VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
JUNE 27, 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. An amendment to the agenda was made; repairs to the stairway that leads to Macdonough Park will be taken up between item 6.d and 6.e. Senior Alderman Perry disclosed that as President of Vergennes Partnership he will abstain from voting on agenda item 6.c regarding their request for an allocation from the Water Tower Fund. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Michael Daniels Sarah Cowan
Senior Alderman Renny Perry Christopher Knapp
Alderman Mathew Chabot Sarah “Sas” Stewart
Alderman Mark Koenig Amy Barr
Alderman Lowell Bertrand Danelle Birong
Alderman Jeffrey Fritz Scott Gaines
City Manager Mel Hawley Kathy Rossier
City Clerk Joan Devine Andrew Fritz
Dave Crawford Julie Basol
Andy Kirkaldy Carolyn Thompson
Shannon Haggett Rob Fraser
Cheryl Brinkman (6 p.m.)
VISITORS: Danelle Birong reported she is the chair of the Economic Development Committee of Vergennes Partnership and proceeded to read their mission statement as it relates to economic development. They have been instrumental in bringing businesses to Vergennes with help from Addison County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), she advised, and encouraged the City Council to continue to support them financially. Amy Barr, Marketing and Development Director of Vergennes Partnership, advised economic development is a real challenge but they are following through on their mission. Even though they spend most of their time promoting Vergennes they were also able to raise $22,200 this year in addition to receiving $15,000 from the City. Vergennes Partnership is comprised of volunteers and one part-time employee, she advised. She said their website is a resource for those who live here and has improved business relations and shared statistics on visitors to the site. She highlighted some of their accomplishments such as free Wi-Fi in the basin, bike racks, picnic tables on the City Green, handicapped accessibility to the building that houses the Boys and Girls Club and Hired Hand Brewing on School Street, jointly sponsored a 6-month energy saving pilot program with Efficiency Vermont, and created the recent video that promotes Vergennes.
MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of June 13, 2017. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry. Amendments made: Children at June 13th meeting were identified as Madeleine Stroup and Benjamin Hale. Under Sam Fishman Memorial Swimming Pool a sentence was reworded to say, “Volunteerism is great, she advised, but the City must play a bigger role.” A vote on the motion with the corrections showed all voting in favor.
WARRANT: City Manager Hawley explained there were two Warrants needing approval. The Warrant totaling $25,276.98 was for prepaid FY2018 expenses. The other Warrant, totaling $223,481.77 was for current year expenses. Both Warrants were circulated for review and signatures of approval.
CITIZENS COMMENTS: Sarah Cowan advised she is the treasurer of Addison County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC). She reported that she was present to support Vergennes’ continued $3,000 annual support to ACEDC. She advised that ACEDC recognizes the large employers that are located in Vergennes and works hard for them; it takes a city and a county to make all this happen. Mayor Daniels advised this matter is on the agenda and will be taken up later in the meeting.
2017 VTRANS SMALL-SCALE BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN GRANT: City Manager Hawley distributed a map of the city indicating the location of crosswalks that are located on Class 1 town highways. He explained there are warrants that must be met to have flashing beacons for pedestrian crossings. Such warrants are based on vehicular traffic count, pedestrians, as well as speed limits. Some of the crosswalks on Main Street (Route 22A) will likely not have enough pedestrian traffic to qualify. Many young pedestrians headed to the elementary school and swimming pool relies on the crosswalks on Main Street as well as the Green Street/New Haven Road/King Street intersection and will likely meet the warrants. Manager Hawley advised the flashing beacon pedestrian crossings cost $11,000 per set plus the cost of installation. The application must be submitted July 13th. Mayor Daniels announced that further discussion on this item will be deferred in light of the public hearing required to commence at 6 p.m.
PUBLIC HEARING: The scheduled public hearing was called to order at 6 p.m. for the following purpose: Pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 4384, the Planning Commission proposes to amend sections 1.3, 3.1, 3.2, 5.1, 5.2, the Land Use Map and the APPENDIX of the Municipal Development Plan. The public notice was read by Mayor Daniels. Planning Commission Chair Shannon Haggett advised the Downtown-Basin Master Plan is proposed to be added as part of the Municipal Development Plan appendix. Some of the amendments include a solar facility overlay district, solid waste, a revised land use map, and the return to prohibit dwelling units on for the ground floor in the Central Business District. There were no statements from the public so Mayor Daniels closed the public hearing at 6:35 p.m.
VTRANS SMALL-SCALE BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN GRANT (continued): Alderman Matt Chabot moved to authorize an application to VTrans for a 2017 Small-Scale Bicycle and Pedestrian Program grant for four flashing beacons on Main Street and one at the Green Street/New Haven Road/King Street intersection. Alderman Lowell Bertrand seconded the motion. City Manager Hawley explained five sets at $15,000 each with a total estimated project cost of $75,000 recommended $37,500 (50% local match) be allocated from the Water Tower Fund as part of the motion. This was regarded as part of the motion. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor.
ACEDC ALLOCATION: Christopher Knapp advised he is the president of Addison County Economic Development Corporation, is chair of the ACEDC Revolving Loan Committee and is the Chief Financial Officer of Country Home Products. He went on to advise that the City of Vergennes has been involved with ACEDC since its inception. Mr. Knapp reported he has seen a whole new transformation of ACEDC in the last five years which he attributed to Executive Director Robin Scheu. ACEDC has made a lot of loans to Vergennes businesses and have helped them thrive, he stated. He strongly encouraged the City Council to continue supporting ACEDC. “Sas” Stewart, owner of Stonecutter Spirits, and a resident of Vergennes, testified regarding the support she has received from ACEDC. She felt they were very dedicated employees from the top down. City Manager Hawley advised the $3,000 allocation for ACEDC for FY2017 is included in the Warrant that was passed around but stated he did not approve it for payment. He reported he has eliminated financial support for ACEDC in his proposed FY2018 budget. Manager Hawley stated he served on the ACEDC Board of Directors for years and they have done a lot of good things, however, resigned from the Board due to the Board allowing the Executive Director, Robin Scheu, to serve in the Legislature while getting paid full salary by ACEDC. He advised he does not agree with that; they are a small organization and supported in part by tax dollars. Manager Hawley stated he felt it was best for him to get off the Board. He advised the City Council can obviously put financial support in the budget if they desire. Alderman Mark Koenig moved to continue to support ACEDC with the $3,000 in the Warrant and to put it in the budget for FY2018. Alderman Matt Chabot seconded the motion with all voting in favor.
ALLOCATION FROM WATER TOWER FUND TO VERGENNES PARTNERSHIP: City Manager Hawley advised he has included $7,500 in his proposed budget for Vergennes Partnership. He stated last year the City Council allocated an additional $7,500 for them from the Water Tower Fund. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to allocate $7,500 from the Water Tower Fund for Vergennes Partnership. Alderman Matt Chabot seconded the motion with all voting in favor except Senior Alderman Renny Perry who abstained as he is the President of Vergennes Partnership.
AMENDMENTS TO MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN: City Manager Hawley advised a second public hearing needs to be scheduled for the proposed amendments to the Municipal Development Plan. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to set the public hearing for Tuesday, July 18th, at 6:30 p.m., at the Vergennes Fire Station. Senior Alderman Renny Perry seconded the motion with all voting in favor.
PROPOSED FY2018 GENERAL FUND BUDGET: City Manager Hawley distributed a revised Police Department budget. Changes were made under uniforms and accessories, vehicle maintenance and repair as well as capital purchases. He and Chief Merkel have agreed to not purchase another cruiser this year and repay the full $60,000 from the budget to the Water Tower Continuation Fund which was used towards purchasing two cruisers last year. Manager Hawley stated he supports TASERs; a few years ago five were purchased and two years ago, two newer models were purchased. They plan to buy six new ones this year that will be paid for over a five-year period and trade in the oldest ones for $100 credit each. This way, all officers will have an issued TASER. He forecasted the collection of delinquent taxes will not go as well as last year. Hopefully, at least half of the $64,296.51 can be collected by August 30, 2017 (60 days into the next fiscal year). The Police Department currently has five full-time and four part-time officers. One full-time officer resigned in May. Police Chief Merkel wants to hire two of the part-time officers for full-time positions and retain the remaining two part-time officers, he advised. The cost impact would be full benefits but it brings better stability to the department. If the general fund budget is adopted as proposed, maintaining the current 79 cent tax rate, it can be done but results in only about $40,000 of unencumbered funds at year end. Every cent on the tax rate raises $22,380, he advised. Mayor Daniels advised he does not want to see the City step back in any way. Senior Alderman Perry pointed out that the proposed budget does not include wage increases for the City Manager and City Clerk/Treasurer. Senior Alderman Perry moved to adopt the proposed general fund budget of $2,290,291 as presented with a change adding $3,000 for ACEDC and to set the City tax rate at 79 cents. Alderman Koenig seconded the motion and thanked Manager Hawley for keeping the tax rate level. He then advised the City Council needs to get more revenues into the coffers to do the improvements that the public wants. Alderman Fritz stated he would like to see the tax rate increase a cent or two so we don’t end up in the same place as the sewer department requiring a large increase in the future. Alderman Fritz moved to amend the motion to set the tax rate at 81 cents. The motion to amend was seconded by Alderman Bertrand and unanimously approved. A vote on the motion with the amendment showed all voted in favor. Cheryl Brinkman advised she felt increasing the revenue is more appealing to her than raising tax rates. Sarah Stroup stated she applauds the increase in the tax rate.
STAIRWAY TO MACDONOUGH PARK: City Manager Hawley advised he has received a bid in the amount of $7,400 from PCS – Specialty Contracting to repair, resurface and seal the stairway leading to Macdonough Park near the L.F. Benton Company property on Main Street. He recommended approval for this work to be completed using Water Tower Funds. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to allocate $7,400 from the Water Tower Fund for necessary repairs of the stairway. Alderman Jeff Fritz seconded the motion with all voting in favor.
MAIN STREET SIDEWALK EXTENSION PROJECT: David Crawford, the Project Manager hired by the City, advised the sidewalk extension layout has been approved by VTrans. A crosswalk has been added at the south end of the police station property, he advised. Mr. Crawford advised he would like the City Council to authorize the City Manager to push the State to say it is not Vergennes’ or the Town of Ferrisburgh’s responsibility to carry the burden of the cost to install sidewalk to the train station in Ferrisburgh as that is their project. City Manager Hawley advised if the crosswalk at the police station can meet the warrants, a flashing beacon will also be installed at that location. He reminded everyone that the estimated $305,000 project received a $30,500 (10% local match) from the Water Tower Fund years ago. Manager Hawley stated he is concerned with getting pedestrians to the train station in a safe manner. Mr. Crawford advised he would like the City Council to endorse the State of Vermont covering this expense. He understands the resistance of using tax dollars for this project but feels it is beneficial. Mayor Daniels advised it is City Council consensus to go forward.
CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised the Sam Fishman Pool advisory group has submitted minutes to the City Council from their last meeting.
MAYOR’S COMMENTS: Mayor Daniels advised the 34th Vergennes Junior Fishing Derby was a success with 242 participants and 126 fish caught. Cash donations for this event were $7,041 that were used for trophies, prizes and associated derby costs.
PEDESTRIAN SAFETY TASK FORCE: Mayor Daniels advised Police Chief Merkel will serve on this committee and be Chair if necessary. Alderman Mark Koenig reported Stacy Raphael has agreed to serve as the Chair.
ADJOURNMENT: At 7:55 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry, with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk