City Council Minutes 02-11-2020


FEBRUARY 11, 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 Clerk Joan Devine

Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly              Ass’t Clerk Morgan Kittredge

Alderman William Benton                      Alderman Mark Koenig

Alderman David Austin                           Alderman Lowell Bertrand

City Manager Daniel Hofman             Police Chief George Merkel

Rainwalker Winterpainter                    Robert Trepanier

Drew Gordon                                                Tim Cook

Absent: Alderman David Small

WARRANTS: The Warrant was presented for review and signatures of approval.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve the minutes to the January 28, 2020 City Council meeting. Motion was seconded by Alderman Austin with all members voting in favor.

ADOPT NEW JOB DESCRIPTION FOR RECREATION COORDINATOR: City Manager Hofman, with assistance from the recreation committee, put together a job description for the new Recreation Coordinator position. Alderman Bertrand moved to approve the job description. The motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig, with all voting in favor.

APPROVAL OF APPOINTMENT OF RECREATION COORDINATOR: City Manager Hofman reported that they received 7 applications and interviewed 2 of those applicants. Tim Cook, member of the Recreation Committee, was present and reported that she is a great candidate and has great enthusiasm. He further reported that during the interview she was able to switch gears from talking about child related activities to activities for the elderly and answered the questions very well. Alderman Benton asked about her residency and was informed by Tim Cook that she was indeed a Vergennes resident. City Manager Hofman indicated that he is looking for someone to grow the recreation department and thought that she was an excellent candidate. Manager Hofman was looking for approval from the City Council to hire Kimberly Buckley as Recreation Coordinator. Alderman Bertrand moved to approve the hiring of Kimberly Buckley as the Recreation Coordinator. The motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig, with all voting in favor.

DISCUSSION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT SERVICES WITH THE TOWN OF ADDISON: The Town of Addison approached Chief Merkel and City Manager Hofman about providing non-emergency services, such as motor vehicle law enforcement. Addison indicated they are looking for about 12 hours per week of coverage. City Manager Hofman reported that currently there are 2 officers on duty in Vergennes about 90% of the time. He believes that shared services are the way to go. Manager Hofman is seeking approval to engage in further discussions and formulate a draft contract for the review and approval of City Council. Rainwalker questioned if services would occur more frequently in busy tourist seasons. Hofman responded saying that it would just be the 12 hours per week regardless of the season. Likely it will be an officer doing an hour at a time during various shifts. Hofman further indicated that he will ensure that within the draft contract there will be a clause that states that either party may exit the contract easily. Alderman Benton questioned Chief Merkel on if Chief had any concerns over having just 2 officers on duty, with one potentially being out of town for a time. Chief indicated that he approves of assisting Addison, he further indicated that typically there are 2 officers plus himself on duty during the day. Therefore, if one officer is covering Addison during the daytime hours, there are still 2 officers within the City limits. The Town of Addison would like Manager Hofman and Chief Merkel to go to their meeting in a week to discuss logistics. They will draft a contract for approval in both municipalities. All members were in favor of the Manager entering into further discussions with the Town of Addison.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hofman went over several items contained in the City of Vergennes Finance Report prepared for the Council Meeting. He went through his notes while referencing page numbers. On Page 2, the Fund Summary, he indicated that the City should be at around 58% as an average without general government and voter appropriations at this point in the year. He took those out of the average because the amount of those expenses are paid out early in the year. On Page 4, he brought attention to the lower than expected tax penalties and indicated that he will investigate the reasoning and review Matt Chabot’s notes. Excess weight permits are due April 1 so that figure should be increasing. Police fines show as $38,840, however Manager Hofman noted that there are approximately $30,000 in fines pending from a couple overweight tickets that have been issued. That brings the police revenue to nearly $70,000 which is over budget. On Page 6, he noted that he will be analyzing the penalty and interest payment plans to determine why that number is lower than expected. Line 4 of the Sewer Fund Revenue shows $79,325 as Non-Budget Sewer Revenue, this is money received from the State as a loan/grant to pay for an Engineer Study. He received a preliminary engineer report pertaining to the upgrades needed at the sewer facility. The report indicated that the costs of the work needed to bring the facility into compliance are between $6-10 million. On Page 9, the amounts on Lines 4 and 5, 4 will be Morgan’s salary, line 5 will be Abbie’s. He is advertising for an Administrative Assistant. These lines are higher than expected because the City paid Melissa Wright out her accrued vacation time when her employment ended. Hopefully those lines will even out after all the transitioning is done. Item 36 for Information Technology is for the new computers and the cloud. It is expected that in the new budget that amount will be lower. Item 10 shows the Police Department expenditures which will be increasing due to a new Administrative Assistant at the Police Department. On Page 11, item 39 and 37 got switched around. Item 39 is a payment that happened last year that accidentally was on this budget. That will allow for more flexibility for the budget next year. Spending in the Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) is below average.

Alderman Benton asked if the new heating system was up and running. Manager Hofman said that it was and that he has drafted up an agreement for a reimbursement plan between the City and the Opera House for the Opera House to make payments toward their share of the cost of that heating system. A BTU meter still needs to be installed to be able to delineate how much is used by the Opera house and how much is used by the City. This new system should be incredibly cheaper.

Main Street project pre-construction meeting in mid-March with the State. Hofman hopes to be involved in that. Still waiting on the public relations officer.

There is a public hearing on the Municipal Plan at the same time as the next City Council meeting.

Manager Hofman is in receipt of a preliminary engineer report on the sewer treatment plant. The engineer report came back with the recommendation to spend $10 million on a stormwater system and $6 million on a new treatment plant. He’s trying to find funding which is very difficult. He’s working with the engineer to scale back the project a bit so we can have some quick wins and get into compliance with the State.

Chief Merkel is nominated to receive an award from Project Safe Neighborhoods, one of three people in Vermont. Chief will be attending an all-expenses paid conference to represent the State of Vermont at the awards banquet.

There is a local concern meeting about the salt shed project on Thursday, March 5, at 6 p.m. located at Vergennes City Hall.

The Annual Report is complete, printed and available for the public. Copies were distributed to Council members. The Clerk’s office is in the midst of processing Absentee Ballot requests and mailing out ballots.

We are in the process of adding Manager Hofman and Abbie Farrar to the accounts at National Bank of Middlebury. This is different than what has happened in the past, though he sees it as him being back up to the Treasurer. The person who cuts the checks, can’t sign the checks. This is a standard operating procedure he wants to implement. Manager Hofman wants access to all bank and investment accounts, with the council’s approval, so he can more easily know what is going on with the accounts.

Alderman Benton asked if Hofman was anticipating transferring the accounting into a GASB 34 acceptable format. He realizes this is big issue. The main thing is capital inventory, along with a Capital Plan and analyzing our investment dividends and planning those dividends 5 years down the road. To analyze assets, purchase prices, depreciation, etc. We will have to go to that accounting format at some point because it can affect grants and the charter among other things. Alderman Donnelly wondered if it were possible to have each department head inventory their own assets. Manager Hofman agreed and added that it is a big project and he is hoping to make steps toward it.

MAYORS REPORT: The Succession planning Committee met and discussed the transition of the Clerk/Treasurer. Since that transition is coming to a close, they are looking to widen the scope to standard operating procedures. Rainmaker wondered where we find those standards. Hofman indicated that they may be found with VLCT, as well as other associations and organizations.

ADJOURNMENT: At 5:57 p.m. Alderman Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Alderman Koenig with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Assistant City Clerk

Morgan Kittredge