Selectboard Meeting Notes – The Passing of Timothy O’Connor

Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Selectboard began on a rather sad note, with John Allen explaining that Tim O’Connor had passed away earlier in the day.

With both Kate O’Connor and Tim Wessel absent for family matters, the small board raced through their agenda and ending before 7 pm.


Brandie Starr was acting Chair, and immediately gave the floor to John Allen.

“I have very sad news,” he began. “Tim O’Connor passed away today about 1:30 pm. He had a short, hard Irish fight with bone cancer.”

Allen sent his thoughts out to the O’Connor family. “He was a great guy. We’ll miss him, and pray for your family,” he said, holding back tears. “I know he’d want this quick. Martha, our thoughts go out to you.”

He then lifted a small, stuffed leprechaun which began to sing. “When Irish Eyes are Smiling sure it’s like a morn in spring, In the lilt of Irish laughter you can hear the angels sing, when Irish hearts are happy all the world seems bright and gay, but when Irish eyes are smiling sure they’ll steal your heart away.”

“I love you, Tim” added Allen.

For Chair’s remarks, Starr mentioned attending Twinkletown, said it was fun, and hoped it would continue next year.

Town Manager Peter Elwell had nothing to add, and no other board members had any committee reports or comments.

Public Participation

Wayne Estey returned to tell the board about panhandling licenses in other locations. He explained that by requiring a licenses, hours and locations could be set, and background checks could be required.  “I don’t know if you’ve thought about it.”

Starr thanked him and said it would be added to the ongoing work being done regarding panhandling.

Liquor Commissioners

Acting as Liquor Commissioners, the Brattleboro Selectboard approved of a new liquor license and granted a number of special event permits.

The new First Class Liquor License was granted to Vermont Inn Pizza, a.k.a. VIP Pizza. The restaurant at 460 Canal Street has had a change of ownership. The new owners were making pizza in Saratoga Springs, NY, but decided to move to Brattleboro.

Special event permits were given out for a Luv Crawl event, “a pub crawl with a twist,” which will allow for liquor tastes and samples at Ruggles & Hunt, Altiplano, Brattleboro Bike Shop, Candle in the Night, Taylor for Flowers, Penelope Wurr, and Boomerang. The event is 5 to 10 pm on Thursday, February 8. Other establishments will have food or snacks.

Finance Report with John O’Connor

Finance Director John O’Connor gave the board a report of town finances through December of 2017.  “The year is flying by.”

With six months (50%) of the fiscal year complete, the General Fund expenditures are at 54.1% of the annual budget. This includes annual insurance payments, annual human service payments, and lease and note payments.

Utilities Fund expenditures are at 54.4% and the Parking Fund expenditures are at 43.9% of their respective annual budgets.

The Solid Waste Disposal Fund revenues are at 48.4% and expenses at 44.3%. December bag revenue and collection costs get recorded in January. You know that by now.

Brattleboro has loaned out $4,431,360 and has $479,919 available for additional loans or grants.

We have 44 active grants and nine in development.

Request To Exempt Family Garden

Family Garden, Inc.  had requested an exemption from education taxes for three years, but withdrew the request earlier on Tuesday. This item was removed from the agenda.

Request To Exempt Bradley House

Bradley House also requested an exemption from education taxes, but for only one year. Bradley House was granted exemptions in 2016 while they undergo renovation and expansion. They expect to pay their education taxes again after the additional year of exemption.

The Selectboard approved of the request and will add it to the Representative Town Meeting warning.

John Allen asked if the delays were due to weather. Cindy Jerome said it was mostly due to a lack of subcontractors available to keep on schedule. She said the people power simply wasn’t there, and encouraged young people to “go into the trades!”

Renewing Downtown Improvement District Designation

A designated downtown improvement district (DID) must be renewed at the state level every five years, and Brattleboro’s renewal comes up this year. A draft application has been filled out by Brattleboro’s planning department with assistance by the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance.

Town Manager Elwell told the board that the draft application will be finalized in the coming months and on a June agenda of the Vermont Downtown Board meeting. Before it can be submitted, though, two key tasks must be completed.

First, Brattleboro’s Town Plan must be revised and adopted by both the Selectboard and Windham Regional Commission. The work on this is already well underway.

Second, all property owners in the DID must vote on whether to continue with the district. The vote is conducted by the Town Clerk and is advisory only.

Elwell hoped to have a final application ready for adoption by the Selectboard by April.

David Schoales noted that the draft application had a long list of advantages, “but tonight is not the night to read through it.”

Benefits of the Designated Downtown program include tax credits for commercial buildings, loan eligibility, traffic calming authority, ability to add signs, and priority consideration for grants.

“We’ve had millions of dollars of revenue come into Brattleboro because of the DID,” he said.

Representative Town Meeting Appointments

The Brattleboro Selectboard recommended to Representative Town Meeting via warnings for the annual meeting that they would like to appoint Hilary Francis as Town Clerk, John O’Connor for Town Treasurer, and Fisher + Fisher as Town Attorney.

Town Attorney Contract

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved a new one-year contract with Fisher & Fisher. They get a 2% raise for the new year (March 2018-March 2019) to $106,060, but otherwise the fixed-retainer contract remains as before.

“Bob provides a valuable service to the Town,” said Starr.

Assistance to Firefighters Grant

As promised, Brattleboro is applying for a grant to help defray some of the cost of the new $950,000 aerial ladder truck.

The grant application asks for $475,000, which would be matched by a Brattleboro contribution of an equal amount.

Before voting, Starr asked if fellow board members had any questions, then answered it herself. “If we don’t know what’s going on by now…”  They had no additional questions about the grant.

Review Status of Selectboard Goals

To wrap up the meeting, Elwell led the quarterly review of Selectboard goals, noting recent updates and changes in status.

He said that the first meeting of hub towns will happen after the State Legislature session ends. Police-Fire facilities are complete. The timeframe for a plan for the Municipal Center is delayed slightly but may be ready by late spring. The Personnel Policies Handbook update is delayed and will be taken up by the new HR professional once hired. Work on diversity, equity and inclusiveness continues and is being logged.

Starr thanked Elwell for the effort he’s put into making calls, attending meetings and conferences, joining other committees, and keeping the issue going.

Comments | 1

  • Tim O'Connor

    Sorry to hear of Tim’s passing.

    I wish I could say I knew more about his very active and involved early years, but I’ve only known him for the last couple of decades as a lawyer, Representative Town Meeting Moderator, and retiree.

    Tim was always nice. He made a point of learning the names of new town meeting reps – I was surprised the first time I asked to be recognized and he knew my name! It meant a lot, even though it was a little thing.

    The Western Ave grocery, I was told, used to be quite the Democratic hangout. Former owner Dan said O’Connor used to drop by often to talk town and politics.

    I searched Tim out when I was researching Representative Town Meeting. I was asking him about a somewhat colorful character of the era – Edgar Lawton – and Tim laughed. He said “He wasn’t the ONLY reason we went with RTM,” which I found funny and revealing. Lawton must have been at least ONE of the reasons. : )

    No one in town represented the Fourth of July quite as much as Mr. O’Connor. I have a few small flags in my collection personally handed out by him over the years that will bring up his memory each time they get used.

    It might be hard, though, to say whether he liked the Fourth or Christmas better. The big house on Oak street’s collection of inflatables and lights is always a treat. I kinda knew something must be up this year when I saw everyone except Tim putting up the decorations. In previous years, you’d see Tim out there directing and assembling. I’ll miss seeing him inflating.

    Thoughts go out to everyone in the family. Some Irish friends explained to me that they liked to wail when someone dies. Seems appropriate to me.

    Tim O’Connor is definitely in the category of Brattleboro’s most notable, and will remembered well by history.

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