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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Selectboard Meeting Notes - Panhandling Sign Discussed Further, Tabled For Further Discussion

A three member Brattleboro Selectboard postponed a few issues on their agenda for the return of a full board, but took up the issue of a revised panhandling sign without them. After another long and involved discussion, the matter was tabled for when the full board returns.

A box of syringes served as an unexpected centerpiece to the board’s meeting table, placed there by a frustrated resident. A bid for pump station improvements at the Welcome Center was approved, SeVEDS gave an annual update, and committee appointments were made.


Chair Kate O’Connor began by noting that with David Schoales and Tim Wessel absent, all decisions would require three  affirmative votes. She also said that the agenda would be altered, with the FY17 financial report, ladder truck, and possible rescheduling of the first November selectboard meeting being postponed until the next meeting of the full board.

O’Connor also said the birthday party at the library was great.

Town Manager Peter Elwell had no opening remarks.

For selectboard comments and committee reports, Brandie Starr said she attended the 4th annual celebration at the Root Social Justice Center, “ a really joyful thing to be a part of.” Starr attended the forum on addiction held recently at the library, calling it a great conversation starter. She also said the ad hoc committee working on the panhandling flyer was working to revise its mission and intent after a meeting with the social worker at the police department, who spoke “openly and frankly” about what she deals with in the community.

John Allen noted that the mass shooting in Las Vegas was “another sad point in our history,” but wasn’t sure what could be done. Closer to home, he encouraged people to contibute to the gofundme site for medical bills of Stanley Lynde of Lynde Motorsports who was injured in a motorcycle accident. “He’s in pretty rough shape right now,” said Allen.

Public Participation

Leo Schiff and Susan Wagner told the board about the 5th annual Career Expo to be held at the River Garden on October 19th, with a career social to follow at The Lounge. The event is an “enhanced job fair” for job seekers, students, and people considering career changes, as well as the businesses that might employ them.

Dick DeGray reiterated Allen’s message about Mr. Lynde, but also wanted to thank Scot Borofsky for mural restoration and refurbishment. “If you see him, thank him.”

Peter Nickerson returned with an update on his search for the elusive single use plastic bag littering fair Brattleboro, and could only find one. He asked John Allen for the “honey hole so I can see it.” Allen said single use plastic bags blew around near Price Chopper. “They are out there.”

A man named Peter said he found some syringes downtown and tried to do the right thing and dispose of them properly. He said he took them to the police station, who told him to try the hospital, who suggested Rescue Inc. None would take them, he told the board, “so I brought them to you tonight.”  He gave the selectboard a small brown box, which remained in the center of the meeting table for the rest of the evening. He said he was pretty upset about it. “It’s not uplifting. It’s reality.”

Town Manager Elwell said he’d find out where to dispose of syringes and get the word out.

Welcome Center Pump Station Bid Award

Bids for the upgrades at the Welcome Center Pump Station in Guilford were received, and the Brattleboro Selectboard accepted the low bid of $316,400 from Penta Corporation of Moultonborough, NH to do the work.

What work? You might recall that the State of Vermont owns the pump station.  Brattleboro and Commonwealth Dairy would like to upgrade and expand the station so it can handle 250,000 gallons per day, and Brattleboro has agreed to help manage the upgrade. Once the project is complete, Brattleboro will take over the pump station as part of its system.

Department of Public Works Director Steve Barrett said parts had already been ordered and work would be well underway by the end of the month.

John Allen asked if any of the work required drilling under highways (which caused problems for a previous project). Barrett assured him there were no highways to go under.

The approved bid is now sent on to the State of Vermont and the Federal Highway Commission for final approval. The State will pay for all repairs up to the current capacity, and Brattleboro and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development will pay to increase the discharge flow.

After voting to adjourn as Water & Sewer Commissioners 3-0, John Allen posed an interesting question regarding the rules for meetings. “What if I had voted no?”

Kate O’Connor said that the motion wouldn’t have passed. “We’d be stuck in it forever,” she said adding that “thankfully we adjourned before John figured it out.”

Police and Fire Facilities Projects Update

In brief: Elwell says all well.

With two of the three facility projects fairly well wrapped up, Town Manager Elwell’s report to the board this time was mostly a Central Fire Facility update. The West Brattleboro Fire Station and the Police Station at Black Mountain Road are fully operational.

At Central Station, things are going well and the project completion date is expected in late November or early December. New construction is almost finished and renovations to the older portion of the building are underway.

Preparation for demolition of the old West Brattleboro fire station is going on inside the building. The former firehouse should look like a parking lot by mid-October.  John Allen was told that no, there would be no controlled explosions of the building. “It’s ready to fall over, anyways,” he said in response.

Kate O’Connor asked if the police were liking their new station, and was told that they were very appreciative of the investment made by the community. She was told some minor issues related to moving were being resolved, but overall things were going well.

Projects finances remain unchanged from the last report with an uncommitted balance of $382,635.89.

The Panhandling Sign

For much of the summer the Brattleboro Selectboard has wrestled with issues of panhandling. The board authorized four steps - an outreach task force, a possible jobs program, possible collection boxes in parking lots for social services, and a survey to gather data about the issue.

Also discussed was a sign to be placed in public areas to address the issue. One version of the sign was proposed by the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance, but the selectboard found fault with the wording. Instead, the board asked for Town staff to draft a Town version of the sign for discussion.

The newly proposed sign says: “It is legal for people to carry signs or to ask for money in public places. Aggressive behavior can cause these activities to become illegal. No one is allowed to follow, touch, or threaten another person. If you feel threatened, you can call the Police at 802-257-7950 or dial 9-1-1 in an emergency. If you need food, shelter, or other assistance, you can call 2-1-1 for referral to local service agencies.”

Chair O’Connor said she would vote against the new sign. “It’s not going to serve the purpose people think it will,” she said, adding that it was too contentious. She wanted to put energy into the other four steps underway.

Brandie Starr wanted to clear up confusion about the Town’s task force. “It is a police officer, an addiction specialist, and a social worker that go around and ask people what they need and why they are out there. It’s not about shoo-ing along. It’s about making conversation and to see if anyone needs help.

John Allen repeated his earlier view that with “so many agencies in town I don’t believe anyone needs to panhandle.” He said the sign wasn’t the answer. “There’s no one thing that’s the answer. There’s so many social issues here. Everyone wants to do well, but no one wants to touch the elephant in the room, in that box,” he said, referring to the syringes in front of them.

Starr said she had been to “the wall” three times to meet with people there. “I sat there to see what it feels like sitting there. People averted their eyes,” she said. “Some people are trying to do something.”

“We can’t ask them not to sit there,” she said. “Why the hell should they care, if we don’t even meet their eyes?” She said that if we don’t hear them, they won’t hear us and it won’t work.

Jim Levinson reminded the board of their ratification of the Charter for Compassion earlier in the year, and asked if they knew how many panhandlers were in Brattleboro. No one could provide a number.

He suggested that it might be more productive not to think of businesses and low income residents as opponents. “Why not help both?”

Kelly Junno, a resident of Flat Street, said she wanted the selectboard to remain aware of how criminalizing certain behaviors to clear the streets of minorities has a long history, and how bad behavior gets conflated with some minorities. She said that panhandling and disruptive behavior are not equal, and overdosing was a public health issue. “I hope the board votes down any action criminalizing the poor,” she said. She said that when she hands her money to another human, she acknowledges that poverty exists. “I walk by the lot every day. They aren’t a problem. Poverty is a problem.”

Dick Degray suggested the matter be tabled for a decision by the full board. He said the issue wasn’t poverty or drugs, but what people should do if they feel intimidated. He said that the board doesn’t want to give information to the victims.

Erin Weaver said she never felt threatened and felt comfortable saying no. “I don’t need the Town to step in and protect me from having that interaction. The signs could say that heroin was illegal. It won’t change the problem.”

Peter Nickerson said that he was comfortable with boundaries being established by the proposed sign. “These are good boundaries. Common decency.”

Peter (the one with the box of syringes) said the “real issue is looking for a quick fix to get the next fix,” and that they were “just looking for the next high.” He couldn’t believe so much time was being spent “on a sign that won’t correct anything, but is a step.”

John King said that not all panhandlers were addicts. Some people needed food. “We have to recognize this is a problem of housing, treatment, counseling, and social services.”

Sharon (Coterie-ay?) said “This sign doesn’t do anything.” She said the first part says we have a right, then the next part says if one feels threatened to call the police. “Do we really need a sign to tell us this?”

Kate O’Connor said it was interesting that no one was wrong in their view, and that everyone had their own experience. The sign, though, was polarizing. “ It didn’t start that way, but it is now polarizing in an unhealthy way. This is an issue,” she said. “The sign is not good for our town, and we’re losing sight of the goal, of making it a safe place.”

John Allen said his feelings went out to store owners. “If they close, there goes our grand list, and there go our social services and police force.”  He added “yes, this isn’t the answer, but lets’s not lose sight.”

Brandie Starr said the sign was unnecessary.

Degray implored the board to think of “the victims” and safety.

Kelly Junno wanted to know where people’s ideas of safety come from, and how valid they are. “We feel fine making a connection between being poor and aggressive behavior.” She wondered how we’d feel about a sign saying that hajibs may be worn, but if one feels threatened call the police. 

“People’s ‘feelings” of safety or not are not valid,” she suggested. “It has to do with prejudice and ignorance.”

Allen suggested they table the issue until the full board could weigh in, and the others “begrudgingly” allowed him the courtesy.

Brattleboro Development Credit Corp and SeVEDS Update

BDCC and SeVEDS made their annual trek to the selectboard to give an update on their projects, and to file a request for more money.

“The whole audience left,” remarked O’Connor.

Adam Grinold, BDCC Executive Director, brought along three colleagues to describe programs and projects.

Laura Sibelia spoke of the CEDS, or Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies, in the region. She said it was a five year plan due for a refresh, and work was beginning on  gathering data for the next phase, to begin in 2019.

This next one, she said, would be a two county version, with Windham and Bennington counties working together to create a Southern Vermont Economic Zone.

She gave the selectboard a bit of data, telling them that 40% of Brattleboro workers commute, making this a tri-state labor force.

Grinold added some other data, letting the board know that in smaller communities such as Newfane, the number of child-bearing individuals was low. “If you have less kids in the near future, then there won’t be kids in school, and that is an indicator of future performance.”

Alex Beck talked about helping people who wanted to work find work here. His programs included conversations among young professionals, career assessments, working with employers, increasing adult education at the Career Center, and programs for high school students.

R.T. Brown said he managed the VY funds from the state, and that one more grant cycle remained. He said he also helps with business incubation, start-up labs, and emerging firms, including a program of loans specifically for businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Dick Degray asked how they were doing with minority recruitment for internships. Beck said their best results come through higher eduction applicants. “Colleges do great at bringing diversity.”  He didn’t have specific numbers.

Brandie Starr asked about upward mobility opportunities in area jobs and equitable treatment of people with and without kids. Beck said there were great entry level jobs, and people retiring in the near future. “People want to sell businesses, managers are eager to retire and have someone fill their shoes. It’s a great place for upward mobilization.” He said they were working to stregthen working families with training programs and services such as childcare.

Grinold said they needed to learn more.

Starr asked how many Gen X employees are in $40-50,000 managerial positions. Grinold said they didn’t have the data, but they were going to get a great data tool. “I’d like to see as much as possible,“ said Starr.

Beck said they prefer to look at future trends in high wage, high growth jobs. “We like to look forward five years to when students graduate.”

“How can people avoid the financial cliff, in a broad utopian way,” asked Mr. Nickerson.

Sibelia said the state was working on many related issues. “It’s a sustained conversation. One problem is data. It’s hard to craft policies without data, but we’re figuring it out.”

The selectboard filed away for later consideration their request of $3 per person. It will likely become an article at Representative Town Meeting requesting $36,147.

Water Safety Grant

The Brattleboro Selectboard ratified after-the-fact Town Manager Elwell’s decision to accept and appropriate $3,133.53 from the Vermont Homeland Security Program to help equip the Fire Department. This grant will pay for flotation jackets, rope, and a GPS unit to aid in water or ice rescues.

Selectboard Goals Review

The board reviewed their goals for the year, noting status updates for each item.

New details include plans for a Vermont League of Cities and Towns “hub town” meeting, noting that the facilities projects are 85% complete, improvements to Town job recruitment, as well as work towards diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Thanks for helping us reach our goals,” O’Connor said to Elwell.

“We’re a team,” he replied.

Committee Appointments

John D. Komar was appointed to the ADA Committee, John M. Haley and Phillip A.R. to the Arts Committee, Elissa Pine to the Citizen Police Communications Committee, W. Todd Murchison to the Development Review Board, Josh Steele to the Planning Commission, and Don Freeman to the Senior Solutions Advisory Council.


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It's funny that the issue

It's funny that the issue with the syringes came up . I self inject a medication for my RA and have a container full of used syringes.
I also spent a few hours trying to find someone who knew where and how to dispose of them safely with the same results that the gentleman at the meeting had.
Police won't take them and have no idea what to do with them: hospital can't take them. It makes me wonder what happens to any syringes that may come into police possession after a drug arrest? What a town this is. An opioids epidmic and not a soul knows what to do with used needles.


Fine if feline

We use needles to hydrate our old cat. The vet lets us return the used ones.


My rheumatologist is at

My rheumatologist is at Cheshire Medical so I guess I'll see if they'll take them.
It seems quite concerning that nobody knows what to do with used syringes.
It makes me question what happens to all the pills that get turned in on those drop off your old medications days.
Maybe they're just tossed in a dumpster.


The answer is pretty simple, it turns out.

According to the health dept, you seal them carefully and put them in the trash.

See: How to Discard Syringes and Other Sharps


So, according to my

So, according to my rhuematologist's office the syringes that I use should NOT be put into the trash - even in a heavy duty plastic container. They told me to call the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug and they will send- free of charge- a lock box for the used syringes and a special mailing box to send them back to the company to dispose of. They did tell me that 30 states have used syringe programs but that putting them out with the weekly trash is not only environmentally incompatible but also health wise it opens up the possibility that someone could open the container and get stuck. Obviously, this doesn't address the problem of illegal syringes which have the potential to spread very dangerous diseases like HIV, hepatitis, etc. Massachusetts has pretty strict and plentiful drop off programs. All the more reason for cities and towns to have needle exchange programs. Anyway, for those who might use injectable drugs for a medical condition my doctor said almost every pharmaceutical company will provide a lock box and free shipping for used needles.


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