VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
SEPTEMBER 12, 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. Mayor Daniels advised that both items on the agenda under ‘Business’ will be held off until the next meeting. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Michael Daniels Representative Warren Van Wyk
Senior Alderman Renny Perry Police Chief George Merkel
Alderman Mathew Chabot Tim Cook
Alderman Mark Koenig Sheila Turpin
Alderman Lowell Bertrand Jennifer Kingsley
Alderman Jeffrey Fritz Doug Olvfsen
Alderman Lynn Donnelly Steve Thurston
City Manager Mel Hawley Monique Thurston
City Clerk Joan Devine Michelle Eckels
Shannon Haggett Bill Clark
Andy Kirkaldy Carol Fenimore
Robert Trepanier Lisa Casey
Rena Trepanier Jason Farrell (6:05 p.m.)
Betsy Rippner Eleanor Gardner (6:10 p.m.)
VISITORS: Bill Clark, President of Vergennes Swim Team, reported they had a great season and lots of fun this year. The team consisted of 122 members compared to about 70 just two years ago, he advised. There was a snow cone challenge this year that promised a snow cone party if the team was successful in reducing their times. The swim team also brought more activity to the pool area by means of an additional movie night and swim clinics on Wednesday evenings. Mr. Clark reported their strategy is to build the community around the swim team, have good coaches, and promote ‘there is magic in the water’. Mayor Daniels congratulated Mr. Clark on his leadership. Senior Alderman Perry thanked the swim team for their noticeable economic impact in the community.
Police Chief George Merkel reported he wants to correct misconceptions about the Vergennes Police Department that have developed as a result of a study entitled ‘Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont’ by UVM Professor Stephanie Seguino. He advised Ms. Seguino is an economics professor and not a statistician. He pointed out that her study acknowledges that sample sizes for some towns are too small to make reliable estimates or a statistical analysis. Other factors include information was not available from all departments and the ratio of black and Asian drivers stopped should be compared to the black and Asian share of the county population. That was not done, he stated, the 80 percent were not Addison county residents. He felt there were a lot of shortcomings with the report so he made several attempts to speak to Ms. Seguino but she has never contacted him. Chief Merkel provided a copy of the department’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy that sets the standards under which they operate. He reported the department is expected to be polite and treat everyone with respect and courtesy, he advised. Core values and leadership are taught at the police academy and immigration status has been addressed over and over to eliminate bias. Since 2014, officers have been required to do a profile sheet for each traffic stop which includes information on the race of the occupants. Crime Research Group (CRG), a non-profit research and evaluation center for criminal and juvenile justice, took issue with the report released and how it was compiled and will be doing an analysis of their own, he stated.
Monique Thurston felt the statistics were not proven, the methodology used was not correct, and lack of contact with the department was unprofessional in her opinion. Chief Merkel advised he and the department is going to do the right thing; it is the law. Alderman Donnelly stated she did not feel we could have a better police department than we have now and affirmed to the Chief that the City Council supports them. Chief Merkel encouraged everyone to come see him or call him if they ever feel something is not right; he would want to address any issues immediately or provide information requested.
MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of August 22, 2017 as presented. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor except Alderman Koenig who abstained due to his absence.
WARRANT: The Warrant totaling $913,649.45 included the first quarter education tax installment as well as current year expenses. The Warrant was circulated for review and signatures of approval.
CITIZEN’S COMMENTS: Jason Farrell inquired about the process used when setting the starting time for the City Council meetings; he was curious if public input was used. He advised if you do not work in the community it is hard to make a 5:30 p.m. meeting. Alderman Koenig gave the history on the time of meetings since he has been on the City Council. If there was a plea from the public for later meetings, although noting that no one comes to the meetings, the City Council could accommodate.
CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised the FY2017 Fund Balance report in the packet is the last one they will receive as the numbers are final pending the audit. A budget report for the 2017 swimming pool season showed projected revenues at $58,485.05, expenses at $44,822.38 with a current projected cumulative fund balance of $15,660.82. A few more expenses are expected, he advised. He attributes this fund balance to employee management by Pool Director Jennifer Kingsley and a reduction in chemicals as a result of Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Rick Chaput who was responsible for water quality at the pool.
Manager Hawley reminded the City Council that overflows at the wastewater treatment system have to be eliminated within 20 years of the new State policy adopted a year and a half ago. The Macdonough Drive pump station has been identified as the weak link. There are two pumps at that station with a force main but during heavy rain events and extreme snowmelt not all of the wastewater is getting to the plant, he advised. He would like to do a study on this pump station. Grants are now available to do studies such as this and we are being encouraged to apply. He would like to apply for a grant, up to $8,000, and will have the form at the next meeting for City Council consideration. The application is due October 2nd.
City Manager Hawley reported having discussed designated neighborhood development areas in the past to include additional land. A boundary of neighborhood development areas is usually one-half mile surrounding a downtown development district. He reported that the additional land outside the one-half mile radius has met resistance by the State Agency administering the program so most of the additional land will need to be taken out of the proposed area. Designated neighborhood development areas give financial benefits to a developer as an incentive for a development project within approximately one-half mile of the downtown development district.
MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Daniels advised a report from the Swimming Pool Advisory Group that reports to him as Mayor is included in the packets. A few major projects are needed that should be considered before winter sets in, he advised. The State, who owns the train station in Ferrisburgh, is looking for a non-profit tenant who can also assist them in running the space as a welcome center. Amtrak will be coming to this area by next year. Also, he advised, the laws regarding open meetings were distributed for informational purposes.
ADJOURNMENT: At 7:25 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk