VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
November 14, 2017
Mayor Michael Daniels called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung by Octavia Devine (grand-daughter of City Clerk Joan Devine). The agenda for the meeting was revised to include Item “6.k. – Pool Filter Covers”. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Michael Daniels Police Chief George Merkel
Senior Alderman Renny Perry Officer Mark Barber
Alderman Lynn Donnelly Officer Mark Stacey
Alderman Mathew Chabot Patricia Merkel
Alderman Mark Koenig Amanda Bodette
Alderman Lowell Bertrand Carrie McFarlane
Alderman Jeffrey Fritz Tim Clark
City Manager Mel Hawley Andy Kirkaldy
City Clerk Joan Devine Fire Chief Jim Breur
Robert Trepanier Captain David DiBiase
Rena Trepanier Captain Matt Crowley
Shannon Haggett Captain Christopher Dion
David Austin Firefighter Liam Casey
Shannon Mahoney Cheryl Brinkman (6:30 p.m.)
Hillary Devine Danelle Birong
STATE OF VERMONT IMPAIRED DRIVING ENFORCEMENT AWARD: Police Chief George Merkel advised the Vergennes Police Department was the recipient of the 2017 State of Vermont Impaired Driving Enforcement Award. He explained the award is given to the most productive police department in terms of enforcement, education and awareness during the Vermont Highway Safety Program’s six highlighted events in a year. City Manager Hawley reported these grants are highly competitive and are used to augment the budget. He reported the success in obtaining grants for occupant protection, driving under the influence, and reimbursement for an officer that holds a Drug Recognition Expert certification is to use all of the funds awarded so that the department is successful in obtaining more the following year. These grant funds also allow our officers overtime hours without straining our budget, he advised. Chief Merkel announced the Addison County State’s Attorney’s office is using our department’s affidavit as a template for the rest of the county because it is so well-written.
VISITORS: Carrie McFarlane and Tim Clark were present representing The Walk-Bike Council of Addison County. Mr. Clark reported he is a lifelong biker and joined this group to help improve safety on the roads. In 2016, Local Motion and Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC) teamed up and created this advisory council to focus on positive change for those walking and biking. The safe routes to schools, VTrans flashing lights for crosswalks, additional signage are all new improvements supporting safety. Carrie McFarlane advised Local Motion has offered many opportunities for low-cost improvements while ACRPC offers funding for safety improvements. She felt they were in good position on planning and connectivity. Carrie advised hearing of the rail trail potential is exciting and they are interested in being involved with good references at their fingertips. City Manager Hawley advised the Planning Commission conducted a sidewalk inventory and plan that he would share with them.
MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of October 24, 2017. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry. Two typos were corrected. A vote on the motion with the corrections showed all voting in favor except Senior Alderman Renny Perry who abstained due to his absence.
WARRANT: The Warrant, totaling $122,689.58, was circulated for review and signatures of approval.
CITIZENS COMMENTS: Robert Trepanier advised reducing the speed limit in the downtown area to 15-mph is what bikers and walkers would like. In doing so, heavily laden trucks will sound out with grinding gears and Jake brakes. You need to consider the impact on slowing trucks down, he advised. City Manager Hawley stated there is no law that he is aware of that would allow speed limits that low.
REQUEST FOR USE OF CITY GREEN: Shannon Mahoney, owner of Raintree, requested use of the City Green on December 2nd for the Holiday Stroll and Lighting of the City Green. Senior Alderman Perry reported Vergennes Partnership backed out of doing the event this year partially because they didn’t have people to help. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the request subject to a Certificate of Insurance filed with the City Clerk. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry. Shannon advised members of Basin Harbor Club and Malabar will also be helping to put this event on which will include making s’mores, lighting trees, caroling, and a visit from Santa. She advised she would be able to get a rider from her insurance company. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor.
FIRST CLASS LIQUOR LICENSE – CK, LLC: Alderman Jeff Fritz advised he had a consulting relationship with the applicant so he recused himself from participation. Senior Alderman Renny Perry moved to approve the First Class Liquor License application submitted by CK, LLC. The motion was seconded by Alderman Bertrand with all voting in favor except Alderman Fritz who abstained.
FIRE TRUCK REPLACEMENT BOND: Mayor Daniels advised he would remove himself from the table for the Fire Department business on the agenda as he has been a member of the department for over 40 years. Senior Alderman Renny Perry assumed the role of Chair. City Manager Hawley advised everyone has been given a list of the trucks and their respective year of manufacture; the 1994 Engine 1 is the vehicle that needs to be replaced. Manager Hawley reported he contacted Community Bank for a quote on a bond but they only offer a 10-year bond so he contacted the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank for a 20-year bond in the amount of $500,000. Fire Chief Jim Breur advised the department created a committee who contacted 12 different companies for a replacement truck looking at them from high-end to low-end. He advised they were trying to stay in the middle and still meet the department’s needs for the next 20 years. They have found a truck in the middle-upper range that will serve them well that has all the new safety requirements. The new truck will have a 6-man cab with seat belts. The cost for the basic truck is $500,000 and it will cost another $20,000 for new hoses and nozzles. It is their plan to sell the 1994 truck for an estimated $20,000, he advised. If the City is able to pay upfront a discount is offered, he reported, but at a minimum the City is expected to pay an initial deposit and pay the remainder upon completion. City Manager Hawley said the fire fund has a balance of $40,000-$50,000 and will sell Engine #1. The main line fire truck is getting older and the firefighters’ safety is the number one concern, he advised. It is also critical to commercial property owners in the city to maintain and protect the City’s ISO rate of 4. Manager Hawley advised the fire department is looking for the City Council’s support in the area of $500,000 for this purchase; they will come back with fine-tuned numbers. Alderman Lynn Donnelly made a motion to move forward with this plan. Alderman Bertrand seconded the motion. Alderman Mark Koenig acknowledged the effort to get a bond to replace one vehicle but questioned what they are going to do with the five other trucks are getting older. Chief Breur advised Engine 1 was planned to be replaced in 2015 and will propose replacement of those in the worst shape first. Alderman Koenig wondered whether we should be going for an $800,000 bond to replace two vehicles. Chief Breur advised he looked at that option in June and was projecting a bond request for $1,000,000 but felt he just couldn’t do that. City Manager Hawley advised that is still an option. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor except Mayor Daniels who had left the table not voting.
RAY E. DAVISON FUND COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION: Senior Alderman Renny Perry gave the history of the Ray E. Davison Capital Equipment Fund and explained 75 percent of interest earnings are available to buy equipment for the department and the remaining 25 percent of earnings are growing the account. City Manager Hawley reported the Ray E. Davison Capital Equipment Fund Committee met prior to the meeting. Fire Chief Breur advised safety for our firefighters going into burning structures is their number one priority. Equipping each of the firefighters with a portable radio is their goal but their immediate need is for seven at this time. City Manager Hawley advised it is the recommendation of the Ray E. Davison Capital Equipment Fund Committee for the City Council to approve the purchase of seven portable radios at a cost of $20,774. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the recommendation. The motion was seconded by Alderman Koenig with all voting in favor except Mayor Daniels who had left the table.
SANDWICH BOARD/TEMPORARY SIGNS IN STREET RIGHT-OF-WAY: Mayor Daniels returned to his seat at the table. Alderman Matt Chabot announced he has been exposed to the Banner Policy through his employer. Senior Alderman Perry reported writing these regulations were much tougher than he had expected. He questioned whether the City had the authority in some areas and had to check State statutes or the City Charter several times to confirm. Signs in the street right-of-way without regulations are not a problem now and questioned whether they are needed. City Manager Hawley continued to look for clarification on several items such as signs in the city right-of-way and nothing on private property. He also suggested language that says this pertains only to the downtown district. Manager Hawley advised he was confused with sandwich board Item b. He went on to advise he would eliminate any reference to political/campaign signs altogether. Real estate and rental signs cannot be off-site by State law, reported Manager Hawley. Mayor Daniels questioned if it was possible to blend the Stevens House banner policy in with the section for temporary signs in the right-of-way. Cheryl Brinkman requested a definition for an event; for instance – is a yard sale an event? Senior Alderman Perry will continue working on the regulations and bring them back to the City Council at a later date.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Regarding the sewer issue she brought up at a meeting several weeks ago, Alderman Donnelly advised she did not mean to violate the Conflict of Interest Policy nor does she feel she did. Our policy conflicts with Roberts Rules of Order, she reported, and supplied documentation. The only time a conflict of interest comes into play is when there is a vote and it must be of personal gain, she stated.
CITY MANAGER/CITY CLERK PERFORMANCE EVALUATION PROCESS: Alderman Jeff Fritz reported he is 70 percent into the process of developing rules and guidelines for performance evaluations for the City Manager and City Clerk. Alderman Koenig volunteered to assist. Aldermen Fritz and Koenig will meet and bring this item back to the City Council.
POLLING HOURS: Alderman Jeff Fritz stated he felt the polling hours are not convenient and should be extended. Senior Alderman Perry agreed and felt the polls should open by 7 a.m. City Manager Hawley advised the polling hours are set by the Board of Civil Authority (BCA) with the exception of the Annual City Meeting which is governed by the City Charter. The City Clerk will schedule a BCA meeting to discuss changing the polling hours.
LOCAL OPTION TAXES: Mayor Daniels advised he wanted to know how many felt it was a good idea to adopt local option taxes. Alderman Chabot responded saying he would like to reserve comment as he is waiting to hear from the community. Mayor Daniels stated he is waiting for the information from Vergennes Partnership also as he wants to share it at his upcoming Cracker Barrel. Senior Alderman Perry had reservations until key industries in the city had been contacted to see what, if any, impact may be there for them. He requested deferral until January or February on this topic.
POOL FILTER COVERS: City Manager Hawley advised the cost of replacement pool filter covers will result in further exceeding the line item in the swimming pool budget so he is bringing this to the City Council for their consideration. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve $2,154.29 for the filter covers out of the pool budget. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Perry with all voting in favor.
CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley reported the budget looks good. The Vergennes Revolving Loan Fund has an available balance of $50,257 and the terms for the Revolving Loan Fund members have all expired. The Green Mountain Power Co-operative Fund has a balance of $33,821; expenses would need to be approved by Green Mountain Power. He went on to advise review of the Personnel Policy will be accomplished soon with help from Alderman Fritz and City Clerk Devine.
ADJOURNMENT: At 8:02 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Senior Alderman Renny Perry with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk