All posts by Joan Devine

City Council Minutes 09-26-2017


SEPTEMBER 26, 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. Mayor Daniels reported Boy Scouts of America Assistant Scoutmaster Charles Kelly and Boy Scout Michael Jewett were in attendance as Michael is working towards receiving a merit badge. Mayor Daniels advised, based on a request from Senior Alderman Renny Perry, item 5.j on the agenda (Sandwich Board and Temporary Signs in Street Right-of-Way) will be deferred until the next meeting. Added to the agenda were 5.k (Appoint a Delegate to the VLCT annual business meeting) and 5.l (Amend Budget Revenues for the Fire fund). Alderman Chabot disclosed his employer owns the apartment building at 96 Main Street that will be discussed under 5.b and he will not participate in that item. Those in attendance were:


Mayor Michael Daniels                                 City Manager Mel Hawley

Senior Alderman Renny Perry                  City Clerk Joan Devine

Alderman Mathew Chabot                         Charles Kelly

Alderman Mark Koenig                                Michael Jewett

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                         Michelle Eckels (6:30 p.m.)

Alderman Jeffrey Fritz                                  Shannon Mahoney

Alderman Lynn Donnelly


MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of September 12, 2017. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry. On the second page under ‘Citizens Comments’ the last sentence was reworded for clarification. ‘If there was a plea from the public for later meetings, although it is rare for someone to come to the meetings, the City Council could accommodate such.’ A vote on the motion with the correction showed all voting in favor.

WARRANT: The Warrant, totaling $56,232.69, was circulated for review and signatures of approval. Alderman Chabot recommended that members conduct its due diligence in reviewing the Warrant as the one sent out in the City Council agenda packets is not always the same as the Warrant presented for signatures at the meeting due to bills that arrive in the interim.

RESERVING DOCK SPACE: Mayor Daniels reported an email request had been received from Cris Peck to dock his 51’ coastal cruiser on the Otter Creek. His email advised he is looking into offering dinner cruises, sunset cruises, and Lake Champlain tours. Senior Alderman Perry advised this request is very similar to that of Moonlight Lady several years ago except the Moonlight Lady boat was close to 100’ in length. The Moonlight Lady had overnight guests and served meals but customers also had free time and were able to go up-street; no one ever tracked that to see if it occurred. Senior Alderman Perry reported the only complaint about the Moonlight Lady was that the boat took up too much dock space. Cris Peck will be invited to a future meeting so the City Council can get more details on his intentions.

NORTH STREET – ONE WAY: Senior Alderman Perry advised Shannon Mahoney, a North Street resident, had suggested to him that a portion of North Street become a one-way street in the southerly direction from the intersection of Main Street to North Green Street. He pointed out that visibility leaving North Street onto Main Street is very poor and North Street is quite narrow on the backside of the City Green for two-lane traffic. Shannon Mahoney stated by making the road one-way you may be able to change the parallel parking on the back of the City Green into diagonal parking thus adding a few additional spaces. She advised there are no sidewalks on this section of North Street so walking to the post office is unsafe. She felt making this change, along with the installation of some signs, would be safer and a better route for traffic flow. City Manager Hawley cautioned that sometimes when one thinks they are solving a problem they are actually creating three new ones. One needs to consider that under this plan, all vehicles would be required to drive south on this potion of North Street because there will be no alternatives. That would include all employees and patients at Little City Family Practice and Dr. Congalton’s office, all the tenants at 96 Main Street, as well as property owners along that road, he stated. Another option would be to widen the portion of North Street behind the City Green by taking 8 feet off the back of the City Green to widen the street. Mayor Daniels reported he spoke with Tim Ryan who owns a warehouse on North Street and Mr. Ryan will be talking to his truckers to see if they would be impacted. He reported he also made contact with Little City Family Practice and they see anywhere from 50 to 130 people a day. What other options might be out there, he inquired. Could the City improve visibility at the intersection of North Street and Main Street? Alderman Jeff Fritz suggested a traffic study for those areas impacted if the road was changed to one-way. Senior Alderman Perry felt if there were enough merits to proceed, we should contact Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRP) to conduct or fund a study as that would be the next logical step. Shannon Mahoney felt North Street is too narrow to be a two-way street, there is no sidewalk, there is no STOP sign at the intersection of North Street and North Green Street, and it is dangerous pulling off North Street onto Main Street. Alderman Koenig supported a traffic study. Alderman Donnelly suggested talking to the public works department to do the sidewalks and install STOP signs. Aldermen Perry, Bertrand and Fritz all supported a traffic study; Alderman Chabot abstained from comment. Alderman Mark Koenig asked if STOP signs could be installed without a study. City Manager Hawley explained the process of meeting the 60-40 ratio for a STOP sign. He was asked to check into getting a traffic study funded by Addison County Regional Planning Commission.

