Selectboard Meeting Notes – Promoting Brattleboro, Parking, Carports, and Home Rule

Brattleboro Selectboard January 2019

The first meeting of the Brattleboro Selectboard in 2019. Read on for discussions of the FY20 budget, spending 10% of the Rooms & Meals tax for promotion, changes to the parking system, Police and Fire facilities matters (including a new carport) and home rule potential.

Comments | 9

  • Preliminaries

    It’s the first meeting of the new year for the Brattleboro Selectboard.

    Chair Kate O’Connor says the dangerous dog appeal is off the agenda. There’s been a settlement.

    Second, it’s January, and she encourages people to take out petitions for town offices, town meeting representatives, etc. “I’m not going to be running again.” Mon. Jan 28 is the due date for petitions.

    Peter Elwell – a major water break last night on Rt 9 near Edward heights. Public Works crews out all day. Over a million gallons spilled, but it is repaired. Will soon be finished. Those without water have had it restored. They’ll be boiling water. It was a 1906 water main pipe.

    David Schoales – as far as petitions, school district has seats available on school board. Forced merger has been stayed. “Please don’t not try to be on the school board.”

    Kate – ” A triple negative…”

    Shanta Lee Gander – the compassionate committee is planning forums for this spring. “I’ll be moderating a panel on business and compassion.”

    Tim Wessel – a good meeting on local media recently. The ending of Green Mountain Mornings prompted it. Productive, but not many conclusions drawn. Efforts to take local media into our own hands. I will be running again for the selectboard.

    Brandie Starr – thanks for everyone coming out tonight.

    Public Participation!

    Dale Joy wants to talk about a few things. Police handled incident at Dollar Tree. White kids harassing a mentally ill black man. Police were called. Handled it very well. Calmed him down. The man got a lifetime restraining order against him. He needs to go to that store. I’ll go to corporate. Also, wonderful job and very transparent for getting rental inspections in.

  • FY20 Budget, Rooms & Meals promotion proposal

    Kate – Three things tonight. Human Service recommendations is one.

    Elwell – As is usual, most of the recommendations are similar to last year’s, but a few changes. The net impact – are you comfy with the increase in funding from $140 to $147k? You had asked us to bring you complete line by line budget with all changes. We did that, and showed this change, if you did approve this. So, allow it to stand or direct us to do something differently.

    Kate – it comes from their recommendation. KidsPlayce and Visiting Nurses aren’t in here.

    Elwell – right – their applications came in after the deadline. So they came to selectboard to put it on the warning as separate items, and you said you would.

    Starr – it’s for town meeting to hash out.

    Wessel – hard job the committee does, and historically we don’t get involved.

    Schoales – if RTM funds the extra two, it takes it over the 1% amount suggested at last year’s RTM.

    Kate – the second one is discussion of using part of the Rooms & Meals tax to promote Brattleboro. I’ll recuse myself.

    Brandie takes over. She hands off to Elwell.

    Elwell – two organizations are making a proposal.

    DBA and Chamber are making proposal.

    Dick DeGray gives a brief history. “I was a board member in 2006 and thought it was a prudent option to help offset the tax burden approved at a November special meeting, and in 2007 we had our first quarter and that brought in $67k. The board didn’t have a line item so it went to surplus revenue. We needed tax relief badly, and didn’t think we needed to put money toward promotions. I was short-sighted. Over the years, I’ve looked at this and think using these funds would be a great way to do it. We need to promote Brattleboro – so we ask for 10%. It would be a collaboration between DBA and the Chamber. They are the two organizations committed to the community and everyone impacted by the 1%.” He says the fund raises $420k in last year, and brings in more than is usually projected. “With all the events and promotions here.. we have ski jump, and trails, … all wonderful things in our community. We want to promote them.”

    It will contribute to the bottom line and bring in more people, he says. You could do it three ways – as a line item in budget, to take something out of capital, or, take money from surplus revenue. Since it brings in more than expected, this would be a good expenditure, he says. “This is a bridge loan to get us started. To attract, we must be attractive, and we must promote Brattleboro to bring more people here.”

    Vicki Case, of Chamber – I like this collaboration a lot. I feel that to bring people to Brattleboro you need to offer something and put something out there. We’ll do a great job marketing. Hope we can move forward on this.

    Workforce developer – I’m excited by this. I’ve been here four years and want to tell others how great it is here, but that takes money.

    ? – “It’s super forward thinking. You need to think outside the box. marketing a town is forward thinking. To attract families to Brattleboro, how does a town feel. Great marketing is like ‘wow, I want to there,’ so I ask you to consider this.

    Alexander Beck – the way the town sees the impact is through Rooms & Meals tax. People spend money when here for a show. It makes economic sense to better highlight what we have here. using the Rooms & Meals tax is the mosts sustainable way to do it.

    Elwell – so, the amount of money, 10% of prior year receipts, would be $42,119. This will have to be a line item to be spent as you order it. The revenue would come from fund balance. Right now we were going to transfer it to capital – so you’d have to get rid of something from capital, or ask RTM to spend more of the fund balance. Right now, we have the 10% “rainy day fund”. If you approve this, we’d go below to 9.8% in unassigned fund balance.

    Schoales – Receipts were over by $70k, why not add it to anticipated revenue, and expect it shows up.

    Elwell – we’re already anticipating an increase this time. This year is more accurate. We expect $420k, equal to last year. It would be extremely optimistic to put another $42k in.

    Starr – open discussion to public.

    (ricki?) – disgusted by your ignorance of taxes. To understand oppression inherent in taxes is important. A portion of taxes goes to fund violent actions against humans. When I hear Dick saying he wants to grow the bottom line and want more feet on the street. There are homeless people’s feet on the street. To make a commercial to glorify Brattleboro – and I love Brattleboro – this should be going to mental health resources, not to gentrify. People are slowly killing themselves because of people like you.

    David Lamont – a draft budget for how the money would be spent?

    DeGray – No. We’d do that once this is approved. It’s prudent and I’m a supporter of it. Businesses benefit with more people in town. There aren’t many towns in Brattleboro that promote their towns, so we’d be ahead of the curve.

    Ricki – promoting the bourgeoisie is being a traitor against the public welfare.

    Alex – we think the collaboration and awareness of the events is focus. Don’t think we’ll be shooting commercials anytime soon. It wouldn’t be a tax increase – just a reallocation of an existing tax.

    Degray – we proposed a fire year review of this to see if ti was working.

    Bob Woodward – downtown business owner and property owner, here many years seeing what’s going on in Brattleboro, BaBB, and the Chamber. I think this is encouraging to start a lasting collaboration. We have some momentum. People with second homes like to come downtown, but it is a fragile momentum. We need to keep working at it, and this seems a reasonable amount. I expect it from what I pay to the DBA to do promotion.

    Dale Joy – Dick, you have made downtown beautiful. It has brought more people here. I spend $500 for my business to do advertising. $41k to help our community is nothing. We need to talk about what it brings and what it gives us access to. We’ll always have homeless. I appreciate what you do.

    ? – I think this is a wonderful idea. As someone who has been homeless, and maybe eventually I can start a business or help others. There are lots of things going on. I needed promotion for my dance business.

    Greg Worden – This is an idea long time in coming and is really needed for the community. It mostly comes from outsiders anyway, and should bring more visitors to town.

    Ricki – I’m hearing people say they want more second homeowners, and can’t stop homelessness or wars. We can’t just cater to actions that will further gentrify and make things unaffordable here.

    Shanta Lee Gander – I love collaboration, but I’ve been living here 8-9 years. I appreciate that things happen here. Who are other potential collaborators- diversity? Arts groups? How are businesses going to be partners in this? Some businesses have trouble bringing people to their shops. Brattleboro for who? Will you do a SWAT analysis? Who is this for? Who’s success story? I’d like to know there is place here to go dance, play pool… we can be trend setters, and that’s what I’m looking for. I’m troubled – who are you going to be advertising to? Age, activities, ethnicity.. I don’t see all of Brattleboro at some events. There are a lot of things here, but other things are missing – have to leave the town/state for some things. Who are your fellow collaborators?

    Vicki Case – we don’t know it yet. I agree with you. I’ve been here 40 years. I welcome people participating in the collaboration. This will be inclusive. I want to reach out. That’s me personally. Just speaking up.

    board member ? – there’s no strategic plan yet. Don’t have target markets yet. Not decided yet, but will be considered by both groups. So, I hear you.

    Beck – our driving area is a more diverse area than Chittenden Co, so statewide marketing efforts have holes. We have diverse workforce development group. Need to signal all are welcome. Be intentional and visible. We’ve learned from others mistakes. Great opportunity to avoid them. The arts community has been left out of some conversations, but the line can be drawn from arts to economic activity. people should drive from NYC for our art installations and events at Stone Church.

    Voc Rehab ?- we want to promote that we’re welcoming and accessible. i hear you, but we don’t know what we don’t know yet. We do’t have a plan. We’re open to having input. When I moved here, this town felt like it had a soul. It was vibrant. I moved for all of the town. The Co-op… all of it felt good.

    Tim Wessel – so, my hesitation comes from what the rush was to have this happen immediately. I thought it was a down the road decision… next year to be conservative and safe. The 15% in Rooms & Meals take in past year… before that 3-5% a year. It’s an anomaly to be that high. 75% across the state comes from meals, not rooms. When locals feel good, they eat out more, and visitors eat out. My hesitation is that this money is expected to be spent on many town needs. We need revenue. Money for social services, for example. But, I’ll walk back on that. Taking from surplus is a good way to look at it. Last year we dipped to 9.6%, so we’re doing it again but not as much. Then, to be positive – the collaboration is between the organizations and every taxpayer in town. I’d like to be bullish on Brattleboro, and support 10% of incoming funds as seed money to lift all boats… I like that collaboration. Taxpayers and renters – every citizen – it’s our way to collaborate together to make for a better Brattleboro. (We should come up with an organization….)

    Brandie Starr – I support this. Not risky to dip for this. We do have many needs in this town – we need to protect panhandlers and Project Care and we also have to support downtown businesses. It is folly to support one and not the other. Changes coming to brick and mortar towns. Need to support vitality of businesses.

    David Schoales – all of that… seed money and floating boats was saying it clearly. Good mixed metaphor. Who do we write the check to? Some details are needed. The important intentions are not here – a thoughtful description of what you want and what you want to do – I’d like to have that before we do this.

    Elwell – unfortunately – not much time. A few weeks before you approve the warning for RTM. Draft warning at next regular meeting.

    Starr – more information?

    Gander – I’d like to see more information. $42k – who for? And then we’ll see?

    DeGray – I’ve been in tune with the 1% fund since its inception. Not sure why it goes up and goes down – events? weather? There’s never been any analysis done. It is what it is. We’ll never be able to explain why it goes up or down. I’m about Brattleboro. I pushed the boards to do this. We’ll promote the town and events, to get people here, regardless of color or culture. I’m a people person. The goal is to help businesses that contribute to this fund. There’s the sole reason we have this fund. If you let us know about an event, we’ll promote it. It’s all about the promotion. It’s about Brattleboro as a whole, downtown and in Brattleboro – not based on color or ethnicity. We are a diverse community. can we do better? Sure we can. Yes, we’d like to have a concrete plan. Humans services doesn’t say what they’ll do with their funds.

    Schoales – you do have goals, and some you can measure. You can articulate the concerns and goals. Tell us your intentions – not a full strategic plan. How will you measure success?

    Gander – diversity was not a code word for color of skin.

    Starr – board requests you come back with more information ready on Jan 22.

    Kate returns.

    5 minute break.

  • FY20, final thoughts

    The break ends.

    Kate – one more thing – any other budget items? Anything else?

    Schoales – reviewing our goals – the day jobs program. Haven’t had an update in a while. I know we had setbacks. Is there funding should we be able to do it. I know we can do this.

    Elwell – It’s not in there because we couldn’t define how much should be there and how it should be spent. Groups have not given up on it yet. Not a funded item. When right plan comes forward… but not yet.

    Schoales – nice to have something by spring.

    That’s it on budget, for now.

  • Parking ordinance changes - first reading

    It’s “just” a first reading of some proposed changes to the parking system, and Patrick Moreland gave the overview.

    Quick summary:

    Preston Lot officially to be used as overflow parking during snow removal, if Transportation Center is full. New signs would explain it. New blinky light planned for Pliny Park for snow removal.

    Establish eight new 2hr metered parking on Frost St, near Elm Street parking lot and kiln, to appease local business property owners there, who plan to have retail or education opportunities and additional public access is needed.

    Schoales – no problems with traffic?

    Moreland – the road width concern was for truck traffic, and two way traffic with cars parked there.

    Elwell – owners of new businesses asked the town to provide more retail-style parking.

    Ricki – coming to these meetings for a while and have listened to so much time discussing parking and cars and want people to recognize it is elitism – more attention than to the people who are homeless and freezing and starving. People need to think about the t=account of men speaking at meetings, they should think again about suppressing others. I don’t want to be rushed. We should be able to take our time.

    Tim – I serve on Traffic Safety Committee. I used to live there and own a building there. It has problems with speeding. This will have a traffic calming effect. One caution – the entry to the kiln is actually an exit, so remember that big trucks will be turning right, mainly, and I’m afraid that last 8th car might get clipped occasionally. Might be worth double checking.

    Moreland – DPW review – they measured it. We can ask them to double check.

    Moreland – Elm street has been permit only and sells out each year. Change from permit-only to pay and display in Elm St lot, and increase cost of parking, will add flexibility. Hourly rates would be like all other similar lots.

    It’s a change from $55 to $100 per quarter for permits, and reduction of overall permits by half (40 to 20). Moreland says it has always been underpriced, but it isn’t as remote as it used to be… it’s more desirable now.

    Starr – Co-op uses it for their employees right now?

    Moreland – there are two Elm Street lots. The spaces adjacent to Elm Street are “owned” by Co-op – a trade for previous land. They aren’t part of this. Those internal to the lot, the Co-op purchases some of those, so it would impact them in this way.

    Wessel – this will be the least popular of our decisions.

    Kate -ordering another pay and display kiosk? (yes, if approved, another would be needed)

    Kate – Jan 22 is second reading and public hearing, then we approve or no.

  • West Brattleboro fire station property

    Ricki – is there time to make suggestions about pedestrians.

    Kate – Traffic safety Committee!

    Elwell – it might be cancelled, but you can come to our office and we’ll show you how to make suggestions.

    Kate – West Brattleboro fire station property.

    Moreland – early on, after meeting with school board, the Town was asked to take ownership of property and end the 100 year lease.

    Town assumes ownership of land under and around the West Brattleboro fire station, including the parking lot at fire house, and lands just to east of firehouse (for community space) and a marshy section. Everything but the large parking lot will be owned by the Town. Conveyed by Brattleboro Town School District. Gratis.

  • Police Fire Facilities Project - Bond Remainders

    Kate – might be final action we take on police and fire project.

    Elwell – hopefully, for the selectboard. Then RTM. As we “finished”, three things needed further info, and so they were left until everything was done. Met with committee and they think three things should be done. Two don’t need further engineering work. The third piece needed professional design for the carport for police cars.

    Elwell – the high roof at police station has 3-8 years left. Has had some leakage. $100,000 to fix, up from $90k estimate.

    Elwell – second item is digital alarm receiver to help with emergency communications. $33,000 to replace. This is wireless, and better than replacing old wired system. We’ll need alarms in buildings, always.

    Elwell – the third one is the police carport. Covering cars helps in poor weather. Speeds things up. $150,000 for new carport.

    Kate – is this charged to the project?

    Elwell – no – paid from general engineering.

    Mr. Austin shows the design of the carport. Been an architect, we have office here and in Greenfield, MA. Wanted a real presence in both places. We moved to Brattleboro a little over a year ago. Been coming for almost 50 years. Peter approached us about coming up for a design for the carport, and appreciated the Town thinking of us.

    Austin – (stalls while tech difficulties are worked on). He decides to go ahead an give presentation using the selectboard notebook of David Schools. “We want vehicles to move in and out very quickly.” Computer starts working. “This has 12, eleven foot wide spaces. An all steel structure is most cost effective. Spoke with steel fabricators to get preliminary prices. $150k plus or minus 10%, so we should go ahead with more design.

    Austin – we explored options for different spacings, and opted for 22 ft wide bay. A simple shed roof with large overhang. High open side faces south. Good for passive solar. Not good for mounting solar panels, though, without braces added later.

    Elwell – not enough to do it now, but structure is strong enough to add solar in the future.

    Schoales – if snow falls to north side and piles up… is it designed to withstand that kind of abuse?

    Austin – yeah – we’ve done work with ski resorts. Plenty strong enough. Simple steel post and frame, clad with metal roof. Possibility of putting plastic panels in for natural light…
    Unfortunate we don’t have the 3-D model to show you.

    Kate – where will it be?

    Elwell – where existing parking is now.

    Wessel – anyone else think $150k is high for a carport? I trust the recommendations, though.

    Kate – my question is why aren’t we paying for design out of police-fire?

    Elwell – it would put us over the $4.5million limit. Same with $64,725 motorola console being reallocated.

    Kate – any expenditures should be paid for police fire funds.

    Schoales – This is first step in transition to upgrade? Is there more to upgrade? Is this it?

    Chief Bucossi – we’ll transition to a radio box system. The receiver is step one, the radio boxes are step two.

    Elwell – that’s a cost paid by developers, not the town replacing their current fire signal boxes.

    Bucossi – when we moved to Black Man Rd, the wired receiver failed. We took the receiver from station 2 to serve dispatch (a 1982 model). If that fails, we’re in deep trouble. We’d have nothing. That’s the urgency. We asked for this in original budget for project but got bumped out til today.

    Dale Joy – how is life expectancy for $150k carport, and why is front open so much if the goal is to keep weather out?

