Selectboard Meeting Notes – Sustainability Coordinator Yes, Climate Emergency Maybe Later

The Brattleboro Selectboard listened to a large crowd of concerned citizens before deciding by a split vote to create a new Sustainability Coordinator position for the Town. The length of this agenda item pushed back most other agenda items, which led to rushed discussions and decision making later in the evening.

They did finish everything on the agenda by 10:20.

Comments | 21

  • Preliminaries

    Chair Brandie Starr had no remarks due to a packed agenda; likewise for the Town Manager.

    Award Ceremony for the Police.

    Chief Douglas Johnson did the officiating.It’s the New England Association of Chiefs of Police, Community Policing Award, and Brattleboro got 1st Place for the category of under 15k communities. “You should be very proud of them.” Some applications we throw out, but Brattleboro PD did well and got the award.

    Much applause for the Brattleboro Police.

    Public Participation

    (A baby went first)

    George Harvey – I was going to bring this up with sustainability, but it is bigger than that. I’ve been seeing… I do a blog every day and have posted thousands of articles. I’m seeing development we should be aware of. It will be critical. Los Angelas will get solar power with battery backup, at a good cost. Half of what VY cost. In China, solar prices compare are at or below grid power. The bad news, from the last week, is that if you own an oil tanker it will be scrap in 10 years. Oil won’t be competitive. This is critical for us, 58% of our oil is from shale oil, and it has to be $50 per barrel. We’ll run out of oil, or will pay high prices for it. We need to deal with this here in a situation where ration cards go out. This will impact home heating oil and propane. We have to be prepared. Need to look at this outside of sustainability officer. (Applause).

    • "we'll run out of oil"

      Oh my, George Harvey dire warnings remind me of the “Peak Oil” hysteria from years back.
      I’m sorry George, your numbers and facts do not make sense or add substantially to your narrative.
      By the way, wasn’t there a municipalPeak Oil committee at one point?

  • Liquor Commissioners

    It’s a Second Class Liquor License for Family Dollar Stores of Vermont at 895 Putney Rd.

    Store Rep – try to bring beer into all our stores. We’ve done it in southern stores and want to bring it north.

    Nick Nickerson – been here 5 years, and 67 years in the south. I want to support our remaining businesses and want them to survive. I’m for this.


  • Sustainability (Follow-up from Representative Town Meeting and July 9 + August 6 Selectboard Meetings)

    Brandie – Sustainability follow-up! There are a series of items. The first is a report on progress of goals in the town plan.

    Peter Elwell – Sue Fillion will report on this.

    Sue – There are two goals – To reduce greenhouse gasses 40% of 1990 levels by 2030 – there has been no meaningful tracking. An inventory was done in 2002, and some updates in 2009 but we can’t find it. There was some work until 2017 dealing with municipal emissions. Not a goal being tracked. The other goals is 25% renewable energy by 2025 – in some areas we are meeting that goal. Transportation is at 8%. We’re at 32% renewable now. We’re at 12% of improving homes with energy efficiency. There are three polices and some actions in the Town Plan. One action is to report to Selectboard on progress – that hasn’t been happening recently. There is an action to review procurement to make sure efficiency is considered. That’s in the works. Improving efficiency of town buildings – streetlights have been converted to LED. School district has done some wood pellet boilers, and town does that as well. We provide info to homeowners during permitting process. We require EV chargers for parking lots. We’re not promoting our community energy board. It’s something we can make more use of. Only two municipal actions are listed on there. Citizens can add actions they’ve been taking. We can make more of that community energy dashboard.

    Daniel Quipp – some falls to the Energy Committee. Did staff ask committee to report?

    Sue – no.

    Elizabeth McLoughlin – is our density a sustainability issue ?

    Sue – yes – the Land Use chapter tries to guide density.

    Tim Wessel – I watched the planning meeting where you discussed the town plan, and it seemed the town plan might not be the place to have an overarching plan for sustainability.

    Sue – yes, you got a letter – the town plan is used as regulatory, and while there are goals and policies, there aren’t metrics as to where we want to be. We were thinking of reliance and sustainability while writing it, but it isn’t the goal necessarily.

    Brandie – Item #2 – Progress on Energy Audit recommendations… Patrick!

    Patrick Moreland – there is a report in your packet that gives status of all energy audits. What’s completed, what’s underway, and what hasn’t happened yet and why. What is completed: the Transportation Center had replacement of systems, pumps, and to pellet heat rather than #2 oil. We got rebates to help get it done. The Library has new heating and ventilation system and new window panes in front are double paned. There is more to do at Library – like insulation to roof. We’ll do it when roof requires replacement. Gibson Aiken windows have been replaced, and new roof and insulation there. Still paying for the boiler there and will replace it. Some projects are underway – improvements at the skating rink, the water system has projects funded almost ready to go. Some projects aren’t yet underway – at water treatment plant there are improvements, but the plant will be replaced soon, so we’re waiting until that’s underway. Same true for DPW garage. Some energy saving measures were identified, but we’ll likely build a new garage soon. So, we’re waiting there, too. Finally, the Municipal Center – it’s future has been uncertain. The police moved out and some is vacant, so major improvements were put off. A heating system for MC and Library is planned. With new partnership to renovate Municipal Center, we think we can now look at the energy saving measures in this building. The town has been working to get funds from Windham Wood Heat initiative. We continue to make progress in all energy savings projects identified in 2016. We’ve spent significantly. We’ve also done things not on the list – like LED lights at the library.

    (some applause!)

    Tim – big picture number again? $1.4 million was goal of spending, and we have spent about half of that so far in the last three years.

    David Schoales – if you look at all funds, it looks like $1.26 million…oh, I’m adding twice.

    Patrick – we’ve spent about half.

    Elwell – and $400k has been completed.

    Liz – so it is feasible for town to spend $100k a year for this?

    Patrick – several hundred thousand could use funding.

    Daniel – good report. Very helpful. Hope people read it. I want to underline that there is one building in town that switched from fossil fuels to a renewable energy source – the transportation center.

    Tim – the plan would be for sharing energy between MC and Library

    Elwell – yes – when we work with WWHT it will happen.

    Jessica Dolan – so, point of clarification… did you say the heating plant or plan?

    Patrick – I mentioned both – a district heating plant, proposed to heat library and library, using wood heat, with WWHI.

    Brandie – #3 – Authorization to Apply to Host a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Planning Workshop .

    Sue – the offer is for EcoAdapt to do climate adaptation workshops. They’ll do eight around country, we’d like to apply. It could be valuable – they are looking for communities like ours, updating our plans. It would be a community workshop. We’d apply for 2020. A one to two day workshops. Authorization to apply?

    Brandie – board incline to authorize? Yes. Good. Questions?

    Daniel – broad stakeholder engagement? How will you do that?

    Sue – local, regional, state contacts. Planners can come. Schools, colleges. We could produce a good group.

    Michael Bosworth – so the assessment and planning would be community wide?

    Sue – yes – what I can see in other reports is climate change impacts – precipitation, slopes, vegetation, land use, economy, housing, culture, utilities. They are offering them because National Sciene Foundation has funded them.

    Jess – sounds good. There are many that offer these workshops, why this one, and to make sure we get good attendance, what would the capacity for attendance be at workshop? Will it be offered at different times?

    Sue – not sure. 1-2 days, different breakout groups – maybe not at multiple times. We find a place and date – here we’ll need a larger venue. EcoAdapt contacted me – one of their scientists lives in MA and watches Brattleboro. They like to create experts as they go. They’ve worked with many environmental partners. Seemed like a good match.

    Jess – that sounds good. We’d like to make sure accessibility to this event is maximized – cost, people with kids, dif ages, etc. (some applause)

    Ricki – I think these meetings should be held at Latchis so we can hear what’s going on. I’m in the back. We need a mic so we can hear. (Applause)

    George – would you consider doing it all on BCTV?

    Sue – haven’t thought that far. Sure.

    Emily Peyton – is there room for planning some of these meetings and workshops with many in this area already working on this, such as growing indoor greens. There are so many businesses. We can learn from local businesses. Why not bring them into a forum to learn more? (applause)

    Brandie – that would be lovely.

    Django Grace – As a student, you should advertise it in schools so students can be at this kind of thing.

    Motion approved to let Sue apply for workshop.

    Brandie – Create a Staff Position and/or Invest in Other Energy Efficiency or Sustainability Purposes.

    (applause from the big crowd?)

    Peter Elwell – 2.5 years ago the issue was first raised. As a response, the idea of a position was investigated. Staff investigated and I advised that Town projects and issues were doing really well with staff and energy committee. More outreach could be done, and other communities were defining sustainability in ways broader than just climate. So we thought a broad definition would consider social and economic sustainability – not just energy. We didn’t recommend a position at that time. Time passed. A year or so again, people in community asked again. Work was done by volunteers and staff, and it was recommended to create the position in January. Something to consider. In Spring we work with volunteers and looked at what the definition of the role of the position would be, and what the pay would be, and put it in the next budget. Instead, at RTM, a decision that instead of waiting, the policy to hire or not should be accelerated. The coordinator position at $10k a year, that was increased to $100k, and whether it should be spent on a position. After RTM, selectboard reviewed what RTM suggested. By midsummer we wanted a better definition of the position. We did that for a July meeting. Sue and I worked out a job description. You have our materials in your packet. There was discussion that night and deferred for further consideration. There has been additional work since then, by original volunteers and others.

    Tim – a clarification. I’ll leave out commentary, and wanted to point out, that all 5 of us are committed to what’s already been done to reduce carbon, and this discussion is what to do with this money put into our laps. What is the best way to use public funds? Understand that were are all believers in doing actions that will positively impact the climate…

    Daniel – no climate deniers up here…

    Maya King – a student – I hear you say you believe in climate change but you have to prove it to make a change rather than just saying it and letting it be. I think people are saying why they are afraid of climate change. It is so rapid. When I was young I thought I’d grow up and have kids and live a long life. Now I’m not sure I’ll be able to breathe the air. The issue is trying to live, not a happy life. We want to see you make those changes and put a job in for someone to make those changes . (Applause)

    Jane Southworth – this is an issue of critical importance. I agree with letters to the Reformer by selectboard members wanting projects rather than a position. Pass the emergency declaration, but local sustainability will take more. Problem beyond climate change. Addiction, homelessness, etc. Brattleboro does not have resources to sustain a position. Look back at old reports – we’re a hub community with problems. Taxes are too high. The selectboard must look at big picture and the impact of its decisions on all who live here. To hire someone is hard to support. We aren’t yet paying librarians a sustainable wage. I suggest we adopt Oscar’s plan for making the community sustainable.

    Rio – Every single issue is impacted by climate change. We don’t have time to debate, we need to act. We are in grave danger. Our future – we don’t know what a fight for survival will look like. We need to make our own change. That’s why we can hire someone to work toward making those changes asap.

    George Carville – to hire a coordinator? As a town meeting rep, we voted to hire a coordinator. Someone said in a letter that we didn’t have enough of a majority, but that’s not how democracy works. We voted for the coordinator, and have heard suggestions of what needs to be done. We need to reduce residential energy use – we need someone to lead us, and not the Town Manager. I thought I voted for a coordinator.

    Dan Jeffries – a quick statement to read: I believe global warming is occurring, but Brattleboro isn’t contributing to it. Brattleboro has a minimal carbon footprint. We have a weka economy and negative demographic. We’ve been on a spending spree lately – but they are loans. We need people and businesses and we’re losing both. We have an economic emergency, not the climate. Don’t be unduly influenced by a small group. Major cities vs Brattleboro – we’re not contributing to a climate emergency. It can only be dealt with at a national level. That doesn’t mean we can solve it locally if national level does nothing. I’m against any declaration that limits ability to deal with economic emergency.

    Maya McNeill – we are all contributing to climate change. Just because we’re working on it doesn’t make us better. It’s not about us solving it, its about being part of the steps. If we say we aren’t going to do anything, 1000 other towns won’t do anything. We’re investing to make sure people can breathe outside and continue to farm. We need someone to spend the time working on this issue. There are hundreds of things this town could be doing. Any money spent is an investment in the future. I know people complain about taxes, but solving these problems can be economically beneficial. We need someone to push and lead the way, like a sustainability coordinator. (Applause)

    Orion Barber – sustainability is a big word and huge task. We don’t know what will come at us, or from what direction. We have a drug problem here. We have businesses struggling to survive. We have homeless people. We know the climate is changing. We have to have someone pull together the community energy and serve as a liaison to legislative delegations, regional commissions, and towns on all sides of us. That job will grow into a department, I guarantee it. We have to start somewhere.

    Don Brown – Sustainability – I worked in renewable energy and did education. If the ship is to get anywhere, you need someone at the helm. You need someone knowledgeable but they will be busy. It’s a real threat. I saw climate data in early 2000’s. It’s great to see the community come together. I hope the board hires someone to get the job done.

    (A handout is handed out to the board – on thick paper!)

    Tony Duncan – I was under the impression that the committee would address questions from the selectboard. There have been a number of misconceptions last time. That report is about whether a coordinator has more value than projects. We talked to people all over the country – everyone thinks Brattleboro is doing well so far. The question is are we doing what we need to do with the resources we have? Everyone we talked to said there is more value in having the position, for a variety of reasons. Brattleboro agreed to abide by Paris energy accords. The only towns we didn’t hear from were towns without coordinators. There are a number of issues I have. There are many ways for the position to be useful. It will make it easier to reach goals and be more effective with a coordinator position. There are funds and resources (applause) I have full confidence in the town. I can’t imagine that this town will hire someone that will waste our money. Get in touch yourself and see what these other towns think about the value of the position.

    Prudence McKinney – I don’t support spending the money on a position. Many of the duties can be accomplished by existing town employees. Let’s spend funds on efficiency and upgrades without adding to payroll costs (that go up). We have an enormous tax problem. The board should work harder to level the budget. The vote at RTM was to spend funds for sustainability. (some applause).

    Lisa Weinmann – this is an emotional issue, and we appreciate what board has already done. It doesn’t mean we can’t do more. As a rep, I represent those in my district. It was unclear about the emotion to fund the $100k. There is a sense of great urgency out in the public. While we’re acting accordingly. A person that will suddenly know what to do is a fallacy. The idea of having a person come on. Let’s get started to look to see if there is a person who might inspire us to do better and act with a sense of urgency. You don’t need to commit to a full-time job right now. Why not move forward and begin interviewing young people who want to make this their life work? After a while, see if it is working. They should head up the energy committee. There should be more organization. We have national stature – we’re an important symbolic town on the national landscape. We need to join together and lobby for the beliefs of this town. Declare the climate emergency and fund the coordinator by looking for a person to fill the job. Continue with the will of the town to find such a person. Capture the spirit in this room and out in the community. It is urgent. We have a great role to play.

    HB Lozito – Reminder: we did have a coordinator that was a paid position. She was severely underpaid. How would things be different if she had been paid better and better support. Vote for the position.

    Alice – this isn’t an issue that will get easier or cheaper if we wait. We need to fund this now and deal with it now. It needs to happen now. This is the only time to deal with it.

    George Harvey – show of hands? How many people know that in 2014 we we warned of grid outages? Very few people? How many people know NASA felt grid outages would last 3 years nationwide? If Wilmington had a solar microgrid and Brattleboro didn’t, guess what would happen to businesses there? We have a solar array, but no battery storage. A coordinator would be all over that. We can make more money and taxes if we are prepared. Brattleboro can be ready if Brattleboro decides to do it. If we just do a little here and there, it will be piddled away.

    Penelope – as a retailer downtown, the economy has gotten a lot worse – due to Amazon, politics, the environment – we need a coordinator. These things don’t work independently of one another. To have someone in charge to go to is so important. I’m a retailer and worried about economy, but there are so many things we could do downtown. We need an up cycling cooperative. It’s the tip of the iceberg. Once you start, other towns join in. It’s good marketing to show we are creative. I think it is important to have a person, well paid, to coordinate.

    Milicent – I contributed to report and I talked to some of the people. I learned about salaries. You can pay less that $100k and have money left for projects. Some programs you can’t join without a dedicated staff position. Some funds aren’t available unless you have a full-time position. If we don’t have the position, we are leaving money on the table.

    Talison from SIT – I’ve been studying this my whole life. I heard we don’t have up to date data, and we have projects underway, and heard a call for more engagement among community and selectboard. Know who could pull it all off? A sustainability coordinator. You are planning for an economy that can’t proceed into the future.

    Abbie M- while I respect differing views, I think the majority here support the position. It’s not either or… we can have the coordinator, AND that person leverages that to get more funding and grants. We can do both. Also, sustainability is not just climate change or energy. Not just about carbon – it’s about resiliency – climate change will not impact all equally. We need to rise together. Can’t rely on volunteers and busy town staff. (applause)

    A baby falls down, thump, and there is crying in the room.

    Brandie – thank god we all have hard heads. The head bump phase. I remember it well.

    Lucia M. – current energy efficiency came before the emergency and new climate reports. If someone was paid enough and was able to do what was done, they could make new plans responding to newer ICCE report. Having a person in place – we aren’t going to let this person sit around. They will bring plenty of money to projects and groups. My generation is going to create a sustainable future. It’s up to you to decide if you will help, or wait for me to be on the selectboard.

    Oscar Heller – a couple quick points. Great we are doing so much. It’s why we live here. Our recommendation as most efficient next step to spend this money – is a position worth more than projects? I wish the latest report came out earlier. It was done quickly by a dozen volunteers. Something one person could have done in a day or two- then it would have been on time. The energy committee, the town finance committee, and planning committee voted to create this position. I hope you support it as well.

    Kit W. – I support the position. Even if I was against it I would have changed my mind tonight. It’s really obvious that we need a dedicated position.

    Jess (and baby) – I moved here in 1980 until 1986, then moved back and settled here. Recently, I was at Coop and a 90 yr old came to see my baby and I asked what she thought of settling here. She said, I’m old but this will be waterfront someday so you might as well invest. This is an intergenerational problem – youth are terrified and adults are thinking about times gone by. We need to respect the youth. There are tensions between generations on this. I applied for this job when it was $10k. I am qualified like many of the people are here. It’s job creation – a green job. Any meaningful jobs created in Brattleboro – go for it. I have been working in environment for 15 years. I can’t work at the bank. There is no economy without environment. Everything is interconnected. (applause).

    (No bathroom break tonight)

    Ricki – I’m applying for the position and I’d want multiple positions so we could share the work. We need clarification on what those on social security can earn. I’d like to offer us developing our own currency that would be fair trade, so we can start paying people ethically.

    Karen S – I’m part of the working group, and know the board is clearly committed to doing the best. The working group is similarly committed. After all the research was done. If it looked like putting it toward projects was the idea, we would have gotten up and told you that, but it is not what the research showed. Take advantage of all this work we did.

    Jacki R – I work at Latchis and sit on the corner of Main and High and Flat Street – the amount of rain coming down is enormous. It goes right down Flat Street. There was great damage to the Latchis in Irene. The effect of climate change is enormous. We stated our commitment when we signed the Paris Accord, and that is best done with a fully informed person at the helm. You need a caption at the helm to guide wonderful people already working in the town. We need accountability, so we can hold one person accountable, then we have someone at the helm and we can turn this ship around. People come to my hotel every week to see Brattleboro. We don’t have time to reinvent the wheel. This is a movement already happening in the world and need to meet it where it is now and ride that wave. A coordinator will have the time and knowledge.

    Franz Reichsman – sorry for the whereas’s but the Finance Committee takes this seriously. We have a resolution… RTM voted to fund efforts, and discussion supported establishing a position, and there are concerns about definitions – the FC believes the SB should create the position. It was a unanimous vote. We look for the selectboard for leadership pursuing this matter.

    Brandie – closing public participation, now deliberation….

    Tim M. – can we move the emergency declaration to first on new business? (maybe)

    David Schoales – thanks for coming. Great information shared here. I watched the previous meeting on this. I’m glad we did this. I still believe we need the position. This community is facing a big scale of challenges. Our staff is overstressed to keep things moving. We’re not managing those challenges. Having someone in this position will build capacity and relationships with other entities, in the context of social justice. The Town can’t do it. No single organization can do it. Someone needs to pull it together to make progress. I move we approve the creation of a sustainability coordinator position! (applause!) That’s my motion.

    Tim W – I’m going to point out something people won’t like hearing. I’ll be the bad guy. I wrote a letter to a newspaper about my views. Not everyone wants a coordinator, and the actual article is $100k to be spent for sustainability or energy – that is what was passed. There was a lot of passion there at RTM. Technically you could have talked about everyone needing purple pants on Friday but it doesn’t change things. We don’t have the luxury to speak with passion . It needs to work on a financial basis for our taxpayers. We have to find a way to make it work for everyone. I believe in climate change and will use the power we have in town to help. That’s my preamble. I don’t like it if people change what happened at RTM. Someone said they demand…well, that’s not what we need to be doing. We need to decide democratically. You don’t throw out democracy and demand something. When you see all the town has accomplished, we did it without a dedicated position. We did all these great thing and saved nearly a million in 10 years. Just last meeting, less than an hour later we passed a huge project moving forward – energy savings at the skating rink. $80k. We are steering the ship, democratically. Sometimes ideas come from DPW to save on salt, or the library knows to turn off lights. There’s an organizational democratic process already going on. Town staff collaborate to make decisions. One concern is that this will feel good for the community, but don’t feel like handing the keys over and feeling we’re done. We have a limited scope of money to make changes. That’s what we do, worry about money and taxes. A Ready, Fire, Aim attitude – Ralph B. said it. I think the committee started with an assumption. The finance committee “strangely” decided to create the position and the Planning Commission did something similar – a position, and then a plan. I think we should make the plan as a community effort. I’m urging us to really nail what we need for this town. I’m impressed by what Tony gave us. But I noticed all but one other city have much more population than ours. They all have double or triple. We need to look at Return on Investment for this. What happens to the energy committee if we pass this? RTM was impressive, and this has been impressive, but I’m not convinced I should support the coordinator position at this time.

    Brandie – I wanted to put out a statement but didn’t. Really, I don’t make decisions until I hear from the public. It’s clear to me the position is needed. It’s a slam dunk to me. When you are in charge of large amounts of money it goes to a department or person. I don’t think a few projects will get us to sustainability. If it were all energy, we could do energy projects as we’ve done, but when we wrap in things more holistic and dynamic, and we need something that drives the town forward. Oscar, you should share this on your corporate social media page! There’s a good quote here! We have big issues to look at it town. It’s getting overwhelming and paralyzing with drugs, homelessness and other issues. We need community when we are overwhelmed. We need to get together and get information out. This town multitasks. No reason why part of funding can go to position and some to projects. This person can find grants for future projects and their salary. (applause)

    Liz – the committee maybe didn’t know how much the town was already doing. One person tonight said we need an independent contractor to create a plan. That’s what the selectboard did in 2006 to create an energy audit. That work is ongoing. Its a coordinated sustainability plan and we’re in the middle of it. I think we should let the plan continue and spend the money on those actions for 5-7 years, and then ask what is next. Then we’d know after we spent the money on the program and we can see the results and can see what to do next. That’s prudent and best use of our money. It’s based on a coordinated plan. I can’t imagine someone just coming in and getting up to speed on what we’re doing. It may be the right time when the audit work is completed. We have many groups in town. SEVCA, the Housing Trust – they already provide energy audits and things like that. There are things going on that the Energy Committee can partner with. We partner with nonprofits to get things done. We’ve spent a lot of low and moderate income housing. Those are broad sustainability actions by the Town. Nonprofits can address the problems Brattleboro has. We are spending time and effort and resources on the opioid problem. We are in the middle of a coordinated sustainability program and we can continue it and spend $100k toward it, then we can decide when we are done if we need the position.

    Daniel – this is a fun position to be in. Two are in favor and two are against it… we haven’t even gotten to new business. One thing apparent tonight seeing so many people. I’ve sat out there on lonely nights with Steve Barrett – I was really struck by the level of interest in coming to this meeting. I’m proud of the engagement of people here. Not just tonight, but in general in town. We have a vibrant democracy in town and that helps toward resiliency. I’m proud of work town staff does every day. It’s real work. Proud of people on this board who put there word out there in the press and told people where they stood. Those who know me know I do climate action. It seems it would be obvious to do this… but also, doing my job means I did have to think about it. I spent the time -money for projects vs the position. You can make good arguments for projects. What is apparent to me is that adding this position will add a dynamism that we don’t have. This is a position that will have to pay attention to multiple things. Trust we can hire somebody decent, like our HR search. We’ll get this job done right. Adding the staff person will add value. One tension is that we are committing to pay for this forever. It is a continued investment. It will have a tax impact, but it is an investment worth making. They will leverage funds. It’ll add to our grants seeking capacity. saying yes opens up possibilities. I’m more excited about the question marks than the certainty of projects. I’m in favor of it. (Much applause.)

    Brandie – David had a motion on the table….

    3-2 – Tim and Liz against.

  • Charter Review Commission

    Peter Elwell – at June mtg you considered request to create a Charter Review Commission. I outlined some steps for moving forward on this. You decided to wait for all selectboard to decide.

    Brandie – board members have comments or questions?

    Daniel – I have questions for Spoon.

    Spoon takes the stand.

    Daniel – I’ve heard tell of this – how many people involved in the last review commission.

    Spoon – 9 or 10.

    Daniel – how does it get recruited?

    Spoon – can I explain?

    Brandie – let’s stay bullet-point.

    Spoon – the selectboard starts the commission, and they start process to appoint people, then makes appointments.

    Daniel – the board solicits folks? Okay.

    Elwell – if you move forward, you would have an overview session with Town Atty and others. You can decide on that process later. You need to decide if you want to do this or not. Is it a timely matter for moving forward.

    David Schoales – the recommendation is to hear more from interested community members. I’d like to have a longer list of things that need addressing with urgency, and feel like this is something to take up. It takes a couple of years to do the review, but I don’t see the urgency.

    Brandie gives Spoon a recommended timeline.

    Tim – if we decide to start to proceed, we’d have a meeting. The first step is “should we proceed?” and do we feel we need to kick this off now or later?

    David – I don’t have enough info now to know.

    Brandie – I’d tell a lie if I said this was super urgent, or to not hear more in Sept. If it is just on the agenda, I’m okay…

    Liz – happy to hear from Spoon in June, and he made interesting points, but in the article in the Reformer, he characterized it as an intellectual exercise. is that true?

    Spoon – yes – it is about the application of democracy to the way we live.

    Liz – and you wanted to spark civil engagement, but energy committee and arts committee need rejuvenation. Rather than a new group, I’d like to revamp democracy through what we already have. All the people tonight can repopulate those committees.

    Brandie – I agree – we shouldn’t take this on.

    Tim – I pretty much concur, but I’m here until 2022. It should happen soon, just not now.

    Elwell – my understanding of the schools and was advised appeals are still pending that may reverse what is done but a low level of expectation.

    Schoales – there is one appeal left, but things are quickly moving ahead with new structures and it doesn’t involve the town government.

    Brandie – soon, but not now.

    Mark – I think at a time when there is a groundswell in civic participation is a perfect time to call this commission together. Not everyone can go to energy and arts committee. Plenty of people and it is a perfect time and will add to the groundswell here.It’s a three year process… it won’t have to be done right now. Maybe when you are ready, that’s when the proposals from this will be ready for you. You won’t need to do much other than approve it. Defer to democracy and process. Let it do its work.

    Brandie – I like that, too.

    Tim – It is a huge amount of staff time. Our employees are very taxed.

    Mark – how much is a lot of staff work.

    Elwell – if you have interest in the idea, we should talk more on Sept 17. But Spoon won’t be around.

    Spoon =- what’s happening here?

    David – come back with a list of more complex list of why to do this?

    Spoon – I’d like to say what I came to say. I’ve taken time and you invited me to speak to this issue. The things I say will affect how you think about this…. you will realize that I characterize this as an intellectual exercise. We are all here as a result of one premise in our Declaration of Independence… people have the right to determine how they are governed. What followed was that all the power belongs to the people of the community. They get together and write a Charter. It’s the social contract. Its the agreement we made as to how we’d like to conduct our affairs. Power of people cannot be given up any more than you can give up your freedom. The Charter is the agreement and we decide that there will be a selectboard with five people with terms and what power they have and won’t have, because we delegate that power. Board is here to serve the community, fulfilling the wishes of the community. You spoke of a reluctance to go forward, as though you needed urgency. Why would there have to be urgency? Why would there be a statute that says no more than 15 years but you can make changes any year? To ensure people have at least that much opportunity to examine their own social contract. The state said it had to be done at least every 15 years. It’s as if you are looking at this as if we can’t do…

    Brandie – our urgency is we lose interpreters at 10 pm.

    Spoon – you also used the word appropriate. What does that mean. It is always appropriate to look at, think about own’s own social contract. How it works – this is not on your plate. You simply make appointments. You have nothing else to do unless you personally participate, and then at the end, at RTM, will approve or not the changes. The Charter Commission just makes recommendations. You need to have faith in your own ability to make a good decision when the time comes. There is a fear it won’t be inclusive.

    Brandie – Not me.

    Liz – no.

    Spoon – I required that everyone has input they wish to have. We brought in experts, had everyone participate. Last thing…

    Brandie – gotta wrap this up.

    Spoon – you asked for a list – I talked of some administrative things might need to be changed. The Town Moderator wanted clarification about RTM committees. There are operational changes that are needed to be made. I’m reluctant to provide a list for the same reason because it gets too picky. The commission will do it.

    Brandie – we have to decide how to do things and we only have 25 minutes. Shelve it or take it up again?

    Schoales – we have a charter in place and needs review – come back again and here more. Come with more information to convince us.

    Brandie – four have said we’re done. We’re shelving this one. Sorry, Spoon.

  • Second Reading and Public Hearing, Appendix C, Article 3, Section 16-110, Parking Meters on Grove Street

    Elwell you need a public hearing about two parking spaces on Grove Street.

    Ricki – we need to declare the emergency now if interpreters are leaving. ironic to place declaration so late.

    Parking meter changes are approved!

  • Financial Report – Monthly Report for July Town Manager Elwell will present the financial report for July 2019.

    Brandie – New Business

    Elwell – July is month 1 and it is fine.

  • Public Art Proposals

    (Everyone is rushing about)

    Kristy – representing the group, joined by Sharone. We’ve met since April to create town arts fund from $15k at RTM. We want to share our work to date. If you have questions, ask us. We’d like your feedback and answer questions, and initiate a productive partnership to advance the development of this proposal. We’d like to take the feedback tonight and come back with final proposal.

    Sharone – to highlight some key points… the first really is that we want the art fund to benefit the community, and projects contribute positively to the community, addressing social aspects. We aim for community building and collaboration, and opportunities for public participations, and we want to support diversity of mediums and people/organizations. These values have shaped our discussions, and informed the process. We also want to address the role of the arts council. The town arts fund would need an administrating entity to disperse funds and provide oversight, and we propose the arts council of windham county do this role. Arts council will do administrative functions and we can be an advisory role.

    Kristy – we’re committed to success and learning from process to refine in future years. We’ve seen a positive response and interest in the funds. We have volunteers to support the success of the fund, and want to serve as a model for others around the country. We have more info in your packets.

    Brandie – this is fantastic. I have zero interest in micromanaging any of this. You know what you are doing. You have the fiscal ability to do this. It is great. I say go forth and prosper.

    Liz – I applaud you – a well thought out program. An example of something presented at RTM and you’ve followed through well. Yes, this is Brattleboro tax money and should be Brattleboro based. Sue Fillion should administer for us.

    Tim – I agree about being based in Brattleboro but regional themes could be part of it. It’s really well put together.

    Daniel – they’ve been working for several months on this. I was excited. The first proposal I’ve seen brought to us in such a polished way.

    motion to approve the project moving forward…. approved!

    Brandie – FEET (Frost, Elliot, Elm Triangle) Project – Mural on Elliot Street is next. This is a mural on Elliot Street being painted right now.

    person – FEET is a neighborhood organization – a group of people who live in the area. Ad hoc. We did a project painting telephone poles a few years ago, and we wanted to do a mural on a wall. We thought we had the go ahead to do it, and thought we could do it…

    Elwell – there was some communication with staff – we should have thought sooner to get our policy to have arts committee look at each project… the request to close the road got our attention. We see urgency – the event is planned to paint this, and we need to move forward, so we need you to take proper action to move forward in Sept.


  • Small Business Assistance Loan Program

    Brandie – no one will be left out.

    Elwell – This is something fully vetted by committee. If you have concerns, vet them, but we recommend approval for Northeast Processing LLC – $70,000 for Expansion of Business and George J. Brooks Florist, LLC – $45,000 of Reserve Capital for Business Expenses ….

    Both loans approved!

  • Request for “Declaration of Climate Emergency”

    (They have six minutes…)

    Everyone comes to the table, and new handouts have been given out, with a font change.

    Rio – We are in a state of emergency. The entire state is at risk. You approved the coordinator so you need to back that up. Follow in the footsteps of others. We need to act now. each person, neighborhood has a responsibility to every person, animal, and future child to end the climate crisis. Declare it today.

    other – everything is connected – homelessness, poverty… public transportation will deal with other issues. If we reject this we are missing opportunities. When I first saw this I found it scary and extreme, but it is what we need right now. You have options if you accept it in the way you interpret it. It’s a flexible way to say we are all invested.

    other – shall I read it?

    board – no

    other – it won’t cost money for the town to declare the emergency. It doesn’t fix things our make it less scary, but it will get worse if we don;’t do it now. Doing it now would be the best action, or at a point when it will be past the time.

    – you aren’t promising to do everything – you are showing that you care and are trying to help fix it.

    – I’m fed up – there is no choir that we are preaching to. I don’t see any action here. This is an opportunity to make this ball roll. It is up to you guys.

    – It’s important to put this in the public eye.

    – it sounds huge but it is a small action to take that could have big changes.

    Brandie – I see some changes in the new handout.

    Daniel – I disagree. I’m surprised that a document that you felt so strongly about at the last meeting could be changed so easily. It’s now striving for 2030… surprised you are so flexible on that?

    Brandie – a willingness to compromise?

    Daniel – maybe – making a declaration is big or small – which is it?

    – every person needs to have their own input to it, and everyone needs to see Brattleboro is taking action

    David S – this is aspirational. It says we will warn meetings. We should approve it.

    – you don’t have to follow this word by word.
    – it opens up new opportunities

    Liz – what is article 12?

    Elwell – the emergency ordinances… the Charter allows a provision for the selectboard to approve emergency ordinances that don’t require two meetings, but stay in effect for 30 days at a time. generally used after a big emergency like Irene.

    Brandie – is that what you want to do?

    – yes

    Liz – we got an alternative resolution…

    David – I didn’t

    Brandie – I didn’t.

    Liz – the new coordinator can review these things and see what’s appropriate to sign up for.

    Brandie – I’m in favor of declaring the emergency, but the organizer can help.

    – it might be okay, but it also puts it off. To a person who might not be hired for a year.

    – you didn’t want to hand over all power to the coordinator.

    Daniel – it is an emergency, but you made changes… don’t give up on those things. I’d be happy to declare climate, homelessness, and addiction emergencies. But the rest I’m not for the rest… we can’t get to zero emissions by 2025 in municipal buildings…

    Brandie – you can get rid of a word…

    Liz – changing words won’t change my mind. Subversive things are stated here.

    Brandie – this is to declare an emergency rather than adopt this document.

    Tim – I think this is a mess that we can’t fix in three minutes. I have problems with different sections. It reads like something RTM or entire public… why not ask..

    Rio – cuz it is an emergency! There are actions here.

    Tim – I can’t support it as written here. but should be revisited or presented to the people.

    – It needs to be passed now! It needs to presented as it is, and emergency can’t be delayed.

    Tim – I advocate for a different process.

    Brandie – we have to force a vote.

    Rio – this is important and shouldn’t be squished…

    Brandie – that’s the way this evening has gone..

    Daniel – happy to revisit

    Revisit in two weeks!

  • Mowers

    Elwell – Gary’s Power Equipment of Winchester, New Hampshire, in the amount of $17,000 for a zero-turn mower and a walk-behind mower for the Recreation and Parks Department


  • Police Carport

    Elwell – GPI Construction of Brattleboro in an amount not to exceed $149,304 for construction of a carport at the Brattleboro Police Department. Under budget!


  • Police Cars and Equipment

    Elwell – satte handled the bids:

    Two police vehicles (2020 Ford Explorer Interceptors) from Formula Ford of Montpelier, Vermont, for the total price of $60,200 (reflecting the State Contract bid price of $33,600 per vehicle minus a trade-in credit of $7,000 for two 2014 Ford Explorers)



    a replacement Fingerprint Scanning / Photograph Machine from IDEMIA for the State Contract bid price of $24,030

    Ricki – why no public comment for the declaration?

    Brandie – that’s how it happened.

    Ricki – why no public comment? The public comment matters. Nothing I can say will change that.

    scanner approved!

  • BCJC Grant

    Elwell – $20,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Corrections to provide supplemental FY20 funding for the Brattleboro Community Justice Center (BCJC). Town acts as fiscal agent. Great work being done there and they gave us this extra $20k.


  • Long Term Financial Plan – 2019 Update

    Elwell – another night?


  • Thanks, Chris...

    …for your play-by-play coverage of the Brattleboro Selectboard meetings. Nobody else is really covering the Bboro SB meetings in a regular and comprehensive way these days, and it’s greatly needed. So, thank you!

  • Committee Appointments

    Kay Curtis To The Arts Committee

    Elizabeth Harrison To The Brattleboro Housing Partnerships Board Of Commissioners

    Mary Heninger To The Tree Advisory Committee

    all approved.

    Brandie – I entertain a motion to adjourn! Thanks to interpreters for staying.

    (“Well, well well” they mumble as the mics fade.)

    10:20 pm.

  • Thanks Chris

    A long meeting, a lot of discussion. I left in the middle of Spoon. Thanks for reporting the rest.

  • The immensity of it all

    2025 is about 5 years away. 2030 is 10 years away. That may sound like a fair amount of time, but it’s nothing compared to what would have to be done to “fix” climate change (to the extent that we even know what needs to be done).

    But it’s even more complicated than just the shortness of time. There’s capitalism which isn’t going to help us fix climate change either, nor are corporations likely to end all the practices that led to it. Neither will the United States government or its military, which seem committed to the opposite course.

    Another stumbling block is that in a capitalist society, making money is an absolute necessity. Towns need it, but so does each and every person because that’s the way life is here in the modern, civilized world. Energy efficiency costs lots of money — getting off fossil fuel is a luxury today (electric cars, solar panels, retrofitting a house to be net zero, etc). And even if you can afford the improvements, does this mean you won’t be dependent in some way on carbon-emitting technology? I doubt it.

    To make matters worse, there are 7.8 billion human beings on the planet today — more than double the population of $3 billion in 1960 when I was born. At the same time the human population is growing, the non-human population of what we call wildlife is falling. In the 1970s, species loss was estimated in the hundreds of species a year. It’s now estimated to be 1000 times (or more) the normal “background” rate of extinction. This increase in extinction is due to habitat loss, more even than climate change. (Related question — are human beings good for the planet? Will the non-human denizens of earth benefit if human beings find a way to survive?)

    I’m fine with getting a local coordinator to try to chip away at the local problem, but it won’t fix the larger issues without massive buy in and CHANGE on the part of the corporations and government who run the show down here. (I would love to believe that some nice Democrat could get elected with the will and ability to fix these problems, but I’m too old to be that naive. 😉

    So yes, please be aware and do all you can on your own and in concert with others. Absolutely pressure local, state and federal governments to get a clue. We can all try. But as far as I can see, things will only change if those in power want it to, and unfortunately, it’s still all about money to them, no matter what their PR people say.

    • Corporations, individuals and climate

      I am not sure I agree with your assessment. Most of the projects for green energy, locally and across the country are being headed up by corporations, big and small. The cost of solar and wind continue to drop and utilities across the country are dropping coal and adding wind, solar, and in Vermont’s case importing hydro.

      Brattleboro’s, and I think the State of Vermont’s largest solar field located at the old landfill on Old Ferry Road is a team effort between Encore Renewable Energy, a small company from Burlington Vt, and Sky Solar Holdings, a publicly traded corporation based in Hong Kong, ticker SKYS. With capitalism if a group thinks they can make money they will do it, and many are. I would guess this one solar field about doubled the amount of solar within the town of Brattleboro and the next two largest fields are owned by a Massachusetts corporation.

      My thought is that the individual is falling short. For a number of years there has been a 30% tax credit on solar and other renewables that is going down after this year. If a person has a good sunny location the payback for solar on your house is about 7 years or even less. Meaning you borrow 7 years of your electric bill payments and after payed off you have 15 – 20 years of basically free electric. There are not that many houses in the area with solar and the community solar plan has slowed down after some disincentives from the state. Solar is a much better investment than many of the things people are spending money on.

      I retired early around age 58 and before this had an energy audit and insulating at my house, installed an air sourced heat pump and bought into some community solar. Not just to go green but to save money. This has all worked very well. Before this when heating with propane during cold spells the price would spike from a normal $3 a gallon to $5 or $6. That doesn’t happen with electric and the cost is minimal if producing much of your own electric. In many cases going green is also a long-term money saving activity.

      A person may not be able to afford a Tesla but there are many things people can do to reduce and save. Buying small cars instead of pickups and SUVs. This costs less and is greener. Many are, but many are not. Just driving slower makes a small difference but not many on I-91 appear to care. When you drive 65 you don’t see the others also driving 65 so it is hard to tell the percent of speeders. Where you live compared to where you work and shop, to reduce driving, and how much traveling you do.

      I agree if we had different Presidential leadership things could be picking up steam toward reducing fossil fuel use. But mandates from Washington will not make the transitions for individuals that much less expensive. At some point individuals just must jump in and make changes and investments, and you can do it without being told or forced too.

      I also agree that world population growth is a huge problem for climate and for food. The King family I belong to consisting of 3 brothers have produced one daughter so don’t blame us. 😊

      But back to those bad corporations and capitalism. Target stores in 2017 had 56 MW of solar installed on their roof tops. Two years later I would guess much more, and Walmart and others are doing the same thing. This tells you it is a good investment and reduces your costs.

      Gary King

      • Bigger than climate change

        I agree with you on just about all of that, but thinking about it again, I realize that I’m assuming an environmental crisis that goes beyond just climate change. Climate change is a big factor but we’re doing all kinds of other damage to the environment and I believe that’s going to impact us as well. Human population pressure and industrial use of land and water are wiping out a lot of habitat. Our need for food leads to deforestation, our need for water leads to reduced water supplies. Mining both for petroleum but other resources as well has an impact. I see it all as a big old rolling ball of wax that’s hard to separate.

        I’m sure the price of renewables such as solar are coming down but as long as a sizable portion of homeowners can’t afford them, they probably won’t get full adoption. Even with the tax cut, you need to be able to pony up the price of improvements, and if you don’t have it, you can’t improve. As for solar, not everyone’s house gets enough sun to make them worthwhile. I’m not sure what I think about replacing agriculture with solar fields.

        As for personal responsibility, it’s important to remember that many people rent — it’s up to landlords how earth-friendly a rental building will be. Brattleboro has a lot of renters and they don’t have a say in this.

        Hydro is great but has consequences for rivers and the life that depends on them. A small thing but a thing (she says blithely about the fate of our remaining wildlife).

        It’s not just who’s president. It’s our culture. It’s us. It’s them. It’s everyone. We may fix climate change somehow, but I wonder if we can put our planet back together after all we’ve done. I worry that homo sapiens will eventually end up one among a relative handful of species who were able to survive us….

Leave a Reply