City Council Minutes 09-10-2019


SEPTEMBER 10, 2019


Mayor Jeff Fritz called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall in the conference room. He advised Alderman David Small will be present on speaker phone until his arrival (5:43 p.m.). The agenda was amended to include item 5e – SaVida Health Update. The Mayor does not vote on motions except to create or break a tie. Those in attendance were:

Mayor Jeff Fritz                                             Rainwalker Winterpainter

Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly               Police Chief George Merkel

Alderman David Austin                             Patti Merkel

Alderman Mark Koenig                             Robert Trepanier

Alderman Lowell Bertrand                     Sarah Stroup

Alderman David Small                               Sarah Cowan

Alderman William Benton

City Manager Mathew Chabot

City Clerk Joan Devine


VISITORS: Sarah Cowan and Sarah Stroup

MINUTES: Alderman Bertrand moved to approve minutes of the August 27, 2019 meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig. Under ANWSD BOARD OF DIRECTORS the fourth sentence was amended to read, “They are suggesting all students in the district in grades pre-K through 4th grade attend the elementary school, grade 5 through 8 attend the middle school, and grade 9 through 12 attend the high school (the middle school and the high school will share the same building)”. A vote on the amended minutes showed all voting in favor.

WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $89,804.82 was circulated for review and signatures of approval.

PARK STREET STREETSCAPE PROJECT: Sarah Stroup reported they are here to offer a project update on St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s sidewalk, stained glass windows, and re-landscaping project. She advised they have made substantial progress expanding the public green space and thanked City Manager Chabot for securing a much lower bid on the sidewalk and retaining wall work. In February 2018 terms were set on the anticipated cost of the sidewalk project at $92,000; VTrans grant paying 50 percent ($46,250), City 25 percent ($23,125) and St. Paul’s Church paying 25 percent ($23,125). The actual total sidewalk project costs, that included the retaining wall, were $35,621. She questioned whether the payback from St. Paul’s was based on a formula or was it based on the amount of money the City was willing to put into the project. If it was based on a formula, she advised they would like to request a waiver of that responsibility ($8,905.25). The City’s cost would then be $17,810.50 which is much less than the $23,125 they expected to pay, she stated. She pointed out that precedent has already been set with the Methodist Church several years ago when they did not have to pay their portion towards the streetscape sidewalk project in front of their building. City Manager Chabot acknowledged everything is true as stated and that he understood the project to be formula based. The reduced cost of the project was a win for the City, he advised, but the City would not have chosen to put in a wall as part of the sidewalk project if doing this alone. Mayor Jeff Fritz requested confirmation that they were asking for relief of all debt. Sarah Stroup confirmed that was correct. Alderman Mark Koenig felt the City was willing to spend up to $23,000 so he is okay with that request. Alderman Bertrand stated his motion made 02-18-2018 was based on the formula. Alderman Lynn Donnelly advised she also was okay with the request because she thinks the work performed is an asset to the City and there was a big savings. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to grant the request for relief of debt for St. Paul’s Church. Alderman Mark Koenig seconded the motion with all voting in favor. Sarah Cowan and Sarah Stroup departed at 5:45 p.m.

EVSE CHARGING STATION: City Manager Chabot reported 91 municipalities applied for the Electrical Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) grant; we did not receive it. Green Mountain Power has offered to put one in and showcase Vergennes on September 28th. We will have to pay about $360 a year for the power compared to $1,200 had we received the grant. Alderman Koenig advised a level 1 charger takes about 20 hours to charge a vehicle. A level 2 charger would be nicer if that can occur. The location is at the intersection of North Green Street and Main Street and will require one parking space. Alderman William Benton moved to approve this alternative, seconded by Alderman Bertrand, with all voting in favor.

USE OF CITY GREEN REQUEST: City Manager Chabot reported Northlands Job Corps has requested use of the City Green on October 2nd from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. for a celebration of their 40th Anniversary. Alderman Mark Koenig moved to approve the request, seconded by Alderman Bertrand, with all voting in favor.

SEWER RATE INCREASE: Mayor Jeff Fritz advised we have been looking into raising the sewer assessment for some time now as we need to have funds in reserve to take advantage of opportunities as we look at upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant facility and pump stations. City Clerk Devine advised raising the current rate from $106 to $150 will build $55,000 a year towards a reserve fund, he stated. Alderman Austin stated the City Council needs to move forward with these improvements and raising the rates across the board is the fairest and most equitable. Discussion was had regarding the fairness of per unit billing. City Manager Chabot will check with other communities to inquire if they bill using an equivalent user fee or if based on metered usage. Mayor Fritz advised he would like this resolved by year-end.

SAVIDA HEALTH UPDATE: Alderman David Austin reported SaVida Health intends to open for business at 210 Main Street on Monday and the Development Review Board has not acted on the request for a change-in-use of the property. He did not feel this was acceptable as there is still another 15-day appeal period for the public. Consensus was to have Zoning Administrator Peter Garon contact both the owner of the property and the applicant to make sure both parties are aware of the appeal time.

CITY SALT SHED PROJECT: City Manager Chabot advised the City received a grant in the amount of $267,026 to purchase and install a new salt shed based on an estimate from VTrans; the City’s match was to be $64,281. Of that amount $62,527 was to come out of the West Main Street Improvement Fund and the remainder ($1754) out of the Public Works Department budget. The project was put out to bid and the one bid received was much higher than the VTrans estimate requiring our match to increase to $80,281. We are obligated to accept that proposal or put the project back out for rebids which VTrans does not recommend doing. City Manager Chabot advised he now has $16,000 that needs to be met instead of $1,754 and requested those funds come out of the Water Tower Fund when due. Alderman Mark Koenig moved to encumber $4,000 a year for the next four years from the Water Tower Fund to cover the remaining balance of our share of the match. The motion was seconded by Alderman Bertrand with all voting in favor.

VTRANS BIKE & PEDESTRIAN GRANT: City Manager Chabot reported the City received the $200,000 grant from VTrans for a sidewalk extension from Macdonough Drive down Main Street to the stairs before the Otter Creek Bridge. We did not receive a grant for the Way Finding Signs as applied for but an additional $2,000 was added the VTrans Bike & Pedestrian grant for that purpose.

FARMERS MARKET: The Farmers Market has had $52,500 in sales on the City Green this year so far, advised Manager Chabot. They have reported that this year is twice as good as when they operated out of Kennedy Brothers. They are looking for a winter spot and hope to be back on the City Green next year.

CITY STUMP DUMP: The last day for the season to use the City stump dump is Saturday, October 5th. Manager Chabot reported the dump was well used this summer.

BUDGET UPDATE: We are still waiting for reimbursement from the State for June police fines, advised Manager Chabot, so we haven’t finalized that budget. The information technology conversion we are undergoing at City Hall will save us $10,800 annually; there have been some up-front expenses with this transition and the budget reflects that. He pointed out the new contract with Vergennes Area Rescue Squad (VARS) went up this year so that line item is overspent. He reported the City has been on a 3-year promotional with Consolidated Communications which just ended and our rates increased $346 per month.

MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Fritz reported he has found someone to Chair the Succession Committee. He will address that at the next meeting.

ADJOURNMENT: At 6:33 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the regular meeting, seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig, with all voting in favor.

Respectfully submitted,

Vergennes City Clerk