The Brattleboro Selectboard held their only meeting of July. Despite objections from many landlords, the board approved a new rental housing inspection program, and despite numerous statements of support they put off deciding on how best to deal with issues of sustainability.
New tax rates for FY20 were set, a 3-month day work pilot program was funded, Groundworks received $100,000 for housing, and more.
The meeting starts a bit late.
Brandie – First, BCTV warns of possible problems with the cable signal this evening. Watch online. Second, thanks to Brattleboro Goes Fourth for the 4th of July. I wasn’t able to attend, but heard good things. Thanks to O’Connor family again for their efforts.
Peter Elwell – the Town will place three portapotties in parking lots and on the Common. Indoor public restrooms are not available 24-7. So, during overnight, there are no sanitary facilities. Town employees have found this summer significant amounts of human waste around town, so this is urgent public health matter. A contractor will put them up, Groundworks will be a partner of them, and will empty a sharps container available there. About $1000 a month. We’re look at more permanent (Portland Blue) facilities, but they are expensive. We need to do what is affordable right now, and a long term solution later.
Daniel – Friday people will gather in Pliny Park to end human detention camps – a protest of inhumane treatment of refugees. 8:30 in evening.
Tim – we had a rough weekend in Windham county – we lost 5 more in the county to opioid abuse. It happens too often. A tragedy and public health emergency in my opinion.
Dick Degray – Isn’t the River Garden a public restroom during the day?
Elwell – they need permission to use facilities.
Degray – I thought they were to offer public access to restrooms. Dpo we have a no smoking ordinance for all properties and parks?
Elwell – not on all municipal property, but in the parks, I think so.
Degray – there is no signage in the parks I’m in, and there is a lot fo smoking going on. It needs to be addressed. Pliny Park and Plaza Park, under heavy use, have become very cluttered with trash. Canisters are overflowing and there’s a lot of trash in those parks. It’s very detrimental and a real eyesore. There is a lot of other trash not being picked up. Whoever is responsible should make a swing there. They should be dumped on a daily basis. It’s an eyeore. We need to do a better job.
Peter Landry – I noticed new bike stencil markings on Williams St… is that the main route into town from West Brattleboro. Do we know the park hours at Plaza Park? Is there a sign? 8-10pm? The sign should be reinstalled. Alcohol and smoking of marijuana in parks is a concern. I work at the Holstein bldg and have yet to see an officer come to the park and have conversations with the people who are there. Litter is a problem. Park is also being used for storage of personal belongings. 3-8 people sleep there overnight and leave their items there during the day. They use the tree as a restroom.
Elwell – We were requested to pu bike lanes on Williams St and there wasn’t enough room, so we put the stencil marks to designate lanes for bikes and cars.
Brandie – there is daily outreach tot he park. I’m on that team. The police, Turning Point, and I were there today.
Elwell – we’ll have a time for you to talk about policing with Chief, but as a broad brush statement – the police mission is to differentiate between those doing harm to others and those who need help. Every day they make those decisions. We are not criminalizing the gatherings of folks with no where else to go. We need to be frank that arresting someone for misdemeanor conduct will spend a lot of time and not cure anything, so we’re trying to manage and balance community interests every day.
A Vermont Table’s Coridon Bratton- a catering company around for 10-15 years. Moved here a year ago. We cater parties all around the region, and now will have in-house offerings in Midtown Mall area (backside cafe space).
Liz – I met Cori when he donated soup, and it is great he moved his business to Brattleboro, moved here and married his high school sweetheart. The space is lively and I look forward to visiting.
Daniel – what will you serve?
Cori – a variety that changes with seasons and I’ll draw from my travel and street foods.
Tim – that’s a cool space…
Cori – we’ll be open for special events, then open to public later this year.
Approved! 4-0 (no Schoales tonight)
Water & Sewer Truck
Elwell – we often buy these on state contract, but this was late for this year, so we put bid out, and Faith’s Ford for $38,392 was the low bid, including an extended warranty and credit for a trade-in vehicle for Utilities Division service truck.
Rental Housing Registration and Inspection Program
Brandie – the second reading and public hearing.
Elwell – the first reading was at you last meeting, and landlords had questions. There are two that we’ve addressed in a memo from the Fire Dept. I’ll summarize – who will be expected and not? While some provide public housing, the only units owned and operated on permanent basis inspect annual by HUD standards are exempt. There will be units that get inspected more often than our program. A voucher tenant may change to a regular tenant, so we don’t feel we should exempt those. BHP administers a program related to vouchers. That shouldn’t be included in the exemption. The rules are fundamentally different.
– separate form that, landlords wanted protections for tenants that do damages. We didn’t mention penalties. State law says tenants can be fined if they tamper with or remove carbon monoxide detectors, so we incorporated that in for tonight.’s version.
Brandie – I open the public hearing.
Will – property owner on Elliot Street – there was a concern about billion at time of inspections, and a concern on my part and others that the lump sum billing could be several hundred dollars or thousand dollars. I consider myself lucky that I won’t be billed for 4 years. Would it not be fair to bill everyone on a quarterly basis, like water and sewer? It might be more equitable. “It’s only dollars a month” but that could be several thousand if a building has many units. It would be a steady income stream, and more fair.
Elwell – if the board finds that request compelling, we could set up a system like that. If you want to do that, defer final action on this and we can look at all the related issues and bring a proposal back. Other communities bill annually but we thought it would be better to bill when the inspection work was being done, rather than when you aren’t being inspected. It’s not the only way to do this.
Brandie – Let’s hear everything out then talk this out.
(members make notes on questions to recall later)
Fric – I have a couple of comments and concerns. One is the tenant damage and retaliatory calls for inspections. My experience is that enforcement is pretty much non existent – police come and look but nothing happens. I don’t know why they won’t take it up. Tenants have taken down smoke detectors and I don’t know anyone cited for that. This creates another situation – we should pickup everyone’s trash and recycling and inspect all the houses – single family and all. If the issue is fire inspection and health, there is no difference between a rental or a single family – it doesn’t matter how it is owned. I feel like you are picking winners and losers here and it isn’t appropriate.
Brandie – I prefer we don’t address that right now.
Tim – OK.
A Landlord – back in the day, we had regulations like these and they were a pain in the ass. It came to a head when someone’s place burned down and they died. Tenants had blocked entry. It ended up with a suit to the Town, and the Town elected to repeal all the ordinance related to this. Since that time, the state regs have been applied, and it works very well. Not much problem with tenants annoying the fire department. We get along and there have been no lawsuits. I’d hate to see us go back, and take on the liability. I’m opposed.
Dart Everett – a landlord since 1981 – many parts scare me, but tenants can cause problems we might be cited for, and there is nothing in this against tenants. Len Howard inspected an apt with smoke detectors were down and a window was broken. Under this, it will go on my file. It should be clearly stated that if tenants are to blame they should be cited and not on the landlords’ record.
Dick Degray – Questions. What happens if we end up going to court, who will pay for that if Lenny has to go to court. Where is that pot of money.
Elwell – the salaries are paid as always.
Degray – is it my understanding that this will be done on overtime?
Elwell – inspectors assisting will be firefighters working regular shifts, and helping on their off days paid with overtime. There are strict regs about who you can hire as independent contractors. Here it would be employees with benefits. This is cost effective for eh town.
Degray – overtime becomes an expected part of the salary, and it is a bad deal for the town. It should be a full-time staff position. Commercial bldg owners don’t get trash pickup but we pay taxes for them, then we pay extra for dumpsters. I’m opposed to overtime. It should be a full-time staff position.
Brandie – you are almost to two minutes..
Degray – This is a public hearing, so I’ll ask my questions – is there something if someone gets a violation they will be reinspected, or back on the four year cycle?
Elwell – it gets more active, then back on the 4 yr cycle.
Degray – will this rate be frozen for 8 years? Raises come for firefighters…
Elwell – it is set for a four year cycle, but goal is not to raise it in each four year cycle.
Degray – this should be a full-time position for the town.
Lee – there seems to be a lot of things that could happen right after an inspection. If someone won’t come for another four years? A tenant will talk to a landlord, but then come to you. This seems like a fix that would do the trick. Something could go wrong after the inspection.
Jaqui – I’ve been a landlord for 20 years and now manage a couple fo buildings. There have been problems and they’ve accelerated in the last five years. If nothing is done, buildings will go down. People say it works well, but they may not be taking into consideration that last few years. The opioids crisis and non-tenants in buildings . A more frequent inspection is a positive thing, and any extra attention paid to a single landlord or building will result in houses being cleared out and problems as eliminated as they can be. What we need is more cooperation and exchanges between officials and good landlords who take care of their buildings, for the safety and health of everybody. I hope when you consider this you consider everything – there are good and bad tenants and landlords. Trust the wisdom of the fire department. These guys go in there every day, saving lives and sometimes not able to.
Will – a single person iced to do the job? If that were the case there would be uniformity in treatment of all codes. I’d welcome it.
Tim – the billing question. Maybe we explain how it is proposed to work would help.
Elwell – we’d send a letter informing of the inspection, it gets conducted, and invoice will be sent to landlord for inspection. If it passes you get a certificate. if not, you get a letter explaining where you failed. Billing will be handled out fo fire dept. If we set it up as a recurring bill, we’d likely shift it to the finance department. There is time allowed.
Fisher – 30 days from receipt of invoice.
Tim – it seems clean and understandable that payment is made when inspection is made. The only people who have a problem seem to be people with multiple units. Maybe above a certain number of units could be billed differently.
Elwell – an owner of more units – we think what is proposed is fair, since more units means more income.
Daniel – anyone not in first year has plenty of time to prepare for this. I have some bills I pay once a year that I save up for. That first year, when are people getting a bill?
Elwell – late Sept or early Oct would be first bills.
Daniel – a few months to save up $75. I’m pretty disappointed that in a public hearing that landlord people would come without reading the ordinance. I’m pretty shocked. I also hear an adversarial relationship between landlords and tenants. I loved when landlords lived in the building and took care of it. My experience has been good, but work I do at SEVCA. A client told me today they had a lack of response from landlords. I hear mistrust on both sides. Why be a landlord. If you don’t like tenants, make there is a question that this is the right line of work.
Fric – I’d like to respond.
Brandie – After the board speaks.
Elwell – full-time. It’s like the billing cycle. There’s no right way to do it. We chose this way. We think it will be more versatile and responsive. By having a team, we’ll respond better. It will also be more cost effective. It’s not to say it is wrong to hire. One full time position would cost more than the $50k to implement this program and would only offer one person, who wouldn’t always be available.
Brandie – smoke detectors should be in ordinance.
Elwell – as I said in my summary, we proposed a change that takes language of state’s law and puts it in our ordinance. We’ll need evidence tenant did damage to smoke and monoxide detectors, but we’ll have a way to take that action.
Tim – the issue of tenants possibly damaging things. It doesn’t make sense to me that you wouldn’t want more inspections. You get tenants and wonder what’s going on, because laws protect privacy, but if an inspection comes up you can get in there and see what’s going on, and you can check if fire safety, and have proof of what was inspected. You’ll have proof you made improvement. 4 years seems better than barely every ten years. It’s not the same to be a tenant as a homeowner. Tenants expect to rent a safe abode. Don’t need to inspect all homes in town.
Elwell – also, the law recognizes difference between safe facilities , commercial facilities, rented residential, and owner occupied… there are many classifications.
Chief Bucossi – we have no authority in a single family home. In VT, their home is their castle.
Fric – I didn’t hear anyone say they didn’t read the ordinance. If something is a state rule it is a law and enforceable, so what difference is it in our ordinance? I pay school taxes but have no kids and don’t mind. The thing I was addressing is that tenants and landlords are treated differently. When one class can get away with something, it creates or exacerbates problems. If this is a public good, and tenants are grownups, they need to be held accountable. Landlords should be accountable. But we don’t treat everyone fairly. It creates an adversarial relationships. Most tenants are good…
Will – the billing situation. It has been stated it is $1.56 a month, why not bill it that way. You brought it up.
Tim – I wouldn’t want to pay it that way.
Will – some would like to pay quarterly. You brought up the $1.56 per month.
Tim – for perspective.
Will – it would make sense to bill it at a more manageable rate. $75 x 5-6 paid in 30 ays?
Brandie – why not pay into an escrow account.
Will – I rent subsidized hosing, not at a market rate. Why do I have to do the escrow account when you have the facility to do quarterly billing.
Brandie – ready to make a motion?
Elizabeth makes motion to approve it as is.
4-0 unanimous, no changes.
Liz – we educate children because we need to have an educated public.
Groundworks Housing Resource Center Project
Elwell – earlier this year the Town applies for a grant for the housing rescue project. Apllied for $500k and matched it with a $50 contribution. It was funded, but at $400k. Groundworks didn’t ask for this tonight. Staff brought this to you because we believe that keeping project on time is important to the project and community. Program Income Funds can be used for affordable housing. This project requires an additional commitment. We suggest another grant of $100k. Program Income Fund is accused over the years from funds that started as federal dollars via the state of vt for economic development or housing. When loans are paid back, half of proceeds come to the town and half go to the state. Currently has over $600k in it. Doesn’t come from taxes.
Groundworks John Hoover and R. Hendrick.
Hoover – a correction. The Housing Resource Center is a SEVCA project and we’ll give a final name later this year. We’re calling it 56 Main Project for now. It will improve day shelter space and have new home for seasonal overflow and put staff under one roof. We’re just under $2 million raised so far. We need and received community support. One update, GPI will be construction management firm for this.
R – A late fall completion for 2020-2021 shelter season. We still need a location for this coming year. Unlikely we can return to Winston Prouty – they have a prospective tenant. Leaves us without an option this year. It may be the 4th time we did this search. Grateful for support of town and this helping.
Liz – will this allow Groundworks to have a 4 season shelter?
R – no. We hope to get to that point, but cost is prohibitive. And funding restrictions for when we can operate. Some only fund cold weather shelter.
Tim – a prohibition?
R – no, but we need different funding for that.
Hoover – we do operate a year round shelter, but seasonal shelter is seasonal.
Tim – can’t think of a better use for some of this program income.
Degray – How much is in the fund? (Just over $600k)
Brandie will abstain from the vote, “as an employee of Groundworks and my office will be in this building.”
FY20 Tax Rates
Brandie – moving to New Business…
Elwell – the state is still setting education property rates, due to changes and Act 46. We expected to get that info by this meeting. Yesterday, we learned we won’t get it in time, but we have validated the methodology to due the calculations. While we don’t have final certification, and won’t for days or weeks, we have numbers that should be close. If what we get is materially different we’ll bring back an amendment. The reason we have this tonight is that any other alternative would require something difficult in Brattleboro. So this is the normal format.
Municipal Tax Rate – Town – $1.2594 dollars per $100 of value.
Downtown Improvement District – $.1305 per $100 of value.
Tri Park Special Assessment – $6.8785 per $100 for utility improvements.
$ 1.6467 per $100 for homestead.
$1.5368 per $100 for non residential property education tax
Tim – underline the fact municipal taxes are going down. Something to celebrate, but we have other taxes to pay.
Daniel – the numbers speak for themselves.
Fric – seems perfect to roll that into the public tax rolls.
Degray – what was total grand list? ($11,697,767.08 – over $1 billion in property value.) What is our CLA? (in the 90’s, which is within compliance rate)
Daniel – what is a CLA?
Degray – Common level of appraisal – maybe YOU should read something. As it goes down our tax rate goes up. When will we do reassessment again?
Elwell – as CLA goes down, taxes do go up, but it is intended to equalize taxes. Each town does its own assessing, so it makes sure each community pays a fair share.
Bosworth – this would be Aug 15th bills for us in town? (yes)
Tim – the cents increase?
Elwell -the reduction is 1.68 cents in town tax rate. $16.80 per $100k of property value.
Tim – it’s directly related to our 1% local option sales tax.
Liz – and trucks we bought for less that we expected.
Elwell – the actual rise – homestead is 2.8587 to 2.9861, a 4.74 cents increase. No residential rate is increasing about half a cent.
O’Connor – those are the total tax rates, municipal and education.
Elwell – education is more difficult this year.
Tim – for perspective, we can compare last year to this year.
Liz – a “man bites dog” story.
Work Today Program
Request for $65 for three month pilot program.
Emilie Kornheiser – spurred by panhandling concerns and people having trouble finding work, we looked for a way to have easier access to work when they are ready and able to work. A low-barrier work program. We’ve worked on many issues. This is not a one stop solution. I want to make sure people don’t think people asking for money should be shuffled over here – it needs to be voluntary. Wew want to test this for three months to work out kins of transportation, payroll, grants. Grants are easier when something is tested. We’d hire a part time coordinator and would help with work sites, transportation, lunch. Three days a week. We are taking an administrative overhead cost for Youth Services.
Tim – could you give pitch about what you’ll be handling.. insurance and liability, etc.
Emilie – we’ll serve as as a temp agency, and others will contract for those services. Be need to protect the employed and the employer. We have liability and aren’t taking jobs from others in the organization. With the Town, jobs will be supplementary – litter clean up, wall painting, and options at library for those who can’t do manual labor. They do something like this in NM. In a TED Talk. A bit different though.
Daniel – this is a program where someone can show up at start of say and get paid at end of day?
Emilie – yes. Some might get a payroll card. We’ll set up accounts with BSL that can’t be overdraft. Yes.
Daniel – if someone works for a full day – 6 hrs, they will get a gross amount (no – a net amount.)
Tim – what’s the goal in your mind? Where’s the why? This is an old conversation and one possible solution. One of four or five ways. It won’t be a cure all. What’s the goal of doing this?
Emilie – Over last 20 years, a big increase in low cash people. Benefits have become tighter so people are less likely to have cash in their pocket. Everyone need to have some cash i their pockets. people need money to get by. We have a workforce shortage and easy for some to get jobs, but maintaining the job is difficult. Childcare, transportation, changing schedules. There is an essential dignity to work, and value to providing purposeful time spent.
Liz – a similar program for youth?
Emilie – yes, we match teens with mentors. It has more funding for that. Yes, we have an employment program for youth.
Degray – where’s the $65k come from?
Elwell – from other savings in the budget. Each year we have expenses that arise and some things don’t get spent. We usually end the year ahead. $65k ought to be covered in normal course of town business.
Degray – what’s the admin cut for Youth Services?
Emilie – 10% which is pretty low.
Degray – how measure success?
Emilie – don’t want to make promises. Ppersonally, accountability is core to my life purpose. Once success is people would have money in pocket, community would be cleaned up, and people would take responsibility.
Degray – if I wanted to hire people for downtown projects, is that very doable?
Emilie – help watering flowers? I don’t want to help you, but we are imagining that we be brokering those sorts of community partnerships.
Degray – there’s much I’d be happy to hand off. The insurance piece is a big piece.
Emilie – that’s something we cover.
Fric – beneficiaries could pay for this, but this seems just like education, in that it is a common good and an exciting project. I might use this as an employer. How will you screen people and give accurate info about what we’re getting. People with drug problems, tools disappear, works schedules become erratic. That’s a big hurdle, and a liability that isn’t covered.
Emilie – we can look at bonding if we see that concern. We carry some liability for this. We’re not hiring people for 6 months. Hiring fresh every day. Are you ready today? That’s the screening.
Fric – However, if I let them on my job site or in people’s home, I want to know more about them. Do they have a criminal history?
Emilie – you will not. That’s the dif between hiring someone and getting this type of temp worker.
Michelle – I’m familiar with Youth Services. Is this project for that youth age range (up to 24) or for all ages.
Emilie – Youth Services has been serving adults for 40 years despite name. All ages.
Michelle – forever young. Three month pilot program is a small amount of time. Do you have other prospective funding sources?
Emilie – we can think of sustainability planning – it is bringing in other employers. We will seek grants, but bulk of funds would come from other employers opting in. The bulk of money is to pay people directly. We’ll try to fund admin through grants.
Stephanie Bonin – thank you. What a heavy lift this was. I’m thrilled to help find other employers or use DBA as employer.
Daniel – how confined are you in hiring the coordinator?
Emilie – we’re combining two part time positions into one full time position. I’ll send around job description if this is approved.
Tim – I have complicated feelings about this but am impressed bu the work. This may be the first time people have heard of this and it is taxpayer money, and there may be reactions, but it is worthwhile. Some may think municipal govt shouldn’t employ at this level (via taxes). Can you comment on $15 wage vs minimum wage?
Emilie – it is important to do this with dignity. We want to model best behavior.
Tim – I think it is a worthwhile goal, but people will question the rate set higher than many other jobs in town, including some employees of town.
Emilie – the majority of min wage workers are generally single mothers supporting household. The $15/hr is here. This is not a full time job. People who make more hourly don’t have benefits of salaried employee.
Tim – would you think program would be successful if you did two days a week? Instead of three?
Emilie – how about five days a week?
Tim – no!
Emilie – 3 days a week has an important rhythm that wouldn’t work with 2 days a week. It’ll be easier and more effective. Two days would make it hard to dig in, but if that’s all, we’ll try it out that way.
Tim – can I ask the board?
Daniel – part of why I asked about take home per day is because some are trying to pay for a motel room. Could you pay for it working three days a week? It isn’t enough. So what will they do to supplement the income? One hope was panhandling would go away. When I see 2-3-5 days, three days seems like a middle ground. It’s a pilot. I’ll be curo=ious about how this impacts lives and if it lifts them out of having to ask for change to get a motel room in summer months.
Liz – I think three days a week is fine. It’s a difficult program to get off the ground.
Brandie – three is good, will you do MWF?
Emilie – probably a MTW block.
Sustainability at RTM!
Elwell – we’ve been looking at this for years. If you want to create the position, we need to define sustainability broadly, not just energy. Some at RTM wanted a sustainability staff position. You gave us time to create a job description. Town staff would talk about value added by this position, and community could present the position. I’d like to be quiet now and let you hear for the community members who worked hard on this.
Oscar Heller – not sure how much you know, but after RTM, the energy committee created a working group, the group kept growing to an email group of 25 people. We meet regularly to find out why community is interested in this position- and how to create a good position for the town. You have some stuff in your packets. The way I picture the job. Town staff suggested it be a part of the Planning Department – planning and strategy with focus on sustainability. It is many different things. Town needs to be sustainable anyway. There are equity issues, there are planning issues, there are weather-related issues. Many dimensions to this. The way I picture the job – in some broad way, like an assistant Planning Director, with focus on climate and sustainability . They’d do research, outreach, monitoring, measuring, coordinating, and be an expert for town staff. We all feel basically good about this, energy committee supports this, ADA committee supports it.
Tony Duncan – Extremely impressed with RTM – representative democracy. Working with this committee and town I’m impressed with desire to find solutions to a real problem. 25 people with different perspectives. High level of discussion. I was impressed with peter. Great help in this. This amount of money and position are woefully inadequate for this issue. Consequences are likely to be very serious. Brattleboro doesn’t have the resources to deal with this issue. Having this position with authority is important town-wide, and this person will is a crucial first step. I support first steps. Coordinating with non-profits, and potential funding from state might happen. Haven’t heard anyone suggest another use of this money that would be as valuable.
Brandie – we have one hour to finish the meeting tonight…
Fric – in that case. let’s spend the rest of the hour figuring this out. The importance of this issue can’t be understated. Climate change facts can seem overwhelming. The amount of disruption now comes from when we were born, and what we’re doing now will play out in 50-60 years. We as leaders need to take responsiblity, and need to figure out how we are affecting a generation away. This is a modest start that we all need to take incredibly seriously. I’m committed to major changes in my life and others. Hopefully a better life living lighter on this earth. There is a confusion about money and quality of life. Money is just a tool. Get engaged personally!
Kathy Urffer – I wear many hats. On behalf of planning commission, the board met on tow occasions to work through this and all agree and voted to support this position. We support having the person in the Planning Dept and on management team. As a resident, it seems like a useful use of funds to hire someone. It could leverage additional funds. Our previous part time positions got us grants, so this should do even better. better than a one time use fo funds. As RTM member, it is important to pay attention of will of people and work of committees. I’m more conservative than some of the younger energy in town. It’s important to hear their voice. Respecting committees is important. As River Steward, I’d be pleased to have an additional person working on regional issues and new perspectives.
Bosworth – I agree, but one thing is we had an energy coordinator. This position is different. The right person could show leadership in a number of different areas. We addressed some of those with current staff. Having another person focused on this work would be important to us. Nearby communities with this position have seen value from it. I support this. My bias is toward energy, but can see other possibilities. Resilience could be addressed. Hope the board supports the actual position.
Tom Franks – I came 7 months ago suggesting this, and we had a long discussion. At the time, you directed town staff to go look at something for next budget cycle. RTM now brings this to you, created by 25 people, collectively working many hours, that says create this position. It exceeds my wildest dreams. Thanks.
Eames – the Town is demanding this position. We want the concepts of climate change at forefront of all discussions going forward. There is so much real, tangible work that needs to be done. This person will have things every day, and can promote the vision as well. I’m for it, vote for it.
Liz – thanks! It was a difficult process. An important topic. Everyone would agree the things on the list are worthwhile. No one will disagree with them. My concern is from my background in urban planning, and most of the things on the list are already being accomplished. I’m mindful that our charge is to weigh having $100k for position vs having $100k for sustainable actions, and that’s the charge we have before us. Which of these things does the town already do? I could go over each things and tell you it is in plan or in the works, but that would be tedious. I could meet and talk about each item. The majority of things are already being addressed. We need to talk further to narrow this list down to see if we need a person, or a committee, or specific plans to spend money. A lot of these things cross into select board goals for the year. We’re working to improve public transit. There is a sustainability angle to it. More work needs to be done to refine this list and understand what the town already is doing. I have a list here of the energy audit the town did and how each element is being accomplished. There is a town policy on procurement. We always ask for the most sustainable trucks and we buy local. I don’t see the position as being necessary. We can refocus these goals. I wouldn’t want to spend $100k on something that’s not quite ripe. Climate change is real and pressing, but it would be a disservice without fully fleshing out what we are currently doing now.
Tim – I have similar thoughts. I see time and time again that the Town is doing thing well already with town staff. Some things are out of our ability to do. This will sound obnoxious, unless you are in this position you don’t learn everything the staff is good at. Our staff is good at getting grants for these sorts of things, has already made amazing strides here. The knowledge that we do things really well doesn’t seem to be a part of this group. We lead the state in landfill and recycling goals. All sorts of terrific work on storm runoff. I could go down the list. I’d like to understand what happens to the energy committee if we hire this person. We’d commit to $100k of tax money each year, unable to be spent on actual actions. This feels like an intermediary position. We can list all the good steps we’re taking each year. Part of our task is not to start with why we should have this, but whether this is the right thing to do to help with climate change and sustaibality. I haven’t been convinced that this person will help us greatly. We have to be careful about what we do. We’d lose $100k a year to do this. I see great resources in the community, and a great energy committee, and our planning department. I don’t see how hiring this person moves that bar. I had to rewatch the RTM to see what our task was. The demand was $10k for energy efficiency and coordination, then $50k, then $100k. Some wanted the coordinator. But some of the emotion was about the crisis of climate change, not the wisdom of this position. The amendment to get $100k was only supported by 50% of the vote. It was clear at the end, but the amendment to add the extra $50 wasn’t do much. How many wanted a coordinator is impossible to gauge. I haven’t been convinced this is the best use of taxpayer money.
Brandie -I did see some items that are duplicated, but I’m not sure that’s exactly what is meant. The building code! We’re working on that already. I can see some concern of duplication. Where I differentiations with board members is I do feel that it was for a position or projects, I’m fairly certain that people want the position. If town staff supports this it shows me that they could be freed up to do more work. Some things may come off this list, but having someone is what will allow the position to flesh out. It is a yearly tax burden, like the HR director and others. I don’t like going against RTM. I like detail. I think the way to go is to create the position and iron out kinks. Town staff does a great job but they may need some help so they can focus on other tasks related to the work that needs to be done.
daniel – yes the HR director. Town staff was doing some of that work. I’ve spent much time in this room arguing for increased attention and investment and action around climate change. When I hear emotional reactions, people may not have paid attention over the last few years. There are two documents – a bullet point list if goals and policies and a vision, and a position summary. The lengthy list of possibilities does have some duplication, but the we drill down to what they do… they’ll track progress toward milestones. We have town plan goals. Instead of relying on volunteer committees and underpaid positions. the reason there was a desire to fund this with the money behind it that is more up to the challenge. In RTM it got mixed up with feelings about climate change. $100k to solve climate change! Investing in a staff position with a clear focus will add value to town work and improve lives and reflect the wishes of RTM members. I don’t feel going against the wishes of that body. The position will get clearer. The general duties described are worthwhile. It won’t rely on volunteer spirt. We wouldn’t ask our library director to be a volunteer. I have some doubts, but am in favor of the position.
Liz – there is a difference between staff supporting this and staff advocating. I believe staff is neutral and has accommodated the committee. 80% of things on the list are already being accomplished in the community. A position of this type is a luxury and notapporpriate when we have other pressing needs. We could hire this person and it won’t add one dollar to a sustainable future.
Elwell – We are neutral, but it is different. The reason that town staff has supported broadening the definition of sustainability. It is becoming a profession. Community sustainability is broader that climate change. We think that is very important. We need to be defining it broadly and not just energy and efficiency. Sue Fillion and I did the position summary. We want to build on work done by planning department, with an emphasis on sustainability, but broader that energy. We’ll look at equity or lack thereof. Also, the position will add real value because it will do something that isn’t being done currently – the analysis and outreach. The scary is more like $50-65k. We think this would use most of the $100k, but it will occur year after year. The HR position is a basic organizational function and complex. That was a gap in our basic structure serving community needs. I view this differently. I don’t see it as the same essential nature. It’s not an absolute necessary for us to have this position. Someone said “and we end where we began..” There is really something good here, but I don’t think we have to do it. It’s a pure, hard policy decision for you. Will the value be sufficient. There isn’t one right answer to it. Staff can’t decide. The community can’t decide. Where you land as a group has to be based on the tally of your individual hard decisions.
Brandie – do we have to vote tonight, and if vote splits?
Elwell – a spoilt vote would be no action. You can defer to a future meeting, or end with no action. It can be brought up again. You seem split and one member absent, you might defer for a full board. You might not have a full board on Aug 6. So maybe Aug 20th.
Tim – this isn’t ready for prime time. I don’t see it. It will cost us money and they’ll ask us for money. We have limited resources. I fully support spending $100k on community decided actions. I just don’t think this is appropriate.
Liz – I’d like to meet with committee to explain what we’re already doing.
Brandie – we won’t vote.
Oscar – that list is not intended as a list of things not done. It was a list of community goals about sustainability. We know town staff and organizations are doing much. That’s why this position is about coordinating.
Tim – you did a good job.
Daniel – I’d like an update on climate goals in the town plan.
Brandie – Lise will meet with you and we’ll bring this up, refined, on Aug 20th. Thanks!
Pool Deck Replacement Projec
Elwell -two bids, we’re taking the low bid of $83,800 from Bernie Larock. It is one phase of a five phase project.
Collective Bargaining Agreement with Steelworkers’ Local 944
Elwell – a collective bargaining agreement with the union that represents most of the Town’s Public Works, Utilities, Parks, and Facilities Maintenance employees. We had good, respectful meetings and was unanimously approved by the union. This has been negotiated in Executive Sessions so it is no surprise to the board.
Tim – a great negotiation
Selectboard Goals for 2019-2020 – Review of Status
Elwell – no action required, I suggest we refer the public to the document on town web site or at our office.
Westernmost Parking Meters on Grove Street – Recommendation to Change 30-Minute Limit to 2-Hour Limit
Elwell – Daniel requested this for clients at SEVCA. Everyone agrees this is the happy medium for these two spots by their offices. A change to 2 hours rather than 30 minutes. If you agree, we’ll bring an ordinance.
Daniel – that is all true!
Re-Certification of Compliance with Town Road and Bridge Standards for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans)
Elwell – you just did this, but the state has done a change in stormwater management. One part is the general permit for municipal roads, and best practices for maintenance to preserve water quality. The water quality piece is now merged, and we need to readopt standards for August and beyond.
Grants from Vermont Community Foundation – Accept and Appropriate Grants for Brooks Memorial Library Archival Project (i) Crosby-Gannett Fund (ii) Dunham-Mason Fund
Two grants for archiving and local history at Library. $1290 total.
Elwell – we recommend approval.
Consider Providing Childcare for Selectboard Meetings and Other Community Events – Discussion
Brandie – let’s move this to the next meeting. This might be lengthy.
So moved… (ha!)
Town Committees and Boards – Appointments
Tree Committee – they decide to defer this decision, and look for additional applications.
These folks appointed.
CITIZEN POLICE COMMUNICATIONS COMMITTEE – BRUCE SWEETER
CONSERVATION COMMISSION – LAURIE CALLAHAN
DEVELOPMENT REVIEW BOARD – IAN KIEHLE
DEVELOPMENT REVIEW BOARD ALTERNATE – IAN GOODNOW
PLANNING COMMISSION – JESSICA GELTER
The goal was to end by 10 pm. They end at 10:03pm
Terrific write-up Chris, thank you.
One correction: During the Sustainability coordinator discussion, I think (and hope) that I reported that 59% of the reps supported the rise from 50k to 100k, not 50%… with the point being that while there was definite majority support for the measure, the doubling from 50k to 100k was thought unwise by many (and one spoke directly toward that belief).
I thought that might be wrong but there was no instant replay for me…yes, it would have to be more than 50%! Thanks for the correction. (I should apologize here for all spelling errors, while I’m at it.)
Q: What would Billy Bragg have to say about sustainability? : )
A smoking clarification from Peter
Also, to correct the record on smoking in public parks:
There is no broad prohibition of smoking in Town parks. Smoking is prohibited on playgrounds, sports field benches, and bleachers, as well as at all youth sporting events. Smoking is otherwise permitted in our parks. It also is permitted in all other outdoor public places.