VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
December 19, 2017
Mayor Michael Daniels called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Michael Daniels Shannon Mahoney
Senior Alderman Renny Perry Robert Trepanier
Alderman Lynn Donnelly City Manager Mel Hawley
Alderman Mathew Chabot City Clerk Joan Devine Alderman Lowell Bertrand
Alderman Mark Koenig Alderman Jeffrey Fritz
MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting held on November 14, 2017 and the special meeting held on December 4, 2017. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry with all voting in favor.
WARRANT: The Warrant, totaling $948,843.47, was circulated for review and signatures of approval. City Manager Hawley advised the second installment of education taxes is included in this amount.
REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDS FOR LIGHTING OF THE CITY GREEN: Shannon Mahoney, owner of Raintree, was present to request additional funds for Lighting of the City Green for this year and in the future. She advised the total cost to buy and install the lights came to $6,412; the City Manager had previously committed $1,000 to this project as has been done in the past. Shannon passed out a list of donors’ names, merchants and individuals, reflecting commitments totaling $4,313 of which $3,763 has been collected. She pointed out that Raintree and Malabar are each donating $500 towards the cost but they are still short about $1,100 and are hoping the City will help out with more funds. In the future, she envisions the Holiday Stroll to encompass what was done this year with additional tree lighting on various streets that will be sponsored individually. This year’s volunteers want to create a destination for people to visit, she advised. Because this effort was handed to me last-minute, it did not allow for planning, she stated. She advised she and Malabar will pay the outstanding balance if they have to, but would like it to be a budget item for next year. Mayor Daniels advised the City Green is very nicely decorated. Senior Alderman Perry inquired how the lights were going to come down. Shannon reported she can do some of them and will hire Barrett’s Tree Service for the remaining ones. She has also heard from people that would like some of the lights to remain. Vergennes Partnership President Renny Perry advised they could probably help getting volunteers to take down some of the lights. They also have a friend with a lift that may be able to help take the upper lights down as well as put them up next year too, he advised. He inquired if she wanted to leave some up or if they were all to come down. City Manager Hawley advised the extension cords running on the ground are a trip hazard once the snow is gone and would be a mowing issue in the spring. He went on to advise the City’s $1,000 was paid to Barrett’s Tree Service and is in the Warrant. Alderman Matt Chabot stated all the feedback he has received has not been positive. He assured Shannon Mahoney that he understood her intent when she took this project on but that the City Council is struggling with paying for things that we have to have and not things we want to have. He advised he was appreciative she was able to get that many donations. Shannon Mahoney stated that if City Council does not want to spend more than the $1,000 budgeted, that was fine. She advised she will give up the big picture and just do her own lights from now on. City Manager Hawley advised the City Council has a budget process to follow and felt it was an unfair statement for her to say the City doesn’t want to help so now she’s done. This is not the time to take additional dollars from the budget, he stated. Mayor Daniels agreed with City Manager Hawley and said we can look at this in May when we work on the budget. Alderman Mark Koenig guessed she might need the same next year. Shannon Mahoney stated she would like the City to budget $2,000 to $2,500 in the future for this. Senior Alderman Perry said he cannot definitely say the Vergennes Partnership will help next year with this event because he hasn’t talked to the Board of Directors but feels they could possibly offer help with a fundraiser. He went on to say the lighting of the City Green will be done again and we will know in advance what we need and can plan for it. Shannon Mahoney stated she felt the City Council has been negative with all of her interactions and she will run-out her lease and move her business out of here. City Manager Hawley reported the Vergennes Area Chamber of Commerce organized the lights and Holiday Stroll for many years in the past until they dissolved. The City then took it over for several years and the Vergennes Partnership did it last year, he stated. He went on to advise the City Green does look amazing this year but did not feel it looked nine times better than the $700 spent last year. Alderman Lynn Donnelly, speaking to Shannon Mahoney, said, “I feel horribly that you feel the City Council has been negative to you. You bring in something that we can plan for yet you threaten you will not participate next year if we don’t give you more.” Alderman Donnelly said it was unfair when we have a budget process to follow. Mayor Daniels went around the table looking for a consensus on Shannon Mahoney’s request for additional funding. Senior Alderman Perry did not know where additional dollars would come from. Alderman Koenig announced the request will allow consideration in the future and that he would support an additional $200 this year if available. Alderman Bertrand said no to this year but budget for it in the future. Alderman Fritz requested Shannon Mahoney come to the City Council at budget time with a plan. Shannon Mahoney advised she only had four weeks to put this event together and knew before she arrived that the City Council was not going to support her. She departed at 6:13 p.m.
VENDOR LICENSE – C & J HAULERS: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the application for a 2018 vendor’s license submitted by C & J Haulers, LLC. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.
ADDISON COUNTY REGIONAL PLAN – TRANSPORTATION SECTION: City Manager Hawley advised he sent each City Council member a link to the proposed amendments to the Transportation Section of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC) Regional Plan that is being updated. He reported he is in an awkward spot as Mayor Daniels did not support the northbound truck route that requires trucks to use VT Route 17 that is being proposed in the plan. A prior referendum vote in the mid 1990s for a bypass was supported by voters, he advised. In March 2016 the voters supported the creation of a northerly truck route from Route 22A, east along VT Route 17, to US Route 7; totals were 588 people in favor and 230 opposed. VTrans recognized the City has a problem and said they would look at it and have, he stated. ACRPC scheduled two public hearings for the proposed re-write of the Transportation Section; one on December 13th and the final hearing on January 10, 2018. Due to the amount of changes recommended at the first hearing, the final public hearing will not be held in January. Manager Hawley advised he would like the City Council’s position on the by-pass proposal no later than February as the amended plan will likely be scheduled for adoption in March. Mayor Daniels reported the ACRPC Transportation Advisory Council (TAC) says the State will own the by-pass and determine its location. Senior Alderman Perry stated the by-pass issue has been studied and discussed quite a bit; this is not a new issue and he did not feel it was going to happen. He went on to report that a lot of communities who built a by-pass suffered because both cars and trucks by-passed the town. Senior Alderman Perry stated he did not know today’s feeling in the community. Mayor Daniels stated there are options out there that can filter those who want to be here. Alderman Lynn Donnelly advised Vergennes suffered when they created the Route 7 by-pass many years ago. We have carefully brought ourselves back over the years, she stated. She felt there was nothing more destructive in the downtown than trucks but was hopeful with new paving that the trucks would not be heard to that degree. She cautioned everyone to think about what we are hoping for. Mayor Daniels pointed out that we now have several restaurants that draw people into town. Alderman Jeff Fritz announced he likes the concept of a by-pass but agrees with Senior Alderman Perry; it is not going to happen but the trucks are a problem. City Manager Hawley pointed out the Transportation Section of the regional plan is important. TAC is developing policy and procedures for the region so we need to take this plan seriously and have our position clearly stated. Discussion will continue at the next meeting.
AMERICAN LEGION CORRESPONDENCE: City Manager Hawley advised the Development Review Board received a similar letter as the City Council and Chair Peter Garon has responded with a letter on behalf of the Board. He reported no formal application has been filed by H V 2005, Inc. for an affordable housing project so no testimony will be taken yet. Manager Hawley recommended writing something back to the American Legion to advise of such. Mayor Daniels announced he is a member of the American Legion so he will recuse himself. Members agreed with the recommendation by City Manager Hawley; he will work with Senior Alderman Perry to respond on behalf of the City Council.
ADDISON COUNTY RIVERWATCH COLLABORATIVE – FUNDING REQUEST: A letter requesting $400 for their stream-monitoring activities was received from Addison County River Watch Collaborative. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the request and release payment as reflected in the sewer department budget. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.
VERMONT COUNCIL ON RURAL DEVELOPMENT – FUNDING REQUEST: A letter requesting a contribution investing in their work was received from Vermont Council on Rural Development. City Manager Hawley recommended a contribution of $150 as was made last year for their effort involving the Community Visit. Senior Alderman Renny Perry moved to contribute $150. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lowell Bertrand with all voting in favor.
THE PRESERVATION TRUST OF VERMONT – FUNDING REQUEST: A letter requesting support in funding was received from The Preservation Trust of Vermont. City Manager Hawley recommended no action as he was waiting for a response to an email he had sent to their Executive Director relative to whether they received funding from other municipalities. Senior Alderman Perry advised he is supportive of this request. No action was taken.
APPOINTMENTS TO THE REVOLVING LOAN FUND COMMITTEE: City Manager Hawley advised the City Treasurer does not have to be appointed as the City Treasurer is a voting ex-officio member per the policy. A City Council member needs to be appointed and the following members’ respective terms ran out in April but have agreed to continue:
Scott Gaines – Vergennes Partnership
Nancy Larrow – Realtor
Christopher LaPierre – Banker
Hillary Devine – Business/Commercial Property Owner
Senior Alderman Renny Perry moved to re-appoint the four members as stated for two-year terms. The motion was seconded by Alderman Bertrand with all voting in favor. Alderman Lynn Donnelly, the prior City Council representative, said she would be willing to serve another 2-year term but encouraged other City Council members to consider the position to get an idea how the process works. The citizen at-large position on the Committee also needs to be filled. City Manager Hawley advised $60,000 is available to loan.
SANDWICH BOARD/TEMPORARY SIGNS IN STREET RIGHT-OF-WAY POLICY: Action was deferred. City Manager Hawley advised the Planning Commission has offered to assist Senior Alderman Perry in drafting the policy so that it coincides with the zoning regulations.
CITY MANAGER/CITY CLERK PERFORMANCE EVALUATION PROCESS: Deferred.
LOCAL OPTION TAXES: Mayor Daniels advised he is still waiting for information and will be scheduling a cracker barrel meeting.
RAIL TRAIL PROJECT: City Manager Hawley advised he searched in the municipal development plan and found only one reference to the rail trail and it simply says that it is being planned. He wondered if this project was a priority. Senior Alderman Perry suggested not scrapping the project as some of the paths have been developed with gravel and three bridges have been installed as a part of that project years ago. He felt the City may eventually find a grant with enough dollars to complete it.
CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley reported he feels pretty good about the budget. He also alerted the City Council that a claim has been filed by J.K. Thiese for an injury she received when she fell exiting her apartment on South Water Street where the sidewalk is being replaced. VLCT-PACIF has been notified. The City has also been listed as a co-defendant in a Superior Court case that Wanda Green, owner of the property at 93 West Main Street, has filed against River’s Edge Associates, he advised. City Manager Hawley said he has met with an attorney designated by VLCT-PACIF who will be representing the City.
ADJOURNMENT: At 6:45 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk