City Council Meeting 10-08-2019


OCTOBER 08, 2019


The full City Council, City Manager, City Clerk, Ashley Robinson, Carrie McFarlane and Robert Trepanier met at Macdonough Park at 5:10 p.m. to view and discuss the Basin Task Force’s vision for the walking path along the river to the stairs that connect with the sidewalk adjacent to Otter Creek Bridge. Two different paths were marked off for a visual comparison; one path would involve moving the foot bridge over Potash Brook closer to the river at a cost. City Manager Chabot advised the path will be created using tailings from previous paving jobs and, should there be a washout, can be easily repaired in-house. Planting vegetation along the banks of the river was also discussed.

Mayor Jeff Fritz called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall in the conference room. The Agenda was amended to include 4f – Special Meeting for City Charter Update and 4g – City Hall boiler. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Jeff Fritz                                                     City Clerk Joan Devine

Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly                       Police Chief George Merkel

Alderman David Austin                                     Patti Merkel

Alderman Mark Koenig                                     Robert Trepanier

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                              Sierra Bertrand

Alderman David Small                                        Stephen Luna

Alderman William Benton                                Shannon Haggett

City Manager Mathew Chabot

VISITOR–STEPHEN LUNA: Stephen Luna, Chair of Vermont Veterans Committee on Homelessness, thanked Mayor Fritz for accepting the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. He explained the Mayor’s Challenge is a call to action for all mayors and other state and local leaders to publicly commit to ending and preventing homelessness in their communities with permanent stable housing. Progress comparison charts were available as well as information on the challenges they are experiencing.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $159,518.99 was circulated for review and signatures of approval.

MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve minutes of the September 24, 2019 meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig. Two typographical errors were noted. A vote on the amended minutes showed all voting in favor.

DEPT OF PUBLIC WORKS BUDGET REVIEW: City Manager Chabot had provided a preliminary Public Works Department budget for FY2021 that he classified as a ‘work in action’. Health insurance costs continue to shock each budget. He advised he and Public Works Supervisor Jim Larrow have met and Jim feels if you really need to save money, he would suggest cutting back on sidewalks. Manager Chabot advised they have installed 660’ of sidewalk this year in-house that would have costs $33,000 if contracted out. They could also do their own culvert work if they had an excavator; a used excavator costs about $80,000. The General Expenses and Police Department budgets will be reviewed at the next regular meeting.

VERMONT STATE REVOLVING LOAN FUND: City Manager Chabot reported Thomas Brown, of the Agency of Natural Resources, has been providing guidance through this process. The $151,616.00 planning loan, with a loan forgiveness of $125,899, through the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank is for the evaluation and report for the wastewater treatment facility, collection system, including the Macdonough Drive Pump Station, as well as the development of a CSO Long Term Control Plan. The 5-year loan requires its first payment in October 2024 in the amount of $5,143.40 and will total a debt of $25,717. The Loan Agreement and Resolution was passed for signatures of approval and is filed as part of these minutes. As part of the study we need to execute a comprehensive smoke testing, advised City Manager Chabot, and the lowest bid for that service was $80,000. We have decided to buy the unit and do it in-house this season, he advised. The City had a 12,600 gallon CSO discharge yesterday. Macdonough Drive pump station might need a fix but it is possible it doesn’t need a $3M fix. We are looking at infiltration issues that will require a camera so we are pursuing that and will roll the cost into the loan, he stated.

CITY CHARTER AMENDMENTS: Mayor Fritz announced he would like to have a Special City Council meeting next week to review some needed changes to the City Charter that Alderman Mark Koenig has been working on. The meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, October 15th, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall in the conference room.

SEWER RATE INCREASE: Mayor Jeff Fritz advised he would like to adopt the discussed increased sewer rates at the first meeting in January. City Manager Chabot suggested beginning discussion on this in November to allow for public relations time. The proposed rate increase discussed previously would change the rate from $106 to $150 per quarter and would allow us to get money into the capital improvement fund, advised the Mayor. We are going to need $200,000 next year to clean the lagoons.

2019 GRAND LIST CORRECTION – LISTERS REQUEST: City Clerk Devine sent a memo to the City Council, on behalf of the Listers, requesting an amendment to the 2019 Grand List regarding the assessed value of Ralph and Joan Burt’s property located at 60 New Haven Road. Evidence was submitted showing the Listers reduced the assessed value of the Burt property from $206,700 to $190,700 in June 2017 but failed to make the change in the Grand List. Alderman Bill Benton moved to authorize the requested correction, seconded by Alderman Bertrand, with all voting in favor except Deputy Mayor Donnelly who abstained because she was the realtor for that purchase. City Clerk Devine reported a revised 2019 property tax bill will be sent to the Burts immediately.

BOARD OF ABATEMENT – PROPERTY TAX ABATEMENT: City Clerk Devine presented to the City Council, acting as the Board of Abatement, Ralph and Joan Burt’s request for an abatement of property taxes they paid in 2017 and 2018 as the result of a Lister’s error in the 2017 and 2018 Grand Lists. Based on the 16,000 assessment error the property tax overpayment in 2017 was $390 and in 2018 was $393.15. Alderman Benton moved to grant the abatement request, seconded by Alderman Bertrand, with all voting in favor.

CITY HALL BOILER: City Manager Chabot supplied an estimate he received from JW & DE Ryans for a new boiler and associated parts needed to convert City Hall from fuel oil to natural gas. The estimate was for $48,587 and will include individual meters for our offices and the opera house. He reported this expense would be split with Friends of Vergennes Opera House as part of our lease agreement although they have expressed they may need help from the City to cover their share. Deputy Mayor Donnelly inquired if there were any other bidders, which there were not. She requested a second estimate on the project as a matter of due diligence.

VPD UNION NEGOTIATIONS: City Manager Chabot reported both parties will begin union negotiations involving the police department on Thursday at City Hall; he and Peter Garon will represent the City.

STATEWIDE CAT 4 EXERCISE: The statewide emergency management exercise will occur October 23rd through the 25th. Vergennes’ portion of the exercise will consist of barrels of unknown origin floating up into the basin area. Our fire and public works department will both be participating. Manager Chabot advised he will put a notice on Front Porch Forum regarding this training.

LOCAL HAZARD MITIGATION PLAN (LHMP) GRANT: City Manager Chabot had a copy of the Town of Orwell’s comprehensive local hazard mitigation plan; he advised they strongly recommend each town has one. FEMA would provide a $10,600 grant with a City match of 25% (or $3,700 of in-kind services) if the City Council feels this is worthwhile. Consensus was to pursue.

BUDGET UPDATE: Everything is tracking in the budget at this point, advised City Manager Chabot. He reported he and Peter Garon are reviewing zoning fees which do not appear to be as aggressive as other communities. Shannon Haggett reported he would be willing to work with Peter Garon and ACRPC on the fee structure; feel free to keep him in the loop

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Fritz reported Vergennes Partnership is actively working on the one percent local option tax. The Succession Committee is meeting next week so we should have an update soon. He will provide a copy of their charge at the next meeting.

ADJOURNMENT: At 6:30 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the regular meeting, seconded by Alderman David Small, with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk