enforcement, education and awareness during the Vermont Highway Safety Program’s six highlighted events in a year. City Manager Hawley reported these grants are highly competitive and are used to augment the budget. He reported the success in obtaining grants for occupant protection, driving under the influence, and reimbursement for an officer that holds a Drug Recognition Expert certification is to use all of the funds awarded so that the department is successful in obtaining more the following year. These grant funds also allow our officers overtime hours without straining our budget, he advised. Chief Merkel announced the Addison County State’s Attorney’s office is using our department’s affidavit as a template for the rest of the county because it is so well-written.

VISITORS: Carrie McFarlane and Tim Clark were present representing The Walk-Bike Council of Addison County. Mr. Clark reported he is a lifelong biker and joined this group to help improve safety on the roads. In 2016, Local Motion and Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC) teamed up and created this advisory council to focus on positive change for those walking and biking. The safe routes to schools, VTrans flashing lights for crosswalks, additional signage are all new improvements supporting safety. Carrie McFarlane advised Local Motion has offered many opportunities for low-cost improvements while ACRPC offers funding for safety improvements. She felt they were in good position on planning and connectivity. Carrie advised hearing of the rail trail potential is exciting and they are interested in being involved with good references at their fingertips. City Manager Hawley advised the Planning Commission conducted a sidewalk inventory and plan that he would share with them.

MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of October 24, 2017. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry. Two typos were corrected. A vote on the motion with the corrections showed all voting in favor except Senior Alderman Renny Perry who abstained due to his absence.

WARRANT: The Warrant, totaling $122,689.58, was circulated for review and signatures of approval.

CITIZENS COMMENTS: Robert Trepanier advised reducing the speed limit in the downtown area to 15-mph is what bikers and walkers would like. In doing so, heavily laden trucks will sound out with grinding gears and Jake brakes. You need to consider the impact on slowing trucks down, he advised. City Manager Hawley stated there is no law that he is aware of that would allow speed limits that low.

REQUEST FOR USE OF CITY GREEN: Shannon Mahoney, owner of Raintree, requested use of the City Green on December 2nd for the Holiday Stroll and Lighting of the City Green. Senior Alderman Perry reported Vergennes Partnership backed out of doing the event this year partially because they didn’t have people to help. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the request subject to a Certificate of Insurance filed with the City Clerk. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry. Shannon advised members of Basin Harbor Club and Malabar will also be helping to put this event on which will include making s’mores, lighting trees, caroling, and a visit from Santa. She advised she would be able to get a rider from her insurance company. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor.

FIRST CLASS LIQUOR LICENSE – CK, LLC: Alderman Jeff Fritz advised he had a consulting relationship with the applicant so he recused himself from participation. Senior Alderman Renny Perry moved to approve the First Class Liquor License application submitted by CK, LLC. The motion was seconded by Alderman Bertrand with all voting in favor except Alderman Fritz who abstained.

FIRE TRUCK REPLACEMENT BOND: Mayor Daniels advised he would remove himself from the table for the Fire Department business on the agenda as he has been a member of the department for over 40 years. Senior Alderman Renny Perry assumed the role of Chair. City Manager Hawley advised everyone has been given a list of the trucks and their respective year of manufacture; the 1994 Engine 1 is the vehicle that needs to be replaced. Manager Hawley reported he contacted Community Bank for a quote on a bond but they only offer a 10-year bond so he contacted the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank for a 20-year bond in the amount of $500,000. Fire Chief Jim Breur advised the department created a committee who contacted 12 different companies for a replacement truck looking at them from high-end to low-end. He advised they were trying to stay in the middle and still meet the department’s needs for the next 20 years. They have found a truck in the middle-upper range that will serve them well that has all the new safety requirements. The new truck will have a 6-man cab with seat belts. The cost for the basic truck is $500,000 and it will cost another $20,000 for new hoses and nozzles. It is their plan to sell the 1994 truck for an estimated $20,000, he advised. If the City is able to pay upfront a discount is offered, he reported, but at a minimum the City is expected to pay an initial deposit and pay the remainder upon completion. City Manager Hawley said the fire fund has a balance of $40,000-$50,000 and will sell Engine #1. The main line fire truck is getting older and the firefighters’ safety is the number one concern, he advised. It is also critical to commercial property owners in the city to maintain and protect the City’s ISO rate of 4. Manager Hawley advised the fire department is looking for the City Council’s support in the area of $500,000 for this purchase; they will come back with fine-tuned numbers. Alderman Lynn Donnelly made a motion to move forward with this plan. Alderman Bertrand seconded the motion. Alderman Mark Koenig acknowledged the effort to get a bond to replace one vehicle but questioned what they are going to do with the five other trucks are getting older. Chief Breur advised Engine 1 was planned to be replaced in 2015 and will propose replacement of those in the worst shape first. Alderman Koenig wondered whether we should be going for an $800,000 bond to replace two vehicles. Chief Breur advised he looked at that option in June and was projecting a bond request for $1,000,000 but felt he just couldn’t do that. City Manager Hawley advised that is still an option. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor except Mayor Daniels who had left the table not voting.

RAY E. DAVISON FUND COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION: Senior Alderman Renny Perry gave the history of the Ray E. Davison Capital Equipment Fund and explained 75 percent of interest earnings are available to buy equipment for the department and the remaining 25 percent of earnings are growing the account. City Manager Hawley reported the Ray E. Davison Capital Equipment Fund Committee met prior to the meeting. Fire Chief Breur advised safety for our firefighters going into burning structures is their number one priority. Equipping each of the firefighters with a portable radio is their goal but their immediate need is for seven at this time. City Manager Hawley advised it is the recommendation of the Ray E. Davison Capital Equipment Fund Committee for the City Council to approve the purchase of seven portable radios at a cost of $20,774. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the recommendation. The motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig with all voting in favor except Mayor Daniels who had left the table.

SANDWICH BOARD/TEMPORARY SIGNS IN STREET RIGHT-OF-WAY: Mayor Daniels returned to his seat at the table. Alderman Matt Chabot announced he has been exposed to the Banner Policy through his employer. Senior Alderman Perry reported writing these regulations were much tougher than he had expected. He questioned whether the City had the authority in some areas and had to check State statutes or the City Charter several times to confirm. Signs in the street right-of-way without regulations are not a problem now and questioned whether they are needed. City Manager Hawley continued to look for clarification on several items such as signs in the city right-of-way and nothing on private property. He also suggested language that says this pertains only to the downtown district. Manager Hawley advised he was confused with sandwich board Item b. He went on to advise he would eliminate any reference to political/campaign signs altogether. Real estate and rental signs cannot be off-site by State law, reported Manager Hawley. Mayor Daniels questioned if it was possible to blend the Stevens House banner policy in with the section for temporary signs in the right-of-way. Cheryl Brinkman requested a definition for an event; for instance – is a yard sale an event? Senior Alderman Perry will continue working on the regulations and bring them back to the City Council at a later date.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Regarding the sewer issue she brought up at a meeting several weeks ago, Alderman Donnelly advised she did not mean to violate the Conflict of Interest Policy nor does she feel she did. Our policy conflicts with Roberts Rules of Order, she reported, and supplied documentation. The only time a conflict of interest comes into play is when there is a vote and it must be of personal gain, she stated.

CITY MANAGER/CITY CLERK PERFORMANCE EVALUATION PROCESS: Alderman Jeff Fritz reported he is 70 percent into the process of developing rules and guidelines for performance evaluations for the City Manager and City Clerk. Alderman Koenig volunteered to assist. Aldermen Fritz and Koenig will meet and bring this item back to the City Council.

POLLING HOURS: Alderman Jeff Fritz stated he felt the polling hours are not convenient and should be extended. Senior Alderman Perry agreed and felt the polls should open by 7 a.m. City Manager Hawley advised the polling hours are set by the Board of Civil Authority (BCA) with the exception of the Annual City Meeting which is governed by the City Charter. The City Clerk will schedule a BCA meeting to discuss changing the polling hours.

LOCAL OPTION TAXES: Mayor Daniels advised he wanted to know how many felt it was a good idea to adopt local option taxes. Alderman Chabot responded saying he would like to reserve comment as he is waiting to hear from the community. Mayor Daniels stated he is waiting for the information from Vergennes Partnership also as he wants to share it at his upcoming Cracker Barrel. Senior Alderman Perry had reservations until key industries in the city had been contacted to see what, if any, impact may be there for them. He requested deferral until January or February on this topic.

POOL FILTER COVERS: City Manager Hawley advised the cost of replacement pool filter covers will result in further exceeding the line item in the swimming pool budget so he is bringing this to the City Council for their consideration. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve $2,154.29 for the filter covers out of the pool budget. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley reported the budget looks good. The Vergennes Revolving Loan Fund has an available balance of $50,257 and the terms for the Revolving Loan Fund members have all expired. The Green Mountain Power Co-operative Fund has a balance of $33,821; expenses would need to be approved by Green Mountain Power. He went on to advise review of the Personnel Policy will be accomplished soon with help from Alderman Fritz and City Clerk Devine.

ADJOURNMENT: At 8:02 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk

City Council Minutes 10-24-2017


October 24, 2017


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. An amendment to the agenda was made to include 5g – Establishing a USGS Streamgaging Station on Otter Creek. Those in attendance were:


Mayor Michael Daniels                                                       Julie Jones

Alderman Lynn Donnelly                                                   Carol Fenimore

Alderman Mathew Chabot                                               Adam Sausville

Alderman Mark Koenig                                                      David Sausville

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                                              Kevin Rooney

Alderman Jeffrey Fritz                                                      Andy Kirkaldy

City Manager Mel Hawley

City Clerk Joan Devine

VISITORS: Boy Scout Adam Sausville was present at the meeting working towards a merit badge.

MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of October 10, 2017. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz. A few minor corrections were made for clarification. A vote on the motion with the corrections showed all voting in favor.

WARRANT: The Warrant, totaling $77,398.00, was circulated for review and signatures of approval.


PRIVATE SEWER CONNECTIONS: Alderman Donnelly advised she felt the minutes to the last meeting were clear that she was addressing other sewer lines in the city that run across private property without an easement. The property for sale that her office is handling will put in a new private sewer line to the sewer main located within the South Maple Street right of way but not everyone with this problem will have that capability. She was trying to bring awareness of this problem, she advised. City Manager Hawley reported he and City Attorney Ouimette have reviewed the sewer ordinance that was adopted in 1976 as well as the City Charter looking for anything that might offer clarification. They both agree the definition of “public sewer” in the sewer ordinance was not helpful nor was the City Charter. He advised City Attorney Ouimette says sewer mains are in the city right of ways, on private property with an easement or acquired through court condemnation. City Manager Hawley agreed that private lines going across someone else’s private property are a problem. Alderman Donnelly felt the ordinance needed to be amended with a clearer definition and should be addressed in the near future. An updated ordinance should be put on our list of things to do, advised Manager Hawley. Kevin Rooney suggested the City Council create a committee to investigate this matter.

LOCAL OPTION TAXES: City Manager Hawley provided local option tax language from the charters of the Town of Colchester, the Town of Middlebury, and the City South Burlington. He also supplied information from the Vermont Tax Department projecting total revenue of around $234,000; the City’s share would be 70 percent of that amount. Mayor Daniels advised the City Council can choose all three local tax options (sales, rooms, or meals and alcoholic beverages) or choose just one or any combination thereof. He said the new revenue source could be used to fund capital improvements outlined in the Downtown-Basin Master Plan. Kevin Rooney suggested finding out how much money is needed to do the various improvements listed in the Downtown-Basin Master Plan and then look at your replacement funds; a local option tax may not be needed. Alderman Koenig reported he is interpreting this as a two-step process requiring voter approval and approval by the Legislature. City Manager Hawley advised the City Council deciding to present a proposed amendment to the charter to the voters that would authorize local option taxes would be the first step. If voters approve that, and after legislative approval for a amendment to the charter, the question on whether to implement a local option tax would have to go back to the voters for approval. In the case of Colchester, he advised, they voted on an amendment to their charter and the resolution to implement locate option taxes at the same time. Alderman Koenig pointed out that the two public votes could be a year apart. It was agreed to continue discussion of this topic at the next meeting.

EASEMENTS FOR RAIL TRAIL PROJECT: City Manager Hawley questioned if the City Council planned to go forward with the so-called Rail Trail Project that was started prior to 2005 when he was not the City Manager. It was his understanding that a walking trail was to be created from the base of the falls, run along the backside of Comfort Hill facing the valley, and up to the train station located in Ferrisburgh. Easements were needed from three property owners of which only one was acquired. The easement through the property of Kathleen Rivers required the project to be completed by July 1, 2008. If the City is not going to proceed with this project, he advised, the encumbrance on her property should be released. Manager Hawley advised a decision is not needed tonight but questioned if this was a priority in the community anymore. Mayor Daniels stated this project has been dying a slow natural death because it has not been a priority. He will contact Bruce Bushey to see if he is still agreeable to an easement running through his property. Discussion was had regarding this trail being a part of a bigger study that was done to provide pedestrian and biking opportunities in the city.

SWIMMING POOL DECK REPAIRS: City Manager Hawley distributed copies of the two bids for cleaning and caulking of joints on the pool surround as well as cleaning and sealing other joints in the entire pool apron. Bids were received from Nicom Coatings and Pease Construction Services. City Manager Hawley recommended going with Nicom Coatings for both projects at a total cost of $3,880. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to authorize Manager Hawley to contract with Nicom Coatings for $3,880 for the pool repairs as discussed and to pay this expense out of the swimming pool budget. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor. Mayor Daniels advised that hot water is required at the bathhouse by code and should be done in the spring and filter covers that are showing signs of failure will need to be replaced as well.

NUISANCE – HAZARDOUS STRUCTURES: A copy of Chapter 5 of the City Ordinances, Nuisances, was discussed as a result of conversations on social media regarding a historic property that is being allowed to deteriorate. City Health Officer Mel Hawley advised he has the authority to condemn properties that are hazardous to safety of life or health but the property being discussed is not inhabited or unsecured.

SANDWICH BOARD AND TEMPORARY SIGNS: Senior Alderman Perry was not available to attend this meeting, advised Mayor Daniels, but he would like to know if the City Council would like language addressing temporary signs in the public right of way as an ordinance or a policy. City Manager Hawley suggested a clear policy outlining exactly what can be done in a City right of way. City Council consensus showed a policy was favored. Manager Hawley reported the Planning Commission will be moving towards monitoring signs in the Central Business District only but not in the public right of way. Mayor Daniels advised Senior Alderman Perry has the language for sandwich board signs written and he will tell him to go forward with drafting it as a policy as opposed to an ordinance for temporary signs in the public right of way.

ESTABLISHING A USGS STREAMGAGING STATION ON OTTER CREEK: City Manager Hawley distributed a copy of a memorandum from the U.S. Geological Survey to the International Joint Commission requesting permission to position a streamgaging station at the City docks on Otter Creek. A flood study is being conducted and data gaps exist for monitoring tributaries to Lake Champlain, he advised. The equipment would have a 2’ x 2’ solar panel for power with a conduit containing a transducer down to the shoreline bank and into Otter Creek that will gauge water depth. This unit may also need to be serviced at times, he reported. The location between the Macdonough Park and Matt Daniels’ property is requested. City Manager Hawley will communicate there was no objection by the City Council but this is not authorization until an easement/agreement is signed and he will also speak with Matt Daniels.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley reported that the budget appears to be in good shape with no red flags. He reported the debit/credit card payment capability is now available in the Treasurer’s office and a status report will be given in three months. Manager Hawley advised he has learned of a State funding program that is available to conduct a study on the Macdonough Drive pump station which requires a 50 percent match.

Alderman Matt Chabot announced he is associated with the owner of Mahaiwe, LLC; the next agenda item. City Manager Hawley reported Mahaiwe, LLC applied for Development Review Board approval to create additional residential units at its property located on the falls which offered two options for fencing. The Development Review Board chose their preference for fencing specifications and incorporated that as a condition of approval. Mahaiwe, LLC filed an appeal of the condition for fencing claiming it was without legal authority. Manager Hawley said the City has spent about $8,700 so far on this appeal and could only be about half-way through the process. He advised the Development Review Board stands behind their decision. The new units to be created cannot be occupied without a certificate of occupancy, he reported, that he, as Zoning Administrator, will not issue until the fence is erected.

As the City Tree Warden, City Manager Hawley reported a request has been made by the Bixby Memorial Free Library Board of Trustees to remove two blue spruce trees on the front lawn at the library; a property the City owns. In accordance with 24 VSA § 2509, he advised he has set a public hearing for Monday, November 13th, at 6:30 p.m. at the Bixby Memorial Free Library.

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Daniels reported he was approached to join in with other communities to support the mission of Extra Mile America in creating 575 plus Extra Mile cities by means of proclaiming November 1, 2017 as Extra Mile Day. Mayor Daniels read and signed the proclamation and a copy will be filed with these minutes.

ADJOURNMENT: At 7:30 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Matt Chabot with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk