The Brattleboro Selectboard held their first meeting of June, spending most of the time discussing goals, but also approving Utility and Parking budgets for FY20.
Firefighters, administrators, and office staff of Local 98 all got raises, and a new downtown design process will be getting underway.
Chair Brandie Starr returns! It’s a full board.
Starr says she wants to keep things on track. The summer season is a great time to bring ideas to the board, especially those you want funded in the next year. A great time to do that is now until August. In September and beyond, the board will be focused on the budget and less interested in new ideas. Summer is for ideas, fall is for budgets.
Peter Elwell says the solid waste budget question about where materials go has been answered. Garbage and recycling. Garbage goes to three different places. Coventry, Bethlehem and Concord. Recycling is more complicated, and markets have become very volatile. Cassela, the processor, says our cardboard goes to mills for new boxes, mixed paper goes to a pulp factory then shipped overseas, and newsprint goes domestically and overseas depending on the market. Overseas folks still read papers. It gets recycled into new newsprint, and more demand overseas. There is a mill in Vermont that processes it. Milk bottles go to make new plastics. PET bottles make new water bottles, fleece and carpet. Tin is used for new cans, and aluminum gets used over and over again. Tubs and lids are turned into paint cans. Glass is still problematic – of most concern right now. They sell it off to make new glass or into some roadwork and construction sites.
Schoales – the merger of school districts continues apace, and Tuesday June 11 at Dummerston School there will be a presentation of the new budget. Other meeting in Guilford, too. Then a vote of all towns in the district on new budget. The court is still at work.
Franz Reichsman – neither informational meetings in Brattleboro?
Schoales – yes, pretty sure. Oh wait, at Windham Regional Career Center.
Tim Wessel – went to World of Opiates meeting but on by BMH and other agencies. Chad Simmons, police and Fire, Retreat, Turning Point. So many great takeaways. Another meeting coming up. Some statistics. Windham County has 7 % of state’s population, and 19% of overdose fatalities. We have been hit very hard over last year. 8,000 VT resident are in recovery. 1.6% of total population. That’s stunning, too. We’ve been hearing a lot about supply side, but also have to look at demand, and prevention goes a long way toward that. So many talented people working on this problem right now. We as a board and town have limited ability, but we have lots of help and many groups working on it. We should more fully fund Project CARE, and housing. The meeting was inspiring about all the people helping in positive ways, which is better than focusing on effects. There shouldn’t be anonymous letters to the editor in the newspapers. They’ll be a mtg at the Fire Station later in June.
Starr – I couldn’t agree more about all the people helping, and the less helpful contributions over the last week.
Nick Nickerson – I’d like to offer a different paradigm to what Tim said. Legalize drugs, tax and regulate them, use the tax money for rehab and education.
Water & Sewer
Elwell – A review. We have a budget that is increasing operating expenses by less than 2% and we have a 20 year capital improvement plan. We need to replace the water treatment plant and will have details in the fall. Tonight, please approve FY20 Utilities budget.
Wessel – we went through things at the last meeting.
Starr – I’d like you to go through them all again (ha!)
Schoales – we aren’t raising rates because we need to know about the details we’ll get in the Fall.
Elwell – we didn’t need a rate increase at this time, and it would be conjecture to raise rates. A good year to pause.
Daniel Quipp – Overall, the only significant increases are in the cost of health insurance. Good that employees have great health benefits, and shows how messed up our healthcare system is. This impacts our budget, and we need to look for alternatives.
Starr – tangible evidence of a broken system in you selectboard folders!
FY20 Utility Fund budget approved!
Parking Fund Budget
Elwell – Overall the revenues are projected to increase by 8% and expenses by 12% but it is a difficult year to forecast due to all the changes we’ve made. This year it is more of an estimate, but it is an enterprise fund, separate from taxes, and there is a fund balance to cover any deviation from budget as proposed.
Quipp – it’s the tiniest of things – the idea of signs. Kicking in $10k and DBA will do $10k, and we don’t know much about these signs. Patrick?
Moreland – it is conceptual at this point in time. They are to advise on parking matters, and they told us of perceived poor signage at parking garage. It’s not very colorful, pretty, or informative. The concept is to commit some resources and DBA would match those funds, then we could look into redesigning signs to be more friendly and welcoming at Brattleboro Transportation Center.
Elwell – and would happen only if Selectboard approves it. It’s a placeholder.
Quipp – seems like a lot for signs.
Schoales – we get feedback of people not knowing where to go in time.
Wessel – this is an enterprise fund that helps us pay for some things beyond the infrastructure, like the signage would be for people biking or taking busses, and everyone can enjoy new compost and beds in Preston lot. It’s kind of a positive – some good benefit for everyone, not just those parking.
Quipp – I wasn’t just worried about cost. I was wondering about priority, like should $20k should go toward bathroom improvements. Maybe we should do both.
Starr – we should always look for ways to have bathrooms downtown.
FY20 Parking Fund Budget approved.
Goals Setting Part III
Starr – alright, folks.
Wessel – we’ve been pushing this off waiting for you.
Quipp- did you follow along?
Starr – I watched it all.
Elwell – The goals tonight are the same as on May 7 plus some changes. Opioids crisis – collaboration and awareness and town funding has been added, and under Energy Efficiency and Sustainability – to work to increase bus ridership by increasing affordability and access.
Starr – great ideas.
Elizabeth McLoughlin – and we will send the Project CARE brochure to everyone.
Starr – for fundraising?
McLoughlin – for general awareness.
Elwell – it would cost $6,000 to mail to everyone in town.
Quipp – I appreciate the time that town staff took to discuss my suggested goal. The thing that is lacking…it’s about supporting collaboration, working on strategy, and raising awareness… which would highlight needs. I’d like us to be able to catalog our needs as we go along.
Starr – got suggested wording?
Quipp – raising awareness of the crisis and unmet needs… and then consider additional town funding for projects (Groundworks, Turning Point).. could we add the AIDS project for their syringe program?
Elizabeth McLoughlin – that makes me question part 2 – this is separate from Project Care?
Elwell – it’s intended to help Project Care or other related initiatives
Schoales – maybe we have people come in and talk with us?
McLoughlin – haven’t they been here recently?
Wessel – yeah…
McLoughlin – Daniel wanted regular updates.
Quipp – I’d be happy with it as it stands with new language.
Starr – might not be bad to have members of those orgs come in before September to speak to us.
Schoales – town funding – what kind of in-kind contributions can we offer. We have systems and could coordinate with them. We can paint signs and parking lots.
Chief Fitzgerald – funding for Project Care goes through Turning Point. If anyone wants to donate, give it to Turning Point. Currently we only have $2000 from United Way. It’s quickly going away. It is used for Transportation costs. How can we get Turning Point to select board meeting in August? They’ll come with a full presentation.
Starr – have them talk with Peter.
Wessel – and the public forum on the Thursday the 20th. We can’t have all conversations here.
McLoughlin – when and if we approve the goals, what do we do to approve the money to send the brochure out.
Elwell – make another motion after. For an overall summary of your goals, I’ll review…
Schoales – I have comments on other things. Support for self-governance… the senate passed it and there is more activity going on. The House is different. It will be a heavier lift to get it through. We need to think of convening a conference or regional info session for legislators. We should lobby them and make a presentation. If we want this to happen we need to put some work into it, and strategize so we’ll be ready next January.
Schoales – with the diversity – new hHR professional and train… the school district are likely to put a lot of resources into this – planning trainings and such. It would be wise to explore outside diverse workforce. There are pros in the community can talk bout why they live in the community. So, not just diversity issues with our HR person. It needs to be a broad support network.
Schoales – the day work program – continuing frustration for me. We had aimed to get something for this summer, and I hope we see some progress. Can we establish a date to get this done, or look for a new partner. It’s taking a long time. There are models for this.
McLoughlin – I think we have the right people in place. I’d give them more time to get it right.
Schoales – it’s the third year. Maybe a church or other agency could be a sponsor.
McLoughlin – it’s a difficult thing.
Wessel – it says to continue efforts to develop a day work program for those living at the margins…. is this goal wrong? A rewrite?
Schoales – we established this two or three years ago, and if it hasn’t happened, we need to look at the method. Rephrasing won’t work.
Wessel – so goal remains the same. There are reasons why it isn’t happening. It’s difficult.
McLoughlin – if we set this won’t we have more discussion later?
Schoales – need to look at the path we’re on.
Wessel – we’re not all convinced this is a good thing for Brattleboro.
Schoales – it’s on our goals.
Wessel – can’t just snap fingers and have a great program.
Quipp – have we examined and found some answers?
Elwell – main impediments are cost and insurance. Grants and some funding could pay for it, but insurance is a daunting challenge. And to do documentation.
Starr – insurance requires ID and papers – people may not have it. People come to the drop-in center to get day labor now. Even if we figured this all out, documenting who would benefit the most would be a big challenge. Big hurdles, even if set up perfectly. I hesitate on any drop-dead date. It’s bigger than just having someone rake leaves. It’s an HR insurance nightmare.
Elwell – you are establishing annual goals, and setting priorities. Goals are targets. Some roll over from year to year. Tonight you set and edit goals.
Schoales – this would help people get on their feet. It was a concrete effort. We haven’t made adequate progress. I’ll propose we put money in the budget for this. We can take it up at RTM, too. We should redouble our efforts.
Quipp – review of goals often comes late in the agenda? Maybe we put it earlier to have energy and brains to review them, with better brains.
Elwell – it is typically new business, and comes late generally so people who come to the meeting for an item before we get to town business.
Starr – could it be unfinished business?
Elwell – ehhh… no.
Schoales – Two more. Under sustainability officer, committees are working on job descriptions… could we get an update or early look at that in case it is going in a direction we don’t want.
Elwell – in middle of summer sometime you’ll likely see the whole thing, and make decisions then.
Schoales – people have struggled to get a broad range of our community demographic involved, right?
Elwell – there is an informal group of diligent citizens getting a couple fo documents together to express a community vision for the position, and we’re working on how it fits in with town government. More later this summer.
Schoales – updating town website – is there a way to survey or find out what people are looking for? And we haven’t talked about what we want for the new website. Typically people do that before getting a new site.
Wessel – if it isn’t in our goals it doesn’t mean it won’t get done.
Goals approved! (with some quibbling over how motions have and will be made)
McLoughlin request for $6,000 for brochure mailing funds approved as well.
Brattleboro Goes Fourth
Elwell – same parade as usual, so, approve the permit and march in the parade!
Quipp – is that a warned meeting.
Starr – it is fun.
Wessel – some of us do it every year!
McLoughlin – I’d like to thank Kevin and the O’Conners for their work on this event.
Approved! (after more motion madness, and board members racing to make the motion)
Elwell – dogs need to be licensed. This is a good example of Dylan’s Rule and the state is very specific about rules about dogs. On step is that if you miss the deadline, you get notices, then a penalty that could euthanize the dog (which we NEVER DO!) but need to use this state specified language in the warrant.
Starr – I loathe the verbiage and love dogs.
McLoughlin – What is the column about “expires”?
Elwell – the expiration of the rabies vaccination, we think.
McLoughlin – this is a public health matter.
Quipp – so if they don’t license their dog?
Elwell – additional financial penalty.
Chief Fitz – town clerk send two notices, then this list gets created, then animal control tries to contact by phone. Things change. Cathy does a great job. She does it well. Once she goes through the list, then she give a warning, then she issues a ticket with a fine. It is time consuming for her, but there are usually just a handful that get tickets.
Starr – Cathy is an example of compassionate staff!
Dog Warrnet list approved as presented.
Downtown Design Plan
Sue Fillion comes to the fancy table (It’s not that fancy says Quipp.)
Fillion – we got a grant, put out an RFP, interviewed three firms, and chose PlaceSense of Windsor, Vermont. Helped with our land use regs before. This project is focused on small but impactful ways to improve downtown, improving bike and pedestrian access, better “green” stormwater infrastructure. We know bridge will move. Bridge Street will change. We liked this proposal the best. It was fun, they want inclusive engagement. Public art will be addressed as well. We’ll have a “better Block” challenge this summer. We expect the plan late in 2019.
Starr – sounds great.
Schoales – did PlaceSense come out on top?
Fillion – for 4 out of 5 of us. We had great options.
McLoughlin – I know them and respect them and the process.
Quipp – I read downtown action report of 2018. Extension of West River Trail, using the waterfront for more fun, and I’ve been thinking about our public space. For a rural place we have little green space. In 200 Pliny Park was green and pleasant. We should imagine a downtown that with more places to hang out without spending money.
Wessel – donut park days!
Starr – I’d kill for a donut.
Wessel – send for donuts. What’s a charette?
Fillion – an iterative design process with professionals and the public. If you saw work on the Whetstone in 2013 that was a charette.
Fillion – we have been discussing different grant opportunities for trails to downtown.
Starr – I’m really excited about this.
(A motion is needed… Wessel pauses and Quipp jumps in…)
Collective Bargaining Agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 98 and Collective Bargaining Agreement with Brattleboro Professional Firefighters Association
Starr – even more excitement!
Elwell – the next three items are employee compensation. First are two collective bargaining. We’ve had good negotiations and a good atmosphere. All agreements end this June. 2 of 4 are ready. Selectboard has been very involved. There are a number of changes, related mostly to operations and scheduling. Available on Town website an Town Manager office. More than just compensation. Local 98 is the administrative employees – all departments. Those employees are the only ones without a step system. They get across the board raises. Each of three years starting July 1 would be a 3% increase. In the firefighters, there is a step system, and raises are 2.3% in FY20, then 2% in each succeeding years. We wanted some updates, the union got some updates, and in some places we all agreed. Had four meetings for each of these.
Starr – important staff doing important work.
McLoughlin – seems like a fair process.
Wessel – pleased with how it went and thanks for town staff help.
Schoales – striking what some of the firefighters do.
Franz Reichsman – why do it this way? It’s the biggest expense in the budget, but RTM have no way to participate or a window into how this is occurring. I have no idea what happened in negotiations. Why is this the right process and why not a different approach?
Quipp – Unions exist and are fighting for rights of their members and Town is trying to a good job – if we did it all in public it would be messy and unwieldily. I was a union employee for a time and appreciate what union reps did.
Wessel – just as excellent employees have excellent unions, we represent taxpayers, so we need to negotiate in good faith and on a level playing field. It would make it impossible for them to reach for more and us to give more if the process was broken out.
Schoales – you can do open negotiations, but there is an agreement of confidentiality. It’s not that popular.
Elwell – the most important reason this is a better system, in my view, is because it isn’t just about how much people get paid, or what the schedule is. It represents the maintenance of harmonious relations between those performing services and those overseeing the work. It could be gnarly in public, like a family discussing something in front of an audience. The outcomes are transparent. We show strikeouts and underlines so all can see any changes in the outcome. The confidentiality of the process allows for a frank exchange that is necessary. This time was very comfortable and collaborative. We came to good outcomes together, without a spotlight or people taking political positions about it. And last, my own experience in Florida was that you couldn’t do it in private – I’ve done this in public and it was almost always a disaster. The emphasis isn’t on harmonies relations, it is about who wins.
Franz R – I wasn’t suggesting the real housewives of NJ model (in public negotiating) – but maybe a hybrid. Contracts only available since Friday. That’s a short window. Not a good opportunity for public feedback on this. Maybe some leaks or controlled summaries published, or an effort to elicit comment from the public who might wasn’t to take a look at it.
Starr – good to ask questions like that in public.
Local 98 and Firefighters’ new contracts approved!
Pay Increase for Non-Union Employees
Elwell – There are about 20 employees not in any four unions – senior management and confidential employees, and part-timers. There’s no collective bargaining, so we do this. 2% this year is the recommendation.
Wessel – a fair and good act.
Starr – I agree.
McLoughlin – ditto.
Quipp – you’ll see when I vote.
Town Committees and Boards
Elwell – you can approve the slate, as there is no need for nominating and voting tonight. No competition for seats.
(They read the list, but a bit too fast for my typing. I would spell all of your names wrong. Trust me. It does sound like everyone who applied (that’s you!) was appointed.
Wessel – Our coal weigher had a great answer – why interested and what skills? “I can handle tasks when nothing is expected.”
Quipp – nice to see so many stepping up, and more vacancies still exist.
approved, and the meeting ends.