All posts by Joan Devine

City Council Minutes 01-24-2017

CITY COUNCIL MEETING

JANUARY 24, 2017

MINUTES

Mayor William Benton called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station meeting room located at 50 Green Street. Those in attendance were:

Mayor William Benton

City Manager Mel Hawley

City Clerk Joan Devine

Senior Alderman Renny Perry

Alderman Mathew Chabot

Alderman Lowell Bertrand

Alderman Mark Koenig

Alderman Lynn Donnelly

Alderman Jeff Fritz

Mike Daniels

Francis McGill

Charlotte Sullivan

Cheryl Brinkman

MINUTES: The minutes to the January 10, 2017 meeting were reviewed and corrected. In the first paragraph on the second page, the last sentence was amended to read “Senior Alderman Perry also presented Vergennes Partnership’s Downtown Capital Improvements Plan which does not require formal approval of the City Council; it needs to be in their renewal application and does not obligate the City Council to the projects in the plan.” Alderman Bertrand moved to accept the minutes as corrected. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $73,712.29 was circulated for review and signatures of approval. Manager Hawley, who also serves as Zoning Administrator, noted that over $6,000 was paid for legal fees associated with the appeal by Mahaiwe, LLC of conditions in a Development Review Board decision regarding perimeter fencing due to safety concerns. Senior Alderman Perry found the appeal unexpected as Mahaiwe, LLC offered two options for perimeter fencing and the Development Review Board chose Option B as they felt Option A was not adequate. Manager Hawley advised he felt there was no court appearance so there should be no additional related invoices.

DOWNTOWN-BASIN MASTER PLAN: Mayor Benton reported the Downtown-Basin Master Plan was finalized a couple months ago and is available on the City’s website. He said the City Council can now start discussing what can be accomplished within the budget and use of grants. City Manager Hawley reminded the City Council that the so-called Green Mountain Power Co-operative Agreement Fund, which was established at the time their FERC license was renewed, has about $39,000 available for basin improvements. Alderman Lynn Donnelly advised the Vergennes Rotary Club is also working on a $20,000 project called Harmony Park which will be located at the falls on land owned by Green Mountain Power. Green Mountain Power will remove the heavy debris and the club will maintain the area.

VISITOR: Cheryl Brinkman, our representative on the Board of Supervisors of the Addison County Solid Waste Management District, was present to update the City Council on Act 148 dealing with organics that goes into effect July 1, 2017. She reported the Solid Waste District has purchased 32 gallon totes with grant funds in anticipation of this new law. The municipality is responsible to make sure haulers and drop-off sites offer organic collection and each town can meet that mandate however it works for them. She advised the District has arranged for organics to go to Foster Brothers Farm in Middlebury. They have a committee that is working on how to bridge the gap between the communities to meet this new law and hope to be done in early summer. This new law will not be enforced anymore than recycling is but was created for those who want to do it, she reported. Manager Hawley advised the City issued a vendor license to C & J Hauler’s that is valid until June 30, 2017 and requested updated information by May 1, 2017.

CORRESPONDENCE TO CONGRESSMAN PETER WELCH: As was discussed at the last meeting, City Manager Hawley distributed a draft letter to Congressman Peter Welch identifying needed public infrastructure projects in Vergennes. Manager Hawley advised the letter points out some of the critical issues the City is facing with only property taxes to rely on. The letter encourages financial assistance from the Federal Government to fund much-needed infrastructure projects. Mayor Benton will finalize the letter and sign it on behalf of the City Council.

ANNUAL CITY MEETING WARNING: A draft Warning was presented to the City Council for adoption. Alderman Koenig asked for an explanation of the process for the articles that appear on the draft Warning. City Clerk Devine advised of the procedure that has been followed for years; articles on the Warning were the result of letters from social service agencies and there were no changes from last year. The written policy adopted by the City Council that has been used for decades relative to such funding requests will be provided. Senior Alderman Renny Perry moved to adopt the Warning as presented, seconded by Alderman Bertrand, with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: Manager Hawley reported the budget has no unexpected surprises. Today’s ice storm will cost the City about $6,000, he advised, but the Public Works Department budget is in good shape. He pointed out there is an $80,000 cushion from our general fund year-end fund balance. He reported the Vermont Gas Systems distribution lines should be completed by December 31, 2017 and will be included in the 2018 grand list. The solar array at the wastewater treatment plant owned by Encore Vergennes Solar II has been operating for three years. The agreement includes a purchase option after six or seven years of operation to buy the solar system, advised Manager Hawley. He said they will likely be motivated to sell at that time and if the City was to purchase the array, the City would receive 100 percent of the value of the electricity that is generated instead of just 10 percent currently being received. Originally the solar system was estimated to generate 200,000 kilowatts a year but has not and the City was supposed to receive $4,100 in savings a year which has not been the case. Some trees have been cut down which has resulted in an increase in generation for 2016.

The conference room at City Hall is being renovated by volunteers Mike Daniels and Matt Daniels, advised Manager Hawley. The wood floors appear to be maple and wainscoting was found behind the paneling but may not be able to be saved. The computer wiring in that room needs to be removed before moving forward, he stated.

COMMUNITY ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM: Senior Alderman Perry reported Efficiency Vermont will be in Vergennes for the next 6 months. They will conduct energy audits for residential and commercial properties at no cost to the owners. Efficiency Vermont will also offer information on what services they offer and where money is available to fund recommended energy savings improvements, he advised. Communities need to have a designated downtown development district to qualify for this program, he stated.

ADJOURNMENT: The regular meeting adjourned at 6:45 p.m. by motion of Alderman Lowell Bertrand. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk

City Council Minutes 01-10-2017

CITY COUNCIL MEETING

JANUARY 10, 2017

MINUTES

Mayor William Benton called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station meeting room located at 50 Green Street. Those in attendance were:

Mayor William Benton City Manager Mel Hawley Senior Alderman Renny Perry City Clerk Joan Devine

Alderman Mathew Chabot Shannon Haggett

Alderman Lowell Bertrand Reporter Andy Kirkaldy

Alderman Mark Koenig Police Chief George Merkel

Alderman Lynn Donnelly Shirma Ferguson, NJCC Director

Alderman Jeff Fritz Mike Donnelly, FVFD

VISITOR: Shirma Ferguson, the new Center Director at Northlands Job Corps Center, introduced herself and stated she feels very welcomed by our community. She advised Chugach Alaska Corporation was awarded a one-year contract by the U.S. Department of Labor beginning December 1, 2016 with a 6-month renewal option to operate Northlands Job Corps Center. Currently there are 135 students at the center but they are contracted to accommodate up to 220 students, she advised. They are also short staffed; currently having 17 open positions. Her goal for Northlands is to obtain a higher ranking from the U.S. Department of Labor which is based on center performance. She reported the center has been rated in the bottom tier of the 127 Job Corps Centers and they are working towards being in the top 50. The school has strong academic and career education programs so she feels their goal is attainable. They will be seeking a five-year contract. Mike Donnelly, a trustee of the Ferrisburgh Volunteer Fire Department, questioned Shirma Ferguson on their policy as it relates to employees who are members in local volunteer fire departments or rescue squads. He advised one of their members was employed at Northlands Job Corps and allegedly lost his job because he responded to a fire call while on duty at the center. She advised she was aware of the incident that occurred and spoke with the employee about his responsibility to the center and the students’ needs that come first. She advised the employee responded to another call after their discussion and they met again when the employee chose to terminate his employment at the center. At that time, she reported, they were short-staffed and when the employee left the grounds, it left the center and students at risk. This volunteer work is new to her, she advised, and she will be working through this in hopes of establishing a clear policy. She noted they have already signed an updated law enforcement agreement for protocol with the Vergennes Police Department.

MINUTES: The minutes to the December 20, 2016 meeting were reviewed and corrected. On the third page under ‘Audit Report and Financial Statements’, the fourth sentence was corrected to read, “City Manager Hawley said he did not take the professional auditors’ management letter personally but felt their repeated recommendations to implement certain Government Auditing Standards were very negative.” Alderman Bertrand moved to accept the minutes as corrected. The motion was seconded by Alderman Fritz with all voting in favor.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $90,209.22 was circulated for review and signatures of approval.

MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN – PROPOSED AMENDMENTS: Proposed amendments to the municipal development plan which was adopted September 30, 2014 were made available to the City Council. City Manager Hawley advised the Planning Commission held their public hearing on the proposed amendments on January 9, 2017 and approved them for submission to the City Council. He advised the City Council needs to hold at least two public hearings before they can adopt the amendments. He explained the timetable that needs to be followed for warning public hearings. Senior Alderman Perry advised Vergennes Partnership submitted their pre-application for renewal of the City’s current Downtown Development District designation to the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development. The State Downtown Program Director notified the City that the current municipal development plan does not include a boundary map of the district so their application was determined to be incomplete. Alderman Perry, who is also the President of Vergennes Partnership, said they hope the proposed amendments to the plan can be adopted quickly as their final renewal application needs to be submitted in February. Senior Alderman Perry moved to authorize scheduling the two public hearings for February 14th and 28th on the proposed amendments to the municipal development plan. The motion was seconded by Alderman Bertrand with all voting in favor. Senior Alderman Perry also presented their Downtown Capital Improvements Plan which does not require the formal endorsement of the City Council; it only needs to be in their renewal application and does not obligate the City Council to the projects in the plan.

CORRESPONDENCE FROM CONGRESSMAN PETER WELCH: A letter from Congressman Peter Welch, requesting assistance in identifying needed public infrastructure projects in Vergennes, was distributed to the City Council. The letter advised the new Congress will be pushing for investments in rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure that will create good jobs and boost economic productivity. City Manager Hawley stated the Vergennes Panton Water District desperately needs to replace the water main on Macdonough Drive and the City must comply with the policy recently adopted by the State relative to combined sewer overflows. There are definitely other projects including those identified in the Downton Capital Improvements Plan, advised Manager Hawley, who volunteered to draft a letter for the City Council to review at the next meeting. Planning Commission Chair Shannon Haggett suggested projects listed in the Downtown-Basin Master Plan be included in the letter.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: Manager Hawley reported he did a line-by-line review of the budget today and feels very good about it. The City received the CLA (common level of appraisal) study and the housing market in Vergennes is coming back some. He advised the CLA last year was 103.35 percent and this year is 100.48 percent which will result in an upwards adjustment when calculating the education tax rates.

Manager Hawley reported he has heard nothing new regarding the appeal to the State by VV II Housing Associates, LP of the determination of value set by the Board of Civil Authority or the appeal to Environmental Court by Mahaiwe, LLC involving a recent decision of the Development Review Board.

ADJOURNMENT: The regular meeting adjourned at 6:40 p.m. by motion of Alderman Lowell Bertrand. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk