Selectboard Meeting Notes: Brattleboro Skatepark Grant and VY Decommissioning Schedule

Our local skatepark project got a boost with approval of a $230,000 grant application by the Brattleboro Selectboard at Tuesday’s meeting. If granted, the money will be used for design and construction of the skatepark at Living Memorial Park.

Emergency plans for Vermont Yankee are set to change as the storage situation in Vernon evolves. Maybe. The board also delat with annual approvals of liquor licenses, a Grand List certification, parade permits, and the adoption of a new ordinance for pets.


Both Chair David Gartenstein and Town Manager Peter Elwell mentioned that Main Street drains are rather full and the slush is slow to drain. If you experience any flooding issues, the Town would like to know. Call 257-7950, says Gartenstein.

He also noted that this would be the last board meeting before March elections, and wanted to say that it he hoped everyone would come out to vote, and that it was “a pleasure to serve with everyone on this board.”

“Not that confident?” joked John Allen.  “Already saying goodbye.”  Gartenstein pointed out that others may win, but also that Donna Macomber was not running again. He also noted that this board would continue to serve through Representative Town Meeting, as was decided a few years ago.

Elwell mentioned that the Town had retained the services of Moss Kahler once again, to help with the education effort required to transition to every other week trash pickup. He’ll be working through August.

For selectboard comments and committee reports, John Allen reminded everyone about Winter Carnival and the Harris Hill Ski Jump.

There was no public participation.

(David Schaoles was out, sick, and his fellow board members wished him well in his recovery.)

Liquor Commissioners

Acting as Liquor Commissioners, the Brattleboro Selectboard approved the annual list of liquor, outside consumption, and entertainment permits.

Town Clerk Annette Cappy explained that to be approved, one must submit a complete application, hold a Brattleboro Business License, be current with taxes to the town, be in good standing with the town police and fire departments, and the Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition must not have any concerns regarding the license. She said the state then has additional requirements.

Gartenstein asked why the BAPC was involved. Cappy said that they don’t have a veto or formal standing in the process, but that they were inserted into the review process a few years ago when a committee recommended some tightening of Brattleboro’s liquor and tobacco license processes. She said she didn’t recall which board voted for the change, but “Ken Schneck was on the board.”

Cappy said BAPC had reviewed the list and had no issues.

The board also approved of a special event permit for an event at the art museum sponsored by Southern Vermont Young Professionals and featuring the products of Saxtons River Distillery and Hermit Thrush Brewery. The event is on February 27.

Financial Report with John O’Connor

John O’Connor wasn’t at the meeting Tuesday night, so the Town Manager gave the report instead.

58.3% of the fiscal year was complete in January 2016.

General Fund expenditures are at 59.6% of the annual budget. Utilities Fund expenditures are at 59.7% and Parking Fund expenditures are at 49% of their annual budgets.

Solid Waste Fund revenues are at 58.4% and expenditures at 53.3% of their annual budgets. Remember that totals for bag revenue, curbside collection costs and tipping fees get recorded one month after, in February.

Brattleboro has loaned out $4,153,834 and has just over $338,000 available for additional loans and grants.

Brattleboro has 42 active grants and 5 being developed.

Grand List Certification

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved of the annual Grand List Certificate of “No Appeal or Suit Pending” for 2015. As one might deduce, this certifies that there are no appeals or suits pending against the town regarding the 2015 Grand List.  

How do we know this? The Town Assessor says it is so. He said he signed it, the board will sign it, then the state will sign it.

Strolling of the Heifers Weekend Permits

The Strolling of the Heifers organization was granted permits by the Brattleboro Selectboard for their annual weekend of events later this spring. Permits for street blocking on Friday, June 3, the parade on Saturday, June 4, and bike tours on Sunday, June 5 were granted.

As in recent years, the Town is expecting to be reimbursed for any and all town services used by the organization for their event. Gartenstein asked if there was a trend toward using more volunteers and fewer town staff.

Elwell said that the Town was “fine-tuning” it’s role in the event. He said they were trying to find the balance between sufficient police and town support for a successful event, and not over-assigning staff to it and burdening the organization with excess expenses.

Heifers had asked that volunteers rather than DPW staff handle signs and barricades to close the streets Friday.  The Town said no, and that DPW and Police would be required. This seemed acceptable to everyone.

John Allen asked if there was any worry that the event would outgrow Brattleboro. Orly Munzing said that the parade and festival were just part of a year-round schedule of programs and events. With ownership of the River Garden and many new and continuing projects underway, she didn’t anticipate going anywhere anytime soon.

Not mentioned, but of interest in the board’s materials: the event organizers had asked the Town Manager for a “no dogs” ordinance be written into the Code of Ordinances. Town Manager Elwell said he didn’t feel it was appropriate to write a Town ordinance specific to a particular event.

Emergency Management Timeline for Vermont Yankee Decommissioning

Fire Chief Mike Bucossi presented the board with a report on the timeline for Vermont Yankee Decommissioning that detailed the upcoming emergency management schedule.

He began with a bit of recent history: the plant was shut down on December 29, 2014. On January 12, 2016, all of the fuel rods were removed from the reactor and placed in the fuel pool to be cooled.

Currently, he said, the rods are considered to be in “hot, wet storage,” but will cool somewhat and become “cool, wet storage” on or about April 15, 2016 according to Entergy.

April 15, 2016 is a big transition day. “The magic date,” said Bucossi. The plant expects the fuel rods to have cooled to a point where an off-site emergency would be unlikely, and if there was a catastrophic event with the cooling pool, there would be time to stabilize the situation. 

The worst-case scenario would be the draining of the cooling pool. Bucossi says that if that were to happen, they have been told there would be between 10 hours and 10 days before the rods reached a dangerous temperature. That time, said Bucossi, would be used to “react and reverse the process of the fuel rods.”

Also on April 15, our four emergency classification levels will be reduced to two: unusual event, and alert.  Brattleboro’s Emergency Operations Plan will change to include a reduced section replacing the Regional Emergency Response Plan plan previously in operation. 

The Bellows Falls “Reception Center” will cease to exist, with the Red Cross providing emergency shelter if necessary. And the VY fire brigade will come to an end, with responsibilities falling solely to the Vernon Fire Department and mutual aid.

June 24 is the last day that the Brattleboro EMDHS office is expected to be staffed by RER personnel. Bucossi said some staff would be reassigned to assist with all-hazards planning.

Finally, Bucossi said there are currently 13 dry cask storage containers on the dry cast pad. They are full, and VY is applying for permits to install another pad next to the first one to store the rods currently being cooled.

Kate O’Connor wanted the public to know, however, that this schedule is “Entergy’s take on what’s happening,” and that the state is currently negotiating with the company and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

She said the rods currently cooling would be moved by 2020, not this April, and the state would like additional safety protections until the rods are completely moved. She said there is a debate between the state and Entergy over how long a danger remains.

Donna Macomber asked if there were ways for the public to stay up-to-date on the issue. O’Connor said there was a page for the state’s nuclear decommissioning citizen’s advisory committee on the Department of Public Service’s website, and that Entergy has a site with public documents and information at

John Allen wondered of the board should show more concern, if the state was concerned.

Bucossi said that if dates change, they will change for the better (ie, we’ll keep our emergency plans as they are in place for a longer period.)

O’Connor said that Entergy does what the NRC allows them to do, and that there are no current rules for how to decommission a plant. “They make them up as they go along.”  She said the NRC is now developing rules.

“Others have been decommissioned,” said Allen. “No rules? Just wing it? Wow.”

Skatepark Grant Application

The selectboard approved of a grant application to the National Creative Placemaking Fund Grant in the amount of $230,000 to help fund the design and construction of Brattleboro’s skatepark at Living Memorial Park.

Jeff Clark, chair of BASIC, explained that the latest design was for a park of about 4,200 square feet, or about four times the size of the selectboard meeting room. Estimates for developing a park of that size range from $45 to $70 per square foot, depending on features and materials. He said they also needed funds to pay for drainage concerns at the park.

The grant is offered by ArtPlace America, and the new designs call for participation of local youth in artistic elements to the plans.

“Seems like a bit of a reach,” observed John Allen.

Clark noted that the video announcing the grant showed a skatepark in it.

“I need a new skatepark sticker,” added Allen. 

“For a $20 donation,” Clark joked.

“I may take up skateboarding,” said Allen.

Ordinance Amendments – Chapter 3 (Animals and Fowl)

The Brattleboro Selectboard held a second reading and public hearing of the proposed changes to the Code of Ordinances, Chapter 3, then voted to approve the changes.

The only change from the last meeting was that another obsolete section had been identified, dealing with adoption fees, and it has been removed.

A gentleman in the audience had a few questions and concerns. He worried about his dog being taken simply because someone feared it. Gartenstein read the new language, which specified when and how an animal would be classified as dangerous, and how owners could now appeal the decision. “Now we have a procedure,” he said.

The same man mentioned a situation where he was bitten by a dog, but he felt it wasn’t the dog’s fault. “It was scared.”  

The new ordinance doesn’t assign fault, said Mark Carignan of the Brattleboro Police, but applies if an animal is out running around. “Much of what is described doesn’t apply if the dog is on the owner’s property.

A new fee schedule was also adopted to go along with the new ordinance.

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