City Council Minutes 05-09-2017


MAY 09, 2017


Mayor Michael Daniels called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station meeting room located at 50 Green Street. Following the pledge of allegiance, Mayor Daniels advised there is an amendment to the agenda adding item 5f to discuss grass clippings put in the highway when property owners are mowing their lawn. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Michael Daniels                             Alderman Lynn Donnelly

Senior Alderman Renny                           Perry City Manager Mel Hawley

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                    City Clerk Joan Devine

Alderman Jeffrey Fritz                             Andy Kirkaldy

Alderman Mathew Chabot                    David Crawford

Alderman Mark Koenig


MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of the April 25, 2017. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lynn Donnelly. Senior Alderman Renny Perry recommended a sentence structure correction. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $66,258.50 was circulated for review and signatures of approval.

VIDEO: Vergennes Partnership President Renny Perry showed a brief video entitled “A New Vergennes” to its first public audience. He reported Red Barn Productions produced the video at a very reasonable price and Matteo Palmer provided the background music. The video will be available on their website and will be distributed free to everyone who wants to use it or share it. Promoting anything today needs to be done on social media, he advised, and this is one of the Partnership’s attempts to promote Vergennes. The video will also be used for the renewal of the Downtown Development District, he stated.

CITIZEN’S COMMENTS: Lynn Donnelly reported the outside instruments have been chosen for so-called Harmony Park and have been approved by the Vergennes Rotary Club and the Basin Committee. They will be installed and ready for use before July 4th at the park that is located on property owned by Green Mountain Power Corporation adjacent to Vergennes Falls Park, she advised.

MAIN STREET SIDEWALK EXTENSION PROJECT: City Manager Mel Hawley reported the Main Street sidewalk extension project goes back a decade when the City received a planning grant to study extending the sidewalk to the Ferrisburgh Park & Ride. The City applied for a grant in July 2015 for the first phase of the project and received a $274,500 grant from VTrans. A $30,500 local match from the Water Tower Reserve Fund was authorized by the City Council at the time of the application. He advised in March 2016 a grant agreement was signed with VTrans for this $305,000 project which is required to be completed by October 15, 2020. He reported he does not have time to coordinate and oversee this project and would like to hire David Crawford on a part-time basis to be the project manager; there is $27,000 included in the project budget for this position. Manager Hawley advised the grant requires that there is a project engineer, project manager and project compliance officer. Senior Alderman Perry moved to authorize use of up to $27,000 of the grant budget to hire David Crawford as proposed. Alderman Lowell Bertrand seconded the motion with all voting in favor. Mr. Crawford advised he was the municipal manager of the Village of Essex Junction up until he retired four years ago and has only worked part-time since. He was actually in the process of looking for work that was not fulltime and that offered him a challenge when City Manager Hawley contacted him, he stated.

CITY GREEN TREE REMOVAL RECOMMENDATION: City Manager Hawley reported there is a lack of grass on the City Green due in part to a lack of sunlight. He advised he had True Green assess the situation and for $650 they will treat the entire park. We had a similar problem with growing grass at the police department and True Green was able to correct the issue. To allow more sunlight into the park would involve removing five large trees. As the tree warden, he stated, he can remove dead or diseased trees under his statutory authority; two of them would likely fall into that category. To remove the remaining three trees would require a public hearing unless they are also found to be diseased. Senior Alderman Perry suggested getting the State forester in to do borings and determine the health of the trees. City Manager Hawley will make arrangements for that to be done before taking any action.

WAIVER OF PETITION POLICY: The policy for articles for social service agencies requesting City funds to be on the ballot was adopted in December 1994 and reaffirmed as a policy in November 2010. City Manager Hawley stated if the City Council desired amending the policy now is the time to do it since it is well before petitioning starts. Alderman Koenig advised, as written in is email dated April 21, 2017, he would like to add a clause that to maintain a waiver a representative from the social service agency must attend the previous year’s Annual City Meeting to provide an overview of how prior funds were used and how requested funds will be used. Alderman Koenig reported he received several complaints from voters that no one was present to address the articles with information on what the organization does. He then motioned to amend the policy as stated in his email. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.

PROPOSED FY2018 FIRE DEPARTMENT BUDGET: City Manager Hawley advised the proposed budget is for expenditures only. The increase in the proposed budget is attributed to the increase in building maintenance which will cover re-doing the steps from the street level parking lot on Short Street to the entrance on Green Street. It also includes installing a railing on top of the retaining wall along Short Street for safety reasons. He advised the revenue portion of the budget is not ready yet as he is waiting for information from the Town of Ferrisburgh for the portion of their town the City is contracted to cover.

CAPITAL PROJECTS FUNDS AND SPECIAL REVENUE FUNDS: A one-page report of the various reserve funds was provided. City Manager Hawley advised he wants to familiarize everyone with the various funds. Some of these accounts have associated policies, he advised, and some do not. A couple of the accounts have not been used in years and should be spent and closed out to save on auditing cost. Mayor Daniels advised he has been speaking with residents about what improvements they would like to see at Vergennes Falls Park. Several items mentioned were Frisbee golf, a new entrance gate with handicapped accessibility, and a pavilion. He reported he is trying to find ways to raise funds without using taxpayer dollars such as a Go Fund Me page or other means for donations. Senior Alderman Perry, who is also the President of Vergennes Partnership, offered the ability for donations to go through the Partnership as they are a 501(c)(3) corporation and donations could be tax deductible. It would also be in line with implementing the Downtown-Basin Master Plan. Mayor Daniels inquired about who the Basin Committee reports to. City Manager Hawley stated that they are an ad hoc committee and do not report to the City Council. Senior Alderman Perry suggested funds in the Pumphouse Fund could also be used towards the restoration of the Flanders pump that is in the building and it could possibly quality as a historic site as there were only nine Flanders pumps built.

GRASS CLIPPINGS: Alderman Lynn Donnelly inquired if we have or could create an ordinance that would prohibit grass clippings from being blown into the roadway. She felt it would be a simple thing to do to help keep our discharge cleaner from pollution and nitrogen as well as help with the water run-off. City Manager Hawley stated a post on front porch forum would help and he will check with Vermont League of Cities and Towns to see if they have a model ordinance.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised he is looking at fund balances at this time of year and does not see anything alarming in Administration, Police or Public Works. The Sewer Department is a little concerning and will definitely go over budget.

He reported the Environmental Court affirmed the conditions contained in a decision by the Development Review Board involving the so-called Norton Grist Mill Island that was appealed by Mahaiwe, LLC. He noted that Mahaiwe, LLC has filed for reconsideration. The hearing before the State Appraiser involving the appeal by VV II Housing Associates, LLC of the appraised value by the Board of Civil Authority was held last week. Manager Hawley advised he represented the Board in the appeal and suspects that it will be months before a decision is issued.

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Daniels advised he has spoken with Senior Alderman Perry regarding the proposed Vergennes Senior Citizen Council and both feel the City Council should not appoint them as a committee because of the public meeting laws. He advised the municipal development plan speaks to involving our senior citizens so he is trying to address that. It is his intention to hold his Cracker Barrel in June at the senior housing on Armory Lane to get some ideas from them. Alderman Mark Koenig advised he likes the general idea but suggests that it not be limited to seniors. He suggested a wider umbrella that would accomplish more with different groups. Senior Alderman Perry advised the Vergennes Partnership is trying to get a Garden Club going again and then they will be on their own. They have a meeting at 2 p.m. at City Hall on Thursday, he advised.

GREEN UP DAY: Alderman Lowell Bertrand, Chairman of Green Up Day, reported the weather did not cooperate this year for them. They still had 116 volunteers, picked up 63 bags of trash, recovered two tires and one surveyor strip, he advised.

COMMENTS: City Manager Hawley advised the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on May 22nd for their proposed amendments to the municipal development plan. The plan was adopted in 2014 and remains in effect five years; these are just interim amendments. He explained the process once the proposed amendments are forwarded to the City Council for their two public hearings that are required which would be held in June or July.

ADJOURNMENT: At 7:06 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Senior Alderman Perry, with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk