VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
October 24, 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. An amendment to the agenda was made to include 5g – Establishing a USGS Streamgaging Station on Otter Creek. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Michael Daniels Julie Jones
Alderman Lynn Donnelly Carol Fenimore
Alderman Mathew Chabot Adam Sausville
Alderman Mark Koenig David Sausville
Alderman Lowell Bertrand Kevin Rooney
Alderman Jeffrey Fritz Andy Kirkaldy
City Manager Mel Hawley
City Clerk Joan Devine
VISITORS: Boy Scout Adam Sausville was present at the meeting working towards a merit badge.
MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of October 10, 2017. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz. A few minor corrections were made for clarification. A vote on the motion with the corrections showed all voting in favor.
WARRANT: The Warrant, totaling $77,398.00, was circulated for review and signatures of approval.
CITIZENS COMMENTS: None.
PRIVATE SEWER CONNECTIONS: Alderman Donnelly advised she felt the minutes to the last meeting were clear that she was addressing other sewer lines in the city that run across private property without an easement. The property for sale that her office is handling will put in a new private sewer line to the sewer main located within the South Maple Street right of way but not everyone with this problem will have that capability. She was trying to bring awareness of this problem, she advised. City Manager Hawley reported he and City Attorney Ouimette have reviewed the sewer ordinance that was adopted in 1976 as well as the City Charter looking for anything that might offer clarification. They both agree the definition of “public sewer” in the sewer ordinance was not helpful nor was the City Charter. He advised City Attorney Ouimette says sewer mains are in the city right of ways, on private property with an easement or acquired through court condemnation. City Manager Hawley agreed that private lines going across someone else’s private property are a problem. Alderman Donnelly felt the ordinance needed to be amended with a clearer definition and should be addressed in the near future. An updated ordinance should be put on our list of things to do, advised Manager Hawley. Kevin Rooney suggested the City Council create a committee to investigate this matter.
LOCAL OPTION TAXES: City Manager Hawley provided local option tax language from the charters of the Town of Colchester, the Town of Middlebury, and the City South Burlington. He also supplied information from the Vermont Tax Department projecting total revenue of around $234,000; the City’s share would be 70 percent of that amount. Mayor Daniels advised the City Council can choose all three local tax options (sales, rooms, or meals and alcoholic beverages) or choose just one or any combination thereof. He said the new revenue source could be used to fund capital improvements outlined in the Downtown-Basin Master Plan. Kevin Rooney suggested finding out how much money is needed to do the various improvements listed in the Downtown-Basin Master Plan and then look at your replacement funds; a local option tax may not be needed. Alderman Koenig reported he is interpreting this as a two-step process requiring voter approval and approval by the Legislature. City Manager Hawley advised the City Council deciding to present a proposed amendment to the charter to the voters that would authorize local option taxes would be the first step. If voters approve that, and after legislative approval for a amendment to the charter, the question on whether to implement a local option tax would have to go back to the voters for approval. In the case of Colchester, he advised, they voted on an amendment to their charter and the resolution to implement locate option taxes at the same time. Alderman Koenig pointed out that the two public votes could be a year apart. It was agreed to continue discussion of this topic at the next meeting.
EASEMENTS FOR RAIL TRAIL PROJECT: City Manager Hawley questioned if the City Council planned to go forward with the so-called Rail Trail Project that was started prior to 2005 when he was not the City Manager. It was his understanding that a walking trail was to be created from the base of the falls, run along the backside of Comfort Hill facing the valley, and up to the train station located in Ferrisburgh. Easements were needed from three property owners of which only one was acquired. The easement through the property of Kathleen Rivers required the project to be completed by July 1, 2008. If the City is not going to proceed with this project, he advised, the encumbrance on her property should be released. Manager Hawley advised a decision is not needed tonight but questioned if this was a priority in the community anymore. Mayor Daniels stated this project has been dying a slow natural death because it has not been a priority. He will contact Bruce Bushey to see if he is still agreeable to an easement running through his property. Discussion was had regarding this trail being a part of a bigger study that was done to provide pedestrian and biking opportunities in the city.
SWIMMING POOL DECK REPAIRS: City Manager Hawley distributed copies of the two bids for cleaning and caulking of joints on the pool surround as well as cleaning and sealing other joints in the entire pool apron. Bids were received from Nicom Coatings and Pease Construction Services. City Manager Hawley recommended going with Nicom Coatings for both projects at a total cost of $3,880. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to authorize Manager Hawley to contract with Nicom Coatings for $3,880 for the pool repairs as discussed and to pay this expense out of the swimming pool budget. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor. Mayor Daniels advised that hot water is required at the bathhouse by code and should be done in the spring and filter covers that are showing signs of failure will need to be replaced as well.
NUISANCE – HAZARDOUS STRUCTURES: A copy of Chapter 5 of the City Ordinances, Nuisances, was discussed as a result of conversations on social media regarding a historic property that is being allowed to deteriorate. City Health Officer Mel Hawley advised he has the authority to condemn properties that are hazardous to safety of life or health but the property being discussed is not inhabited or unsecured.
SANDWICH BOARD AND TEMPORARY SIGNS: Senior Alderman Perry was not available to attend this meeting, advised Mayor Daniels, but he would like to know if the City Council would like language addressing temporary signs in the public right of way as an ordinance or a policy. City Manager Hawley suggested a clear policy outlining exactly what can be done in a City right of way. City Council consensus showed a policy was favored. Manager Hawley reported the Planning Commission will be moving towards monitoring signs in the Central Business District only but not in the public right of way. Mayor Daniels advised Senior Alderman Perry has the language for sandwich board signs written and he will tell him to go forward with drafting it as a policy as opposed to an ordinance for temporary signs in the public right of way.
ESTABLISHING A USGS STREAMGAGING STATION ON OTTER CREEK: City Manager Hawley distributed a copy of a memorandum from the U.S. Geological Survey to the International Joint Commission requesting permission to position a streamgaging station at the City docks on Otter Creek. A flood study is being conducted and data gaps exist for monitoring tributaries to Lake Champlain, he advised. The equipment would have a 2’ x 2’ solar panel for power with a conduit containing a transducer down to the shoreline bank and into Otter Creek that will gauge water depth. This unit may also need to be serviced at times, he reported. The location between the Macdonough Park and Matt Daniels’ property is requested. City Manager Hawley will communicate there was no objection by the City Council but this is not authorization until an easement/agreement is signed and he will also speak with Matt Daniels.
CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley reported that the budget appears to be in good shape with no red flags. He reported the debit/credit card payment capability is now available in the Treasurer’s office and a status report will be given in three months. Manager Hawley advised he has learned of a State funding program that is available to conduct a study on the Macdonough Drive pump station which requires a 50 percent match.
Alderman Matt Chabot announced he is associated with the owner of Mahaiwe, LLC; the next agenda item. City Manager Hawley reported Mahaiwe, LLC applied for Development Review Board approval to create additional residential units at its property located on the falls which offered two options for fencing. The Development Review Board chose their preference for fencing specifications and incorporated that as a condition of approval. Mahaiwe, LLC filed an appeal of the condition for fencing claiming it was without legal authority. Manager Hawley said the City has spent about $8,700 so far on this appeal and could only be about half-way through the process. He advised the Development Review Board stands behind their decision. The new units to be created cannot be occupied without a certificate of occupancy, he reported, that he, as Zoning Administrator, will not issue until the fence is erected.
As the City Tree Warden, City Manager Hawley reported a request has been made by the Bixby Memorial Free Library Board of Trustees to remove two blue spruce trees on the front lawn at the library; a property the City owns. In accordance with 24 VSA § 2509, he advised he has set a public hearing for Monday, November 13th, at 6:30 p.m. at the Bixby Memorial Free Library.
MAYOR’S REPORT: Mayor Daniels reported he was approached to join in with other communities to support the mission of Extra Mile America in creating 575 plus Extra Mile cities by means of proclaiming November 1, 2017 as Extra Mile Day. Mayor Daniels read and signed the proclamation and a copy will be filed with these minutes.
ADJOURNMENT: At 7:30 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Matt Chabot with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk