Selectboard Meeting Notes: PAYT, Union Hill, Low Bids, And The End Of An Era

There will be no mailing of Selectboard concerns regarding the Charter change proposals. The media, it was deemed, will be enough of a loudspeaker for the board’s concerns.

Much of the upcoming Pay As You Throw system was voted into being, though the issue of who will be educating the public remains to be decided, while Moss Kahler and Waste Zero discuss the possibility working together.  

The Department of Public Works has a plan to save significant funds by doing the Union Hill intersection improvements in-house, a question of local-but-not-lowest bids delayed the awarding of a bid for a snack bar, and the calendar of events will no longer be read by the board.


Chair David Gartenstein began by noting that with just three board members, Donna Macomber and David Schoales being absent, passage of motions would require all three votes to be affirmative.

He thanked the Department of Public Works for snow clearing, thought the ski jump looked well-attended, and said that work is going on behind the scenes to look at comprehensive economic development. More information, he said, would be coming soon.

Town Manager Peter Elwell said the department heads had met to review snow removal procedures, and improvements can be made. He said they will henceforth pass information about snow removal and enforcement of parking bans through the Police Department.

Elwell thanked Mike Buccossi for his weather alerts, and noted that the next Selectboard meeting would be held upstairs in the BCTV studios, as the meeting was set for Election day, and their regular meeting room would be the polling location.

Kate O’Connor and John Allen both thanked the DPW for their hard work clearing snow. Allen asked, jokingly, why so much snow remained in his driveway.

Public Participation

Dick Degray spoke to a number of issues, but mostly to the value of Harris Hill in our community. He thanked the 150 volunteers, many of who were out in the brutal cold of Sunday. “The jumpers really froze,” he said, adding that  “the community needs to get behind that event.”

Degray said he was in favor of the ballot question regarding the 1% local option sales tax. “If it doesn’t pass, I’ll look away,” he said. “We need another source of revenue.”

Cassandra Holloway from Brattleboro Area  Prevention Coalition thanked the board for having good liquor rules, and thanked businesses that go to trainings.

Annual Liquor License Renewals

Acting as Liquor Commissioners, the Brattleboro Selectboard approved the renewal of a long list of establishments with liquor, outside consumption, and entertainment licenses. The approvals, en masse, are individually subject to conditions. Each re-applicant must file necessary paperwork with the Town Clerk and must be approved by the state liquor control board.

One establishment on the list, Vermont Asian Gourmet (“formerly something Panda,” said David Gartenstein, by way of helpful identification) had what was considered a long list  of seven or so violations in the last year. 

There were physical altercations, false information and records provided to multiple parties, and false information to the Department of Liquor Control. These were all “old” violations, early in the year, but the board held this approval back until the owner comes to talk with them about their situation and the DLC gets to weigh in with an opinion.

Milagros was also taken off the list of bars, grocery stores, service stations, restaurants, not for violations, but for closing.

Pay As You Throw Implementation

The Selectboard acted upon recommendations of the Pay As You Throw Working Group at Tuesday’s meeting, deciding:

– to use drawstring bags in two color-coded sizes, 15 and 32 gallons.

– to set the price of small bags at $2 and large bags at $3.

– to sell individual bags in Treasurer’s office at Municipal Center and at the Rec. & Parks office at Gibson Aiken.

– to buy bags from Waste Zero for a year

– to pay Waste Zero to handle inventory and distribution

– and to spend $24,950 to implement parallel collection in town, and $9,100 for Orbis Compost Carts

That last one, translated, means that there is a cost to making all the town trash receptacles ready to accept waste according to the new laws.

The final recommendation was a choice, and the choice has been deferred to a future meeting. It involves the education, outreach and enforcement of the program. The options are to contract with Waste Zero and/or Moss Kahler to do the rollout work.

Town Manager Peter Elwell said that Kahler and Waste Zero had been talking and thought they could work out a way for both to be involved.

Kate O’Connor said she was aware of an issue “about Moss being paid retroactively, plus going forward,” but there is no contract. She wanted to make sure there was no more retroactive payment being accrued.

David Gartenstein cautioned her that she could be treading on Executive Session territory.

“It’s in recommendation number six, so we have to decide about it going forward,” said O’Connor.

“I don’t like speaking in code,” said Gartenstein, before explaining a bit of what they were talking about. He said there was current, ongoing planning work being done regarding Pay As YOu Throw, and a contract in place to reimburse Moss Kahler for a period of time. “The current status of work going forward is in question, so until there’s a decision, the best we can say is there is no commitment to making payments during this interim period.”

Elwell said that when the board discusses this further at a future meeting, “we’ll have advice to resolve the matter.”

To wrap up the Pay As You Throw discussion, Gartenstein noted that other towns were asking Montpelier to delay the start of the law. “They are pushing back on this as being too onerous,” he said, adding optimistically, “but we’re ready and going forward!” 

He said legislation may delay the process.

Moss Kahler said he had been working on updating a guide that town volunteers had put together and used for many years, adding bits about the new laws. Jane Southworth endorsed Kahler’s work on the booklet.

Charter Amendment Fact Sheet

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved an amended fact sheet reflecting their concerns regarding proposed charter changes on the March ballot. It will be sent to media Wednesday morning.

They did not, however, authorize expenses to print and mail the fact sheets to all residential addresses and distribute to the community at-large.  Instead, David Gartenstein read it aloud. He said it was similar to the one distributed earlier, but had some changes regarding representative town meeting.

Kate O’Connor suggested one change, to add “prepared and endorsed by the Brattleboro Selectboard” to the bottom, so there would be no question about where it came from. The others agreed, and endorsed the statement for media distribution.

FY14 Audits

… are available and will be included in the Town Report. 

It’s the third year in a row with no audit findings and no management letter recommendations, said Town Manager Peter Elwell as he praised the work of John O’Connor and the Finance Department.

John O’Connor, in turn, thanked his staff for making it all possible.

Monthly Finance Report with John O’Connor

Finance Director John O’Connor gave the board the financial update as of January 2015.

58.3% of the fiscal year is complete. Total General Fund expenditures are at 60.7% of the annual budget.

The Utilities Fund expenditures are at 60.9% and the Parking Fund expenditures are at 55% of their annual budgets. 

$18,818 has been spent of the Police-Fire facility project.

Just over $4 million has been loaned out, and just over $430,000 is available to be lent.

There are 43 active grants and 9 in the pipeline.

Of possible impact to the grand list, David Gartenstein noted that a capital group was planning to purchase and operate the former (bankrupt) Carbon Harvest facilities. “This could potentially increase the grand list of $6 to $8 million once those facilities are back in action,” said Gartenstein.

Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland said he had heard discussion to that effect as well.

Library Board of Trustees Nominations

Adam Franklin-Lyons, Robert Stack, Debra Loevy-Reyes and Susan Troy were approved as nominations to the Brooks Memorial Library Board of Trustees.

Their nominations will be voted upon at Representative Town Meeting.

Road and Bridge Standards Compliance

Brattleboro’s Department of Public Works plays by the designated rules and regulations set forth by VTrans, so their annual Certification of Compliance for Town Road and Bridge Standards was approved by the board.

The certificate helps Brattleboro qualify for grants and emergency funds. It also reduces the Town matching requirements for the State Structure grants, to be used for Green Street and Elliot Street repairs, by 50% to just ten percent of the total project cost.

Western Avenue and Union Hill Improvements

The Union Hill intersection project has reached a funding shortfall of just over $50,000. Engineering and construction costs for the project are high due to state and federal design standards, and the funds currently identified for the project fall short.

The Department of Public Works, however, has found a way to save money on the project. They suggest to do the work in-house.

Town Manager Elwell told the board there were four overall options that were considered:

– Move forward as planned, cut a few costs, pay for the balance ourselves (about $37,800), be done by June.

– Apply for additional funding from VTrans Bike/Ped program, awarded in August, do work by 2016, maybe.

– Ask VTrans to reimburse for engineering work, and do construction in-house for under $15,000, done by May.

– DPW do the construction on a “Force Account” basis.

The third option was recommended.  John Allen worried that an emergency might distract a local crew, but was assured the work could be done by four people over four weeks.

Highway Superintendent Hannah O’Connell reminded the board that the proposed work included narrowing the Union Hill crosswalk, narrowing and shifting the Westen Avenue crosswalk, squaring up and narrowing Union Hill, and narrowing Western Avenue. 

The town has some of the curbing materials on hand that can be used.

The board endorsed the in-house option.

Homeland Security Grants

Three different Vermont Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security grants were approved by the Brattleboro Selectboard.

Fire Chief Buccossi explained the first two.

The first is an application for $13,527.45 worth of high-visibility jackets, a strut jack, rope rescue gloves, LED tripod light, portable lights and a cut-off saw for the Fire Department.

The second application would $7,672.80 for two mobile radios for the Fire Department, upgrading the command vehicle police radios to APX6500 UHF mobile units that work with the new digital system being implemented.

The third, under the category Terrorism Prevention, will give $6,125 for a mobile data terminal, software, and mounting hardware. The department would like the equipment to enhance their “intelligence and information sharing” capabilities.

Police Chief Fitzgerald and Captain Mark Carignan made the request. Fitzgerald said the mobile terminals allowed for data access in police cars, on the scene of a crime investigation or for officers doing routine reports.

The Chief told the board the town now has four detectives, with two new positions being filled last week..

The department also had a 17 year old phone system server crash over the weekend, which was replaced. If anyone left a phone message for the Police Department over the weekend, call again. Weekend messages were lost.

West River Park Snack Bar and Restroom Facility Bid

West River Park will be getting a snack bar and restroom soon, but not immediately. 

The Selectboard was ready to award a bid a $63,734 bid for construction to Ingram Construction of Swanzey, NH, to do the work, but Kate O’Connor intervened on behalf of another bid, just a few hundred dollars more, from a Vermont company.

“Is the difference just money? I’d like the Vermont local thing” she asked.

Town Manager Peter Elwell wanted to check, but assumed bids should go to the low bidder. Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland asked which was more local, as Swanzey was closer than Townshend, where the Vermont company was based.

“We’re Vermont, “ said O’Connor,” so it would be nice to give business to our state.”

The board decided to defer the issue to their next meeting, to find out if they can award a bid to the second lowest bidder.

Recreation & Parks Director Carol Lolatte said it wouldn’t be a problem. “They aren’t starting next week, or on March 4th,” she said.  She also noted that there was $132,000 in the account of the West River Park Committee from their previous fundraising.

Remaining work includes a play area and additional seating near the softball fields.

Deputy Health Officer Appointment

Cathy Barrows, the Town Animal Control Officer, was recommended for appointment as Deputy Health Officer. It’s a three year term, appointed by the state, ending in March of 2018.

BASIC Appointment

Les Montgomery was on the agenda to be appointed to the BASIC committee, giving the group a full seven members. Montgomery has been active in the site selection process and a long-time advocate for the upper Living Memorial Park location.

That previous activity raised a concern by David Gartenstein, who asked if the BASIC committee had been consulted regarding Montgomery’s possible appointment. They had not, said the Town Manager, so the matter was deferred until the next meeting so that BASIC could be polled.

“No disrespect is intended,” said Gartenstein,  “but I want the dynamics of that group to be positive going forward.”

The End Of Calendar Reading

The long tradition of choosing a Selectboard member to read the upcoming calendar of town events has ended. 

Town Manager Elwell informed the board that there was no requirement to read the list, and no events were read.

Comments | 11

  • 'Lowest' vs 'Local' bids

    “The board decided to defer the issue to their next meeting, to find out if they can award a bid to the second lowest bidder.”

    At one time, I thought it was permissible for the Town to award a bid to the ‘local’ bidder if it was within a certain percentage (5%?} above what was the ‘lowest’ bid? Chris, can you clarify that?

    • Definitely for smaller purchases

      It is an option for small purchases but can’t recall if it applies to the big ones. (I’m awaiting the determination, too.) I think it does apply to the big ones, but really don’t know for sure if there was a dollar limit on the buying local “waiver”. A previous board did take up a buying local option and it was enacted.

      $300 on a $70k project is a tiny, almost insubstantial amount of the total cost.

  • ***They did not, however,

    ***They did not, however, authorize expenses to print and mail the fact sheets to all residential addresses and distribute to the community at-large.
    Kate O’Connor suggested one change, to add “prepared and endorsed by the Brattleboro Selectboard” to the bottom, so there would be no question about where it came from.***

    Still using the bully pulpit, but at least they must be given some amount of credit for not misusing public funds to distribute their political opinions.

  • Pay as you throw up

    I’m new to this conversation regarding pay as you throw garbage discussions. Really? $3 per bag? I’m outraged by this. As the owner of a multi unit home in Brattleboro this would mean an additional cost to me of between 12 and 21 dollars per trash pick up! I don’t want to raise the rent because I’d like to think of myself as offering affordable housing to my tenants but how am I supposed to pay for this? As town taxes go (and I know because I’ve lived in both MA and NY), Brattleboro’s are pretty high. We pay each year telling ourselves “well at least they do curb side trash pick up.”
    But now this? Seriously? And color coding bags, having to purchase special bags, asking tenants to purchase special bags. What a nightmare. There HAS to be a better solution. Are there no alternatives? This is CRAZY!!!

    • The Theory

      Well, in theory, your taxes will go down accordingly and it will all balance out, right? : )

      Of course, new costs and projects rise to fill that theoretical savings.

      There were some alternatives (the price could be set differently, there could be stickers or bands rather than colored bags, there could be other size bags, etc.), but options were presented and “debated” over a series of SB meetings. And now, with this latest mtg, the decisions have been officially made.

      There is a convenience factor to what the town offers, but it drops a bit when the cost is shifted.

      I hadn’t really thought of this before but, for example, could a NH business form to come grab Brattleboro trash at a lower cost than what the town offers? Is there any requirement that residents use this system, or could this be an opportunity for someone to provide the same service at a better price? I’ve heard competition is good for the marketplace. : )

      • Chris, do you mean residents

        Chris, do you mean residents would actually have a choice of who picks up their trash?

        Seriously that is a unique idea…… market place and all that stuff. Good thought!

        The theory of taxes going down when expenses go down doesn’t seem to apply to the Brattleboro budget. I’m still trying to figure out how they can cut hunderds of thousands of dollars in expenses from the budget and than have a 2% (so far) tax increase. Maybe they should have left that expense in the budget and labeled it BAGS FOR RESIDENTS. Than we may have had a decrease in taxes 🙂

        • free choice and free markets for trash

          I certainly don’t see why anyone could not contract with a private hauler to pick up their trash. Do solid waste ordinances in Brattleboro prohibit private haulers? Certainly commercial producers of trash and larger apartment blocks already hire their own haulers. Why not residents?

          Will the sale of bags help support the transport of recycling and compost? I imagine a private hauler might be able to do it for less than $2-3 per bag. Does anyone know?

          One long term solution is to eliminate all ‘trash’. ‘One time’ use of plastics is killing the oceans (i.e.. the planet). If all non-recyclables and non-compostables could be returned to the businesses that use them for packaging then those firms would quickly find re-usable solutions. ‘Trash’ is an old idea that needs to be phased out if we do not want to be phased out.


    • Dog Poop

      As if there wasn’t enough dog poop around town already, now we’re going to charge people to get rid of it? With so few public bins outside of Main Street, I can only imagine how many more people will leave poop behind to avoid the cost of throwing it away.

      • Parallel Poop Collection

        If I understand the parallel collection system they will implement, there will be compost containers wherever there is currently a trash bin.

        Don’t flush it, though. Water & Sewer rates continue to rise. No savings there.

        • Pretty sure you can't put dog

          Pretty sure you can’t put dog poop into commercial compost. Even the ‘biodegradable’ bags aren’t usually accepted. Besides, unless you’re walking on Main Street or just off Main, there aren’t any public bins anyway.

  • Aww...

    I liked reading the calendar! 🙁

Leave a Reply