    Austin – we think this will work… we can modify this. Life expectancy is 65 years.

    Dale – bulk of wind comes north south and east. Just trying to protect those cars.

    Elwell – we did discuss this as a garage vs. carport, but it is too expensive.

    Kate – our motions say the cost is “approximately” – can we say not to exceed?

    Elwell – yes, but approximately is a better word for making a future award – it’s almost never exactly the number on the warning. There will be competitive bids.

    Elwell – so, also: we had a complication in accounting for police and fire facilities. We came in under budget, but the police station component approached the 4.5 million ceiling. When we got near, $7k away – we still have one significant item to pay for (the dispatch radio console) and now want you to ask RTM to have that charge be authorized to go against the bonds, and to approve the other items. Bond counsel agrees. We get interest every day. We’ll end up, after all of this, with $27275 plus interest. We’d like that balance transferred to capital fund.

    6 part motion approved! (including $10k design expenditure for carport so far)

  • Home Rule vs Dillon's Rule

    Kate – one last issue – municipal self governance.

    Elwell – Vermont League of Cities and Towns working to introduce legislation to propose limited self government pilot program. Vermont is a Dillon’s Rule state – 9 left in US – municipalities can only take actions authorized by state. In home,e rule, they can take actions that are not prohibited by state. VLCT wants o try pilot program like one down in West Virginia. Under state supervision, a handful of towns be allowed to exercise limited self governance for a limited period of time. 10 years, a state oversight board, communities apply to participate, then the pilot program goes on. In West VA, so pleased with results they expanded it. State retains oversight for pilot program.

    Elwell – express strong support for proposal being made so we can provide support in lobbying so VT gets this opportunity. You aren’t deciding to participate now. Just to support idea of state pilot program. This will take a while to unfold.

    Schoales – high property taxes could be dealt with better if we support this.

    Kate – Peter needs to keep us informed and track this, in case someone adds some whacky thing.

    Elwell – VLCT will be tracking it and I’ll be following them.

    Schoales – let’s be active supporters.

    Wessel – I’m super excited. Lots of work went on this. I think Peter joining VLCT’s board might have had an impact. A bit wonky to explain to people.

    Schaoles – when people ask about property taxes, you can ask them to support this legislation.

    Ricki – I appreciate how much work has gone into this, and will go into this. I see in the draft that there is a proposed limit to only 10 municipalities. I see no reason for a limit. Why not give every town to empower themselves this way? We shouldn’t spend on VLCT for however Brattleboro proposes as legislation. We should consider and respect our own public will.

  • Thanks, Ricki

    I have no idea who Ricki is, but I was happy to see someone speaking up in favor of the common man and woman. I have been expecting further gentrification in Brattleboro for a while, and based on anecdotal residence including the new high rents, I think it’s upon us. I also have gotten the impression that Elwell, and at least some on the board, welcome this development. Without thinking about it too much, my guess is that more affluent residents will lead to higher revenues for the town. It will also lead to fewer middle class residents but that’s always an invisible issue. People move away, oh well — aren’t the new people grand?

    • Nonya/Ricki, and Diversion of Funds

      I’m still not completely sure of the name. When asked, the speaker once said the name was Nonya (non ya business?) but Brandie was calling her Ricki Tuesday night. I, too, appreciate the reminders to the board. No one has spoken out like this there that I can recall.

      I’d vote NO on the request for promotion money to semi-private organizations, especially since the request is “give us $40k, we have no clear plan.”

      First, the local option taxes are always touted as our only way to reduce property taxes. Well, here’s a local option tax being diverted from that purpose.

      And sure, it’s a good cause. but I could list many good causes. How about 10% for the arts? And 10% for human services, 10% for local media, 10% for the improving roads and sidewalks, 10% for parks and recreation, 10% for library improvements, 10% for energy improvements, 10% to plant more trees along sidewalks, 10% toward reducing parking fees, 10% for the library, 10% for diversity training… that’s 110% and I’m just getting started. (10% to the arts could bring more people to town, and that could result in more revenue… same argument.)

      If the selectboard grants this 10% diversion toward “marketing” (whatever that may be, and Shanta pointed out how varied that broad term can be), it’s a good argument for voting against the 1% Local Option Sales Tax (LOST). They promise this new tax will offset property taxes, but it can’t be guaranteed. Especially if the current board sets a precedent of dipping into those property-tax-offset funds for other purposes.

      Really. Give me $40k for marketing Brattleboro. I already have a very popular site that people coming/moving to Brattleboro read. I’ll use the $40k for marketing Brattleboro even more.

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