VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
AUGUST 27, 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 include items 5e – Appoint VLCT Annual Meeting Delegate and 5f – Recreation Committee Update. The Mayor does not vote on motions except to create or break a tie. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Jeff Fritz Rainwalker Winterpainter (5:45 pm)
Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly Susan Rakowski, ANWSD
Alderman David Austin Bradley Dewey, ANWSD
Alderman Mark Koenig Reporter Andy Kirkaldy
Alderman Lowell Bertrand Police Chief George Merkel
Alderman David Small Patti Merkel
Alderman William Benton Rena Trepanier
City Manager Mathew Chabot Robert Trepanier
City Clerk Joan Devine Sierra Bertrand
VISITORS: Susan Rakowski and Bradley Dewey
ANWSD BOARD REPRESENTATIVES: Alderman Mark Koenig advised he is stepping away from the City Council table and will be speaking as a representative of the ANWSD’s Board of Directors. He advised the ANWSD Board knows in order to maintain education costs and budgets that something drastic needs to occur; they are considering consolidating the schools to preserve education. Their proposal to the district may be to close the Ferrisburgh and Addison Central schools and restructure the elementary and high schools in Vergennes. They are suggesting all students in the district in grades pre-K through 4th grade attend the elementary school and grades 5 through 12 attend the high school. To close the Ferrisburgh and Addison schools next year will require voter approval in November from each of the towns. If voter approval is not granted, the school board will have no other options but to begin making cuts in the budget starting with music, sports, etc. to maintain the education portion. Deputy Mayor Donnelly inquired if the school board has given any consideration to moving the Superintendent of Schools’ office to one of the closed schools to save on rent. Mr. Koenig advised they have looked at that and felt it may be problematic to have the Superintendent’s office 15 minutes away, retrofitting the space and they would still have the cost of maintaining the school. He also advised if the proposed schools do close, ownership of them will return to the towns. If the voters do not approve closing those two schools, the school board has the authority to close them in 2021 in accordance with the consolidation agreement but they do not feel they can wait that long financially. Susan Rakowski, Chair of the ANWSD Board, advised the full board has yet to formally endorse the proposal and will be looking at it on September 9th at their meeting.
WARRANTS: The Warrant totaling $87,425.79 was circulated for review and signatures of approval.
MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve minutes of the August 13, 2019 meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig. Attendee Rainwater Winterpainter was corrected to Rainwalker Winterpainter. A vote on the amended minutes showed all voting in favor.
LONG TERM BUDGET STRATEGY – POLICE DEPARTMENT: Mayor Fritz advised everyone agrees that health insurance costs need to be addressed in all departments. He also felt each department’s budget should be reviewed for additional savings; not just the police department. After the audit is completed, he suggested the City Council review one department each month. Alderman Benton felt the City Council did not know the inner functions of the various departments and recommended the supervisors go through their budgets and make suggested savings. Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly motioned to move forward in this manner. The motion was seconded by Alderman Bertrand. Alderman David Small confirmed that each department budget will be strategically reviewed to achieve long-term results and sustainability. Deputy Mayor Donnelly pointed out that a recreation director was added this year and the City Clerk will be retiring. Now is the time to look at what we want for goals and see what we want to achieve. Alderman Austin suggested the budget review start with revenues; the public will appreciate the transparency. He felt we needed to determine what the needs of our community are that then dictates the coverage and translates into cost. We can set up a dynamic process with perimeters, he advised. Mayor Fritz advised this is something we can tackle month by month. Alderman Koenig felt it prudent to have a cap for each department as creep is just too easy. City Manager Chabot announced he has a problem with caps. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor. The reviews will begin the second meeting in September.
ADOPTION OF 2020 MUNICIPAL BUDGET: Mayor Fritz advised everyone received a copy of the email by Mel Hawley recommending City Council adoption of the proposed 2020 budget. Deputy Mayor Donnelly moved to adopt the budget as presented by City Manager Chabot. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor.
METHADONE CLINIC DISCUSSION: City Manager Chabot reported the Development Review Board has an application before them submitted by SaVida Health to establish a methadone/alcohol treatment center at 210 Main Street in the central business district. He reported Alderman Austin requested this topic be listed as an agenda item for awareness. Alderman Austin stated this is a Zoning/Planning Commission issue and requires nothing from the City Council but is clearly a new establishment in the downtown district and its use will impact us; net negatives lead to economic loss. Alderman Benton reported he also was contacted about space rental by this organization that would be offering counseling and referral services but no medication on site. Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly pointed out that this type of business does not meet criteria for the downtown district. She advised no apartments or offices are allowed on the ground floor.
ADOPT LOCAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PLAN: City Manager Chabot advised the LEMP must be adopted annually and filed with Addison County Regional Planning Commission. A copy, as attested to by Mayor Jeff Fritz, is filed with these minutes. He reported category 5 episode training will occur in Vergennes soon.
VLCT ANNUAL MEETING DELEGATE APPOINTMENT: VLCT’s Annual Business Meeting will be held October 2nd and a voting delegate needs to be appointed. Alderman Benton moved to appoint Mayor Jeff Fritz as the City’s delegate, seconded by Alderman Bertrand, with all voting in favor.
RECREATION COMMITTEE UPDATE: Deputy Mayor Donnelly, a Recreation Committee member, advised the school has $6,000 towards the skate rink repair (membrane over PVC pipes) and the purchase of a small Zambini for ice resurfacing. The Committee will be the ones flooding the rink as needed. They also have a 2-year fundraiser going to raise $135,000 to enclose the facility and allow for winter and summer use.
CITY MANAGER REPORT: City Manager Chabot advised the police department voted unanimously to join the union; there is a 10-day wait before the Labor Board begins negotiations with the Vergennes Police Department.
The City does not qualify to be an applicant for the Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) because the basin is not deep enough. We need to be 6’ deep at low tide and we are 4’ deep or lower. He reported he was encouraged to apply for a grant for a pump-out station for boaters to dispose of their sanitary waste free of charge while docked in the basin. He suggested the City Council to continue to improve assets in that area with showers, toilets, etc. He also will be working with Matt Daniels in the spring on how to improve the docks; he has some great ideas.
ADJOURNMENT: At 6:30 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the regular meeting, seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig, with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk