City Council Minutes 07-23-19


JULY 23, 2019


Mayor Jeff Fritz called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall in the conference room. The agenda was amended to strike 5d – Notice of VPD Vote to Unionize and added 6h – Resolution to Designate a Public Agency and 6i – Reappointment of City Clerk. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Jeff Fritz                                                     Reporter Andy Kirkaldy

Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly                       Sierra Bertrand

Alderman David Austin                                     Brent Rakowski

Alderman Mark Koenig                                     Shannon Haggett

Alderman William Benton                               Rainwater Winterpainter

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                             Police Chief George Merkel

City Manager Mathew Chabot                     Patti Merkel

Assistant City Clerk Melissa Wright         Michael Dooley


VISITORS: Michael Dooley, Center Director at Northlands Job Corp.

WARRANTS: The Warrant totaling $237,336.97 was presented for review and signatures of approval. The Warrant total consisted of $155,600.37 from FY 2019 and $81,736.60 from FY 2020.

MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve minutes of the June 11, 2019 meeting. That motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig. The minutes were approved with all voting in favor. Alderman Bertrand moved to approve minutes of the June 18, 2019 Budget Work Session. That motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig. The minutes were amended by Mayor Fritz on the last page where City Manager advised he has not adjusted wages for himself, Joan or Melissa to read “for himself, City Clerk Joan Devine and Assistant Clerk Melissa Wright”. A vote on the amended minutes showed all voting in favor. Alderman Bertrand moved to approve minutes of the June 25, 2019 Budget Work Session. That motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig. The minutes were approved with all voting in favor. Alderman Bertrand moved to approve minutes of the June 28, 2019 Budget Work Session. That motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig. The minutes were amended on the first line of the last page by Alderman Koenig and corrected to read, “Alderman Koenig moved to withdrawal his original motion to approve the original budget as it was presented.” and made motion to allocate $15,000 from the Water Tower Fund for a boiler at City Hall and allocate $12,500 each year for the next four years from the Water Tower Fund for the sidewalk project. At the end of the second paragraph where it states a vote on the motion showed all in favor except David Austin; Mayor Fritz added that he did not vote. A vote of the amended minutes showed all in favor. Alderman Bertrand moved to approve minutes of the July 09, 2019 Emergency City Council meeting. That motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig with all voting in favor.

Michael Dooley, the new Center Director for the Northlands Job Corp, introduced himself to the City Council and wanted to provide assurance he was available 24/7 and was looking forward to working with the Council and becoming well integrated in the community. He extended an invitation to the Council members to attend a Community Relations Council Luncheon on August 7, 2019 at noon and advised email invitations would be sent. He discussed some of the many programs available at Northlands and that the Center on Macdonough Drive is currently fourth in the county for career job placement. Roughly a third of all the students are Vermont residents and they would love to increase that amount. The training they receive is beneficial not only for the kids but in turn ends up benefiting the communities they end up settling in. He advised he is aware of some of the issues the Center has had in the past and plans to stay on top of any situations that may arise in the future. Alderman Benton welcomed him and advised he was happy to have him here in Vergennes.

CITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION IN APPRECIATION: Brent Rakowski read a resolution in appreciation for outstanding public service by Jason Farrell. Jason Farrell was appointed to the Vergennes Development Review Board and Planning Commission on February 14, 2006. He recently stepped down from those boards where he volunteered numerous hours, incurred personal sacrifices and always exhibited an outstanding community spirit for the past 13 years. Alderman Austin moved to adopt the resolution. That motion was seconded by Alderman Bertrand with all voting in favor. A copy of the resolution was received for recording in the minute book.

2020 BUDGET: City Manager Chabot advised the actions he took as a result from the last budget work session were to allocate $50,000 from the General Fund Balance to supplement the budget. He allotted $12,500 from the Water Tower Fund for the sidewalk project that would extend the sidewalk from Macdonough Drive to Otter Creek basin stairway. He also stated for transparency reasons, moving forward the $72,500 Vergennes Police Department bond should be moved to its own line item in the budget. He appropriated $13,500 from the Watershed Fund to be used to offset the cost of a new recreation director position. He removed from the budget cameras for the Police Department. He will be working with Chief Merkel to obtain grant opportunities available to cover the cost as we move forward. Rainwalker Winterpainter questioned why the health insurance cost increase was so high. City Manager Chabot advised we currently are going through VLCT for health care and rates increased all over. There are options such as looking at different providers and changing the amount of coverage we currently offer that he will look into for future budgets. Alderman Benton asked if VLCT was getting any backlash about increases and Alderman Koenig advised the school board experienced the same issue with big increases. Rainwalker Winterpainter asked about a possible committee being formed to look at the expense of health insurance and what could be done to help lower the cost. City Manager Chabot invited him to come to his office for further discussion. Mayor Fritz advised no action was needed on the budget due to our charter. Deputy Mayor Donnelly asked City Manager Chabot, for purposes of the auditors, what would they be expecting or looking for in our budget. City Manager Chabot advised they would be making sure that the budget has squared up to the .92 cent increase. City Manager Chabot thanked the Council for all their patience through the budget process and assured them he was already looking ahead to next year’s budget.

NOMINATION TO THE ADDISON COUNTY REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION ALTERNATE: City Manager Chabot recommended Tim Cook to serve as an alternate. Shannon Haggett advised Tim Cook was very interested and excited for the opportunity to serve as an alternate. Alderman Benton moved to appoint Tim Cook as an alternate. That motion was seconded by Alderman Austin with all voting in favor.

SOUTH WATER STREET BLOCK PARTY: Alderman Koenig left the table to speak as a resident. He advised the residents of South Water Street were looking for permission from the Council to block off a portion of South Water Street from Roberts Street to the intersection Victory Street and South Maple Street for their annual block party. Alderman Bertrand made motion to approve blocking off that section of South Water Street for their party. The motion was seconded by Alderman Benton with all voting in favor except Alderman Koenig who abstained.

RECOMMENDED FEE SCHEDULE – VERGENNES POLICE DEPARTMENT: City Manager Chabot presented a proposed fee increase for services offered by the Vergennes Police Department. Alderman Benton asked if other communities do this as well. Chief Merkel advised he contacted Middlebury and Brandon Police Departments and they have a similar fee schedule. The fee schedule will show no charges to Vergennes residents for fingerprinting and VIN verifications. City Manager Chabot suggested the fee for providing a police officer or cruiser service for non-profit agencies at the officer’s overtime rate and the fee for profit agencies which would be the officer’s overtime rate plus 10% may not be high enough. He felt a flat rate to all agencies at Chief Merkel’s overtime rate was better. Alderman Benton stated additional conversation would be needed and to come back for further discussion at a later date.

ADOPTION – TOWN BRIDGES AND ROAD STANDARDS: City Manager Chabot passed around the form sent by the State of Vermont, which is sent annually, adopting town road and bridge standards that shall apply to the construction, repair and maintenance of the town roads and bridges. The form was signed by each of the Aldermen present.

CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager advised tax bills went out in the mail on Monday, July 22nd. The increase in the education tax rate went up .11 cent for homestead properties and early indications show next year’s rate will not improve and continue to rise. The vacant Lister position and the vacant Development Review Board position are still open but he is hoping to have nominations for candidates available for the Council meeting scheduled on August 13th. City Manager Chabot was seeking permission from the Council to pursue a Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) provided by Vermont Fish and Wildlife. This grant provides funds for constructing, renovating and maintaining tie-up facilities for transient boaters. An area may receive funding for eligible projects up to $200,000 and would require a 25% match or in this case $50,000 from the City. We would be a prime candidate based on the boaters we receive at the basin. The grant could assist in funding a low power issue, installing restrooms and showers and a camera that would show the availability of dock space for boaters. Alderman Koenig asked if a certain focus where the funds will be used is required to apply for the grant and City Manager advised there wasn’t a certain requirement. Alderman Benton thought it was a good idea and supported permission to pursue the grant. All were in agreement. City Manager Chabot advised the tax sale that occurred in July 2018 for a mobile home in the Otter Creek Park was paid off and redeemed by the owners by the deadline. City Manager Chabot advised he gave permission for a tennis camp to use the tennis courts the week of July 22nd and July 29th. City Manager Chabot wanted to extend a public thank you to Dyke Ackland who recently moved to Vergennes and has been volunteering to help with the weeding on the City Green and other city owned properties. Deputy Mayor Donnelly asked City Manager Chabot to send a note of appreciation on behalf of the Council. City Manager Chabot also wanted to thank the Public Works Department on the appearance of the City Green. City Manager Chabot presented a resolution to be signed by the Council that would designate a public agency, Addison County Community Trust and Housing Vermont as program management for the new housing on Armory Lane. Building of this project is projected to start sometime this fall. A Certificate of Appointment of the City Clerk was passed around for the Aldermen to sign reappointing Joan Devine as the City Clerk. The Council will act on the appointment of City Manager Chabot at the next Council meeting on August 13th.

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Fritz is forming two committees; one to create a succession plan for replacing key employees when they leave or retire from their positions and the other committee to study the possibility of a local option tax in Vergennes. The Mayor will be working with the Vergennes Partnership on the latter committee. He will be presenting more information at the August 13th Council meeting. Mayor Fritz will be attending a special meeting in the town of Panton on Monday, July 29th to answer any questions he can on the purposed alternate truck route.

At 6:15 p.m. Mayor Fritz announced he would like the City Council to enter into executive session at this time to set the salary for City Clerk/Treasurer Joan Devine. Alderman Bertrand moved for the executive session, seconded by Alderman Koenig, with all voting in favor.

EXECUTIVE SESSION: No action was taken. At 6:32 p.m. Alderman Bertrand moved to adjourn the regular meeting. Alderman Koenig seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Assistant City Clerk