VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
AUGUST 8, 2017
Mayor Michael Daniels called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. Alderman Mark Koenig said he is a resident of South Water Street and felt that should be disclosed since there is an agenda item involving his neighborhood. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Michael Daniels Shannon Haggett
Senior Alderman Renny Perry David Crawford
Alderman Mathew Chabot Erik Alling
Alderman Mark Koenig
Alderman Lowell Bertrand
Alderman Jeffrey Fritz
Alderman Lynn Donnelly
City Manager Mel Hawley
City Clerk Joan Devine
MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of July 18, 2017. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry. On the second page under Planning Commission appointments, Senior Alderman Perry requested that comments made by him at the last meeting be included. He reported he thanked Jason Farrell for his ten years of service on the Planning Commission and for filling in as the Acting Zoning Administrator when Zoning Administrator Mel Hawley was out on a medical leave. Planning Commission Chair Shannon Haggett also asked for the minutes to reflect his acknowledgement that they only have five members now and will be recruiting more members upon completing their proposed amendments to the zoning and subdivision regulations. A vote on the motion to approved the minutes with the requested corrections showed all voting in favor.
WARRANT: City Manager Hawley advised there are two Warrants again. The Warrant totaling $180,685.08 was for current fiscal year expenses. The other Warrant, totaling $6,653.53, was for previous fiscal year expenses. Both Warrants were circulated for review and signatures of approval.
PUBLIC ASSEMBLAGE PERMIT – SOUTH WATER STREET: City Manager Hawley reported he has the authority to approve most Public Assemblage Permits but does not take the liberty of closing streets other than Park Street. Residents of South Water Street are requesting permission to close South Water Street from Roberts Street to South Maple Street on August 27 from 5-7 p.m. for their annual block party; this is their 4th year. He advised not all the residents on South Water Street support the street closure but the majority support it. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to authorize closing the street as requested, seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry, with all voting in favor.
GRASS CLIPPINGS IN THE STREET: Alderman Lynn Donnelly provided copies of ordinances from other towns that address grass clippings in the roadway. After the storm last week, on Bowman Road, they had to clean the catch basins of grass to allow the water to go down. She stated that she likes the one that says ‘one cannot deposit anything in the right-of-way’ because that would address everything; it can be as complicated or as simple as desired. Conversation then became focused on enforcement of such an ordinance. Senior Alderman Perry felt it would have to be major, like with the snow, before the police would enforce it as they have plenty to do. City Manager Hawley advised he and Chief Merkel take care of bad situations with snow removal but felt educating the public regarding grass clippings might be the way to go. Information could be dispersed through the City’s website, the Annual Report, Facebook, and Front Porch Forum. Mayor Daniels asked Alderman Donnelly to check with the Agency of Natural Resources who may already have pamphlets made up.
SANDWICH BOARDS/TEMPORARY SIGNS IN THE RIGHT OF WAY: City Manager Hawley advised he was out on medical leave when the Planning Commission talked about sandwich boards and ultimately proposed a change in the regulations. It used to be that sandwich board signs were allowed only in the Central Business District and the Northern Gateway District; currently they can go in any district. He advised there is a state law that prohibits off-premise signs. He feels our regulations need to be clarified. Planning Commission Chair Shannon Haggett advised the City right of way is out of their jurisdiction. Manager Hawley advised he routinely picks up signs for yard sales, St. Peter’s Closet, Your Turn Consignment, Addison County Field Days, community dinners, etc. that are in the City right of way. Senior Alderman Perry stated we have had this discussion when he was the City Manager and it wasn’t worth the effort to regulate them. The City Council has the authority to remove signs in the City right of way at any time, he advised. Alderman Chabot suggested reviewing this at the next meeting. Alderman Donnelly reported, as realtors, they are allowed to put out “open house” signs 12 hours prior to the event but must pick them up immediately after.
PUBLIC INFORMATIONAL MEETING – City Manager Hawley introduced David Crawford, the Main Street Sidewalk Project Manager, and Eric Alling, a transportation engineer at Stantac Consulting Services, Inc.; both will be providing information regarding the project. He advised holding this public informational meeting is a requirement of the grant so that the City Council can get public comment and answer any questions about the project that is funded through the VTrans Bicycle and Pedestrian Program. A slide show of the conceptual plans for extending the sidewalk at the north end of Main Street was given. The project will connect the existing sidewalk with new construction beginning at Amy’s Hair Design and extending north to Champlain Discount Foods. A crosswalk will be installed in that area, with a proposed rapid flashing beacon, that will connect with the existing sidewalk on the other side of the street leading to the police station. The design calls for a 5’ wide concrete sidewalk to be installed with a 5’ wide greenbelt. Alderman Matt Chabot inquired if any consideration has been given for bulb-outs in that area. Senior Alderman Perry asked if the abutting property owners have been contacted. David Crawford advised he has met with representatives of DR Power and Kennedy Bros. City Manager Hawley reported Amy’s Hair Design building is owned by Kennedy Bros. and has a virtual sea of pavement in front that provides parking. This grant doesn’t cover improvements to private property but will provide some aesthetic and safety improvements in the right of way. David Crawford advised it is their goal to get this project underway in early 2018 but are using federal money so it requires reviews and sign-offs that can take time. Stantac Consulting Services is engineering the project and is projecting it to be $20,000 under budget based on the conceptual plans. Once the conceptual plans for the project design are submitted to VTrans it can take up to 6 months for approval, he stated. Mr. Crawford advised the pending issue is the flashing beacon at the crosswalk. If the City Council wants to have it, he suggested they adopt a resolution that may offer some help for the State to approve it. Keeping this project on schedule is out of the City’s control, he advised, as that will belong to the State. The $30,500 local share has been allocated from the Water Tower Fund by the City Council, he advised, but now is the time to look at traffic calming devices like a bulb-out. The flashing beacon at the crosswalk needs certain warrants met but felt there was some value in it being the first crosswalk as one drives into the city. He felt it is worthy and can be supported with letters from himself, the police, and a City Council resolution. It was a unanimous consensus by the City Council to have a flashing beacon at the crosswalk. Shannon Haggett reported the Planning Commission is strongly in support of flashers, bulb-outs and any other calming devices and is willing to supply a letter of support also. Mayor Daniels closed the public information meeting at 6:35 p.m.
CORRECT OMISSION IN 2017 GRAND LIST: Manager Hawley advised no value was determined for a parcel owned by Glenn and Kathy Rossier that was created as part of a subdivision in 2016. The parcel is a .34-acre lot. The Board of Listers has calculated a value of $45,400 based on the same methodology used in the city-wide reappraisal in 2007. The Board of Listers is requesting the City Council approve this correction. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the correction as requested by the Board of Listers, seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig, with all voting in favor except Alderman Donnelly who abstained.
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS AND SPECIAL FUNDS: City Manager Hawley reported he is reducing his request for action to involve just two funds. He would like the Fire Department Vehicle Replacement Fund to be closed and its balance of funds put in the Fire Department Fund effective June 30, 2017. He would also like revenues from land recording fees that are being put in the Records Computerization Fund suspended through June 30, 2018, retroactive to July 1, 2017. He advised there is $55,000 in that fund with no plan in place for use of the funds. City Clerk Devine advised she will be going to the annual meeting of Vermont clerks in September and will bring back some estimates to begin this process. Senior Alderman Perry moved to authorize the suspension of funds to the Records Computerization Fund effective July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018 and to close the Fire Department Vehicle Replacement Fund as of June 30, 2017. The motion was seconded by Alderman Fritz with all voting in favor.
CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley distributed an updated fund balance projection report. He projects a General Fund year-end fund balance of $161,000 of which $73,500 has been used in setting the City tax rate for FY2018. He reported the Fire Department fund balance was originally projected at $29,000 and is now projected at $40,000 given the transfer from the Fire Truck Replacement Fund. He advised the Fire Department is expected to request a vote on a $500,000 bond in the near future to purchase a new fire truck. As for the Sewer Fund, he advised, a deficit currently exists and suggested discussion be held in September to determine if and when the rates are to be increased.
The Fire Department will be purchasing a 40’ roll-off container they would like to locate just past the Vergennes-Panton Water District leased land. Mayor Daniels advised the roll-off will be used for offsite storage for props they use for training. Manager Hawley advised the entire floor at the fire station has been resurfaced and sealed with epoxy at a cost of $31,000. In his opinion, he advised, it is not perfect but it is a garage floor and it is now protected.
COMMENTS: Mayor Daniels reported he brought the City Voice to the printer today. He has also met with Green Mountain Power regarding improvements at Falls Park in their right of way and has not made any progress. He felt that if the City can’t use the land it should be deeded back to them and let them pay taxes on it. He went on to thank Manager Hawley and Alderman Bertrand for joining him at the open house at Valley Vista. Mayor Daniels reported his brother Matt Daniels has tracked 200 boats at the City docks so far this year.
EXECUTIVE SESSION: At 7:05 p.m., Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to go into executive session to evaluate the City Manager and the City Clerk/Treasurer and to set their respective compensation. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry. City Manager Hawley and City Clerk/Treasurer Devine departed at this time. At 7:35 p.m., Alderman Bertrand moved to adjourn the executive session, seconded by Alderman Matt Chabot, with all voting in favor.
REGULAR SESSION: Senior Alderman Perry moved to compensate the City Manager with an increase of 3%, including the same adjustment in his compensation as Zoning Administrator and Administrative Assistant to the Board of Listers. The City Clerk/Treasurer will be compensated with an increase of 3%. Alderman Lowell Bertrand seconded the motion with all voting in favor.
ADJOURNMENT: At 7:40 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk