City Council Minutes 02-27-2018



February 27, 2018


Mayor Renny Perry called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Renny Perry                               Sarah Cowan

Deputy Mayor Jeffrey Fritz             Sarah Stroup

Alderman Lynn Donnelly                  John Stroup

Alderman Mathew Chabot              Darren Donovan

Alderman Mark Koenig                     Robert Trepanier

Alderman Lowell Bertrand             Andy Kirkaldy

City Manager Mel Hawley              Shannon Haggett

City Clerk Joan Devine                     Peter Jensen (6:15 pm)

David Austin                                           Peter Garon (6:15 pm)

T. Faith Terry                                        Cheryl Brinkman (6:00 pm)

Michelle Eckels

ADDISON NORTHWEST SCHOOL DISTRICT (ANwSD): John Stroup, a member of the ANwSD Board of School Directors, presented proposed budget numbers and addressed questions from the floor. He advised they are asking voters to approve a budget in the amount of $21,106,261 and, if approved, will result in education spending of $17,644 per equalized student. Security of school doors in the district were also discussed as well as other improvements planned as part of their proposed 7.6 million dollar bond vote.

VISITORS: Michelle Eckels advised she is not on the agenda but wants to let everyone know the swim team is in action ordering supplies. The hot water issue at the pool needs to be addressed soon, as well as other planning, and that she would like to be on the agenda for the next meeting.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $758,040.02 was circulated for review and signatures of approval. City Manager Hawley advised the Warrant includes the third quarter installment of the education property tax.

MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting held on February 13, 2018. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig. On the first page in the last paragraph the word ‘classes’ was amended to ‘classroom’. On the last page in the first sentence ‘GASB 34’ was corrected to ‘GASB’. A vote on the motion with corrections showed all voting in favor.

PARK STREET STREETSCAPE PROJECT: Mayor Perry advised the Downtown Transportation Fund Grant program requires a formal resolution as the motion at the last meeting would not meet the application guidelines. Sarah Stroup, a member of St. Paul’s Church, advised they were pleasantly surprised and pleased with the City Council’s action and advised the parish supports the project. As for participating in the cost of the project, they asked that the City Council make an exception to the formula of expecting adjacent property owners to fund 25 percent of the project. She requested the City fund the entire 50 percent match as these are City improvements. She advised they would be spending their limited finances on the project on their property but not the sidewalk portion within the public right of way. Mayor Perry reported prior streetscape projects have had a commercial value for the City’s investment compared to this project that will generate more parking spaces and improve sidewalk accessibility. He advised the resolution, when signed, says the City is committing to 50 percent of the total project costs regardless of whether the City is reimbursed. Alderman Lynn Donnelly inquired who was going to maintain this new park that is to be created. Sarah Cowan advised St. Paul’s Church is focused on letting the public onto church property; they have not discussed who will maintain it. Your thinking is way ahead of ours, she advised. The sidewalk is kept clear by our parishioners so attendees can get to the church so none of that will change. Mrs. Cowan hoped the expanded sidewalk would be done by the City’s sidewalk plow. Alderman Lynn Donnelly moved to sign the resolution for a Downtown Transportation Fund Grant for the Park Street streetscape project. Alderman Lowell Bertrand seconded the motion to allow discussion. Alderman Donnelly wanted confirmation on the amount the City would have to pay. Manager Hawley advised the Board is looking for a new motion or a change in the last one. Mayor Perry advised the City would be committing to $46,250 with the resolution regardless of what is received from St. Paul’s Church. Alderman Matt Chabot stated that he could not support an additional $23,125 from City funds. Alderman Koenig advised, traditionally, it has not been done this way and precedence has been set; this will only “muddy the waters”. City Manager Hawley reported the formula has had exceptions. For example, three of the projects he had been involved with, adjacent property owners put up 25 percent of the project; the “Old Theatre” property was financed with 25 percent from the property owner and 75 percent from the Water Tower Fund because the City was not awarded a grant for that project. He advised the small project in front of City Hall was paid half by a Downtown Transportation Fund grant and half from the Water Tower Fund. The Methodist Church and owner of 135 Main Street paid no share for the project in front of their buildings that would have been about $8,700 under the formula. He suggested possibly giving St. Paul’s Church a credit in the same amount towards the proposed sidewalk project.

The Mayor recessed the meeting at 6 p.m. for the public informational hearing pertaining to the $500,000 bond vote for the purchase of a fire truck to replace Engine #316.


FIRE TRUCK BOND – $500,000.00

Mayor Renny Perry called the public informational hearing to order at 6:00 p.m. and read the public notice. The purpose of the public informational hearing was to hear comments and address questions regarding a $500,000 bond vote on March 6, 2018 to replace Engine #316. Additional attendees for the hearing included Fire Chief James Breur, Captain Matt Crowley, Captain David DiBiasi, and Captain Liam Casey.

Fire Chief James Breur advised their committee spent many hours designing a truck that would meet the Department’s needs today and well into the future. He advised a lot of questions have been asked and knowledge acquired while designing this new truck that will cost us about $520,000.00 fully equipped. He reported they will be selling Engine #316, a 1994 vehicle, to recoup some funds that will be used to transfer equipment from one vehicle to another.

City Manager Hawley commented that $500,000 is a lot of money but there are no used vehicles available. He said that other departments are keeping their trucks longer just as we do. He said the department is having problems getting parts for the aging vehicles. Manager Hawley reported, if the bond vote passes, the increase for Vergennes resulting from the 20-year bond is less than one-quarter of a cent on the tax rate for the first year and approximately two-thirds of a cent for the following years.

Resident Bob Trepanier commented that the fire department should have extra parts on the shelf for vehicle repairs. Chief Breur advised technology changes and the current parts problem they are having deals with replacing a computer to dispense foam at a fire. That part alone costs between $10,000 to $15,000 and they have no idea how long that part will last. He went on to advise they have a great maintenance system and they do keep smaller items in inventory. The part they need is too expensive to sit on the shelf with the potential that it may never get used, he stated.

As there were no more questions or discussion, Mayor Renny Perry closed the public informational hearing at 6:17 p.m. and reconvened the regular meeting.

PARK STREET STREETSCAPE PROJECT – Continued: Sarah Stroup commented that this is a capital improvement and economic development of City-owned property adjacent to the City Green. We are not just a religious institution as our public space is used by the Girl Scouts, events such as the Holiday Stroll, as well as participants in parades. We are trying to serve our community, she advised. Deputy Mayor Jeff Fritz questioned whether it was the amount of money involved or the loan term they are having trouble with. Sarah Cowan felt it was the amount, and yes they could cover the $23,000 in five years, but feel it is a City project. She advised they have spent a lot of time to improve their space and want people to use it. This is not about helping St. Paul’s Church; it’s about improving our downtown. Mayor Renny Perry inquired if St. Paul’s Church would go forward as planned. Sarah Stroup stated that they want to go forward. Alderman Lynn Donnelly advised there are single-file sidewalks on both sides of the City Green. She shared how she saw a mom pushing a carriage with a toddler following close behind her on the sidewalk and agreed this is an unsafe sidewalk and a project that needs to be done. Alderman Lynn Donnelly suggested changing the terms to a ten-year payback as a compromise. Alderman Matt Chabot reported the City has gone through a comprehensive study of our sidewalks and this is not the only unsafe spot but would support a 10-year plan. Mayor Renny Perry stated the sidewalk would need to be rebuilt by the City at some point. Sarah Cowan advised she has confidence the vestry would support the 10-year payback offer. Alderman Mark Koenig said the percentage could change. Mayor Renny Perry advised the City Council can revisit this and change the formula later. Alderman Lynn Donnelly reiterated the City will be on the hook for 50 percent of the project with an understanding with St. Paul’s Church. It was agreed by all to go forward. Mayor Renny Perry announced we can have a conversation in the future on the payment plan provided the grant is awarded.

RESOLUTION TO RE-ESTABLISH DESIGNATION OF SENIOR ALDERMAN AS DEPUTY MAYOR: Mayor Renny Perry explained the City Charter says, “In the case of the absence, resignation or inability from any cause of the mayor, the duties of the office shall devolve on the senior alderman, chosen by the city council, for the remainder of the mayor’s official term.” To eliminate confusion as to the responsibilities of the senior alderman, he proposed adopting the resolution that the senior alderman will be officially called Deputy Mayor. Mayor Renny Perry advised the title of Deputy Mayor has been used for at least the past 25 years and recommended the resolution. Alderman Mark Koenig moved to adopt the resolution, seconded by Alderman Lowell Bertrand, with all voting in favor.

OPPORTUNITY ZONE DESIGNATION: Looking for Vergennes to be designated an Opportunity Zone, Mayor Renny Perry advised he has drafted a letter of request to Governor Phil Scott. He advised the poverty level in Addison County is 8.7% compared to Vergennes’ 11.5% along with other statistics which make Vergennes the only census tract eligible for the New Market Tax Credits in Addison County. Addison County Economic Development Corporation submitted a request to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development that the City of Vergennes be considered for this designation along with letters of support from Senator Claire Ayers and Senator Christopher Bray. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to support the letter as drafted. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lynn Donnelly with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER JOB DESCRIPTION: A revised version of the job description for the City Manager position was included in the City Council packets. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adopt the description as presented, seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig, with all voting in favor. Changes can be made to the document by the City Manager Search Committee.

CITY COUNCIL CALENDAR: City Manager Hawley advised the City Council calendar was also in the packets and encouraged everyone to look at their personal schedules before the next meeting.

APPOINTMENT OF ALDERMAN: Mayor Renny Perry explained, due to Mayor Daniel’s resignation, he became the mayor so his alderman seat is now vacant but will expire March 6th. As there is no opposition in the Aldermen race on the ballot, he felt confident that he will be reelected and, since he cannot hold two seats on the City Council, he will resign from that elected seat. In the meantime, we have had two candidates who have submitted letters of interest to fill the vacancy in response to the notice directed by the City Council and we will interview those candidates now. David Austin, a resident and prior business owner in the city, advised he was interested in the position as a former alderman who served from 2004-2012. He also was Chair of the Planning Commission for several years and was part of the process when the City became one of the first Downtown Development Districts in the state. Between his experience with City government and his business background, he felt he would be of significant help facing the new challenges that will present themselves once City Manager Hawley retires. T. Faith Terry expressed her interest in filling the vacancy as a legal resident and voter of the City since the early 1980s. Her letter of interest also attached a document reflecting her community involvement which included co-Chair of Design Day “Finding Vergennes”, founding member of Friends of Vergennes Opera House and member of their Board of Directors, Coordinator of Greater Vergennes Traffic Impact Feasibility Study, founding member and Project Manager for Otter Creek Investment that restored the Basin Block, and various other environmental and revitalization efforts in the nationally designated historic district. Alderman Matt Chabot reported that a citizen had questioned her residency. T. Faith Terry advised her chosen residency is her home in Vergennes. Mayor Perry advised they would go into executive session to discuss appointment of a public officer at the end of the meeting.

CITY MANAGER’S BUDGET REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised the Administration budget is in good shape; the Police Department is not. Public Works Department is good right now until it snows again so we may hold off on some of the spring highway projects. The Sewer Department is okay, he advised, but said he needs to examine revenues given the new rate increase.

WATER TOWER FUND: An updated report on the Water Tower Fund and the Water Tower Continuation Fund was prepared by City Manager Hawley. He advised there are four leases that provide revenue for these funds; two entities pay in a lump sum for the year and the remaining two pay on a monthly basis. Another $25,000 is expected to arrive by the end of the fiscal year, he stated.

PRELIMINARY 1272 ORDER – SEWER OVERFLOWS: The draft 1272 order was provided by Liz Dickson from the Agency of Natural Resources, advised Manager Hawley. This will not be the last 1272 order as we continue to battle infiltration resulting in overflows at the Macdonough Drive pump station. This order requires so-called “minimum controls”, which are designed to maximize pollutant capture and minimize impacts to water quality, to be implemented. The City will be required under the order to create a long-term control plan within 18 months and submit it to the secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation.

NORTHERN GATEWAY SIDEWALK PROJECT BID OPENING: City Manager Hawley reported the bid opening for the Northern Gateway Sidewalk Project is scheduled for March 21st. Hopefully, the bids will be within budget and additional funds from the Water Tower Fund will not be needed. If the bids result in the project going over budget, the City could abandon the project but would have to refund grant funds already used for engineering and project management.

CITY HALL CONFERENCE ROOM PROJECT: The line item in the budget for City Hall building maintenance is nearly spent, advised City Manager Hawley. He suggested authorization to use funds from the Water Tower Fund to complete the project. An estimate of $10,000, which includes purchasing furniture, should be sufficient. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to allocate up to $10,000 from the Water Tower Fund to finish the renovation of the City Hall conference room. The motion was seconded by Alderman Matt Chabot with all voting in favor.

PERSONNEL POLICY UPDATE: City Manager Hawley reported he has made several proposed amendments to the Personnel Policy but most were for clarification and are of little significance. He would like to have action by the City Council on the proposed amendments at the March 27th meeting.

OTHER TOPICS OF INTEREST: City Manager Hawley reported he will not seek reappointment as City Manager in July. In accordance with the City Charter, he advised the City Council shall appoint a City Manager at their first meeting of the fiscal year. The City Council meets July 24th so he will no longer be the City Manager as of that date. Although originally considering continued employment on a part-time basis, he has decided that he will also resign from his positions as zoning administrator, administrative assistant to the Board of Listers, and Planning Commission Clerk at that time, he stated. He advised the applicable statute calls for the Planning Commission to recommend a candidate for zoning administrator but it is ultimately a decision of the City Council.


MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Perry advised he has put together a City Manager Search Committee by Mayoral appointment. Committee members will be Deputy Mayor Jeff Fritz, Alderman Lynn Donnelly, Police Chief George Merkel, former alderman John Emerson, and St. Albans Town Manager Carrie Johnson who grew up in Vergennes.

Mayor Perry reported that the complaint filed by Shannon Mahoney against City Manager Hawley and City Clerk Devine will be dealt with at their annual evaluations in April. He reported this is amicable to the complainant.

Mayor Perry stated he now is the Mayor and President of Vergennes Partnership which some people perceive as a conflict of interest. He advised he would like the City Council to decide if his resignation as President of Vergennes Partnership is needed. Alderman Chabot reported he does not see that as a conflict and doesn’t have an issue with it. The other members concurred.

EXECUTIVE SESSION: At 7:25 p.m. Alderman Bertrand moved for an executive session to discuss the appointment of a public officer. The executive session adjourned at 7:35 p.m. on a motion by Deputy Mayor Fritz, seconded by Alderman Bertrand, with all voting in favor.

APPOINTMENT OF ALDERMAN: Alderman Mark Koenig moved to appoint David Austin as the new alderman effective March 7th. Alderman Matt Chabot seconded the motion with all voting in favor. Mayor Perry explained the City Council chose David Austin because he has served on the City Council previously, has business experience, previously chaired the planning commission, and has lived here most of his life. T. Faith Terry, although very experienced and an excellent candidate, is a registered voter but not a resident of Vergennes and the law says when a town officer removes from town the office shall become vacant.

ADJOURNMENT: At 7:40 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk