City Council Minutes 08-13-2019


AUGUST 13, 2019


Mayor Jeff Fritz called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall in the conference room. The Mayor does not vote on motions except to create or break a tie. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Jeff Fritz                                            Brent Rakowski

Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly             Tim Cook

Alderman David Austin                          Scott Hardy

Alderman Mark Koenig                          Neil Kamman

Alderman William Benton                    Rainwater Winterpainter

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                  Police Chief George Merkel

Alderman David Small                           Patti Merkel

City Manager Mathew Chabot         Matt Vaughn

City Clerk Joan Devine                         Mike Djordjevic

Sierra Bertrand                                          Amy Djordjevic

VISITORS: Matthew Vaughn – Lake Champlain Basin Program

Scott Hardy – Bike Trails Request

LAKE CHAMPLAIN BASIN PROGRAM: Matthew Vaughn was present to discuss phosphorous concentrations that are reaching Lake Champlain from tributaries. He reported the long-term phosphorous loading trends have not improved and documented increases are shown from Lewis and Little Otter Creeks. Developed land is a substantial source of nutrients and other pollutants to the lake. Impervious surfaces like parking lots and rooftops contribute approximately 16 percent, while wastewater treatment facilities contribute 6 percent. Runoff and erosion from agricultural land contributes approximately 38 percent of the phosphorus load to the lakes. Mr. Vaughn recommended the City apply for a grant to take corrective action using BMP established by the Clean Water Act and State regulations. Neil Kamman advised there are Clean Water Block Grants available through Addison County Regional Planning Commission; the maximum grant match rate is 20 percent.

WARRANTS: Two Warrants were presented for review and signatures of approval. The Warrant totaling $120.00 was for FY 2019 expenditures and the other at $138,338.88 was for FY 2020.

MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve minutes of the July 23, 2019 meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig. Mayor Fritz advised under “Executive Session” the words ‘no action was taken’ needs to be deleted and replaced with, “The City Council approved the City Clerk’s wages as proposed in the City Manager’s budget that was a calculated increase of 2.91%”. A vote on the amended minutes showed all voting in favor except Alderman Small who abstained due to absence.

BIKE TRAILS REQUEST: Scott Hardy proposed better utilization of MacIntosh Park by converting it into a mountain bike park. It would be run by a membership volunteer group who will create trails on the 11.4 acre parcel. Tim Cook, Chairman of the Recreation Committee, advised this would not belong to the recreation committee so a financial burden does not exist. Efforts would also be made to connect all parks with established bike paths. In the future a private and public partnership can be created. Alderman Bill Benton requested any insurance liabilities be checked out and the MacIntosh grave site be protected. Alderman Small felt this park would be a great addition to recreation that is already available; people are traveling for these places. Tim Cook advised they are looking for the City Council to approve the concept of moving this idea forward. There were no objections. Mayor Fritz advised a formal agreement between the parties will be needed. City Manager Chabot will check into insurance liabilities.

LONG TERM BUDGET STRATEGY – POLICE DEPARTMENT: Mayor Fritz advised the City Council learned through the budget process that they need to assist the city manager with the budget. The City Council sets the tax rate and the city manager sets the budget. The police department percentage compared to the overall budget now stands at 39 percent. Next year budget talks need to start sooner than latter and we need to have a long-term strategy in place tonight. He advised he has his own ideas and opinions but wants to hear from City Council members. Alderman David Small felt the budget process did not go along in the best way possible and agrees it is important to develop a strategy. At 6:05 p.m. Deputy Mayor Donnelly was summoned to a family emergency and requested this topic be tabled as she wants to participate in the discussion.

DEVELOPMENT REVIEW BOARD APPOINTMENTS: Alderman Bill Benton moved to reappoint Brent Rakowski, Don Peabody, Steve Rapoport, and Lowell Bertrand (Alternate) and appoint Carrie Macfarlane to the DRB for respective two-year terms. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor.

LISTER POSITION APPOINTMENT: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to appoint Andrew Fritz to fill the Lister position vacancy. Alderman David Austin seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

MUNICIPAL POLICIES AND GOALS – VERGENNES COMMUNITY HOUSING: As required by Vermont Community Development Program and federal law the City needs to adopt Municipal Policies and Codes as part of the VCDP funded housing to be built on Armory Lane this fall. The documents were passed for review and signatures of approval and are filed as part of these minutes.

THIRD CLASS LIQUOR LICENSE – STRONG HOUSE INN: An application submitted by Strong House Inn for a third class liquor license was next. City Clerk Devine advised the City Council, acting as the local liquor control commissioners, has never dealt with third class liquor licenses but the law changed July 1st and they now need City Council approval. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the application as submitted, seconded by Alderman Benton, with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER APPOINTMENT: Alderman David Austin moved to appoint Matthew Chabot to the City Manager position. The motion was seconded by Alderman Bertrand with all voting in favor.

CITY MANAGER REPORT: City Manager Chabot advised the State will be infested with the eastern ash borer within the next few years; it is unstoppable. Options for treatment include treating each tree for two years at $600 per tree; cut the tree down while it is alive and healthy and hopefully sell the wood, or deal (cut down) with the tree once it is infested. A tree dying from infestation causes the wood to become brittle and unusable. He reported Crosby Farms and Adele Drive have about 100 ash trees and he has only budgeted $5,000 this year for tree planting and stump removal. Middlebury is choosing to treat their trees and save them, he advised. David Small inquired if grants were available and Manager Chabot advised he had not found any yet. Alderman Koenig suggested cutting some ash trees down and sell the wood so we could treat some of the remaining trees. Manager Chabot advised he is looking into that.

City Manager Chabot reported he had Police Chief Merkel compare three other police departments’ fee schedule for services and have adopted the best ones for us. In the spring of 2020 the Public Works Department will be paving Elm Street, Scovel Lane, Meadow Lane and several others that have not been paved in over 25 years. Manager Chabot reported revenue from the donation boxes in the basin is down $211 from last year but the docks were put in two weeks late this year due to high water levels. He advised Vergennes Partnership will be helping the City with the Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) opportunity for improvements at the docks. The new gate installed at the Falls Park was a concept of former Mayor Michael Daniels. He advised the Public Works Department installed a new access road to the docks on that side of river along with the new gate.

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Fritz reported he recently attended the Panton Planning Commission meeting that was an informational meeting regarding the proposed Vergennes Economic Corridor. Our Planning Commission Vice-Chair Mike Winslow made the presentation to approximately 30 attendees and answered questions. The Town of Panton has to amend their Town Plan to not oppose a truck bypass if they are going to support the project.

Mayor Fritz advised he 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.

Mayor Fritz extended the City Council’s condolences to the family of former Alderman Roger Hayes who recently passed away.

ADJOURNMENT: At 6:30 p.m. Alderman Bertrand moved to adjourn the regular meeting. Alderman Koenig seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk