City Council Minutes 02-14-2017



FEBRUARY 14, 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 Clerk Joan Devine

Senior Alderman Renny Perry Erin Roche

Alderman Mathew Chabot Mike Daniels

Alderman Lowell Bertrand Matt Daniels

Alderman Mark Koenig Shannon Haggett

Alderman Lynn Donnelly Gerianne Smart

Alderman Jeff Fritz Andy Kirkaldy

City Manager Mel Hawley

PUBLIC HEARING – PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN: Planning Commission Chair Shannon Haggett advised the proposed amendments to the Municipal Development Plan will incorporate a map that depicts the boundary of the downtown development district and identify a list of capital improvement projects within the district. He reported that including the map of the district is now a requirement for renewal of a designated downtown development district. There was no other testimony and Mayor Benton closed the hearing at 5:37 p.m. City Manager Hawley reported the City Council will hold the second public hearing on February 28th. If there are no changes to the amendments, the City Council may adopt the amendments as proposed.

FRIENDS OF VERGENNES OPERA HOUSE: Friends of Vergennes Opera House President Gerianne Smart reported this month is the 120th anniversary of City Hall/Vergennes Opera House being built and the 20th anniversary this fall since it was restored and open to the public again after being closed for 27 years. She advised the Opera House is a great facility for the arts and community activities. An upcoming event, Carnevale, is a perfect example of how non-profit organizations can come together to help each other. Originally started as a fund-raiser for the Vergennes Opera House and the Vergennes Partnership, it now includes the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes, she advised, and they were able to raise $21,000 last year for the three non-profit organizations. Their fourth Carnevale is scheduled for March 4, 2017. She reported that the beautifully restored “ticket booth” is now a shared space for the Opera House and the Vergennes Partnership as they work together to bring economic development to the city; in their case, through the arts. A basket of chocolates from Daily Chocolate, with Vergennes Opera House imprinted to celebrate the anniversaries, were left to be shared with those visiting City Hall. Gerianne departed at 5:47 p.m.

MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes to the January 24, 2017 meeting. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $74,090.04 was circulated for review and signatures of approval.

DOWNTOWN-BASIN MASTER PLAN: Mayor Benton reported a lot of work has gone into the Vergennes Falls Park area already as part of the Downtown-Basin Master Plan and it is looking fabulous. He envisions more plantings, general upgrades, signage, recreation opportunities, etc. Alderman Lynn Donnelly reported the Greater Vergennes Rotary has ten people that are willing to work on the so-called Harmony Park which will be on property of Green Mountain Power Corporation located on the right-hand side of the road leading to Vergennes Falls Park. She said their group of volunteers will be meeting in mid-March. She advised they still need to fundraise and buy equipment but are hopeful to be in operation by Memorial Day. Senior Alderman Perry suggested the original people who were members of the project steering committee and were involved with development of the master plan be invited to look at the recommendations and provide direction. Mayor Benton advised he has recently sent emails to many of those who were on the steering committee to see if they had any interest in continuing as we move forward. Senior Alderman Perry also inquired on the status of re-doing the surface of the dock at Vergennes Falls Park. City Manager Hawley reported we are in need of direction for this; last year we were quoted prices between $17,000 and $20,000. Matt Daniels suggested pouring dyed concrete as it would be much cheaper than using brick pavers. Shannon Haggett announced that the City’s Downtown-Basin Master Plan is being nominated for the “Plan of the Year” by the Vermont Planners Association. Mike Daniels advised the basin area gets used year-round and would like the City Council to think of what winter events can be promoted there in addition to current activities. Mayor Benton would like night lighting that would allow for uses such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

CERTIFICATE OF MILEAGE: City Manager Hawley advised one house on Commodore Drive has sold and is occupied by the new owner and four others are under construction as part of the first phase. The road is complete for this phase except for the final layer of pavement. The City Council previously committed to accept each phase of Commodore Drive as it is completed. He recommended the City accept this phase of Commodore Drive as a Class 3 highway and add it to our Certificate of Mileage for this year. The City is not required to take over the road now, he advised, but if it is included in the Certificate of Mileage we would be reimbursed about $200 in additional mileage aid from the State for this year. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to accept the first phase of Commodore Drive as discussed. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor. The Certificates of Highway Mileage and Completion and Opening were passed for signatures of the City Council.

COMMENTS: Erin Roche advised she is attempting to get young people involved and suggested perhaps an invitation to them to meet with the City Council for a question and answer session. Sometimes meetings are challenging for young people to get through and sometimes the timing of meetings do not work. Erin felt there would be better participation if they were engaged. She inquired if the City Council would be interested in getting young families involved. Mayor Benton stated he would welcome those opportunities. City Manager Hawley advised he and the staff at City Hall have had several visits by teachers and students from the schools regarding what is done at City Hall. He said staff will continue to makes itself available for such visits.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: Manager Hawley reported he still feels good about the status of the budget. He advised payments to several of the social services contracts are included in the Warrant as he located their annual reports that were filed with election materials. The Public Works Department has spent $24,800 of the $45,000 that we budgeted for salt so far, he advised. Senior Alderman Perry pointed out the police vehicle maintenance line item is almost double our budget. Manager Hawley advised we retired two cruisers this year; one has been sold and we are waiting on the other. We have been able to keep police department wages stable with the use of grant funds that also allow for additional officers on duty.

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Benton reported Maple Leaf Farm in Underhill, a substance abuse treatment center, has closed suddenly and Valley Vista, owners of an alcohol and drug rehabilitation in Bradford, has offered to assist the State. They are working on merging with someone to establish 20 available beds at the former Briarwood Manor nursing home property here in Vergennes that they own and is currently unoccupied. There will be a meeting at their building on Thursday from noon until 5 p.m. where more information will be available including the potential for another 25 jobs.

Mayor Benton advised that due to the upcoming vacation of the City Manager in March, the City Council may need to have a brief special meeting on March 7th to sign a Warrant and will hold their other regular meeting on March 28th.

ADJOURNMENT: The regular meeting adjourned at 6:30 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