VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
NOVEMBER 12, 2019
Mayor Jeff Fritz called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall in the conference room. Mayor Fritz advised Deputy Mayor Donnelly is attending the meeting by means of video conferencing. Brian Gebo and his son Aidan, who is working on a merit badge requirement towards his Eagle Scout rank, were welcomed next. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Jeff Fritz City Manager Mathew Chabot
Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly City Clerk Joan Devine
Alderman William Benton Reporter Andy Kirkaldy
Alderman David Austin Sierra Bertrand
Alderman Mark Koenig Brian Gebo
Alderman David Small Aidan Gebo
Alderman Lowell Bertrand
WARRANTS: Two Warrants were presented for review and signatures of approval but only one was approved in the amount of $400,000 for the Vergennes Community Housing Development Grant. The remaining Warrant in the amount of $891,938.18 will be resubmitted at the next meeting for approval.
MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of the October 22, 2019 meeting that was seconded by Alderman Koenig. Two typographical errors were corrected. The vote on the amended minutes showed all voting in favor.
SEWER RATE DISCUSSION: City Manager Chabot acknowledged significant changes are needed at the wastewater treatment plant in the very near future. If a sewer assessment rate increase is approved, he suggested the additional revenue be put in the Sewer Capital Improvement Fund. Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Rick Chaput does a great job for us, he advised, but needed a $10,000 auger at the very end of last year that must be covered this year. Mayor Fritz advised the lagoons also desperately need cleaning, but we have that $200,000 set aside. Based on previous discussion, he inquired if everyone was supporting the proposed increase from $106 per quarter to $150 per quarter. Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated she would like to raise the quarterly installment to $125 effective January 1, 2020 and review this again in 18 months. Alderman Koenig advised he would like to review it again in one year. Deputy Mayor Donnelly advised we are not going to generate enough money for the long-term, so she supports going to $150 per quarter in July 2021. Alderman Bill Benton felt we needed to get that message out to the public; that rates will be going up again soon. Mayor Fritz advised he would get together with City Clerk Devine and prepare a stuffer for the next billing.
OPENINGS ON BASIN TASK FORCE COMMITTEE: Alderman David Austin reported Tim Cowan and Tim Cook have both resigned from the Basin Task Force Committee. He has two candidates that have expressed interest to serve; one is ready for appointment now. Alderman David Austin moved to appoint Greg Cousino to the Basin Task Force Committee. The motion was seconded by Alderman Bertrand with all voting in favor. He advised Ashley Robinson is the other interested person, but she has not committed to an appointment yet.
CHARTER CHANGE REVIEW: Alderman Mark Koenig advised the section referring to TIF (TIF is a tool that municipalities use to finance improvements for public infrastructure like streets, sidewalks and storm water management systems) that is included in Winooski’s City Charter is because they had TIF in place prior to Vermont laws that address it today. That section has been removed from our proposal. He advised another change involves eliminating the language for three 2-year terms for aldermen and the mayor’s position and replacing it with three-year terms in rotation to eliminate the potential to lose up to four people sitting on the City Council in one year. The first public hearing on the proposed changes to the City Charter was scheduled for Tuesday, December 17th, at 6 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station.
VLCT SELF GOVERNANCE RESOLUTION: Mayor Fritz read the Resolution in support of VLCT’s initiative on self-governance. The document was circulated for signatures of adoption and will be recorded as part of these minutes.
JEREMY HAIGHT DIABETES AWARENESS FISHING TOURNAMENT: City Manager Matt Chabot advised Bob Miles has contacted him regarding the creation of a fishing tournament fundraiser at Falls Park in May to benefit Jeremy Haight’s two sons. Jeremy Haight recently passed away unexpectedly as a result of diabetes. The tournament would be held on May 30, 2020 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Discussion included the requirement for a Certificate of Insurance for the event be filed at City Hall and that cancellation of the event due to high waters would belong to the event organizers.
VERGENNES OPERA HOUSE BOILER – SECOND BID: City Manager Chabot reported CV Plumbing and Heating did not submit a bid for the City Hall/Opera House boiler replacement proposal. Mountain Air Systems Inc submitted a bid for $108,764 compared to JW & DE Ryan’s bid of $48,587. Manager Chabot advised he will proceed with the project awarded to JW & DE Ryan. Manager Chabot advised Friends of Vergennes Opera House will be paying half of the cost for this project and they would like to subsidize their share through a loan with the City like the streetscape projects. He will bring their loan proposal to the next meeting for City Council approval.
WINTER FARMERS MARKET – City Manager Chabot announced the Farmers Market will be having their grand opening for the inside winter Farmers Market at Lulu’s on November 23rd from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN AND SUGGESTED GUIDANCE: It is the City Manager’s responsibility to choose the City employees’ health insurance plan, advised City Manager Chabot. He is staying with Blue Cross Blue Shield of VT for the 2020 calendar year and is proposing that new employees hired begin to pay a share of the expense. He advised he realizes this is not the silver bullet for savings, but he has looked at other plans that all shift the deductible to the employee. He is not comfortable with making that change. Alderman Koenig, who sits on the ANWSD Board of Directors, reported the school district does an 80–20 split with a $1,000 HRA card. Basically, they give good benefits with okay wages, he advised. Alderman Austin felt the City has significant exposure with costs and no control; we have control over wages only. He supports shifting more burden to the employee with higher wages that at least gives the City some control. It was consensus to begin an 80-20 split for health insurance effective immediately.
OPIOID LITIGATION: A letter from Attorney General Donovan regarding opioid litigation by a Negotiation Class was in your packet, advised Manager Chabot. The purpose of the class action suit is to recover damages in the municipalities caused by manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies that created the opioid epidemic. Approximately $23,000 would be the City’s portion if the litigation is successful. All Vermont cities and towns are enrolled in the Negotiation Class unless they opt out by November 22nd, he advised. It was agreed to remain enrolled.
BUDGET UPDATE: Use of our winter material has already started for the Public Works Department. They have retrofitted the town garage with LED lighting at a cost of $3,800. Just recently the former recycling center’s roof was partially in the road which the Public Works Department fixed for $4,000. Matt Crowley was the lead on that project that saved the City quite a bit of money, but their budget may still go over. Police fines from the State for June, July, August, September and October have still not arrived but are expected soon.
LOCAL OPTION TAX: Mayor Fritz advised municipalities must be preapproved before they can institute a local option tax; we are on a list but have not been preapproved yet. City Manager Chabot will be contacting Secretary of State James Condos.
SUCCESSION PLANNING COMMITTEE: Mayor Fritz advised the Succession Planning Committee will be meeting November 18th and December 2nd at 7 p.m. at Kennedy Brothers to continue work on their charge.
CITY MANAGER SEARCH: Mayor Fritz reported we have received 5 applications for the City Manager position; 3 are in-state residents. Aldermen Mark Koenig and David Austin will assist him with interviews this week. Each of the candidates has some type of municipal experience so it is their hope they can present 2 or 3 candidates to the City Council for final interviews.
ADJOURNMENT: At 6:10 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the regular meeting, seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig, with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk