Selectboard Meeting Notes – Goodbye, Martha RIP

Brattleboro Selectboard

With just three members, the Brattleboro Selectboard said farewell and thank you to Martha O’Connor, who passed away earlier this week.

The reduced  board discussed the small issue of rising waters with the Hinsdale Bridge project, the failed search for a marketing firm, and efforts to become more compassionate in town. The Windham and Windsor Housing Trust got the go-ahead for a grant application to help homeowners, a citizen volunteered to shadow the Town Manager at state meetings of VLCT, and the meeting was done by a very reasonable hour.

Apologeez in advunce for spelunking and spillcheck errors.

Comments | 11

  • Preliminaries

    Chair Brandie Starr had some remarks: Martha O’Connor passed away on Monday. Kate O’Connor was previous Chair and it was her mom. It was a loss to the community. Some of the things Martha did included – provided elected public service for almost 50 years, was a Lister, served on BUHS board, served on Selectboard twice, served on state boards of Education and State Colleges board. She was a lovely and kind person. Her place was a great place to trick or treat. The entire family has been dedicated to Vermont for a long time. A moment of silence.

    Peter Elwell had no comments.

    (Tim and Daniel are missing tonight)

    No public participation tonight either.

  • Water & Sewer Commissioners

    U.S. Economic Development Administration Grant for Water+Sewer Improvements

    Elwell – a project we’ve discussed on several prior occasions. It started with the Culture Made Vermont project, and engineering work was done, and additional capacity is needed there for expansion. (CVM didn’t happen.) We knew we could potentially get 50% of funding from federal funds even without Culture Made Vermont. We did get the grant. $440k from U.S. Economic Development Administration Public Works Grant Program. We’ll be back with designs and contracts later this fall.

    David Schoales- I wondered how sustainable is this system? I checked with Steve and Dan and it runs on gravity feed. So even if power failed, water would continue to flow, slowly. The projections from the engineer shows potential jobs. I have to question 500 to 1100 jobs developing in that part of town. This sounds propagandistic. Do we check on these numbers?

    Elwell – yes. These grants are tracked closely, and BDCC and the state monitor things. The first half of those jobs are solid projections of projects in development right now. 516 known jobs if the 3 projects move forward. The larger estimate is for remaining capacity at the two industrial parks.

    David – Can you talk about the agriculture facility?

    Elwell – Can’t say more now.


    Purchase of Parts for Rebuilding Rotary Sludge Press at Wastewater Treatment Plant

    Steve Barrett and Dan Tyler

    Dan – We have two presses at the plant and they are crucial. The sludge is the byproduct of the treatment process, and is typically 2-5% solid after the secondary treatment. Then it gets pressed to be 30+% solid. One press needs four of eight screens replaced as normal maintenance.

    Steve – These also de-water biosolids and bring in income. It is expensive, but revenue is pretty decent. Pumps are used 365 days a year and this is expected wear. Also, employees disassembled this, so we didn’t pay for that.

    David – is this typical wear and tear like an oil filter?

    Dan – yes.

    Steve – moving parts and corrosion are normal wear.

    Elizabeth McLoughlin – There is a necessary clean water and sustainability component to this as well.

    $36,218.80 from Fournier Industries of Thetford Mines, Quebec is approved!

  • Conditional Letter of Map Revision (CLOMR) for Hinsdale Bridge Project

    Brandie – generally we’ve removed the authority to make motions from the Chair, but with a small board, if you get tired, let me know…

    David and Elizabeth – we can do it!

    Sue Fillion – I’m here to request you authorize Brain Bannon to sign a overview and concurrence form for the Hinsdale Bridge project. They need to study the effect of the new bridge on water surface levels. NH did a report. In between the cross sections, there will be a 4 inch rise – near Whetstone to southern end of Barrows property. It changes surface elevation, but doesn’t affect the map. No buildings in flood plain there. It would change rules for someone wanting to build there – a couple inches higher. The difference between the bridges is that the new bridge will have six piers in the river and will slow the water a bit there, but it evens out later down the river. This is the first step. Six months after the bridge is done, they sign a letter of map revision.

    Liz – sounds like progress.

    Claire from Barrows and Fisher Oil – how will that impact our property and the Whetstone?

    Sue – no impact to Whetstone Brook. As for your property, we tried to get files on each property. The flood plain comes a bit onto your property. It might spread a few more inches. You can still build 1 feet above base level elevation. No practical change.

    Claire – thanks.


  • Brattleboro Community Marketing Initiative – Downtown Brattleboro Alliance + Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce

    Brandie – I see Stephanie Bonin and Cora.

    Stephanie (DBA)

    Cora (from Mocha Joes)

    Stephanie – I had a memory. When I moved away, I corresponded by letter and my dad sent clippings from the news. He sent a picture of Charleston SC once. He said I’m thinking of moving there. This deserved a phone call. He said, did you see the picture, doesn’t it look great? We all have stories like that, where a seed has been planted. How do we plant seeds so people think about us – to move, or visit? That’s what we are about. The Chamber and DBA has been putting this forth to you and RTM, and now an update! We assembled a project team of 8 members, tasked with finding out what we are asking for to hire a marketing professional. We got 9 proposals for the RFP and had three finalists, and wanted more input,

    Cora – so we asked Brattleboro residents (chosen through our personal networks) and they looked at three proposals, and collected the information in a Google form and synthesized that in a spreadsheet. We all had reservations about each, but excited by each going into the interviews.

    Stephanie – so we didn’t choose any and have a new RFP and we’ll do another round.

    Liz – what were the caveats?

    Stephanie – we changed the RFP from a five year plan to a one year plan. Five years is too long. We moved it to have every two month reporting than each month. As little reporting-type things as possible (to save money).

    Cora – we had different concerns with each agency – one had a big change of employees and structural changes, another had great experience in northern VT but we weren’t sure and didn’t like their graphics. Third agency sounded great on paper, but didn’t inspire us in interviews. They wanted us to provide all content. We want them to come take the pictures.

    Brandie – interesting

    Cora – people use that system of providing content to agencies, but it is impractical for us

    Steph – we want good pictures and video…

    David – sounds like a learning experience, and fine to wait. Have you thought about taking exciting ideas and recruiting local people to put together a package?

    Rikki – i was late tonight, but I asked for a briefing. There was no earlier mention of the emergency climate declaration? Status update?

    Brandie – we asked if they wanted our small board or the full board and they wanted to make their presentation to the full board.

  • Question

    Liz – did your father move to SC?

  • VCDP Grant for the 5-County Homeownership Program

    Elwell – the Town will be partners with WWHT to continue a successful program. We recommend that after the public hearing, you approve the resolution required by the grant and authorize us to proceed with the application.

    Bruce Whitney – WWHT with Tara Brown, Lending manager. The Town has partnered since 2013 with us on this program, and this is a new grant but a repeat and reset of previous grants. They come to a close and we reapply. It funds two programs – a revolving loan fund for home repairs for those that qualify and also funding for education to help people buy homes.

    Tara – $375k grant for 2020. We project this serves 725 households. This will also leverage over $8 million in additional funding. We also provide construction oversight, help finding contractors, and managing payments. Many homeowners are unsure of hiring contractors.

    Bruce – with this new grant VCDP is enforcing an HUD rule that caps the amount going to housing counseling, so that means a decrease in funding for us by about $20k. We had to cut staffing. We’ve reconfigured offices to save some money.

    Elwell – because this goes beyond Windham County, how much comes to Brattleboro is always a question. We have 12% of population served by these programs, and we get 17-24% investment. There is a broad benefit across the state, but Brattleboro gets substantial benefit from it.

    Liz – I just wanted to mention my daughter worked for WWHT and I fully support this grant.

    Rikki – could you list current or aspiration green building practices planned?

    Bruce – we do take a green look at projects. Homeowners have a need – a leaky roof or failed foundation. We have repair specialists come in and develop a scope of work to make it eligible. Our specialists are trained in energy efficiency and a green perspective, such as sustainable products. Homeowners get loans and pay them back. We try to go as green and efficient as we can.

    Rikki – and projects for water testing in homes?

    Bruce – yes – we help with failed wells. We do recommend water testing.

    Rikki – is there criteria for low income people to get water testing?

    Bruce- There can be…

    Rikki – can be or needed?

    Tara – it’s happened. Someone came to us with a need for a water filtration system.

    Rikki – can tenants get water tested?

    Tara – landlord has to have the work done.

    Rikki – Abbott building is part of WWHT…

    Bruce – I can bring this concern to our property manager.

    Rikki – I’d like to exchange contact info so we can follow up.

    Liz – Bruce, do you still replace shower heads and LED lights?

    Bruce – yes, in a different program. We’re a contractor with Efficiency Vermont.

    Liz – another sustainability action that you do, under abroad definition of sustainability.

    Public Hearing Closed.

    Grant application approved!

  • Compassionate Brattleboro – Report on Community Conversations re: Compassion

    Brandie – Plenty of chairs…

    (group assembles, compassionately, at table)

    Doug Cox – thanks for the opportunity to bring you up to date regarding the compassion resolution passed two years ago? Would you like to review it?

    Liz – (reads the compassion resolution) “Therefore…”

    Doug – subsequent to the adoption, and informal committee started to meet to consider how Town can best fulfill the ideas in this resolution. Reps of the Town were involved early on. Peter had good input, Chief Fitzgerald was involved, and selectboard members attend the meetings. Anyone can come to monthly meetings. We hope our close connection with the Town can continue. As I’ve observed the process, one of the important things we’re learning is what compassion means in Brattleboro. It isn’t clearly defined. It looks different around the world, and each community must decide for itself. Part of the exploration has been a series of conversations, at Brooks Memorial Library. Our report today reflects back to the community what we thought happened. (Starr LaTronica helped make this happen.) So far we’ve held meetings on Compassion and… Spiritual Teaching, Human Services, Business, Town Govt and Police, and Schools, and Healing. We have more coming this fall – Climate Change, and Voices from the Community. Also some labor items planned. You have our report, so ask and questions or tell us your comments. being compassionate is everybody’s work. People are thrilled to talk about compassion. No problem getting people to talk about it in their work, etc. We’ve raised awareness within. Chief Fitzgerald is known for being compassionate.

    Brandie – I enjoyed the series and look forward to the ones in the Fall. I hope people can get out to those.

    Doug – we will get the word out. We’re planing a spring series and if anyone has ideas get in touch. Compassion and Elder Communities, or Parenting.

    David – the thing that surprised me with the conversations, you talk about compassion being good business.. I was struck with how deep compassion is
    in the community. I don’t know why but I didn’t expect it.

    Doug – one thing the community could follow up on is how to promote these practices. If you want to run a business, compassion is positive part of it. No one gets ‘compassion’ as part of getting business degrees. The Chamber could take this on. Also in the social service areas – there are best practices that some use but aren’t know universally. It’s beyond us, but something we’d love to see.

    Rikki – has sanctuary status been a topic covered under this yet?

    Doug – uh, um – the compassionate Brattleboro has done more than this, and we have an Unsung Hero award that went to this helping asylum seekers in our community. Not quite sanctuary, but helping them as they process their asylum seekers. There are six asylum seekers in Brattleboro, and we recognized their work with them.

    Rikki – I really respect migration and international people have sanctuary status here. We can’t rely on the state offices, positions aren’t filled. We need more accountability and a more welcoming community here.

    Nick Nickerson – 67 years in Dixie, five years here. I may be shooting with a half loaded gun, but…I hear the word compassion, but you said you didn’t have a definition. I’m not a post-modernist. I like definitions. Can you address that?

    (?) – compassion can mean a lot of different things to different people in different places. One more thing we plan to do: We were fascinated with a group in MA concerned about divided communities. They went to SC and met with people. We don’t have to go to KY, we have enough different perspectives in town. We’ll have a private discussion.

    Rikki – invite me, when you are ready.

    Doug – we’re working on a sister community idea – and have identified four locations. Looking for something similar to Brattleboro, and ambassadors within the communities. The idea is to help people feel we are a part of the whole world. Part of compassion is breaking down us and them. We are connected to everyone around us, the people we disagree with, people in different social or economic status, or different culture or parts of the world. We are all one. This is the big, long term goal.

    (?) we hope to have a sign board pointing to our sister cities.

    Marie Proctor – Compassion involves many different features – listen well without judgment is an important part of compassion.

    Doug – Brattleboro is a dream community to be working on these issues, and the working group will welcome anyone who wants to participate. Every month in newspapers you will see a compassion story from us. Recognizing and celebrating compassion in our communities.

  • FY20 Winter Fuel Oil

    Elwell – Some say winter is coming… and indeed it is. We’ve done the annual sealed bidding for school district and town’s needs and low bidder is Barrows and Fisher. First time in a while that we’ve bought locally.

    Barrows & Fisher Oil, of Brattleboro, Vermont, for 70,000 gallons of No. 2 heating fuel oil at a prepaid price of $2.05 per gallon

    Schoales – you thank Frank Rucker for his work on this…

    Elwell – yes, he takes a lead on this.

    Schoales – schools have put in pellet boilers already (to reduce oil consumption)…

    Brandie – and we’re doing more in the Town.


  • Ratify Town Manager’s Approval to Apply for a 2019 Justice Assistance Grant

    Elwell – These grants pay for a variety of things. Some equipment and payment for services – an application for a $12,333 Edward J. Byrne Memorial JAG 2019 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to pay for overtime, equipment, and supplies. We submit this and we get it.

    Brandie – this is what’s covered? One thing is personnel for community outreach. Police are helping with Project Care, and Coffee with a Cop.


  • Vermont League of Cities+Towns (VLCT) Annual Business Meeting – Appoint Voting Delegate

    Elwell – the annual Town Fair of VLCT is their annual conference, in Killington this year. We’ll have staff there for various workshops, plus annual business meeting, and each town gets one vote. I’ll be there anyway, so designate me.

    Liz – sounds like good idea

    Brandie – doesn’t sound like a ‘fair’ to me

    Rikki – I nominate myself to be the delegate.

    Brandie – okay? How does that work? One vote per town…

    (Elwell searches notes to see if it has to be a town employee..)

    Elwell – so, I’m not certain that is required that it be a town official, however, I’d suggest it is for the business meeting, when the towns and cities vote on the business of the League, I feel it important that a representative of Town Govt do it.

    Rikki – no one voted for you as Town Manager. Would he accept me as a shadow to follow and observe?

    Elwell – I’ll find out if the public is allowed in.

    Rikki – would you accept me if they did? I’d need travel and accommodations.

    Brandie – the town probably couldn’t pay for that.

    Elwell is nominated.

    So designated.

  • Committee Appointments

    Robyn Flatley to Town Arts and Allegra Carignan to Rec and Parks.

    Approved and appointed!

    Brandie – we’re getting out 2.5 hours early!

    David – VLCT are coming to next meeting, should we invite legislators?

    Elwell – they are visiting talking about limited self governance. One will be here that evening. I’ll invite reps and senators.

    Meeting done by 7:38.

    (Clearly, Tim and Daniel are the reason for late meetings.

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