Vice Chair Tim Wessel led the board through the second regular meeting in May. It was a night of numbers, with Water & Sewer, Parking, and Solid Waste FY20 budgets being discussed in detail. One member compared the evening to math class, but budgets can be revealing, and many new town projects and plans were listed. The projects have timelines and costs, hence their inclusion in budget talks.
The public was mostly absent, save for a few Finance Committee members diligently watching over all the numbers rolling by.
Vice Chair Tim Wessel is acting Chair tonight.
He says there are 41 minutes to go vote in the school budget election, with a budget larger than the municipal budget.
Peter Elwell thanks the DPW and construction folks for the downtown Main Street replacement of the water main. Finished on time and within budget. It went very smoothly. Thanks to the team. Also, the parking app is now working for the parking system. There was a software problem, but last week it got resolved. We’ll get a news release out soon about the new changes. Also, there will be one July select board mtg, on July 9th.
Wessel – not only is parking app functional, but when using the app at the street level, the meter doesn’t reflect that the app is functional, your app confirms it. You have to trust what the phone is telling you. It’s counterintuitive.
Elwell – it would cost much more for each meter to communicate.
Daniel Quipp – Windham County Dental Center has opened on Canal Street. They provide high quality sliding scale dental work for the community. Also, SEVCA will open a housing resource center on June 7th.
Public Participation – no?
Schools asks when Library will open again.
Starr Latronica – it reopened today. It is gorgeous. Everyone should come in and see it.
Water & Sewer Commissioners
Elwell – The proposed FY20 Utility Budget! I’ll do an overview and Steve and Dan will give details. You approve this in June. The part that is more informational is the operating portion of the budget. A .02% increase in revenue and a 1.8% operating cost increase. New line item is interest from Parking Fund, from a intrafund loan. We’ll get principal after the parking garage bond is paid off. We expect money market interest to increase, too, in all our funds – $10k increase in FY20. There are different funding mechanisms for different projects, and the state can sometimes give us such good rates where we get a negative interest revenue when we borrow, such as with Tai Park. Welcome to Dan, new member of DPW team. Cost of electric has gone down due to investment in solar.
Steve Barrett – Bruce Lawrence retired. He started in the 70’s and worked for Town in waste water and water treatment, then Vermont Yankee, then back to us after Irene. We wish him a good retirement. Pleased to have Dan Tyler here as new Highways Superintendent. Pleasant Valley Water Treatment Plant highlights… solar net metering has given us good savings. We average 1.2 million gallons a day, pumped throughout town.
Elwell – look beyond the memo and summary we provided and look at details at top of page 2.
Barrett – water distribution and storage is about moving water throughout the system. Staff salaries have been reduced, due to retirement and new hires. At Waste Water Treatment Plant, the new Welcome Center project will be done this summer. Odor Control has been installed. There’s a new line item for pumping costs. Welcome Center will be a new pumping station. Sewer mains remains flat in FY20. Admin and professional fees is up, for engineering consulting on unexpected projects. Equipment maintenance is in good shape. Following replacement plan saves us in repairs.
Schoales – how does depreciation work? It costs us over $2 million?
John O’Connor – when we build an asset, we depreciate over it’s useful life. We put a big investment in waste water recently. We put depreciation in the budget even though it is a non cash item. It’s kind of an offset to principal on the bonds, and different assets have different lives.
Elwell – Capital. Look at the fold out sheets in the packet that are 11 x 17. They are so large due to longer term capital planning. We did a 25 year replacement schedule for vehicles. Long term infrastructure needs more work. This is a real 25 year replacement schedule for equipment and vehicles. And a 20 year capital replacement planning and projects we can foresee. This is huge for us. Millions in the water treatment plant is coming. We can plan ahead with rates and other expenses, so we can build up fund balance for these projects. We’d like you to approve the first year. We have big numbers to describe.
Barrett – Water Treatment Plant upgrade has $100k toward preliminary design by October. We’ll come back with options for you. It was built in 1989 and delivers over 400 million gallons a year. We also want to do upgrades at Exit 1 Industrial Park, to accommodate future businesses and residents. We have a tank that willl increase in capacity. Cost is $820,000. We’re working with BDCC and grants to get 50% of the funding, so costs could go down.
Dan Tyler – water mains – $50k there to start engineering toward bigger projects down the roads. Water meters – we have 4k meters in town. We’ve replaced about half. We’ll get another 100 or so this year. The originals were from the 1970’s. New ones work better and give us more intel about water use.
Barrett – older meters are accurate mostly, but electronic are better than mechanical and are made with better parts.
Elwell – replacing over time means they don’t all fail at once later on.
Barrett – the waste process line from Pleasant valley Treatment Plant – the backwash of filters overflow into unmanned tributary – this line would eliminate the lagoons and connect to waste water treatment system. The lagoons cost us $30-40k a year, so this will save money. Also proposing solar collector that generates air and floats on reservoir to increase oxygen in low end of reservoir. Will improve water quality. Starting with one to see how it goes.
Schoales – the waste line run to the waste water treatment plant – will it be used with the new water treatment plant?
Barrett – yes – we might limit what moves down the waste line at any given time, but yes.
Tyler – tank resurfacing – it is a concrete tank, and needs a new surface. There are pump stations, such as Signal Hill. The state says it is in need of upgrade, so $30k for engineering and design. The new station will provide more flow to the area and adequate fire hydrants up there.
Barrett – at Waste Water Treatment Plant – we need a tank cover for an odor control basin at $150k. To contain odors within the property lines. This is one step from our recommendations. Also plan to prevent groundwater entering waste water system. We’ll spend $30k for tightening up system of waste water lines and manholes.
Tyler – a sewer rodder (roter? router?) – a giant rotor rooter for water mains… the only equipment in the budget. Time for a new one.
McLoughlin – you aren’t overloading a cost in any one year?
Tyler – there is a year of engineering then projects…
McLoughlin – will Sustainability Coordinator work with you on this?
Elwell – potentially – many are working on what the position could be. Middle of summer we’ll have more info.
McLoughlin – energy efficiency measures seem perfect.
Barrett – exactly …
Elwell – it’s a $6.2 million budget. At bottom of page it is denser, and because of full accrual – we’ve tried to convert the numbers to make things more visible to you The first is 2 types of expenditures – debt payment sand capital cash allocation. $3.228 million in proposed budget. Depreciation is backed out and shown as an expenditure item, but isn’t cash being spent, so we back that back out, so it nets to zero, and then there’s the total cash outlay of those two items off the budget – debt and capital. So you subtract that, and the place we land is we propose to draw down the fund balance $750k in coming year. Unallocated cash balance is for capital plan projects carrying over from previous years, so we end up with about $5 million. So important number for tonight is beginning balance minus cash reconciliation means a forecast of $3.415 million, plus $1.5 of carry over funds, plus we may not spend everything we expect to spend. So we think it is safe to expect of $4.5 million at end of coming fiscal year. We’ll come back in Fall to present several months of review before adopting new rate structure in 2020.
Schoales – water treatment planning will give us an estimate of cost to build it?
Elwell – yes – we can describe in significant detail and cost estimates. It will be more than $5 million.
Quipp – I feel like I’ve been in math class.
Wessel – accrual vs. cash vs. partial accrual isn’t fun… but we’ll look at the rates in detail.
Quipp – it’s on the town website.
Elwell – we’ll post it on the homepage.
Franz Reichsman of Finance Committee – a couple of things struck me. The 20 year capital plan involves maintenance to prevent problems, but what portion of expenses are predictable vs. what might happen?
Barrett – there’s a certain amount built in for minor breaks, it’s when we get larger projects like Main Street, you can’t really anticipate. Our water system is in really good shape. Transmission lines were upgraded in 1980’s.
Elwell – capital plan has some regular replacement in it…
Reichsman – emergencies get paid out of fund balance?
Elwell – yes, usually.
Reichsman – I’ve seen figures that up to 50% of treated water is lost through leakage?
Barrett – we are very low. Maybe 2% here. We’ve done leak analysis. It’s pretty tight. Some hydrants get broken seals that get replaced.
(Reichsman asks to explain that budget again, and Elwell does it again…)
Reichsman – This is the dumbest I’ve felt since first year med school.
Elwell – .. we try to distill it down to how you look at things in the general fund, even though it is different.
Wessel – we have about $5 million in available cash balance, but now have $4.2 million.
Elwell -sometimes we”re ahead and sometimes we’re not with projects funded in previous years… this shows previously allocated but not yet spent that gets added in, and that gets you to $5 million. Some of that has been complete this year, but some hasn’t been spent. We’ll know the carryover in June and can tell you in July. That’s how we get to the $4.2 million, by adding in the carryover.
Elwell – the last page is the 20 year breakout of work – they fit into a single line item in the budget.
Wessel – great work. Having tis 25 year plan is really great. Nice work. Thank you.
Schoales – it will help when we set rates and we can help pay for these improvements with cash.
Elwell – approval of this budget comes in June.
Wessel – second reading and public hearing for two items.
Patrick Moreland explains the two changes to the parking ordinance. New handicap space on east side of Main Street near River Garden, one space north of the clock. Idea came for the public.
Wessel – any public comments? (No).
(Nina Wilson of ADA committee is there if there are questions.)
Wessel – any board discussion? The east side needs help with this kind of accessibility.
McLoughlin – this came up during our campaign. Glad it became real.
Schoales – are we looking for other spots?
Wilson – committee did a parking survey to find the best space. There is no ideal space on Main Street – there isn’t the width for vans. We wanted to start with one, show it is used constantly , then we can see about more. There is a greater need, but we have to start somewhere.
Wessel – I’ve been asked about a space for the library, but it should start in Traffic Safety meeting.
Elwell – an on-street designated space? There are two fully accessible spaces at Municipal Center for Library.
Wilson – you can request it through the ADA Committee – the safety access request form.
Quipp – ‘the first space north of the clock’ – what if the clock goes?
Elwell – we’d never let it go, and we’re working on getting it working correctly.
Moreland – second change is no parking on Locust Street – a no parking section on east side of Locust between Vine and Chestnut. Another citizen request.
Wessel – any public?
Franz Reichsman – I live on Chestnut right around that corner. I’ve made that turn 1.7 minion times, and have never felt like the view is obstructed. I don’t care, but was it just one person’s point of view?
Elwell – it was a suggestion from one person, but we looked into it and it went through the process.
Reichsman – did the person have a go kart (no comment)
Quipp – have we heard from people on Locust Street?
Elwell – we haven’t. Some people have off street parking, but staff feel it is only a couple of spots. They can park on Vine or Chestnut instead.
Quipp – If I lived there, and had accessibility issues, parking further could be frustrating. When we do this, d o we actively go to people who are impacted, or wait for them to come.
Elwell – we don’t typically contact people. We can make it part of the process.
McLoughlin – we could do this and then un-do it if it doesn’t work.
Reichsman – there’s no portion on the street that will have Daniel’s issue.
McLoughlin – Franz is surprised at how much the town responds to a citizen concern.
Quipp – Not everyone reads the minutes and not every word gets reported in the press (hi Daniel!)
Elwell – this may not be satisfying to all but there are times when staff or traffic safety decides to let people know, such as a proposal to add bike lanes along Western Ave – it might be really good so the committee asked that everyone along that route gets notified, and we got more discussion. When project is complex.
Wessel tries to move on, but a motion is required as is a vote.
They approve the changes!
Wessel – we discussed this last time and have updated documents, and some new memos offered. Peter provided a summary. Brandie isn’t here again, and she’ll want to chime in on these goals, so any comments on the additions made to our goals, or should we move it to the next meeting.
Schoales – there are some conversations to have and Brandie should be here. It’s not urgent, let’s table it.
Quipp – I want to thank the Chiefs etc. for their memo. I’d encourage members to read it themselves. I found it informative. I’d like them to talk about the memo.
(Fire Chief, Police Cheif, and Starr Latronica)
Starr – we collaborated on this memo. We all work on this issue together. We’d like to further our collaboration, and outline our parters supporting the community.
Chief Buccossi – community sees us responding, and saving lives and best patient care to get people to hospitals. We want everyone to know that there is so much more behind the scenes that Town staff does every day.
Chief Fitzgerald – Library has had many incidents, so the memo shows how much we do but also how complex this issue is. It goes much deeper than facilities etc. We all play a critical role, but we aren’t experts. We hope you help us continue to collaborate with partners, and we’ll need money to get people out on the street. It will take a lot of effort. Other agencies are emulating project CARE It’s running really well. It’s time to let subject matter experts take the lead. Especially the post care. It’s the greatest lack. What happens when they get out of care? It’s easy to relapse. Need to focus on post-care.
Starr – part of what we do is help but also educate the public about the disease, and make sure everybody is safe. And healthy.
Quipp – I appreciate it. In the memo, we had over 100 overdose calls last year, and already 50 this year. I want to have these conversation in public and take responsibility.
McLoughlin – I want community to know what you are doing, but also the collaborative effort of many agencies. Needs to be solved by community as a whole.
Wessel – I’d push back. All three of you are experts in helping people who are suffering, and you’ll be three important resources along with the others. I appreciate that.
Schoales – so what do we do now? The goals you recommend aligns with other goals of supporting and educating. We can invite collaborators here and talk to them. This is a good idea.
Quipp -describing what happens, describing what we need and what to do…
Bucossi – subject matter experts – we’ve collaborated with BMH and we’re holding a seminar for first responders this week. From why they get addicted to how drugs affect them through revere. A public forum on June 18th with a small panel and 2 hr forum for public. I hope to see more events.
Fitzgerald – our numbers are very skewed. If we get an OD mapping app, the different rescue and fire and police can map cases and eliminate redundancy. Not every overdose is treated by first responders. They may get help from friends, or go to ER. It’s good intel. There are things in the works that the public aren’t aware of.
Bucossi – mapping will help. We’re making some headway.
Wessel – meth is spreading more rapidly that opiates in some communities.
McLoughlin – did the drug bust help impact overdoses?
Fitz – No. I wish I could say yes, but no. It gets some bad people off the street, but no. I can’t make it nice. No. We’ll be in the trenches for a while. It’s been building up from the 90’s. We have our work cut out for us.
Starr – support during and after recovery is important. We’ll tell success stories at a forum later this year.
Bucossi – everyone needs to keep in mind that first responders are seeing more death and family destruction than I’ve seen in 40 years. They are getting hammered. We need to watch that.
Elwell – we’ll post brochure and memo on website.
Financial Report with John O'Connor
O’Connor reads his memo. (A night of memos).
All is well and as usual.
Quipp – Solid Waste lag time… that’s unavoidable?
O’Connor – we don’t get tipping fees and bag revenue info until the next month. Really can’t do anything sooner.
Quipp – page 215 – police line item – misc revenue – $15k?
O’Connor – that’s way over – officers need to work a number of years but if they leave early they repay us based on how ling they worked for what we pay for their education.
Quipp – softball field rental numbers low? Because we are early in season? (yes)
Wessel – facilities use fee is up substantially? Rise in facilities use charges?
O’Connor – for using parks in the areas.
Schoales – glad to see us spending less than we take in.
FY20 Parking Budget
Moreland – it is like the Utilities fund – full accrual. Parking fund covers lots and meters and maintenance. We have less confidence in our numbers this year – we made a lot of changes and have little hard data to build a budget. We increased fees, but how much that brings in is an educated guess. New fees for operating the new meters. Proposed budget is presented… $916k in revenue, up by $66k. An increase in parking meter revenue due to new rates. Good chance this could be higher. Bond interest is increased due to refinancing of parking garage. We’ll get just under $30k coming. We see a decline in smart card revenue and anticipate fewer parking fines. Because we increased convenience of paying for parking should decrease fines. Expenses have changed, too. Health insurance is up. In a small department, a single change can appear to be a significant change. Parking meter fees are going up, for credit card fees and so on. We are moving to wood pellet from oil. Low fuel oil prices are creeping up, so wood heating should be good for long term savings. $20k increase in depreciation due to new meters. Operating supplies is taking a dive. The fiscal 19 sum didn’t need to be so high. Operating supplies like parking tickets and envelopes and such, like repairs. Our old meters needed more parts, so we think this will go down. $872k for expenses.
McLoughlin – what doesn’t fuel oil and pellets have to do with parking fund?
Moreland – parking garage has offices that are heated and air conditioned. Pellets are heating it. There’s a 3 story silo.
Wessel – successful parking experience… in the efforts to create more successful experiences – parking boots for user are not successful. We’d love to see that go downwards.
Moreland – hope must be balanced with realism. I share the desire for hope. Booting or impounding is not joyful. It is difficult, creates a hardship, is painful all around.
Elwell – we see about $10k a year, reality.
Schoales – we got an explanation of everything that happens before about goes on. It’s involved.
McLoughlin – there is hope and change, but if you don’t have change use your credit card.
Franz – three members of the public here are all of the finance committee. The parking fund runs a deficit every year? (no, a surplus)
Moreland – Capital Projects – cash on hand was $267k, plus payment of $60k from regional commission for wood pellet conversion rebate. The means $328k. We still have projects that gets us down to $239, then another $100k or so of additional projects. First is elevator at parking garage. Having it outside is unprotected, and cab is rusting. Urgency is rising to replace interior cab. It’s a safety issue so $52k to replace elevator cab. Second items are bike racks. Planning department parking study was for more bike parking and storage, so $15k for series fo bike racks for parking garage. Old lockers come out, and new racks go in. Waterproof decks seals – a necessary expense for parking garage having stores on first floor. If seals break water gushes down into stores paying rent. $30k for Preston Parking lot. We did Harmony and Harris and Gibson Aiken. Preston comes now. It looks like it has been cratered by meteors. Time is right to replace and add new asphalt. Landscaping needs some refreshing. Lastly, a concept. I’ve been communicating with Stephanie Bonin for more attractive signage at parking garage. Signs there are unwelcoming. Ugly, institutional. Make it more user friendly. Town would commit 10k and DBA would match, and we’d work together for new signage.
Quipp – when we discuss this again can Stephanie come answer questions? What would it look like?
Moreland – it is conceptual. If they can match, then we’d work on the project.
Elwell – only implemented with future approval of selectboard.
McLoughlin – maybe coordinate with bus signs.
Wessel – I like the partnership model. Depressed that so much of parking garage is required before bond is paid off.
McLoughlin – an inordinate amount of design flaws.
Elwell – many deficiencies were due to cost cutting. Don’t just lop off pieces to make something affordable. Needs to be built properly, like police and fire facility projects.
McLoughlin – public has told me there needs to be routine maintenance or cleaning of garage, cuz it is used overnight.
Elwell – it is cleaned daily. To a higher standard would cost more, and we could invest in it.
FY20 Solid Waste Budget
Elwell – we’re asking for approval tonight of this one. It’s identical to one presented during general fund discussion in January. If you are ready, we think the number reflect accurately the budget as you reviewed it in December. We’re trying to calibrate the success of more recycling and compost, so fewer bags being sold, so we run a deficit, so we transfer more each year from General Fund. We’re getting better at this. We expect the lowest transfer yet, but still not calibrated. Everything else is expected and unchanged, so we recommend approval of the FY20 Solid Waste budget.
Wessel – in your memo, you noted a drop in WSWMD’s assessment? Why?
Moreland – a significant drop, due to closing of MRF. And district has new source of income from solar project. Less operational, and compost is creating revenue.
Wessel – Triple T – our hauler since 2008? Do we check in on them occasionally?
Elwell – we monitor quality ongoing. When to bid this work out again? We have a contract until 2024.
Quipp – tipping fee is fee charged to ?
Elwell – at the gate to drop material off. There are caulking costs and tipping. Tipping for recycling varies. Market is pretty bad, but up and down. Typically charged per ton. Cost and volume has gone up for recycling.
Quipp – MRF was a big deal – do we know where our recycling ends up?
Elwell – we could ask for a report.
Quipp – let’s ask the question.
Wessel – cardboard is hot right now.
Elwell – plastics have been bad for a few years.
Schoales – glass isn’t doing well.
Wessel – better than raising price on bags!
Franz – I want to know what happens to our recycling, too. Are we separating so they dump in all in the same pit somewhere else?
Elwell – we don’t need to separate. Compost is processed locally and being sold. Recycling is now commingled if you want. material taken in big batch of recycled material to Rutland, then separated and processed – we’ll find out how.
Staff directed by selectboard to find out where recycling and trash end up.
Quipp – “there is no such place as away”
Rescue Inc Contract
Elwell – now a 3 year contract rather than 1 year. Better for all of us. Agreement includes hand annotation saying it can be cancelled in other years if necessary.
Quipp – if things don’t work out, what are other options?
Elwell – hire someone else from outside, or expand our own services, which would cost more either way. We like this.
Quipp – what info does Rescue provide to us? Overdose data?
Elwell – yes, they are often at the same scenes, they communicate with fire department. It’s a contracted service so we don’t manage them like our own departments.
Quipp – if they have monthly reports, I’d like to see them. (ok)
Tiny Knotweed Grant
Wessel – a cute tiny grant
Elwell – competition for the “small and inspiring grant”. Actual grant program names! This is $600 to help us manually control Japanese knotweed.
accepted and appropriated!
There are town vacancies. You are invited to apply and do your stuff! A full list will be circulated soon.
Elwell – call out opportunities for service.
They each read some vacancies. (Obsolete, useless positions are still available!)
Elwell – to save people time, you’ve made a decision about Energy Coordinator not being refilled, so maybe not encourage public to apply for that one until a decision has been made. Temporarily not available.
Jan Anderson – all committees have vacancies due to expirations in June at end of fiscal year. In June you can do appointments.
Elwell -some new, and some reappointments.
Wessel – let’s remind public of July meetings change – when is it?
Elwell – July 9th.