CITY COUNCIL MEETING
FEBRUARY 28, 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 Shannon Haggett
Senior Alderman Renny Perry Lisa Casey
Alderman Mathew Chabot Michelle Eckels
Alderman Lowell Bertrand Mike Quigley
Alderman Mark Koenig Bill Clark
Alderman Lynn Donnelly Meghan Chambers
Alderman Jeff Fritz Tim Cook (6:15 p.m.)
City Manager Mel Hawley
City Clerk Joan Devine
PUBLIC HEARING – PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN: Senior Alderman Renny Perry read the notice of public hearing. Mayor Benton 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. No one present wished to provide testimony so Mayor Benton closed the public hearing at 5:33 p.m.
EFFICIENCY VERMONT: Meghan Chambers, an account manager at Efficiency Vermont, reported they have partnered with Vergennes Partnership and are doing a pilot study in the designated downtown district from January through June. During this time period they will be offering the same services they provide year-round but want more exposure about who they are and the services they offer. Free in-home visits by their specialists will be done with recommended improvements provided along with references to companies who can perform the work. She advised Amy Bodette Barr of Vergennes Partnership has also identified 40 businesses that she would like Efficiency Vermont to visit. As part of their outreach into the community they will be one of the sponsors of Carnevale, be at Aubuchon Hardware on March 25th promoting LED lightbulbs, working with Addison County Chamber of Commerce for awareness, and working with the staff and students at Vergennes Union High School. Meghan Chambers departed at 5:42 p.m.
MINUTES: A few typographical corrections were made in addition to the following: On the second page under Downtown-Basin Master Plan, the words “steering committee” were corrected to read “basin committee”. On the same page under “Comments”, the first three sentences were replaced with the following: “Erin Roche, a city resident, 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 after or before the annual meeting. Sometimes meetings are challenging for young people to get through. Erin felt there would be better participation if they were engaged.” Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes to the February 14, 2017 as corrected. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry with all voting in favor.
WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $820,473.57, which includes the third quarterly installment of education taxes, was circulated for review and signatures of approval.
AMENDMENTS TO MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN: Senior Alderman Renny Perry moved to adopt the amendments to the Municipal Development Plan as proposed by the Planning Commission. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lowell Bertrand. Planning Commission Chair Shannon Haggett advised that these amendments, once adopted, will allow the City to finalize its renewal application of the downtown development district that has been submitted to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. A vote on the motion showed all in favor.
PEDESTRIAN SAFETY TASK FORCE REPORT: Alderman Matt Chabot submitted a list of items to improve pedestrian safety in the city. He reported their group has agreed that the rapid flashing beacons are the most effective for crosswalks. They also feel that a rapid flashing beacon is also needed across from City Hall. He advised the committee has been working with Local Motion out of Burlington who is not an advocate of grants due to overhead and being cumbersome. Alderman Chabot advised the rapid flashing beacons with a push button for use cost about $5,000 each. Mayor Benton, Alderman Chabot and Alderman Koenig, along with Manager Hawley will look at various signs, prices, and cost for installation and will bring back the information to the City Council.
SWIMMING POOL INSPECTION: City Manager Hawley advised he provided a copy of the inspection and evaluation report by Aquatic Development Group (ADG) in the packets. He also provided a copy of the seasonal budget report for the pool which reflects a $2,541.61 fund balance to carry forward to the 2017 season. Manager Hawley advised he invited Mike Quigley to this meeting as a former employee of Pool World and who presently operates a pool and hot tub service. Mayor Benton gave the history that led to the pool inspection basically for safety reasons. Bill Clark advised the Chemtrol programmable controllers are the way to go as they include many features and options such as chemical automation with pH, ORP and PPM control. The system can fail if not maintained but a much safer alternative than chlorine being added by young adults. By code you cannot have exposed buckets, he advised. You would need to have one person in charge of the system as it is more technical than pouring chlorine into the pool. He warned that it was a big undertaking to switch out the systems. Michelle Eckels advised the Town of Middlebury is going to Chemtrol this year for their pool so they should have information. Senior Alderman Perry supported automated control of the chemicals for safety reasons. Mr. Quigley reported this approach will reduce staff hours but not so much with chemical costs. As for patching, white Portland cement should continue to be used for repairs. City Manager Hawley advised there is a narrow window of time in the spring for repairs and wondered whether the work should be in early fall instead. He said the repairs could be a $30,000 to $60,000 project; gunite repair is expensive and reminded everyone of the limited fund balance. Manager Hawley reported Steve Biernacki of ADG agreed to return this spring to look at the drain and re-measure the pool depth in both ends of the swimming lanes. Hopefully the sand filter that has been doing its job so far has a lot of life left, stated Bill Clark. Michelle Eckels pointed out that the water levels had historically been too low for adequate skimming. City Manager Hawley advised we have learned that the operating water level should be maintained at no less than 1-5/8” below the return. Alderman Koenig advised Steve Biernacki did not see the pool while it was operating so it will be good to have him back to check various issues. We need to make a commitment, advised Mayor Benton, but he was not sure what the next steps should be. City Manager Hawley felt priorities should be established and we need to know where the money will be coming from for these improvements. He stated he wants to drain the pool as soon as possible so patching and caulking can be done. He also stated he has been trying to get someone interested in taking the certified pool director course but has had no luck. Michelle Eckels advised she would be interested in taking the course again. Senior Alderman Perry inquired if we should be bringing someone in to do the work. City Manager Hawley advised Steve Biernacki said our public works crew have been doing it right and using the right materials. They can also paint the depth line for the water. Senior Alderman Perry suggested going with the automated chemical system because the storing of chemicals is wrong and we need to change to something safer. That step seems obvious to him and it’s not that expensive so we should do it, he advised. City Manager Hawley estimated that to cost over $10,000. Mayor Benton would like to receive a real estimate and recommendation before that step is taken. Mike Quigley advised he could provide that. Steve Biernacki will be asked to come back to the pool in April.
NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT AREA: City Manager Hawley advised Neighborhood Development Area designation program started in 2011 by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development for the purpose of encouraging municipalities to plan for new and infill housing in areas encircling its downtown development district. This would encompass property within ½ mile of the downtown development district that is suitable for residential development. If the City has such a designated area, he advised, there are benefits such as grants, Act 250 waivers, etc. There is 20-40 acres in the valley behind City Hall in the High Density Residential District so we should be doing anything we can do to help developers in this district to build. This would create work-force housing. Senior Alderman Perry, who is also the President of Vergennes Partnership, advised they would help with the application. Shannon Haggett, Chair of the Planning Commission, stated they are in support of the concept but still have some questions. They would like to assist in determining the boundary of the area. It looks straightforward and an easy application, he advised. He also advised no changes to the Municipal Development Plan would be needed. City Manager Hawley advised five municipalities have Neighborhood Development Areas and 213 housing units have been constructed with benefits from the program. It was the consensus of the City Council that City Manager Hawley, Vergennes Partnership and the Planning Commission should precede with caution.
FIRE STATION MEETING ROOM POLICY AMENDMENT: Proposed changes to the Fire Station Meeting Room Policy were distributed. City Manager Hawley advised he recommends deleting several organizations in the policy because they no longer or never had a need to use that space and requested Vergennes Partnership be authorized to use the room. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to amend the policy as proposed. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.
CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: Manager Hawley reported he did a line-by-line review of the budget and continues to feel good about the status. The Public Works Department and the Police Department budgets continue to be in good shape.
Mayor Benton advised Manager Hawley and he are not available the week of March 14th so the City Council will hold a special meeting in the City Manager’s office on Monday, March 6th at 5:30 p.m. At this meeting the Warrant will be signed and a tour of the conference room and Vergennes Partnership’s office at City Hall prior to heading to the Opera House for the 7 p.m. dessert social followed by the Annual City Meeting. The regular meeting on March 28th will be held as scheduled.
ADJOURNMENT: The regular meeting adjourned at 7:05 p.m. by motion of Alderman Lowell Bertrand. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk