With two Brattleboro Selectboard members absent, Tuesday night’s agenda was both shortened of items and extended by additional background information for the benefit of new members.
The board adopted a resolution proclaiming the second Monday in October to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day, making Brattleboro one of the first in the state to make such a proclamation. It was not without controversy, however. Rebel Pete expressed concern.
Grants were accepted, a loan was approved, financials were reported, and Brattleboro bought a hydraulic hammer attachment and a water slide. Contracts were approved and amended.
Oh, and by the way, there will also be an emergency preparedness drill on Thursday, so don’t freak out. We’re especially looking at you, area around Oak Grove School.
Chair Kate O’Connor reminded everyone that Friday is a leaf pickup day all around Brattleboro. She also said that some items on the agenda would be postponed until the full board was present. David Schoales and John Allen were absent.
Town Manager Elwell wanted to warn the people of Brattleboro that on Thursday there will be an emergency mangement exercise, meaning a rather full-blown, large scale exercise involving emergency vehicles, school personnel, and other organizations. This drill will take place at and around Oak Grove school from 8 am until about noon. “It will be noticeable. Don’t be alarmed.”
For selectboard comments and committee reports, Brandie Starr said she attended her first Windham Solid Waste Management District meeting, and while nothing needs the board’s input at this time, she reported there was a hearty discussion on composting in other towns, rolloffs, and other good information.
As she promised, Dale Joy returned for public participation. She wanted to tell the board about safety as part of her series of issues she plans to bring to their attention. She hoped the town would take safety issues more seriously, and that independent inspectors should check out landlords and apartments. She said her next report would be about a police report and another building in town.
Acting as Liquor Commissioners, the Brattleboro Selectboard approved a First Class license renewal for McNeill’s Brewery and a Second Class license renewal for Avenue Grocery.
McNeill’s has a new sprinkler system and is up to fire code. Avenue Grocery has new owners.
Water & Sewer Commissioners
Donning their Water & Sewer Commissioner caps, the Brattleboro Selectboard approved of the purchase of a hydraulic hammer, also known as an impact hammer. It is used by the Department of Public Works to excavate through concrete road beds or frozen earth to get to things such as water mains. It is attached to the backhoe.
The lowest bid that met the specifications was from Milton Cat in Milford, MA for $23,950, including trade-in of a 1998 hydraulic hammer, reported Hannah Tyler, Superintendent of Highways.
Tim Wessel asked if each bid was for an identical hammer, or if they were different models that met minimum specifications. Tyler said they met specs.
This led O’Connor to ask if the more expensive bids went significantly beyond the spec. “Did the expensive ones have more stuff?” Tyler didn’t know for sure.
Starr asked if local bids had any special weight. Town Manager Elwell said that for services, the Town can favor local contracts, but for capital expenses such as materials or equipment, a low-bid system is employed.
The new hammer comes in substantially under the $40,000 set aside in the Utilities 2017 Capital Budget.
Police and Fire Facilities Updates
Elwell repeated that the ribbon cutting and open house at West Brattleboro Fire Station is scheduled for Saturday April 22 from 9 am until noon. Ribbon cutting is at 9:30 am.
At the police station, Elwell reported, steel stud framing and other work continues. He told board members that one reason this building was purchased was because it could so quickly be gutted entirely and remade as needed.
Slab infills, more framing, and more rough-ins of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing are expected in coming weeks. New windows are being cut. Completion of the Police Station is expected in August.
Central Fire Station has had extensive roof, wall and slab work. Trees, as iBrattleboro dogs have already reported, have been cut down, but they were limited to ones too close to the new building, a few dead branches, and one dead tree, as certified by the Tree Warden.
More walls, slabs, and systems work will be going on in the near future, as will demolition of some of the existing station. Demolition was to begin in June, and is ahead of schedule.
Elwell then asked the board to approve some new expenses.
Radio communications and station alerting equipment for Central Fire Station are anticipated purchases, he explained, but were intentionally left out of initial project estimates to help keep costs down. This work can be done for less expense by Town staff and contracted vendors than if included in the overall project.
The 70 foot radio tower, antenna system for the tower, and new communications equipment will cost $51,248. The station alerting system (for dispatching calls to the station) comes in at $36,694.05.
At the police station, Elwell explained that roof leaks in one portion of the building now require a partial roof replacement at a cost of $69,000. Steve Horton, project manager, said that repairing it would cost $150,000, and that a new roof would be cost effective at this point in the construction. It would also improve insulation, exceeding code.
The rest of the roof is expected to last another five years, perhaps, and there may be a way to replace that portion with a new roof for about $90,000. That decision will come later.
“Will that decision be made in the summer or fall?” asked Wessel. Elwell said it would be made before weather becomes an issue.
Similarly, a decision as to whether to add a carport as a protective measure for the police vehicles will also be made later, but unlike the roof decision, a carport can be added at any point in the schedule.
The regular financial overview provided by Town Manager Elwell shows that even if the board approves all known, planned, and potential items for these projects, almost $400,000 may remain when the projects are finished. That money could be redirected toward other capital projects with approval of Representative Town Meeting.
The board approved all purchases.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Indigenous Peoples’ Day was proclaimed, officially, by the board. It is henceforth the second Monday of every October. Kate O’connor read the proclamation with pronunciation help from Rich Holshuh and others. Brandie Starr happily made the motion.
Holshuh thanked everyone who helped Brattleboro to become the first town in the state to make such a proclamation, and hoped it would be proclaimed statewide. He said it was appropriate to be first, since Brattleboro is where colonization began in Vermont.
Holshuh said he hoped to restore indigenous people to the community. He said the Abenaki, if asked “who are you and where do you live?” would answer that “I am called Rich and I am this place.”
“That’s what it is about,” he told the board. “We’re walking the walk, so thank you very much.”
Work continues on the compassionate communities and plastic bag banning.
Monthly Finance Report With John O’Connor
Finance Director John O’Connor gave the board the monthly financial snapshot for March 2017, 75% of the way through the fiscal year.
General Fund expenses are at 73.1% of the annual budget. Utilities Fund are at 78.8% and Parking Fund expenditures are at 78.1%.
Solid Waste Disposal Fund stands at 62% for revenues and 68.6% for expenditures, with the caveat that bag revenue and other costs are recorded a month later.
Brattleboro has loaned $3,986,904, and has another $522,263 to loan or grant.
There are 47 active grants and 8 in development.
Both O’Connor and O’Connor took some time to explain the financial report and various funds in greater detail than usual for the benefit of the new board members.
Wessel asked if Local Option Tax revenue was down. On the contrary, answered John O’Connor. It was expected to exceed what was budgeted.
“I’m a rebel, up from Virginia,” announced a tall stranger in the audience. “I have a point of order.”
Kate O’Connor welcomed his remarks. He said his name was Pete Nickerson and wondered if the board had taken advice prior to “wiping out Columbus Day.”
O’Connor explained that it was an issue voted on earlier in the year at Representative Town Meeting and they were advised to do it. “I should have solicited advice,” she added.
“I’m in another culture here,” continued Rebel Pete. He explained that southern culture respected western culture, “and don’t like seeing it deleted.” He said he was sorry for what we had done to the American Indian, and other species, “but we should keep history intact and accurate.”
Financial Management Questionnaire and Internal Controls Checklist
As an annual formality required by State statute, the board acknowledged receipt of the Financial Management Questionnaire for Towns & Cities. They also inspected the Municipal Checklist for Internal Controls (Part 1, Cash Controls).
The required questionnaire asks questions along the lines of “Are checks written to specific entities and not to cash?” and “Are financial records maintained in a computerized system?”
The checklist comes from the auditors and is a bit more detailed. It asks about items such as annual audits, sequential receipts, ledgers, reconciliation, and similar financial controls.
Starr said the it all looked “mind numbingly familiar.”
Dale Joy asked about an event early in Peter Elwell’s Town Manager-ship. She recalled something about him saying that he wanted funds to go in the right place. Elwell said he did recommend some recategorization of the way some numbers are presented to the board, but none of it related to a problem being corrected. Some requirements of financial documents can be hard to understand without simplifying them, he said.
Annual Update of Comprehensive Review of Town Operations and Selectboard Goals
The board skipped these items, opting to wait for a full five member board and full discussion at a future meeting.
Water Slide Bid
Brattleboro went shopping for a replacement water slide for Living Memorial Park, and found one in Louisville, KY. The water slide will cost $20,041.03, and comes from Recreonics. Installation will cost about $750.
Carol Lolatte said it would be a molded 19 foot, circular slide with a steel ladder. “A nice attraction for this summer.”
$35,000 was donated to cover the costs of the project by the Vermont Community Foundation Withington Fund. “There’s some money there,” said Lolatte.
The old one will be dismantled and recycled, said Lolatte.
Bradley House CDBG/VCDP Grant
$450,000 for Bradley House renovations was accepted by the Town of Brattleboro. The money comes from the Vermont Community Development Program, which gets its funding from HUD. The project will renovate the senior residential care facility, adding units and improving the overall facility.
Patrick Moreland explained that Brattleboro gets the grant money from the state and sub-grants it to Bradley House. “Federal resources at work in Brattleboro,” he said. Other grants are also a part of the redevelopment package.
Brattleboro is contributing $50,00 from program income to the Bradley House project.
SBAP Loan for Whetstone Station Associates
Whetstone Station Associates have been approved by the selectboard for a $70,000 Small Business Assistance Program loan in the amount of $70,000. It’s a seven year loan at 3.25%.
They plan to go mobile with a food truck, plus buy deck furniture for their roof, lockers for mugs, barrel storage for beer, and technological improvements for serving and paying.
Whetstone Station also owns Kampfires Campground on Rt 5 in Dummerston, and they are planning improvements there as well, including septic upgrades, wired cable TV, new laundry, a 4 room Inn, and mini-golf improvements. Other funding will be used for these improvements, but the food truck will be featured at this location, said co-owner David Hiler. It will also be sent to festivals and other events.
Grants manager Kim Ellison praised Whetstone for the creation of 50 paychecks every pay period. Tim Wessel praised the way the restaurant looks as one approaches from New Hampshire. Brandie Starr praised the way they treat their employees. Kate O’Connor praised their beer.
Dispatch Schedule Change
An amendment to the collective bargaining agreement with the Brattleboro Police Association will change hours fro the Central Dispatch Unit.
Brattleboro will try a six month experiment in which shifts for dispatchers are increased from 8 hours to 12 hours each on two week rotations. This was by request of the dispatchers, via Police Chief Mike Fitzgerald. Town Manager Elwell told the board this would allow for more weekends off and other benefits at no additional cost to taxpayers.
The change takes effect April 20.
Rescue Pumper Truck
The Brattleboro Selectboard gave approval for the town to use the Houston-Galveston Area Council Group Contract Purchasing Program to find a rescue pumper combo vehicle for the Fire Department.
It’s similar to our state bidding system, said Elwell, and should help us save about $5500 on the price of the combo truck.
The manufacturer of the desired vehicle, Pierce Manufacturing, also offers a deal for pre-paying. This should save an additional $23,000 off the total price.
Fire Chief Michael Bucossi said there was no cost to participate in the program.
Before making the motion to approve, Tim Wessel noted that he and Starr had been tasked with making all the motions. “There’s only two of us to make all the motions tonight.” (Indeed, it was becoming a bit like watching a tennis match of motions between the two.)
Kate O’Connor promised to have John Allen and David Schoales make all the motions at the next meeting.
Use of the buying program was approved!
Rescue Inc Annual Contract
A new annual contract with Rescue Inc for 2017-2018 was approved by the Brattleboro Selectboard.
Brattleboro will pay $233,500. This amount comes after a $40,000 discount for Brattleboro’s contribution (PILOT, services offset with Fire and DPW, etc.) to the organization.
This regular annual discount is slowly being phased out (last year $50k, this year $40k, then down by $10k a year until FY23.) For FY23 and beyond, Brattleboro’s discount and Rescue’s tax exemption will drop away unless re-approved.
Rules of Conduct
... is another agenda item postponed until more board members can participate.
Diversification of Town Staff
... will also wait for later. May.
July Meeting Schedule
The board almost acted on the Town Manager’s recommendation to schedule just one meeting in July, on July 11, but decided to just pencil it in until they could be sure Allen and Schoales could make it.
There was some talk of having a single meeting in August as well, but as you might guess, it will be decided later.
About $48,000 had been extracted from Brattleboro businesses and given to the Town of Brattleboro for the Business License Program. This covers the cost of the program, and then some.
The skatepark has about $63,000 in the account toward the $300,000 project.
The dog park has funding and permits and soon will be putting out an RFP to install the fence.