Category Archives: City Voice

Vergennes City Voice 11-2017

Mayor, Michael H. Daniels

I would like to take this opportunity to bring everyone up to speed about large trucks coming through Vergennes. Some of you may or may not know the bridge on Route 17 over Otter Creek will be replaced in 2018. The bridge will be shut down on or around June 1st, 2018 and is scheduled to re-open around August 1st, 2018, just before Field Days. This closure will redirect about 250 large trucks through Vergennes daily.

We are also back at the table talking with state and local officials on how to decrease the number of trucks that come through Vergennes on a daily basis. There will be more meetings but, no matter the outcome, it will be years before anything will get done.

There is also discussion that the bridge in Vergennes over the Otter Creek will be repaired/replaced within the next five to ten years. As more information comes along I will share it with you either on Front Porch Forum or the City Voice.

I will be holding Cracker Barrel meetings starting in January or February 2018 to hear from businesses and residents about their feelings/thoughts in regards to Local Option Taxes. Those dates will be posted on Front Porch Forum. I know there are mixed feelings and we need to hear from you. The purpose of Local Option Taxes is to fund some projects that need to happen and I am in hopes that we find a way to fund these projects without having to raise everyone’s property taxes.

I would like to thank all those that are involved with the Holiday Stroll, especially the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vergennes, Basin Harbor, Linda’s, Malabar and Raintree for the events on the City Green and tree lighting ceremony.

In closing, I wish everyone a Joyous and Healthy Holiday Season and New Year.

The Tree Warden
City Manager, Mel Hawley

Most everyone knows that along with being your city manager, I am the zoning administrator, health officer, and delinquent tax collector, but few know that I am also the TREE WARDEN.

So, what does that mean? In Vermont, every municipality is required by law to annually appoint a tree warden. Shade and ornamental trees within the public right of way and places are under the control of the tree warden. A public shade tree can only be removed or trimmed under the direction or approval of the tree warden.

Now let’s say there are one or more public trees in front of your house that are blocking your view and you want them removed. Firing up your chainsaw will result in a fine of $500 per tree. If the tree warden agrees that one or more should be removed, a public hearing is required so the public can weigh in.

I have been the tree warden going back to 1981 and I just held my first public hearing involving the Bixby Memorial Free Library Board of Trustees’ request to remove the two large Blue Spruce trees in front the library. The public notice was published and posted and adjacent property owners were notified. In this instance, there were no attendees desiring the trees be saved and the request was approved.

If there is a public tree that needs to be trimmed or appears to be diseased, please contact me.

City Clerk, Joan Devine

Did you know the municipal clerk’s position is among the oldest in local government, dating back to biblical times? The modern Hebrew translation of town clerk is “mazkir ha’ir,” which means “reminder.” Early archive keepers were often called “remembrancers” and before writing became common, their memories served as the public record.

When the early colonists came to America, among the first government offices they established was a town clerk or secretary. That person was charged with maintaining records for births, marriages, deaths, appointments, deeds, meetings and elections.

The town clerks were often given additional glamorous duties, such as sweeping the meeting house and selling the seats, ringing the bell, and paying the bounty for jays and blackbirds whose heads were presented by citizens. I suppose those duties fell under “other duties as assigned.”

Thankfully, in just under four decades as a city clerk, I’ve never been asked to sweep, sell seats or ring any bells. But the city clerk remains the hub of government and serves as a direct link between the community and its local officials. We also serve as historians with a community’s entire recorded history in our care.

In many cases, we are a citizen’s first contact with a local government, whose basic function is to serve its citizens. No matter what the situation, it’s important for us to help citizens with courtesy and respect by listening, responding and following up. There isn’t anything that occurs within our municipal organizations that we are not a part of – we either record it, archive it, prepare it, post it, publish it, engross it, enroll it, report it, facilitate it, organize it, handle it, manage it or lead it.

A city clerk should inspire public confidence and respect for government believing that honesty, integrity, loyalty and courtesy form the basis of ethical conduct for civil service. It should be remembered as we carry out the simplest of tasks or the largest of projects.

Winter Season is Upon Us!!
Chief George Merkel

The winter season is upon us! We at the Vergennes Police Department wish you a most happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

With the advent of winter, we all should be aware of some safety issues regarding this time of year. With the change of our clocks to Daylight Savings Time, the onset of darkness now comes at an earlier hour. Reduced visibility requires us to be even more vigilant while driving, especially in an urban area. Pay close attention for pedestrians when approaching intersections, crosswalks and roadside parking areas. Oncoming traffic, downtown lighting and inclement weather also present safety challenges to motorists and pedestrians. Encourage your children and other family members to wear bright and/or reflective clothing and carry a flashlight if they are walking or running at night. Do not cross the road unless you are in designated crosswalk area. Be sure to look both ways when crossing a street.

Make sure your vehicle is prepped for the harsh conditions of winter. Snow tires are a must! All-season radials are okay but do not provide the same traction as snow tires. Make sure there is adequate tread on your tires. Also, make sure your vehicle’s anti-freeze is fresh and your coolant system has been flushed. Your vehicle’s windshield wipers and defrosters should be in good working order. Never try to operate your vehicle when your windshield is ice and snow covered. Your vehicle also should have an emergency kit on board stocked with warm clothing, a blanket, warm footwear, and roadside flares.

Finally, road conditions can change quickly from daytime to nighttime. Black ice is extremely dangerous and hard to detect. Heavy and blowing snow can also create dangerous driving conditions. Make sure you allow extra time for travel and allow for a greater stopping distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you.

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year. It is a time for family and friends to get together and reflect. Take a moment to reflect this holiday season and give thanks for all that you do have. Share a smile and a hello. It will make your season that much more special! God bless you and be safe.

Vergennes Area Seniors, Inc.
Michelle Eastman

The Vergennes Area Seniors, Inc. is a non-profit group open to anyone age 60 and up. To become a member all you have to do is regularly attend the meals and events throughout the month. We meet every Tuesday and Thursday at Armory Lane Senior Housing at 50 Armory Lane. Doors open at 10 a.m.

If Bingo is your thing, we play 8-10 games every day. Cost is 25 cents for 6 cards. All daubers and cards are provided. Other activities and events include, but are not limited to, our monthly meeting held usually the 2nd Tuesday of every month, a SASH Health Topic presentation held the 3rd Tuesday of every month. Foot care is done on the 1st Tuesday and Tai Chi is offered both Tuesday and Thursday. Activities also include various entertainment, our quarterly Dime Fairs, Senior Paint and Sip, and our very popular Fall Foliage Trip. Each day we enjoy an Age Well Senior Luncheon at noon.

Suggested donation for the lunch is just $5. 48-hr advanced reservations are required if you would like to attend the meal. Transportation to the site is available through ACTR.

For more information, please contact Michelle Eastman at 802-377-1419.

Vergennes City Voice 08-2017

Mayor, Michael H. Daniels

Welcome to the second edition of the City Voice. Previously, I spoke about City taxes, this edition includes an article from City Manager Hawley explaining how your tax money is spent. Reach out to either of us with questions and/or comments. Thanks Mel.

As of this writing there are approximately 125 shopping days until Christmas, less than 100 days until Thanksgiving and less than 12 days to Vergennes Day. I hope many of you will visit the events on the City Green, stop at the fire station for breakfast, maybe run one of the three races, 15K (new this year) 10K and 5K. Stop by Falls Park or the City Dock from 9:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. nightly to view the lighted falls until the week after Labor Day.

I held the first Cracker Barrel with the seniors and a lot of good ideas came from this gathering. If anyone would like to offer a senior citizen a ride to an event (church supper, band concert, funeral, school function), contact me for more information.

I would like to thank some of our citizens that have taken pride in “our” City. My brother Matt has been keeping the grass cut from his home all the way to Potash Brook. Alderman Mark Koenig and Michelle Eckels for all their hard work getting the swimming pool ready for this season, as well as the swim team and family members who also helped. Jason Farrell stepped down from the Planning Commission with over ten years of service, but will remain on the Development Review Board.

Volunteering helps with making Vergennes such a wonderful place to live. If you can spare some time, give me a call or send me an email, we can always use help. We are always looking for articles of interest for upcoming editions of the City Voice, if you have one, please make contact with me.

Vergennes Day a small history Marguerite Senecal

It all began in 1980 when the Vergennes Rec Committee, with Chris Pettibon as Chair, had the idea that it would be nice to celebrate and give recognition to all the people who worked tirelessly for the little City in some capacity or other. For some reason, the event didn’t get its official name until 1981, at which time it was decided that since the event was to thank the locals, it should be titled, “Vergennes Day”. The name has stuck for 36 years!

The event was held with the Little City Walk & Run Race kicking it off. It began as a small party on the City Green where there were a few booths, crafts and such, and the Lions Club held a Chicken BBQ. The City purchased meals from the Lions as a thank you for those that were on their payroll and others that worked to support the Little Cities’ endeavors and City Band members.

In 2002, the Addison County Chamber of Commerce came on board and has helped grow the event through the years to include venues, not only on the City Green, but also at the Opera House, Falls Park with Children’s Activities including a Petting Zoo, the Rubber Ducky Race, a Car Show at VUHS Vergennes Day a small history Marguerite Senecal (cont’d)
plus various demonstrations, Fire Station Breakfast and soapy bubbles for the kids, and St. Peter’s Parish Hall who offered a Rummage Sale. One year, visitors could even go up in the RE/MAX hot air balloon!

Some of the venues no longer exist, but there was, and still is great music on the Bandstand, around 75 or so vendors/crafts selling their wares, various activities for children and the tasty Lions Chicken BBQ. Vergennes Day is usually the 4th Saturday of August and kicked off by a street dance the night before with the “Hitmen” playing on the Bandstand!
See you there!

City Manager, Mel Hawley

The City Council, department heads, and I often talk about “The Budget”. We actually have five budgets, namely general, fire, recycling, sewer, and swimming pool. The fire fund derives its revenue from the City and the three surrounding Towns, recycling the same but with the Town of Addison as well, sewer from the sewer utility billing, and the swimming pool from season passes, lesson fees, swim team fees, and daily admissions. The general fund budget ($2,290,291) covers administration (16.6%), police (39.2%), public works (33.3%), voter appropriations (1.5%), and various other appropriations including the Bixby Memorial Free Library, Vergennes Area Rescue Squad, Addison County Transit Resources, the City’s share of the fire department and recycling budgets, recreation, Addison County tax and other appropriations (9.4%).

The general fund budget of $2,290,291 is not raised entirely by property taxes as there are a number of supplemental revenue sources. That being said, property taxes do represent the lion’s share (79.8%), clerk fees, license, and permits (1.5%), State revenue (6.9%), interest, fines, and sewer support (8.6%), and an appropriation from the prior year’s surplus (3.2%).

The general fund budget adopted by the City Council required a tax rate of 81 cents which is an increase from 79 cents a year ago. We all hoped that so-called school consolidation would provide for some property tax relief with a possible reduction in the education taxes for this year. That was not the case as it turned out; the homestead education property tax rate rose from $1.6021 to $1.6237 per $100.

We will continue our efforts in obtaining State and Federal grants to support the cost of much-needed infrastructure improvements and equipment and use of the Water Tower Fund and Watershed Recreation Reserve Fund as a strategy to avoid further property tax increases.

Police Chief, George Merkel

The City of Vergennes has become a well-known place to visit, shop and go out to eat. Each year Vergennes has continued to improve in appearance and provides visitors with a wide variety of attractions.

Police Chief, George Merkel (cont’d)

The recent warm summer weather has brought a higher rate of pedestrian, bicycle and motor vehicle traffic to our area.

Here are some safety tips for all of us to pay close attention to:

-It is against the law and extremely dangerous to use any form of electronic communications, phone or texting, while operating a motor vehicle, unless you have hands-free capability. Whatever your need is to communicate, it can wait until you pull over.

-Even if the operator of a vehicle is stopped at a traffic light or stop sign, it is illegal for the operator to use a hand-held electronic device.

-When passing through a residential or urban area, be even more vigilant for pedestrians or bicyclists who may attempt to cross in front of you.

-Always remember young children have very little vertical profile and are hard to see, even at the edge of a crosswalk.

-As a pedestrian, never assume an operator of a vehicle can see you while you are in a crosswalk area.

-As a pedestrian, never cross the road unless you are in a crosswalk area. Never cross the road from between parked vehicles.

-Always make eye-to-eye contact with the operator and make sure the vehicle comes to a complete stop before beginning to cross.

-As a pedestrian, and as a parent or responsible party for young children who may be with you, always make sure you have COMPLETE control of your children. Never let children run up to or across a crosswalk without you being right next to them to ensure a safe crossing.

-Runners should never run with headphones on and should always wear some sort of bright-colored clothing while running.

-Bicyclists should always obey the laws of the road just as if they were operating a motor vehicle. Just as pedestrians, never assume a passing motorist sees you on your bike.

-As a bicyclist, always wear a helmet and use both front and rear lights at night.

-If two bicyclists are riding abreast and a motor vehicle approaches from behind them, one of them should fall in behind the other to make safer passage for the vehicle.

-Parents should constantly reinforce safety procedures to their children and demonstrate their own adherence to those same procedures whether they are operating a vehicle or they are pedestrians or Police Chief, George Merkel (cont’d)
bicyclists. Merely telling our children the right way to do things is not enough. Our children learn from what they see us do!

Finally, please do not drink alcohol and drive, never operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs, and always make sure everyone in your vehicle is wearing a seatbelt before moving your vehicle.

Have a great rest of the summer, please be safe and God Bless you!

Pool Advisory Committee Renny Perry

The first meeting of the Sam Fishman Swimming Pool Advisory Group was held on June 26, 2017 at the pool. The group was the creation of Mayor Michael Daniels after he attended an informal meeting at the pool during which concerned swim team parents and others met to discuss and review the condition of the pool.

The pool is over 50 years old, but only came under City control in 2010. Prior to that it was owned and operated by the Vergennes Graded School District. The pool is beginning to show the signs of its age, signaling a need to come up with a plan to maintain and operate this major public asset into the future.

The Pool Advisory Group was encouraged to come up with its own mission statement, but was more immediately tasked with identifying short-term needs, longer-term needs, and wants. Short-term needs ranged from additional signage, toilet paper and soap dispensers, and baby changing stations. Repairs to the pool deck and correcting drainage issues, fixing the diving board, and upgrading the filter system. Some longer-term needs identified were a robotic vacuum to more efficiently clean the pool, a solar cover and reel to retain pool heat, and a new roof on the bathhouse with solar panels to heat the pool. The “wants” included umbrellas for shade, comfortable chairs, benches in the bathrooms sanded and stained, and extending the pool season dates.

While the list of needs and wants was relatively short, the cost related to acquiring the items is somewhat daunting. The group felt that acquiring or accomplishing these items could be done by a combination of City funding, private fund-raising, and volunteer efforts. The group will continue to meet to solidify its ostensible mission of addressing short-term needs and developing a long-range plan for the care and continued operation of the pool.

The members of the Pool Advisory Group are: Shanon Atkins, Vergennes Partnership; Lisa Casey, Vergennes Swim Team (VST) Volunteer, Pool Patron, & Vergennes Resident; Michelle Eckels, VST Volunteer, Pool Patron & Vergennes Resident; Dustin Hunt, Middlebury Parks & Recreation, Licensed Pool Operator & Vergennes Resident; Renny Perry, Vergennes City Council, Vergennes Partnership & Vergennes Resident; Ken Sullivan, Director of Buildings, Grounds & Safety for ANWSD.

Pool Advisory Committee Renny Perry (cont’d)

It would be remiss not to mention the significant volunteer effort by several of the Pool Advisory Group members and many other volunteers to do the work necessary to open the pool on schedule this year. Without the work to patch cracks and openings in the pool shell, fill deck cracks, power wash the deck, benches and tables, and general maintenance the pool would not have opened on time. Special thanks to Mark Koenig of the Vergennes City Council, who put in countless hours to repair the pool shell so it could be filled with water. Thanks to all.

Vergennes in Bloom Jane Barlow

Vergennes Gardening started weeding and trimming shrubs and plants on the City Green, the Information Kiosk, and the entrance to the Opera House in late May. Debris was also cleared from the Macdonough Monument.

Since May we have been meeting every other Wednesday on the City Green. Spireas and hostas have been trimmed to clear the brick walkways in the park, as well as general upkeep throughout the City Green and Opera House gardens.

We welcome anyone to join us every other Wednesday from 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. The next time we meet will be August 23rd on the City Green.

We have two volunteers who will continue maintaining the flower gardens at the Vergennes five Welcome To signs. Dave and Lynne Leclair have maintained these gardens for many years, sharing perennials from their private gardens. Thank you, Dave and Lynne!

Thank you, too, to the many business owners who maintain their own gardens in the City for everyone to enjoy.