Selectboard Meeting Notes – Representative Town Meeting Review, Main Street Repairs

Brattleboro Selectboard April 2019

The first meeting of the new configuration of the Brattleboro Selectboard went off without difficulty. New members Daniel Quipp and Elizabeth McCloughlin were initiated with a full agenda which included actions as Liquor Commissioners as well as Water & Sewer Commissioners.

The board considered issues raised at Representative Town Meeting, approved grants for a slight expansion to Red Clover Commons, helped renegotiate some loans due to the Town, and more.

Comments | 15

  • Preliminaries

    The new Chair of the Brattleboro Selectboard is Brandie Starr. (Tim Wessel is Vice Chair, Elizabeth McLoughlin is Clerk). Daniel Quipp and David Schoales are the other members.

    Starr – I hope that you picked up a sheet with my remarks…. I’m aware of the big shoes that followed me with Kate O’Connor and, while I can’t fill them, I am confident bringing my own shoes forward. (she summarizes her written remarks about ground rules .)

    Town Manager Elwell – spring leaf pickup is coming up. Friday April 19 and Friday May 3. Standard leaf collection bags are required. Small paper grocery bags aren’t suitable. Use the oversized paper bags made for the purpose.

    Tim Wessel – welcomes new members. It’s exciting. A whole new year.

    McLoughlin – Look how excited everyone is.

    Wessel – David is at another (school) meeting.

    Daniel Quipp – Sunday was Trans Day of Visibility – that day happened. It was a beautiful thing, and trans people are welcome here in Brattleboro.


    Rikki Rissati – am interviewing for a committee position. I want to ask about 3 topics, or be on a future agenda. One concern is now that panhandling has been decriminalized, is there knowledge of police being undercover as people on the street? I’ve been asking what the interest rates of accounts for public funds trustees at Edward Jones? Why is a private bank rather than our community bank? And, because of rules for statute changes require large numbers of signatures for petitions, would the municipal web site have links to online petitions to sign? Are there any repercussions of disputes of how the moderator at RTM?

    Starr – we’ll get you answers.

  • Liquor Commissioners

    Starr – today we’re looking at a Festival Permit for Four Seasons media. A beer fest.

    Kelli Corbiel – The 8th Brattleboro Brewer’s Fest – people can come and sample craft beers and ciders so they’ll know what they’ll want to buy. Very local. We buy T-shirts locally, food, fencing, everything we do is local. It brings people to come to town to experience our town, go out to dinner, stay at hotels. It’s fun for us, too. 100 choices of craft beers and ciders. Local breweries are there, and Vermont favorites. Some NH and MA, but in our area. Also a new wine option this year. One vendor, to appease some people who want it there. Local food vendors. It’s a fundraiser, too. This year to help Little League buy bleachers. We do a keg toss, too. Music with a local trio this year. At the Famalare fields, as in previous years. 12:30 to 4:30pm.

    McLoughlin – how many people?

    Corbeil – 1000 or more?

    McLoughlin – how do you market it?

    Corbeil -WTSA, 99.5 the Beast, the Reformer, Commons, Facebook, Twitter, Valley Advocate

    Wessel – I went last year for research purposes, and it is a fun time.


  • Water & Sewer Rates + Main Street Repairs

    Elwell – during the prior year, we did a lot of Utility Fund business, and we asked the board to allow a year with no increases in water or sewer – we will need to increase in future – but while we figure out new projects we can take a year off from rate increases. So, the ordinance before you says a year off for rate increase, then we’ll come back later in the year with more details about upcoming capital needs and projections, for action next year. We’ll have second reading and adoption in 2 weeks.

    Wessel – I think is is great to hold the rates. It’s part of the mix of what’s expensive about living in any town.

    Jan Anderson – the only change is that the dates change and that rates won’t change.


    Elwell – Steve Barrett is here and can provide info. How would you like to handle the bid award. We’re moving quickly to do this before the Strolling of Heifers, we’d like to either hold a special mtg to award a bid, or delegate me the authority to make the decision.

    Barrett – we went over water main break at previous mtg. 165k gallons of water lost. It was a private valve, owned by the building. But we had problems with our own valves, from 1890, failed. We’ve had this catastrophic event, so we wanted to accelerate replacement of 300′ of water main on Main. Final design and bid documents done, bids due back Thursday. We’d like to give TM authority to accept the bid, and we can move quickly to get this done before the Stroll. It will be an inconvenience. Roads will be open and people can come downtown, but things will be slower.

    Quipp – how long will it take?

    Barrett – just a few weeks, by May 8th. It’s just the east side of the street, so that helps us.

    Wessel – a cost estimate?

    Barrett – no estimate yet, but I think about $150k. Traffic control will cost a bit of money. There are funds to cover the costs of this in Utility Fund.

    Tony Duncan – what the inconveniences will be? What will it involve?

    Barrett – from Big Street south about 300 feet. The intersection, and next to the curbing on the east side on the right hand side of the northbound lane. We’ll remove some parking on other side so two lanes can move. Lights will be on flash in some places. The road has to be dug up. The existing main is 5 feet deep and the new one will go right next to it, and we’ll tie over the new lines over. Then the old main will be torn up and abandoned? Sidewalks will be open. Most work will be in the street.

    Rissati – there should also be a =band on animals for public entertainment – bringing cows and chickens to Main Street…

    Starr – not germane. Talk to Jan about an upcoming?

    Rissati – is the bid being reviewed by energy committee? Water is an energy source. When sidewalks are being renovated, is there any statute to check pipes when sidewalks are renovated?

    Elwell – when pipes are installed, and when water flows through them. A tremendous amount of testing. Some special requirements for laying new pipe.

    Barrett – we review pipes when we do any project.

    Risatti – when sidewalk is replaced, will there be water bars to allow for rainfall to increase water for trees?

    Barrett – current design has that. We’ll replace what was destroyed.

    Starr – that’s a systemic question about all downtown trees.

    Board delegates authority to TM.

  • VCDP Application for Brattleboro Housing Authority’s Red Clover Commons 2

    Patrick Moreland and Chris Hart from BHP

    Moreland – we seek to submit a grant application, but thought I’d tell new board about town and affordable housing. The funds we seek began in dept of Housing and Urban Development. Community Development Block Grant. In VT, VT Community Development Program administers it. Municipalities are only applicants. States have priorities – VT says affordable housing, job creation, or eliminations of slums and blight, or urgent need to address need of specific threat to community. Final decisions are made here, about whether or not to apply. In last 10 years, over 5 million has come to Brattleboro this way. Those dollars leverage other outside dollars. This grant is for $350k for Red Clover Commons 2.

    Chris Hart – going to be on same lot as Red Clover Commons, near back surface parking lot that isn’t used much. We can do a 3-story building and do all underground parking. This will complete relocation of resident from Melrose and we can dispose of that property for residential housing. About 6k sq feet per floor. Very similar to what is already there. It will be like a little cottage at the end of the property. Won’t impact surface storm water. Will have its own heating and air system. Community Development funds are significant as a nice about of money toward the project, and shows the Town supports the project.

    Starr – next to Walgreens up Canal Street.

    Wessel – didn’t know you had an underground garage…

    Hart – yes, it can accommodate new units. It’s elderly and disabled, so zoning calls for half a space per apartment, but that’s a lot. It accommodates visitors and folks who have cars.

    McCloughlin – on the bus route?

    Hart – yes, on two bus lines. But people walk more here than Melrose, since services are nearby – to stores, to the hospital, and love to go to sports events at the high school.

    Quipp – one source of funds is Efficiency Vermont – how will it be heated?

    Hart – mini-split heat pumps for all heating and cooling. It will be energy start rated building. State has high standards for using state funds.

    Risatti – What are the rental prices for the units?

    Hart – project based vouchers, based on income, no more than 30%. Same as public housing. Should be same as Melrose.

    Risatti – does income include medical debts?

    Hart – medical is a deduction that we take on adjusted income. They bring medical expenses, so debt is considered. We follow federal fair housing rules, and are audited by HUD and ourselves.

    Risatti – VT Housing hasn’t been funding discrimination testing in last year. I wanted to see it wasn’t an issue. What are laundry accommodations?

    Hart – Full laundry on second floor. Designed for resident of Melrose.

    Risatti – (after more questions) you are amazing – that’s above and beyond what other low income facilities do for residents. I’d like to see low income housing units have small washer and dryers in each unit. It would be a hygienic improvement for community health.

    Grants submission approved!

  • Ironwoods Brand SBAP Loan

    Starr – a request to refinance!

    Elwell – Eli Gould is here. We had a meeting with Eli a few weeks back and put together a plan to combine two prior loans, then a repayment plan. Slightly modified by committee, so they suggest refinancing 42k, with payments structured for a 10 year, but payment back will be over 5 years with a balloon payment at end.

    Eli Gould – two loans taken out on two properties that I fixed up in town. Loans let me put large industrial building into active use. My business and growth plan didn’t work out, so I sold the building and had to lay off people working for me. A tough case. I made a significant payment to town when I sold it, I’m about back on track with payments now. I am earning money but have to travel more to do so. I intend to pay everyone back. The challenge now is I’m a sole earner. The 5 year ballon will still be a big challenge to us. I hope it works off. I’ll have to refinance at this point. I’ve personally guaranteed all my loans. A seven year program could be a big help. It could let me get credit and value up to a refinance would be possible. It’ll be the first year of college for my son… but thanks for all you’ve done.

    Elwell – throughout the situation with the business, you stayed in touch with town and finance department, and we knew what was happening. You made clear to us your commitment to the community and obligation to pay. 7 year balloon is perfectly ok.

    McCloughlin – 7 years is normal, isn’t it? I’m in favor.

    Starr – I thought 5 years was a bit short for someone struggling. Glad we can do a 7 year here.

    Wessel – I hope we don’t become a board that fixes everything the committee sends to us, but this sounds like it would make it easier. You have been good about working with us and have no plans to go off to another country like some folks…

    McCloughlin – this fits with assistance for the business.

    (A Roberts Rules debate breaks out…)

    approved a 7 year plan for a balloon payment in 7th year

  • West Brattleboro Historical Marker

    Starr – a request from the Brattleboro Words Project

    Sandy Rouse – on Jan 22nd, the board approved a historical marker for Glenwood Seminary (corrected!) – next step is state will review it. The text talks of the two schools, we’d like to amend and add language to mark one of most famous students – Mary Wilkins Freeman – house was on left as you enter Municipal Center. Went on to be a famous writer, 22 volumes of short stories and essays, 14 novels, children’s books, plays and a film script. The Lit Fest will devote time to her this year. She knew Kipling. Hoping plaque will be up by Lit Fest.

    Quipp – in Bosworth’s fleeter in Oct last year, there was text about the schools, is this in addition?

    Rouse – yes, on backside.

    Wessel – the festival is great and hopefully the timing will be right.

    Risatti – the words project is for festivals and plaques?

    Rouse – it’s the Library, historical society, Lit Fest, Write Action, and Marlboro College.

    Risatti – were any groups involved with the movement to modify the use of the word “Colonel” for the high school?

    Rouse – not related – just events that celebrate literary history of the area.

    Michael Bosworth – West Bratt Association welcomes this addition.


  • Tiny Grant

    Elwell – My favorite grant program! A $600 grant for Conservation Commission to clean up Japanese knotweed at West River Park.

    Starr -it is edible and like rhubarb, from mid-April to mid-May.

    (They argues whether it should be salted or sugared…)

    Quipp – we have rhubarb crumble where I’m from. You could have a knotweed crumble.

    Wessel – you aren’t from Brattleboro?

    Elwell – volunteers are almost always welcome.


  • RTM Follow Up Matters

    Elwell – I just checked and knotweed cleanup will definitely require volunteers.

    They take a three minute break.

    Elwell – I’ll give a summary. It’s the second year we’ve done it this way. It helps with advisory and unofficial actions being followed up. I have a memo that lists 7 different topics that came up that may involve follow-up.

    Starr – 1. Consider rent stabilization. If we were to consider it, then the town attorney would research and report back.

    Wessel – I’d certainly like to learn more. We should look into the ability, and the pros and cons. Rent is a tough nut to crack in Brattleboro and many place. Part of my push for the local option sales tax was to help stabilize rent and make Brattleboro affordable.

    McCloughlin – I’d like more info. Not sure I’;m in favor.

    Quipp – This is a hard thing to do. Would VT law allow this or other things that could have an effect on rent? The Rent Is Too Damn High party in NY was an example. I took a big drop in salary to move to Brattleboro, but rent didn’t go down the same. I hope we consider this and other ay to help people live in town.

    McCloughlin – and what are other VT towns doing?

    Elwell – other ideas for rent assistance is a bit broad, but we can look at other towns using VT law, and if we find ideas for other ways to stabilize rents without regulation we’ll report back.

    Starr – 2. Plan for Marketing Brattleboro – RTM approved funds. Conditioned upon them providing a marketing plan that is acceptable to us. So, we wait for those plans.

    McCloughlin – do we want to engage, or do they know to submit something?

    Starr – sure, we could have them come in for a framing conversation.

    Wessel – I’m pretty confident in them to come up with great ideas and didn’t want to see us micromanaging what that should be, but hearing ideas can’t be too much harm.

    Quipp – if they bring us a plan and we say no, maybe we want them to come in and share early thoughts on the matter might be useful, then if we have things we are looking for we can let the know.

    Elwell – may 7 agenda.

    Wessel – could be informal and not talk about budgets. We have the budget now, so we don’t need to see a breakdown.

    Quipp – I’d like to see clearly defined goals.

    McCloughlin – and metrics for evaluation.

    Starr – 3. Convene RTM Human Services Committee – work with committee to schedule meetings to allocate additional funding at RTM, recommend a standard target amount for the future (1% of total budget?). That takes care of the money part of it, but changing the process makes me want to see the whole process. It feels a little like a black box. I’d like to see members and procedures to have a better understand of why this system keeps having problems. I want to look at the whole system.

    Elwell – this committee is of RTM, not the Town. Not advisory to selectboard. Like the Finance Committee. Keep it in mind as you look at how they function. You can see all the info,

    Starr – but I can’t do anything with it.

    Elwell – you should feel a boundary…

    McCloughlin – over the years as RTM member, the committee really has provided a valuable professional service, and members are all well-qualified for their work. No hierarchy or Chair. A committee of equals. This recent town mtg was example of people wanting very much to support the committee and their agenda, but I’ve seen the opposite. It’s not under threat or question, but we all need more info.

    Quipp – this work is for Jan and the Committee to set a meeting to determine a recommendation.

    Elwell – the allocation for this year has been delegated to committee this year, but future years are in questions and up to committee recommendation. We’ll hear the recommendation, and then either include what they ask for, or not, and explain why we did what we did.

    Wessel – there’s a lot to say here. I have a concern. It’s a weird situation. We haven’t really messed with the amounts in the past. I believe that part of problem this year was our consideration of two organizations who came in after the deadline this year. It added to confusion and scramble of multiple articles. Let’s consider ramifications of late entries after the deadline.

    Quipp – and also to respect decision RTM makes about the article. It took time but was worth it in the end. The work of the committee is good work. I don’t think additional funds for them is critical of the committee.

    Wessel – the committee’s role is to avoid the big discussions at RTM. If RTM reps are generous each year, we’re back in the same position.

    Quipp – sounds like a good problem.

    McCloughlin – I’d like the committee to tell more about their work and what each agency needs. What are the needs? Now it is just a reaction without deep understanding.

    Starr – I agree!

    Jan Anderson- we do work for the moderator and publish info about RTM on Town website. Info is all there, with public meetings to discuss applications. We collect them but pass them on.

    Quipp – when town meeting finance committee meets…

    Jan – they are public and warned, but no bctv. Members of the public attend. Minutes and reports are published. BCTV comes at a cost and would need to be hired.

    McCloughlin – might be up to RTM if it is televised.

    Starr – 4. $100k for energy efficiency or sustainability. To be used to hire sustainability officer or something similar, spent at discretion of selectboard. Allow staff to work with community members to develop scope of position, and bring results in early summer for SB consideration of a position, or other initiatives.

    Quipp – I thought we’d hold off on this until Schoales is back.

    Starr – right. Good idea. But wanted to bring it up. Schoales really wants to be in on conversation on it.

    Elwell – we’ll tell you about the process when we have that discussion on the 16th.

    Starr – 5. Creation of Arts Fund – advice to get recommendation about funding public art projects.

    Elwell – some additional info. There is a public arts policy the SB adopted that guides art in public places in Brattleboro. I though Town Arts Committee was body to handle these proposals. It’s what has happened for many years. Public art proposals goes to arts committee, but isn’t what our policy says. There’s a question here – if you want an arts fun of $15k and a process to do projects, you could rely on ACWC to do proposals, or you could go to Town Arts Committee. An open question.

    McCloughlin – we’re talking about two things, the Arts Council and Brattleboro Arts Committee?

    Starr – yes, we have a choice to follow their advice or stick with current practice.

    Quipp – so, when I’m reading the minutes of RTM and it was late, my recollection was not that they be used for public arts but as a public arts fund. Affordable studio space is a problem for artists. The scope could be for public art projects – I don’t love public art projects. I’d rather improve lives of artists living in our town.

    Elwell – you have no direction you need to follow on this item. Body can add $15k to budget, but no authority to direct that an Arts Fund be created. No strings attached. Fols want public arts projects, but you don’t need to do that it all, or you could fund projects or accomplish some other goal.

    McCloughlin – so we can think about that.

    Wessel – I don’t think we should use ACWC for use of town funds. Is that controversial?

    Quipp – both groups have merit and maybe they work together

    Wessel – it is taxpayer money.

    Starr – we’ll have to find an agenda with room for this. And we can invite arts groups to attend. Next item is 6. SEVEDS funding – to have an economic study of Brattleboro with future requests.

    Wessel – they come before us once a year to give us a state of the funding meeting

    Elwell – on later side of year. If you want staff to do this..

    Wessel – it isn’t my pet project to require this as part of funding. I’d like to streamline our duties.

    Starr – maybe have them in July?

    Quipp – could we ask the public what they want? Could we make a survey on the town website?

    McCloughlin – we could identify financial info that would be useful to us more clearly than Survey Monkey.

    Starr – 7. Should Town Atty look at email protocol for how it relates to open meeting law?


    Starr – public comments?

    Oscar Heller – the 42k for marketing – the purpose was to ask for more than a general senes of ideas. many would have voted no without this amendment. No need to micromanage, but details should be there. They should put out an RFP to get quotes. Then, regarding energy funding, I know some applications for old energy coordinator position, the committee would like to doesn’t pursue that position until the new position is defined. Sustainability should be first priority. Last note is arts funds – the reason ACWC is involved because a non-profit was needed to spend the funds. Original proposal had help for artists, but it was changed to public arts to get it approved. The arts group would welcome what Daniel talks about, but not sure if RTM would like it.

    Wendy Levy – I was at the 13 hour meeting. Is rent stabilization allowed by state statute?

    Elwell – that’s why Atty will look into it, we’ll see if other communities have done it.

    Levy – I have a suggestion – I suggest we look at median rents and incomes. Compare those figures to other municipalities. Regarding Human Services – I want to caution against having efficiency as a goal. It’s not always the most important things. Some things take time. The RTM debate was long, but there is a process. It’s along process for a reason. Those of us there want to take part of it. Sometime efficiency is used to marginalize voices. And, I agree that we need more details about marketing plan.

    McCloughlin – that was my amendment.

    Wessel – when I mentioned efficiency, I referred to the history of the committee to make meetings more efficient. Not that we must be efficient as our goal.

    Risatti – I was also at the meeting. The legal options of the municipal lawyer – I’d recommend a team of lawyers rather than just one person. How people respond to opinions is… we need more than one interpretation of law. Regarding the sales tax being a reason for rent stabilization – it really disenfranchises those further. I agree BCTV should cover all meetings, and would like combined Arts Committee and ACWC work together. $15k is shuch a pathetically low amount of money and will perpetuate their poverty rather than improve quality of life.

    Wessel – Lousie Zak contacted us with good points about procedures about efficiency. Only direct amendments can be discussed. Many members speak outside of certain germaneness of a motion added to the length of the mtg. WE should comment on process and pain and reflect on it. Wrapped into that comment – I want to remind that what was discussed for energy and sustainability, to originally raise $10k for selectboard for energy efficiency or sustainability issues. At RTM it morphed into a bigger position. This work includes work we’re already doing, so we should talk about how we make good sustainability decisions now, and how to improve on it if we hire someone. I want to know they would do a better job than current staff could. Finally – time for an idea like that is not at RTM, it is in our budget season in the Fall. We look at staff recommendations then. That’s the time for a major idea.

    Starr -we’ll talk a lot about RTM, by Sept or Oct there will be budget drafts being worked on. It’s haphazard to fly in in Dec. Our meetings are regular and warned. The summer is time to bring big ideas to us for us to include in the budget. I didn’t do a good job saying it on social media last year.

    McCloughlin – yes, many were last minute items. There should be a budget narrative that goes with the numbers, so reps can look at polices and other things. If town knew what staff was planning about sustainability officer, it might have been better understood. Policy statements, or a “state of the town” report would go a long way toward understanding how tax dollars are spent.

    Starr – the more transparent we are, the less last minute urgentness.

    Levy – how can town better support RTM members about what’s allowed, Roberts Rules. As a first time person, I missed the overview, and we didn’t know what we were doing. Caucus was same time as informational session. Think about better ways to support new members, so things can stay better on track. I can do trainings.

    McCloughlin – might add that training to town informational session.

  • Rules of Conduct

    Starr – new rules are the same as old rules?

    Elwell – one change – page 4. Changing deadline for agenda item requests to Tuesday rather than Wednesday as it is now. Agendas will be set on Tuesdays.

    Wessel – no change last year, but previous year we discouraged Chair from making motions and supported Roberts Rules for Small Meetings.

    Quipp – I read the rules. Pretty straightforward. Good for people in the public need to know how to bring items for agenda – email TM office by a Tuesday, then Chair and Vice Chair will consider it.

    Wessel – a week before….

    Starr – though it could go on a future agenda.


  • Conflict of Interest and Ethical Guidelines

    Elwell – this is new. A policy. Result of state law passed last year that requires every town adopt a policy regarding conflicts of interest and ethical issues. It comes from two sources – VLCT’s model policy, which we borrowed from extensively. Most comes from that. We simplified the definition of conflict of interest to eliminate “perceived” conflicts of interest (by whom? and why?) from their template. We put in a definition out of the statute that the state set. We used their words exactly. Straightforward and clear.

    Risatti – public comment?

    Starr – we have to adopt it.

    Risatti – I’d appreciate if there could be copies here for us to review, and on a projection screen for viewers at home, so referent specifically what we’re talking about.


  • Warrant Signing and Selectboard Assignments

    Starr – this is payroll and accounts payable, not police warrants. We have five rotations throughout year. Come to an office weekly on Thursday and sign, then take a lollipop.

    Wessel – I have request to use Nov-Jan. (okay!)

    April – June : Quipp
    June – Aug – Starr
    Aug – Nov – McCloughlin
    Jan – Mar – Schoales

    Board members assigned to boards and committees:

    Quipp – Rental Housing Improvement Program Loan
    Starr – Capital Grants
    Wessel – Traffic Safety
    McCloughlin – Capital Grants
    Schoales – SBA loans

    Moreland and Elwell to WSWMD

    Windham Regional Commission – Tom Mosakowski(sp?) will be rep., and Sue Fillion


  • Committee Appointments

    Starr – the interviews we did at 5:15 this afternoon. We…

    Elwell – you take nominations and vote on them in order until someone is selected.

    McCloughlin – a person should be on only one committee, but there are more vacancies? Will spots remain vacant?

    Elwell – yes. Tonight 10 vacancies on Ag board and one candidate for the board. You wouldn’t nominate for committees you aren’t making appointments tonight.

    Quipp – I nominate Rikki Risatti for ADA advisory committee. Approved!

    McCloughlin – Zambella for arts committee. Approved!

    Starr – Carol Levin for Energy Committee – approved!

    Wessel – Pam Sweeney for Senior Solutions Advisory Council – approved!

    Starr – look at Town website to apply to be on a committee. Thanks to all for stepping up.

    Adjourn! 9:15pm

  • Thank you, Chris!

    I’m impressed by how quickly you turn this around. Thanks for the public service.

  • Deaducation?

    Yes great and amazing public service Chris provides; tiny correct: he heard (in the historical marker discussion) “Glenwood __________________ “and thought it was “Cemetery;” in fact the reference is to a school, “Glenwood SEMINARY!”

  • Thanks...

    Thanks for comments and corrections.

    Don – Ack… spellcheck sometimes changes my quick typing. And I know it was a school, too. Thanks for catching this – it’s been corrected above.

    Wendy – nice to see a rep taking part in SB mtgs!

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