VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
SEPTEMBER 26, 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 reported Boy Scouts of America Assistant Scoutmaster Charles Kelly and Boy Scout Michael Jewett were in attendance as Michael is working towards receiving a merit badge. Mayor Daniels advised, based on a request from Senior Alderman Renny Perry, item 5.j on the agenda (Sandwich Board and Temporary Signs in Street Right-of-Way) will be deferred until the next meeting. Added to the agenda were 5.k (Appoint a Delegate to the VLCT annual business meeting) and 5.l (Amend Budget Revenues for the Fire fund). Alderman Chabot disclosed his employer owns the apartment building at 96 Main Street that will be discussed under 5.b and he will not participate in that item. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Michael Daniels City Manager Mel Hawley
Senior Alderman Renny Perry City Clerk Joan Devine
Alderman Mathew Chabot Charles Kelly
Alderman Mark Koenig Michael Jewett
Alderman Lowell Bertrand Michelle Eckels (6:30 p.m.)
Alderman Jeffrey Fritz Shannon Mahoney
Alderman Lynn Donnelly
MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of September 12, 2017. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry. On the second page under ‘Citizens Comments’ the last sentence was reworded for clarification. ‘If there was a plea from the public for later meetings, although it is rare for someone to come to the meetings, the City Council could accommodate such.’ A vote on the motion with the correction showed all voting in favor.
WARRANT: The Warrant, totaling $56,232.69, was circulated for review and signatures of approval. Alderman Chabot recommended that members conduct its due diligence in reviewing the Warrant as the one sent out in the City Council agenda packets is not always the same as the Warrant presented for signatures at the meeting due to bills that arrive in the interim.
RESERVING DOCK SPACE: Mayor Daniels reported an email request had been received from Cris Peck to dock his 51’ coastal cruiser on the Otter Creek. His email advised he is looking into offering dinner cruises, sunset cruises, and Lake Champlain tours. Senior Alderman Perry advised this request is very similar to that of Moonlight Lady several years ago except the Moonlight Lady boat was close to 100’ in length. The Moonlight Lady had overnight guests and served meals but customers also had free time and were able to go up-street; no one ever tracked that to see if it occurred. Senior Alderman Perry reported the only complaint about the Moonlight Lady was that the boat took up too much dock space. Cris Peck will be invited to a future meeting so the City Council can get more details on his intentions.
NORTH STREET – ONE WAY: Senior Alderman Perry advised Shannon Mahoney, a North Street resident, had suggested to him that a portion of North Street become a one-way street in the southerly direction from the intersection of Main Street to North Green Street. He pointed out that visibility leaving North Street onto Main Street is very poor and North Street is quite narrow on the backside of the City Green for two-lane traffic. Shannon Mahoney stated by making the road one-way you may be able to change the parallel parking on the back of the City Green into diagonal parking thus adding a few additional spaces. She advised there are no sidewalks on this section of North Street so walking to the post office is unsafe. She felt making this change, along with the installation of some signs, would be safer and a better route for traffic flow. City Manager Hawley cautioned that sometimes when one thinks they are solving a problem they are actually creating three new ones. One needs to consider that under this plan, all vehicles would be required to drive south on this potion of North Street because there will be no alternatives. That would include all employees and patients at Little City Family Practice and Dr. Congalton’s office, all the tenants at 96 Main Street, as well as property owners along that road, he stated. Another option would be to widen the portion of North Street behind the City Green by taking 8 feet off the back of the City Green to widen the street. Mayor Daniels reported he spoke with Tim Ryan who owns a warehouse on North Street and Mr. Ryan will be talking to his truckers to see if they would be impacted. He reported he also made contact with Little City Family Practice and they see anywhere from 50 to 130 people a day. What other options might be out there, he inquired. Could the City improve visibility at the intersection of North Street and Main Street? Alderman Jeff Fritz suggested a traffic study for those areas impacted if the road was changed to one-way. Senior Alderman Perry felt if there were enough merits to proceed, we should contact Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRP) to conduct or fund a study as that would be the next logical step. Shannon Mahoney felt North Street is too narrow to be a two-way street, there is no sidewalk, there is no STOP sign at the intersection of North Street and North Green Street, and it is dangerous pulling off North Street onto Main Street. Alderman Koenig supported a traffic study. Alderman Donnelly suggested talking to the public works department to do the sidewalks and install STOP signs. Aldermen Perry, Bertrand and Fritz all supported a traffic study; Alderman Chabot abstained from comment. Alderman Mark Koenig asked if STOP signs could be installed without a study. City Manager Hawley explained the process of meeting the 60-40 ratio for a STOP sign. He was asked to check into getting a traffic study funded by Addison County Regional Planning Commission.
FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT QUESTIONNAIRE: City Treasurer Joan Devine reported this is the fourth year she has provided this document to the City Council as required by law. The intent of the form is to provide disclosure on operating procedures in the treasurer’s office. Mayor Daniels signed the document attesting to its submission. Alderman Koenig inquired about the lack of written policies and procedures for financial operations and what might be involved to create some. Senior Alderman Perry advised we do have an investment policy. As a school board member, Mr. Koenig volunteered to find out what the school district has to see if their policies might be useful.
MUNICIPAL PLANNING GRANT – SEWER SYSTEM: City Manager Hawley advised he has a lot of concern about the Macdonough Drive pump station. Better rag control is needed as they are getting to the pump and blocking the flow. He reported he is looking for authority to apply for a planning grant up to $8,000, which requires no local match, with a focus on the Macdonough Drive pump station. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to grant the request and Senior Alderman Perry seconded the motion. Senior Alderman Perry also volunteered to help with the grant if needed. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor.
SEWER RATE INCREASE: Manager Hawley advised the City Council raised the sewer rate from $87.50 to $96.00 per quarter not too long ago. Without another increase in the sewer rate, using the budget that was adopted, the sewer fund has a projected deficit of $8,000. At a minimum, the rate should be increased from $96.00 to $98.00 per quarter, he advised. This year only $40,000 has been appropriated to the Bio-solids fund and nothing to the Capital Improvements fund, he reported. There was an $18,000 shortfall in budgeted revenue versus expenses plus a $10,000 surplus from last year; hence a projected $8,000 deficit. Manager Hawley will look into a 5-year projection for the Sewer fund and bring back a recommendation for an increase in the sewer rate.
IMPLEMENTATION OF CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS: City Clerk Devine advised, after looking into several options, she will contract with Pay/GOV for on-line and credit card capabilities. A notice will go out with the sewer billing advising this option is available.
DOWNTOWN-BASIN MASTER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION: City Manager Hawley inquired as to how the Downtown-Basin Master Plan will be implemented. Senior Alderman Perry recommended reconvening the advisory group and let them see who can best carry this plan out. He advised the Vergennes Partnership already has a role in the plan. Mayor Daniels and Senior Alderman Perry will get this in motion.
MUNICIPAL DOG PARK: Mayor Daniels reported Northlands Job Corps had volunteered to help clear land for a dog park. He advised the dog park should not be at Vergennes Falls Park as previously mentioned because recreational use is a better fit. He felt there is other property in the city that can be looked at such as the New Haven Road property that is owned by the City. Also up for consideration is whether to build two fenced-in parks; one for small dogs and the other for larger dogs.
CITY ORDINANCE AMENDMENT: City Manager Hawley advised the proposed amendments to Chapter Four Section 7, dealing with controlling what people put in the right-of-way, are a result of discussion at the last meeting. This is basically an awareness ordinance, he advised, and tickets will not be issued. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adopt the ordinance as amended, seconded by Senior Alderman Perry, with all voting in favor. The amended ordinance will be advertised in the newspaper within 14 days, posted, and become effective within 60 days.
DESIGNATION OF DELEGATE FOR VLCT ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING: Senior Alderman Renny Perry advised he will be going both days to Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ Town Fair. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to designate Senior Alderman Perry as the City’s voting delegate at the annual business meeting of VLCT. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.
FIRE CONTRACTS – AMEND REVENUE BREAKDOWN IN BUDGET: City Manager Hawley advised the revenue budget adopted for the Fire fund needs to be corrected. He reported the revenues to be derived from fire contracts from abutting towns are based on the value of property being protected in the respective municipalities. The value of the portion of the property in the town of Ferrisburgh protected by the Vergennes Fire Department that was supplied by the Town at the time of budget adoption was incorrect. Since then an error has been uncovered which increases the value of property being protected in Ferrisburgh. Therefore, the Town of Ferrisburgh’s contract amount for fire protection has gone up and the remaining three towns’ contracts have gone down. He would like to reflect this change in the budget, he advised. Senior Alderman Perry moved to authorize the City Manager to revise revenues in the Fire fund budget as requested and discussed. Alderman Jeff Fritz seconded the motion with all voting in favor.
CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised it is still early in the fiscal year to provide much comment on the budget status. The public works department started the sidewalk project on South Water Street yesterday, he advised, and the Otter Creek bridge repair project will start tomorrow creating traffic delays for the next few days due to one-lane traffic.
MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Daniels reported he would like the local option tax to be discussed again soon. Alderman Chabot requested this topic be listed on the agenda for our next meeting. Mayor Daniels advised he provided the City Council with evaluation forms he has used in the past for the City Manager and City Clerk. He asked them to review the form and advise him if they are comfortable with continuing with the same format. He went on to report the boat count at the municipal docks this year so far is 537 boats compared to 333 last year.
COMMENTS: Senior Alderman Perry reported Vergennes Partnership is sponsoring the first “Eat on the Green” event on Saturday from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. Owners of our local restaurants suggested this event where food, three bands playing throughout the day, a beer garden, as well as games for kids and adults will be offered. Four major local non-profit corporations will benefit from this fundraiser; Boys and Girls Club, Bixby Library, Vergennes Opera House and Vergennes Partnership.
ADJOURNMENT: At 7:20 p.m. Alderman Lynn Donnelly moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk