City Council Minutes 01-14-2020


JANUARY 14, 2020


Mayor Jeff Fritz called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Jeff Fritz                                        City Manager Daniel Hofman

Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly         City Clerk Joan Devine

Alderman William Benton                  Robert Trepanier

Alderman David Austin                        Rainwalker Winterpainter

Alderman Mark Koenig                        Drew Gordon

Alderman David Small

Alderman Lowell Bertrand

WARRANTS: The Warrant, totaling $247,032.24, was presented for review and signatures of approval.

MINUTES: Alderman Koenig moved to approve the minutes of the December 17, 2019 City Council Emergency meeting and the City Charter Informational meeting, seconded by Alderman Lowell Bertrand, with all voting in favor.

VISITORS: Rainwalker Winterpainter advised he wanted to run as an Alderman, Mayor, or any position to help the City. He tries to encourage the City Council by being very active with conversation and discussion, he stated, and felt they should come back to the table with finished work. If everyone is too busy, he offered to do the research on topics for them like the health insurance. He then encouraged everyone to donate blood to the American Red Cross because only five percent of the population do. While working on City Charter revisions he suggested doing like Spotlight Vermont did with the Opera House who had a sold-out recital. The arts are alive and well in Vergennes, he said.

Robert Trepanier advised he has gone to a lot of meetings and served on several committees and pointed out to the City Council that managing the City was their job. When he looks at the agenda the only reports, he sees listed are the Mayor’s report and the City Manager’s report, he stated, nothing about any of the sub-committees. Where are their reports, he inquired? Are there any progress reports or metric reports? What is being used to evaluate suitability to be on a committee or to be relieved from a committee? What do other members of the City Council do? What committees are they on and where are they at with their tasks? These are the things we hear nothing about, he advised. Deputy Mayor Donnelly advised she sits on the recreation committee and reports to the City Council periodically about their goals; minutes to the recreation committee’s meetings are on the website. Alderman Austin advised he Chairs the Basin Task Force Committee and their minutes are also on the City website. Mayor Fritz reported they have been making efforts to provide more visibility and accountability; the City Council’s goals are also on the website. Improving the City’s website is one of the City Council’s goals.

CITY CHARTER REVISION UPDATE: Alderman Mark Koenig advised that changes as a result of the informational meeting held December 17, 2019 and City Attorney Jim Ouimette’s review have been made to the document. Attorney Ouimette says we have a big problem with the boundaries and should not go forward with incorrect information as it will make it harder to change. Alderman Koenig advised we will figure it out with our surrounding towns and work it through to finalization with the Legislature. Adoption of the proposed charter change will not be on the ballot in March, he advised, as we need a survey and there is not enough time to get this all done. This also means the local option tax (LOT) is on hold for now but a future charter amendment to our existing charter could happen. Alderman Koenig pointed out that the first public hearing for public input on the proposed charter changes scheduled for January 21st can still happen for those who have been working on it.

POLICE UNION CONTRACT-HEALTH INSURANCE AND HRA: City Manager Hofman reported fringe benefits for police officers are different than the personnel policy due to the new union contract. He reported he has made new timesheets for them. He advised he has also contacted VMERS regarding their change in retirement plan which the officers will pay the difference on if approved. As part of their contract, their health insurance dropped to a Gold plan (rather than the Platinum plan other employees have) so it is expected that they will be utilizing their Choice Care HRA card more. They do have the option to pay the difference in cost to go back to the Platinum plan.

CERTIFICATE OF HIGHWAY MILEAGE: The Annual Certificate of Highway Mileage, filed with VTrans, was circulated for signatures of approval by the City Council. There were no changes.

ADDISON COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT APPOINTMENT: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to appoint Alderman David Austin as the City’s delegate to the ACEDC’s Board of Directors. Alderman Mark Koenig seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

RECOMMEND HEALTH OFFICER FOR APPOINTMENT: Alderman Austin moved to recommend to the Vermont Department of Health the appointment of City Manager Daniel Hofman as the City’s Health Officer. The motion was seconded by Alderman David Small with all voting in favor.

DELINQUENT TAX COLLECTOR APPOINTMENT: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to appoint City Manager Daniel Hofman as the Delinquent Tax Collector. The motion was seconded by Alderman David Austin with all voting in favor.

TREE WARDEN APPOINTMENT: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to appoint City Manager Daniel Hofman as the City’s Tree Warden. Alderman Mark Koenig seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hofman advised he has presented the budget in its current state in a new format he felt would be easier for the City Council. He reported he is working on understanding the Water Tower Fund, the Ray Davison Fund, and others. He advised the budget shows we are putting $40,000 aside each year in the Bio-solids Fund to be used to clean the lagoons. This year Rick Chaput, the Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, wants to do things differently and bring the dried product to the landfill. The cost will be $169,890 and we have $195,000 in the Fund.

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Jeff Fritz reported it has been a busy two weeks. Assistant City Clerk Melissa Wright will be leaving employment with us on January 24th and City Clerk/Treasurer Joan Devine will be retiring February 28th. He stated Manager Hofman is certainly experiencing trial by fire. The Search Committee for the City Clerk position has interviewed 3 candidates and will have a recommendation for City Council appointment at the next meeting.

PERSONNEL MATTER: Mayor Fritz requested a motion for an executive session to discuss personnel matters as allowed under Title 1 V.S.A. §313. Alderman David Austin did not feel it was an employment issue so therefore did not meet criteria by statute but felt correspondence to the City Council on the 16th needs to be dealt with. Mayor Fritz advised he would prefer this be dealt with in executive session. Deputy Mayor Donnelly felt we did not need an executive session if we don’t bring names into the conversation; just deal with the issue. She felt City Councilors are only in that position when they are in session. Mayor Fritz felt they were all free to interact with employees on their own behalf; we have one person expressing their opinion here. He advised he would like to propose a potential solution for issues such as this. He recommended that the Mayor and City Councilors contact the employee’s employer before speaking with them. Alderman Austin advised a letter addressed to the Mayor, City Council and City Manager has been received and no one has done anything about it. Robert Trepanier questioned what documentation was created with priority confidentiality. Mayor Fritz asked Deputy Mayor Donnelly and Alderman Austin what they would propose we do. Alderman David Austin advised the communication asks us to do something and we have not done that. Alderman Small felt if the Mayor and the employee have talked and exchanged correspondence that this was not a City Council matter. Alderman William Benton advised we could just acknowledge the situation. Alderman Small felt this has dragged on and is a distraction. Alderman Koenig acknowledged he wrote the Chief an email regarding the new city manager and asked the Chief to act as a professional or leave his position. Deputy Mayor Donnelly advised we have a wonderful new city manager. This issue has been discussed, many have spoken with the employee, let us remember our position and move forward. Alderman Austin advised the recommendation was for the Vergennes Police Department to do a background check, but the Mayor went with an outside agency. The Manager is the police Department’s boss and police moral is at rock bottom.

ADJOURNMENT: At 6:37 p.m. Deputy Mayor Donnelly moved to adjourn the regular meeting, seconded by Alderman Bill Benton, with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk