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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

City Council Minutes 06-27-2017

VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL

JUNE 27, 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. An amendment to the agenda was made; repairs to the stairway that leads to Macdonough Park will be taken up between item 6.d and 6.e. Senior Alderman Perry disclosed that as President of Vergennes Partnership he will abstain from voting on agenda item 6.c regarding their request for an allocation from the Water Tower Fund. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Michael Daniels                                                 Sarah Cowan

Senior Alderman Renny Perry                                  Christopher Knapp

Alderman Mathew Chabot                                         Sarah “Sas” Stewart

Alderman Mark Koenig                                                Amy Barr

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                                        Danelle Birong

Alderman Jeffrey Fritz                                                Scott Gaines

City Manager Mel Hawley                                        Kathy Rossier

City Clerk Joan Devine                                               Andrew Fritz

Dave Crawford                                                               Julie Basol

Andy Kirkaldy                                                                 Carolyn Thompson

Shannon Haggett                                                          Rob Fraser

Cheryl Brinkman (6 p.m.)

 

VISITORS: Danelle Birong reported she is the chair of the Economic Development Committee of Vergennes Partnership and proceeded to read their mission statement as it relates to economic development. They have been instrumental in bringing businesses to Vergennes with help from Addison County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), she advised, and encouraged the City Council to continue to support them financially. Amy Barr, Marketing and Development Director of Vergennes Partnership, advised economic development is a real challenge but they are following through on their mission. Even though they spend most of their time promoting Vergennes they were also able to raise $22,200 this year in addition to receiving $15,000 from the City. Vergennes Partnership is comprised of volunteers and one part-time employee, she advised. She said their website is a resource for those who live here and has improved business relations and shared statistics on visitors to the site. She highlighted some of their accomplishments such as free Wi-Fi in the basin, bike racks, picnic tables on the City Green, handicapped accessibility to the building that houses the Boys and Girls Club and Hired Hand Brewing on School Street, jointly sponsored a 6-month energy saving pilot program with Efficiency Vermont, and created the recent video that promotes Vergennes.

 

MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of June 13, 2017. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry. Amendments made: Children at June 13th meeting were identified as Madeleine Stroup and Benjamin Hale. Under Sam Fishman Memorial Swimming Pool a sentence was reworded to say, “Volunteerism is great, she advised, but the City must play a bigger role.” A vote on the motion with the corrections showed all voting in favor.

WARRANT: City Manager Hawley explained there were two Warrants needing approval. The Warrant totaling $25,276.98 was for prepaid FY2018 expenses. The other Warrant, totaling $223,481.77 was for current year expenses. Both Warrants were circulated for review and signatures of approval.

CITIZENS COMMENTS: Sarah Cowan advised she is the treasurer of Addison County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC). She reported that she was present to support Vergennes’ continued $3,000 annual support to ACEDC. She advised that ACEDC recognizes the large employers that are located in Vergennes and works hard for them; it takes a city and a county to make all this happen. Mayor Daniels advised this matter is on the agenda and will be taken up later in the meeting.

2017 VTRANS SMALL-SCALE BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN GRANT: City Manager Hawley distributed a map of the city indicating the location of crosswalks that are located on Class 1 town highways. He explained there are warrants that must be met to have flashing beacons for pedestrian crossings. Such warrants are based on vehicular traffic count, pedestrians, as well as speed limits. Some of the crosswalks on Main Street (Route 22A) will likely not have enough pedestrian traffic to qualify. Many young pedestrians headed to the elementary school and swimming pool relies on the crosswalks on Main Street as well as the Green Street/New Haven Road/King Street intersection and will likely meet the warrants. Manager Hawley advised the flashing beacon pedestrian crossings cost $11,000 per set plus the cost of installation. The application must be submitted July 13th. Mayor Daniels announced that further discussion on this item will be deferred in light of the public hearing required to commence at 6 p.m.

 

PUBLIC HEARING: The scheduled public hearing was called to order at 6 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 Mayor Daniels. Planning Commission Chair Shannon Haggett advised the Downtown-Basin Master Plan is proposed to be added as part of the Municipal Development Plan appendix. Some of the amendments include a solar facility overlay district, solid waste, a revised land use map, and the return to prohibit dwelling units on for the ground floor in the Central Business District. There were no statements from the public so Mayor Daniels closed the public hearing at 6:35 p.m.

VTRANS SMALL-SCALE BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN GRANT (continued): Alderman Matt Chabot moved to authorize an application to VTrans for a 2017 Small-Scale Bicycle and Pedestrian Program grant for four flashing beacons on Main Street and one at the Green Street/New Haven Road/King Street intersection. Alderman Lowell Bertrand seconded the motion. City Manager Hawley explained five sets at $15,000 each with a total estimated project cost of $75,000 recommended $37,500 (50% local match) be allocated from the Water Tower Fund as part of the motion. This was regarded as part of the motion. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor.

ACEDC ALLOCATION: Christopher Knapp advised he is the president of Addison County Economic Development Corporation, is chair of the ACEDC Revolving Loan Committee and is the Chief Financial Officer of Country Home Products. He went on to advise that the City of Vergennes has been involved with ACEDC since its inception. Mr. Knapp reported he has seen a whole new transformation of ACEDC in the last five years which he attributed to Executive Director Robin Scheu. ACEDC has made a lot of loans to Vergennes businesses and have helped them thrive, he stated. He strongly encouraged the City Council to continue supporting ACEDC. “Sas” Stewart, owner of Stonecutter Spirits, and a resident of Vergennes, testified regarding the support she has received from ACEDC. She felt they were very dedicated employees from the top down. City Manager Hawley advised the $3,000 allocation for ACEDC for FY2017 is included in the Warrant that was passed around but stated he did not approve it for payment. He reported he has eliminated financial support for ACEDC in his proposed FY2018 budget. Manager Hawley stated he served on the ACEDC Board of Directors for years and they have done a lot of good things, however, resigned from the Board due to the Board allowing the Executive Director, Robin Scheu, to serve in the Legislature while getting paid full salary by ACEDC. He advised he does not agree with that; they are a small organization and supported in part by tax dollars. Manager Hawley stated he felt it was best for him to get off the Board. He advised the City Council can obviously put financial support in the budget if they desire. Alderman Mark Koenig moved to continue to support ACEDC with the $3,000 in the Warrant and to put it in the budget for FY2018. Alderman Matt Chabot seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

ALLOCATION FROM WATER TOWER FUND TO VERGENNES PARTNERSHIP: City Manager Hawley advised he has included $7,500 in his proposed budget for Vergennes Partnership. He stated last year the City Council allocated an additional $7,500 for them from the Water Tower Fund. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to allocate $7,500 from the Water Tower Fund for Vergennes Partnership. Alderman Matt Chabot seconded the motion with all voting in favor except Senior Alderman Renny Perry who abstained as he is the President of Vergennes Partnership.

AMENDMENTS TO MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN: City Manager Hawley advised a second public hearing needs to be scheduled for the proposed amendments to the Municipal Development Plan. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to set the public hearing for Tuesday, July 18th, at 6:30 p.m., at the Vergennes Fire Station. Senior Alderman Renny Perry seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

PROPOSED FY2018 GENERAL FUND BUDGET: City Manager Hawley distributed a revised Police Department budget. Changes were made under uniforms and accessories, vehicle maintenance and repair as well as capital purchases. He and Chief Merkel have agreed to not purchase another cruiser this year and repay the full $60,000 from the budget to the Water Tower Continuation Fund which was used towards purchasing two cruisers last year. Manager Hawley stated he supports TASERs; a few years ago five were purchased and two years ago, two newer models were purchased. They plan to buy six new ones this year that will be paid for over a five-year period and trade in the oldest ones for $100 credit each. This way, all officers will have an issued TASER. He forecasted the collection of delinquent taxes will not go as well as last year. Hopefully, at least half of the $64,296.51 can be collected by August 30, 2017 (60 days into the next fiscal year). The Police Department currently has five full-time and four part-time officers. One full-time officer resigned in May. Police Chief Merkel wants to hire two of the part-time officers for full-time positions and retain the remaining two part-time officers, he advised. The cost impact would be full benefits but it brings better stability to the department. If the general fund budget is adopted as proposed, maintaining the current 79 cent tax rate, it can be done but results in only about $40,000 of unencumbered funds at year end. Every cent on the tax rate raises $22,380, he advised. Mayor Daniels advised he does not want to see the City step back in any way. Senior Alderman Perry pointed out that the proposed budget does not include wage increases for the City Manager and City Clerk/Treasurer. Senior Alderman Perry moved to adopt the proposed general fund budget of $2,290,291 as presented with a change adding $3,000 for ACEDC and to set the City tax rate at 79 cents. Alderman Koenig seconded the motion and thanked Manager Hawley for keeping the tax rate level. He then advised the City Council needs to get more revenues into the coffers to do the improvements that the public wants. Alderman Fritz stated he would like to see the tax rate increase a cent or two so we don’t end up in the same place as the sewer department requiring a large increase in the future. Alderman Fritz moved to amend the motion to set the tax rate at 81 cents. The motion to amend was seconded by Alderman Bertrand and unanimously approved. A vote on the motion with the amendment showed all voted in favor. Cheryl Brinkman advised she felt increasing the revenue is more appealing to her than raising tax rates. Sarah Stroup stated she applauds the increase in the tax rate.

STAIRWAY TO MACDONOUGH PARK: City Manager Hawley advised he has received a bid in the amount of $7,400 from PCS – Specialty Contracting to repair, resurface and seal the stairway leading to Macdonough Park near the L.F. Benton Company property on Main Street. He recommended approval for this work to be completed using Water Tower Funds. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to allocate $7,400 from the Water Tower Fund for necessary repairs of the stairway. Alderman Jeff Fritz seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

MAIN STREET SIDEWALK EXTENSION PROJECT: David Crawford, the Project Manager hired by the City, advised the sidewalk extension layout has been approved by VTrans. A crosswalk has been added at the south end of the police station property, he advised. Mr. Crawford advised he would like the City Council to authorize the City Manager to push the State to say it is not Vergennes’ or the Town of Ferrisburgh’s responsibility to carry the burden of the cost to install sidewalk to the train station in Ferrisburgh as that is their project. City Manager Hawley advised if the crosswalk at the police station can meet the warrants, a flashing beacon will also be installed at that location. He reminded everyone that the estimated $305,000 project received a $30,500 (10% local match) from the Water Tower Fund years ago. Manager Hawley stated he is concerned with getting pedestrians to the train station in a safe manner. Mr. Crawford advised he would like the City Council to endorse the State of Vermont covering this expense. He understands the resistance of using tax dollars for this project but feels it is beneficial. Mayor Daniels advised it is City Council consensus to go forward.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised the Sam Fishman Pool advisory group has submitted minutes to the City Council from their last meeting.

MAYOR’S COMMENTS: Mayor Daniels advised the 34th Vergennes Junior Fishing Derby was a success with 242 participants and 126 fish caught. Cash donations for this event were $7,041 that were used for trophies, prizes and associated derby costs.

PEDESTRIAN SAFETY TASK FORCE: Mayor Daniels advised Police Chief Merkel will serve on this committee and be Chair if necessary. Alderman Mark Koenig reported Stacy Raphael has agreed to serve as the Chair.

ADJOURNMENT: At 7:55 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry, with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk