City Council Minutes 01-24-2017


JANUARY 24, 2017


Mayor William Benton called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station meeting room located at 50 Green Street. Those in attendance were:

Mayor William Benton

City Manager Mel Hawley

City Clerk Joan Devine

Senior Alderman Renny Perry

Alderman Mathew Chabot

Alderman Lowell Bertrand

Alderman Mark Koenig

Alderman Lynn Donnelly

Alderman Jeff Fritz

Mike Daniels

Francis McGill

Charlotte Sullivan

Cheryl Brinkman

MINUTES: The minutes to the January 10, 2017 meeting were reviewed and corrected. In the first paragraph on the second page, the last sentence was amended to read “Senior Alderman Perry also presented Vergennes Partnership’s Downtown Capital Improvements Plan which does not require formal approval of the City Council; it needs to be in their renewal application and does not obligate the City Council to the projects in the plan.” Alderman Bertrand moved to accept the minutes as corrected. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $73,712.29 was circulated for review and signatures of approval. Manager Hawley, who also serves as Zoning Administrator, noted that over $6,000 was paid for legal fees associated with the appeal by Mahaiwe, LLC of conditions in a Development Review Board decision regarding perimeter fencing due to safety concerns. Senior Alderman Perry found the appeal unexpected as Mahaiwe, LLC offered two options for perimeter fencing and the Development Review Board chose Option B as they felt Option A was not adequate. Manager Hawley advised he felt there was no court appearance so there should be no additional related invoices.

DOWNTOWN-BASIN MASTER PLAN: Mayor Benton reported the Downtown-Basin Master Plan was finalized a couple months ago and is available on the City’s website. He said the City Council can now start discussing what can be accomplished within the budget and use of grants. City Manager Hawley reminded the City Council that the so-called Green Mountain Power Co-operative Agreement Fund, which was established at the time their FERC license was renewed, has about $39,000 available for basin improvements. Alderman Lynn Donnelly advised the Vergennes Rotary Club is also working on a $20,000 project called Harmony Park which will be located at the falls on land owned by Green Mountain Power. Green Mountain Power will remove the heavy debris and the club will maintain the area.

VISITOR: Cheryl Brinkman, our representative on the Board of Supervisors of the Addison County Solid Waste Management District, was present to update the City Council on Act 148 dealing with organics that goes into effect July 1, 2017. She reported the Solid Waste District has purchased 32 gallon totes with grant funds in anticipation of this new law. The municipality is responsible to make sure haulers and drop-off sites offer organic collection and each town can meet that mandate however it works for them. She advised the District has arranged for organics to go to Foster Brothers Farm in Middlebury. They have a committee that is working on how to bridge the gap between the communities to meet this new law and hope to be done in early summer. This new law will not be enforced anymore than recycling is but was created for those who want to do it, she reported. Manager Hawley advised the City issued a vendor license to C & J Hauler’s that is valid until June 30, 2017 and requested updated information by May 1, 2017.

CORRESPONDENCE TO CONGRESSMAN PETER WELCH: As was discussed at the last meeting, City Manager Hawley distributed a draft letter to Congressman Peter Welch identifying needed public infrastructure projects in Vergennes. Manager Hawley advised the letter points out some of the critical issues the City is facing with only property taxes to rely on. The letter encourages financial assistance from the Federal Government to fund much-needed infrastructure projects. Mayor Benton will finalize the letter and sign it on behalf of the City Council.

ANNUAL CITY MEETING WARNING: A draft Warning was presented to the City Council for adoption. Alderman Koenig asked for an explanation of the process for the articles that appear on the draft Warning. City Clerk Devine advised of the procedure that has been followed for years; articles on the Warning were the result of letters from social service agencies and there were no changes from last year. The written policy adopted by the City Council that has been used for decades relative to such funding requests will be provided. Senior Alderman Renny Perry moved to adopt the Warning as presented, seconded by Alderman Bertrand, with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: Manager Hawley reported the budget has no unexpected surprises. Today’s ice storm will cost the City about $6,000, he advised, but the Public Works Department budget is in good shape. He pointed out there is an $80,000 cushion from our general fund year-end fund balance. He reported the Vermont Gas Systems distribution lines should be completed by December 31, 2017 and will be included in the 2018 grand list. The solar array at the wastewater treatment plant owned by Encore Vergennes Solar II has been operating for three years. The agreement includes a purchase option after six or seven years of operation to buy the solar system, advised Manager Hawley. He said they will likely be motivated to sell at that time and if the City was to purchase the array, the City would receive 100 percent of the value of the electricity that is generated instead of just 10 percent currently being received. Originally the solar system was estimated to generate 200,000 kilowatts a year but has not and the City was supposed to receive $4,100 in savings a year which has not been the case. Some trees have been cut down which has resulted in an increase in generation for 2016.

The conference room at City Hall is being renovated by volunteers Mike Daniels and Matt Daniels, advised Manager Hawley. The wood floors appear to be maple and wainscoting was found behind the paneling but may not be able to be saved. The computer wiring in that room needs to be removed before moving forward, he stated.

COMMUNITY ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM: Senior Alderman Perry reported Efficiency Vermont will be in Vergennes for the next 6 months. They will conduct energy audits for residential and commercial properties at no cost to the owners. Efficiency Vermont will also offer information on what services they offer and where money is available to fund recommended energy savings improvements, he advised. Communities need to have a designated downtown development district to qualify for this program, he stated.

ADJOURNMENT: The regular meeting adjourned at 6:45 p.m. by motion of Alderman Lowell Bertrand. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk