VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
February 13, 2018
Michael Daniels resigned as mayor on February 8, 2018. In accordance with the City Charter, Renny Perry, as the duly chosen senior alderman, assumed the duties of mayor.
Mayor Renny Perry called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Renny Perry Sarah Cowan
Alderman Lowell Bertrand Sarah Stroup
Alderman Lynn Donnelly Danelle Birong
Alderman Mathew Chabot Andrew Fritz
Alderman Mark Koenig Robert Trepanier
Alderman Jeffrey Fritz Andy Kirkaldy
City Manager Mel Hawley Amy Bodette Barr
City Clerk Joan Devine Robert Feuerstein
Fred Kenney, ACEDC Susan Ferland
John Stroup, ANwSD Ken Sullivan, ANwSD
ADDISON COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (ACEDC): Fred Kenney introduced himself as the newly appointed Executive Director of ACEDC. They are a 501(c) (6) corporation, he advised, and a resource for businesses navigating challenges or exploring opportunities to do business in Addison County. Although their focus is not retail, they do offer educational workshops for all businesses. Currently they have five revolving loan funds with over $2,000,000 loaned out to 37 enterprises, he reported. Mr. Kenney advised he has a meeting scheduled with the Vergennes Partnership Economic Development Committee for next week.
ADDISON NORTHWEST SCHOOL DISTRICT (ANwSD): John Stroup, a member of the ANwSD Board of Directors, advised he and Ken Sullivan, the buildings and grounds supervisor for the district, were present to promote the $7.6 million dollar bond that will go to the voters on Town Meeting Day for capital improvements for the four schools in the district. They are putting forward a plan to repair the heating systems, put in place energy conservation systems, and upgrade security and safety in all schools, he reported. Ken Sullivan reported ANwSD has various links on their website offering videos of the proposed work, graphs outlining the potential savings, and a project presentation and budget. If approved by voters, the work would begin this summer and would be done by Energy Efficient Investments, Inc. (ECI) of New Hampshire. All lights will be changed to LEDs, security measures installed in the halls, classes and front rooms at all schools, air conditioning in a few classrooms at VUES as well as a solar array on the roof at VUHS. Mr. Sullivan reported ECI is projecting $220,000 in annual savings. Although the school population continues to decline, utilization of the schools is up, he advised.
ST. PAUL’S CHURCH STREETSCAPE PROJECT: Sarah Stroup, a member of St. Paul’s Church, advised they are looking to partner with the City and apply for grants that will allow them to redesign their outside space facing the City Green so that the additional space can be used as an extension of the City Green. The project will widen the substandard sidewalk on Park Street, increase handicapped accessibility, and be more pedestrian friendly. They are looking for support from the City to apply for a streetscape grant through the Downtown Transportation Fund program, she advised. They are also in the process of applying for historic preservation funds to restore the three stained-glass windows that face the City Green at a cost of $20,000 per window and are seeking a grant from the Walter Cerf Foundation for $25,000 towards the project. Mayor Perry reported Vergennes Partnership has been speaking with the church for quite a while and encouraged them to do this project together with the City as sidewalk work is needed on Park Street. When investment from the private sector is shown, it enhances the chances at being awarded a grant, he advised. If the City is interested in this proposal, he stated that he and Amy Bodette Barr would write the grant by mid-March. Sarah Stroup advised they may also have a public campaign selling bricks to help finance the cost. City Manager Hawley advised he has worked with Sarah Stroup on this proposed project and the two large maple trees in the Park Street right of way will have to be removed; that will require a public hearing which he would conduct as the tree warden. The estimated $92,500 for replacing the sidewalk and retaining wall on Park Street is likely to be eligible under the program, advised Manager Hawley. Mayor Perry reported that he and City Manager Hawley will be out of the state much of March but felt the grant application could still be done. Sarah Stroup stated they are looking for favorable conditions from the Water Tower Fund. Alderman Chabot advised the Water Tower Fund and the Watershed Recreation Reserve Fund are our only discretionary funds so he would be reluctant to go too deeply into those funds. Mayor Perry explained that the funding formula for these projects is typically 50 percent from the grant, 25 percent from the City, and the adjacent property owner covering the remaining 25 percent. The property owner’s share can come in the form of a loan from the Water Tower Fund. Alderman Lowell Bertrand supported a 5-year loan with no interest charges if St. Paul’s Church was interested. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to authorize the Park Street Streetscape Project with 50 percent ($46,250) of the funding to come from the Water Tower Fund on the condition that St. Paul’s Church pays back 25 percent ($23,125) over a 5-year period. Alderman Lynn Donnelly seconded the motion with all voting in favor.
MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting held on January 23, 2018. The motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig. One typographical error was corrected. A vote on the motion showed all in favor.
WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $125,288.09 was circulated for review and signatures of approval.
CITY COUNCIL VACANCY: Mayor Perry advised, due to Mayor Michael Daniels’ resignation, the senior alderman assumes the duties of mayor for the balance of the term so his seat is now vacant. He said he was struggling with whether being Mayor was the right decision given his personal schedule. He advised he is leaving for six weeks right after Town Meeting Day and has two more trips planned in 2018. Although his absence troubled him, he advised he did not feel it would be that bad as long as it was not a concern of the other City Council members. Alderman Matt Chabot advised he supports Senior Alderman Perry taking over the mayor’s position and his candor; he also appreciates his leadership. The City Council members were all in agreement. Mayor Renny Perry confirmed that he most likely will be re-elected to the Alderman seat as there was no race but that he would resign from that position immediately. He also advised the City Council could appoint a senior alderman at the February 27, 2018 meeting or the first regular meeting in March. City Manager Hawley advised the City Council could amend the agenda and appoint a senior alderman now if that was their pleasure. Alderman Lynn Donnelly moved to appoint Alderman Jeff Fritz as the senior alderman, seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig, with all voting in favor.
The vacancy on the City Council must be posted within ten days, advised Manager Hawley. The City Council has the option to hold a Special City Meeting to elect an alderman to fill the vacancy or they can appoint someone to fill the vacancy until March 2019. Alderman Mark Koenig suggested doing as the City Council did when he was appointed whereby interested candidates submit a letter of interest to the City Council and attend the next meeting. The City Council would then likely hold an executive session to discuss the appointment and then, in public session, appoint one of the applicants to fill the vacancy. It was agreed that interested candidates be requested to send a letter of interest to the City Council by February 22, 2018. Copies of the letters will be included in the City Council meeting agenda packets for the February 27, 2018 meeting.
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE ZONING AND SUBDIVISION REGULATIONS: Zoning Administrator Mel Hawley distributed the amendments to the zoning and subdivision regulations proposed by the Planning Commission. He advised the City Council must hold at least two public hearings. The City Council cannot make any changes to the document for the first hearing. At the first public hearing, the City Council will take testimony and then make changes if desired and schedule the second public hearing. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved the first public hearing be held on March 27, 2018 at 6 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station. Alderman Jeff Fritz seconded the motion with all voting in favor.
DRAFT SANDWICH BOARD/TEMPORARY SIGN POLICY: Alderman Matt Chabot disclosed that the owner of the Stevens House on the corner of Main and North Green Streets that is referenced in the policy is his employer. It was the Council’s opinion there was no conflict of interest. A few changes to the draft policy were suggested by Alderman Mark Koenig. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adopt the policy as amended. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor.
AUDIT REPORT AND FINANCIAL STATEMENTS: City Manager Hawley advised he met with the locally elected Board of Auditors and conducted an overview of all funds. He pointed out that the City Council set up a loan for $60,000 from the Water Tower Continuation Fund towards the purchase of two police cruisers that would to be paid back over two years from the Police Department budget. The auditing firm would not recognize that loan and reduced the General Fund year-end fund balance by $60,000. That is not a problem, advised Manager Hawley, as the full $60,000 is being paid back in the current fiscal year from the Police Department budget so it will correct itself at year-end. Not changing passwords for our computer files often enough was another concern. Mayor Perry reported he would like to look at GASB regulations after City Manager Hawley retires. He felt we should do this in the near future so that we will comply with accounting standards.
CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised the status of the budget gets less concerning with time. He reported he met with Public Works Supervisor Jim Larrow and they reviewed some bills which resulted in recoding some of the invoices for Hartigan Company that were charged to sewer line maintenance/repair line item. Hartigan Company cleans sewer mains, culverts and stormwater catch basins and invoices should be split accordingly based on time spent. Hartigan Company charges the City $2,600 a day when they come and that gets split between stormwater and sewer lines.
CITY HALL CONFERENCE ROOM PROJECT: City Manager Hawley advised he is going to need an appropriation for the conference room project at some point. He said he would like the City Council to consider a commercial grade glass door, 36” wide with fixed glass on each side to replace the existing interior double doors which are not air-tight. He is getting a quote and will report back in this regard. He will develop a scope of work for the project.
PERSONNEL POLICY UPDATE: City Manager Hawley advised he was working on updating the Personnel Policy when the computers went down and the document is in the process of being restored. He said he will get his proposed amendments to the policy to the City Council in advance of the next meeting.
MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Perry advised he will be working on establishing a City Manager Search Committee as well as a timeline and asked that members let him know who they feel should be on that Committee.
ADJOURNMENT: At 7:10 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