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT QUESTIONNAIRE: City Treasurer Joan Devine reported this is the fourth year she has provided this document to the City Council as required by law. The intent of the form is to provide disclosure on operating procedures in the treasurer’s office. Mayor Daniels signed the document attesting to its submission. Alderman Koenig inquired about the lack of written policies and procedures for financial operations and what might be involved to create some. Senior Alderman Perry advised we do have an investment policy. As a school board member, Mr. Koenig volunteered to find out what the school district has to see if their policies might be useful.

MUNICIPAL PLANNING GRANT – SEWER SYSTEM: City Manager Hawley advised he has a lot of concern about the Macdonough Drive pump station. Better rag control is needed as they are getting to the pump and blocking the flow. He reported he is looking for authority to apply for a planning grant up to $8,000, which requires no local match, with a focus on the Macdonough Drive pump station. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to grant the request and Senior Alderman Perry seconded the motion. Senior Alderman Perry also volunteered to help with the grant if needed. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor.

SEWER RATE INCREASE: Manager Hawley advised the City Council raised the sewer rate from $87.50 to $96.00 per quarter not too long ago. Without another increase in the sewer rate, using the budget that was adopted, the sewer fund has a projected deficit of $8,000. At a minimum, the rate should be increased from $96.00 to $98.00 per quarter, he advised. This year only $40,000 has been appropriated to the Bio-solids fund and nothing to the Capital Improvements fund, he reported. There was an $18,000 shortfall in budgeted revenue versus expenses plus a $10,000 surplus from last year; hence a projected $8,000 deficit. Manager Hawley will look into a 5-year projection for the Sewer fund and bring back a recommendation for an increase in the sewer rate.

IMPLEMENTATION OF CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS: City Clerk Devine advised, after looking into several options, she will contract with Pay/GOV for on-line and credit card capabilities. A notice will go out with the sewer billing advising this option is available.

DOWNTOWN-BASIN MASTER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION: City Manager Hawley inquired as to how the Downtown-Basin Master Plan will be implemented. Senior Alderman Perry recommended reconvening the advisory group and let them see who can best carry this plan out. He advised the Vergennes Partnership already has a role in the plan. Mayor Daniels and Senior Alderman Perry will get this in motion.

MUNICIPAL DOG PARK: Mayor Daniels reported Northlands Job Corps had volunteered to help clear land for a dog park. He advised the dog park should not be at Vergennes Falls Park as previously mentioned because recreational use is a better fit. He felt there is other property in the city that can be looked at such as the New Haven Road property that is owned by the City. Also up for consideration is whether to build two fenced-in parks; one for small dogs and the other for larger dogs.

CITY ORDINANCE AMENDMENT: City Manager Hawley advised the proposed amendments to Chapter Four Section 7, dealing with controlling what people put in the right-of-way, are a result of discussion at the last meeting. This is basically an awareness ordinance, he advised, and tickets will not be issued. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adopt the ordinance as amended, seconded by Senior Alderman Perry, with all voting in favor. The amended ordinance will be advertised in the newspaper within 14 days, posted, and become effective within 60 days.

DESIGNATION OF DELEGATE FOR VLCT ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING: Senior Alderman Renny Perry advised he will be going both days to Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ Town Fair. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to designate Senior Alderman Perry as the City’s voting delegate at the annual business meeting of VLCT. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.

FIRE CONTRACTS – AMEND REVENUE BREAKDOWN IN BUDGET: City Manager Hawley advised the revenue budget adopted for the Fire fund needs to be corrected. He reported the revenues to be derived from fire contracts from abutting towns are based on the value of property being protected in the respective municipalities. The value of the portion of the property in the town of Ferrisburgh protected by the Vergennes Fire Department that was supplied by the Town at the time of budget adoption was incorrect. Since then an error has been uncovered which increases the value of property being protected in Ferrisburgh. Therefore, the Town of Ferrisburgh’s contract amount for fire protection has gone up and the remaining three towns’ contracts have gone down. He would like to reflect this change in the budget, he advised. Senior Alderman Perry moved to authorize the City Manager to revise revenues in the Fire fund budget as requested and discussed. Alderman Jeff Fritz seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised it is still early in the fiscal year to provide much comment on the budget status. The public works department started the sidewalk project on South Water Street yesterday, he advised, and the Otter Creek bridge repair project will start tomorrow creating traffic delays for the next few days due to one-lane traffic.

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Daniels reported he would like the local option tax to be discussed again soon. Alderman Chabot requested this topic be listed on the agenda for our next meeting. Mayor Daniels advised he provided the City Council with evaluation forms he has used in the past for the City Manager and City Clerk. He asked them to review the form and advise him if they are comfortable with continuing with the same format. He went on to report the boat count at the municipal docks this year so far is 537 boats compared to 333 last year.

COMMENTS: Senior Alderman Perry reported Vergennes Partnership is sponsoring the first “Eat on the Green” event on Saturday from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. Owners of our local restaurants suggested this event where food, three bands playing throughout the day, a beer garden, as well as games for kids and adults will be offered. Four major local non-profit corporations will benefit from this fundraiser; Boys and Girls Club, Bixby Library, Vergennes Opera House and Vergennes Partnership.

ADJOURNMENT: At 7:20 p.m. Alderman Lynn Donnelly 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 09-12-2017


SEPTEMBER 12, 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. Mayor Daniels advised that both items on the agenda under ‘Business’ will be held off until the next meeting. Those in attendance were:


Mayor Michael Daniels                        Representative Warren Van Wyk

Senior Alderman Renny Perry         Police Chief George Merkel

Alderman Mathew Chabot               Tim Cook

Alderman Mark Koenig                       Sheila Turpin

Alderman Lowell Bertrand               Jennifer Kingsley

Alderman Jeffrey Fritz                         Doug Olvfsen

Alderman Lynn Donnelly                    Steve Thurston

City Manager Mel Hawley                 Monique Thurston

City Clerk Joan Devine                        Michelle Eckels

Shannon Haggett                                    Bill Clark

Andy Kirkaldy                                          Carol Fenimore

Robert Trepanier                                   Lisa Casey

Rena Trepanier                                       Jason Farrell (6:05 p.m.)

Betsy Rippner                                          Eleanor Gardner (6:10 p.m.)

Darren Donovan

VISITORS: Bill Clark, President of Vergennes Swim Team, reported they had a great season and lots of fun this year. The team consisted of 122 members compared to about 70 just two years ago, he advised. There was a snow cone challenge this year that promised a snow cone party if the team was successful in reducing their times. The swim team also brought more activity to the pool area by means of an additional movie night and swim clinics on Wednesday evenings. Mr. Clark reported their strategy is to build the community around the swim team, have good coaches, and promote ‘there is magic in the water’. Mayor Daniels congratulated Mr. Clark on his leadership. Senior Alderman Perry thanked the swim team for their noticeable economic impact in the community.

Police Chief George Merkel reported he wants to correct misconceptions about the Vergennes Police Department that have developed as a result of a study entitled ‘Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont’ by UVM Professor Stephanie Seguino. He advised Ms. Seguino is an economics professor and not a statistician. He pointed out that her study acknowledges that sample sizes for some towns are too small to make reliable estimates or a statistical analysis. Other factors include information was not available from all departments and the ratio of black and Asian drivers stopped should be compared to the black and Asian share of the county population. That was not done, he stated, the 80 percent were not Addison county residents. He felt there were a lot of shortcomings with the report so he made several attempts to speak to Ms. Seguino but she has never contacted him. Chief Merkel provided a copy of the department’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy that sets the standards under which they operate. He reported the department is expected to be polite and treat everyone with respect and courtesy, he advised. Core values and leadership are taught at the police academy and immigration status has been addressed over and over to eliminate bias. Since 2014, officers have been required to do a profile sheet for each traffic stop which includes information on the race of the occupants. Crime Research Group (CRG), a non-profit research and evaluation center for criminal and juvenile justice, took issue with the report released and how it was compiled and will be doing an analysis of their own, he stated.

Monique Thurston felt the statistics were not proven, the methodology used was not correct, and lack of contact with the department was unprofessional in her opinion. Chief Merkel advised he and the department is going to do the right thing; it is the law. Alderman Donnelly stated she did not feel we could have a better police department than we have now and affirmed to the Chief that the City Council supports them. Chief Merkel encouraged everyone to come see him or call him if they ever feel something is not right; he would want to address any issues immediately or provide information requested.


MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of August 22, 2017 as presented. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor except Alderman Koenig who abstained due to his absence.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $913,649.45 included the first quarter education tax installment as well as current year expenses. The Warrant was circulated for review and signatures of approval.

CITIZEN’S COMMENTS: Jason Farrell inquired about the process used when setting the starting time for the City Council meetings; he was curious if public input was used. He advised if you do not work in the community it is hard to make a 5:30 p.m. meeting. Alderman Koenig gave the history on the time of meetings since he has been on the City Council. If there was a plea from the public for later meetings, although noting that no one comes to the meetings, the City Council could accommodate.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised the FY2017 Fund Balance report in the packet is the last one they will receive as the numbers are final pending the audit. A budget report for the 2017 swimming pool season showed projected revenues at $58,485.05, expenses at $44,822.38 with a current projected cumulative fund balance of $15,660.82. A few more expenses are expected, he advised. He attributes this fund balance to employee management by Pool Director Jennifer Kingsley and a reduction in chemicals as a result of Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Rick Chaput who was responsible for water quality at the pool.

Manager Hawley reminded the City Council that overflows at the wastewater treatment system have to be eliminated within 20 years of the new State policy adopted a year and a half ago. The Macdonough Drive pump station has been identified as the weak link. There are two pumps at that station with a force main but during heavy rain events and extreme snowmelt not all of the wastewater is getting to the plant, he advised. He would like to do a study on this pump station. Grants are now available to do studies such as this and we are being encouraged to apply. He would like to apply for a grant, up to $8,000, and will have the form at the next meeting for City Council consideration. The application is due October 2nd.

City Manager Hawley reported having discussed designated neighborhood development areas in the past to include additional land. A boundary of neighborhood development areas is usually one-half mile surrounding a downtown development district. He reported that the additional land outside the one-half mile radius has met resistance by the State Agency administering the program so most of the additional land will need to be taken out of the proposed area. Designated neighborhood development areas give financial benefits to a developer as an incentive for a development project within approximately one-half mile of the downtown development district.

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Daniels advised a report from the Swimming Pool Advisory Group that reports to him as Mayor is included in the packets. A few major projects are needed that should be considered before winter sets in, he advised. The State, who owns the train station in Ferrisburgh, is looking for a non-profit tenant who can also assist them in running the space as a welcome center. Amtrak will be coming to this area by next year. Also, he advised, the laws regarding open meetings were distributed for informational purposes.

ADJOURNMENT: At 7:25 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