Selectboard Special Meeting Notes – FY21 Budget Overview

The Brattleboro Selectboard got a first look at the FY21 proposed Town Budget. Your taxes will be going up. By how much exactly will be determined over the next several meetings.

The board heard more about opioid lawsuits, learned about the Department of Public Works and Recreation and Parks Department budgets, heard about marketing Brattleboro generally and possibly to “homosexual couples,” and learned of doings at the downtown organization.

Comments | 11

  • Preliminaries

    Elwell – you can vote at the Town Clerk’s office or come next Tuesday in Room 105 10 am to 7 pm to vote for school issues. We’ve had questions about the Hinsdale Bridge project grant – is the grant too small? NH and Vtrans says it will have no negative impact on the schedule.

    Tim Wessel – Traffic Safety Committee has big news. For a while the issues on Putney Road have been discussed, and improvements need to happen before the masterplan goes into effect. No firm dates yet, but the state will add a crosswalk and walk cycle at Hannaford and a crosswalk at Town Crier Drive. Both very much needed. Also, working with Vtrans to get MUTC compliant bike lanes with green paint or other striping changes for lower speed limits. Improvements coming.

    Brandie Starr – great updates.

    David Schoales – the upcoming school vote – ballots available now. Three items remove some obstacles that regularly come up. The third is to create the structure of leadership councils of parents, students, board members, and teachers will have a voice. It’s a tradeoff from losing the local school boards. Really important for people to read these and vote.

    Elizabeth McLoughlin – Jim Condos is coming to talk of election security.

    Daniel Quipp – congrats to Colonels for state championship.

    Public Participation

    Elizabeth Howes – the change on south main street has been striking. I was there for the demolition of 54. I am an old buildings person. I love old buildings. So much went in to build that structure. It was a strong building. I don’t have experience preventing destruction of the antique homes, or refurbishing. Those have been lost on the card table of winnings and losings and no one knows what they’ve won. It’s hard to move forward with cleaning up and strengthening these old homes. Two places on Canal Street were done well and it was refreshing. There are a few other places that need that kind of hope. I’m working on a project to redo the inside of the old Sportsmans for lodging for the non-monied workers. A bunkhouse and a program and hope to turn 45 Canal Street into a bunkhouse that favors those who are not monied but relate to the area. Some feel the old places belong to their grandparents and they like coming home. There is a place in prayerful hopes for coming home. It’s a strong place in our hearts for belonging. My project now is the bunkhouse.

    Brandie – thanks for the heartfelt comments.

  • Opioid Lawsuit

    Brandie – we are not going to enter into any formal votes tonight, but we will discuss what’s going on and what our feelings are in general. A formal action will be taken next Tuesday.

    Brandie – As people are aware, Brattleboro has been offered opportunities – two – lawsuits to join into. One affords us a little more identification as someone special, and one is a mass communication. Our lawyer isn’t here tonight, but we’ve had a few meetings, but will be off the cuff. There are implications for pharmacies in both. When you are a bank teller, you have an obligation to be a whistleblower. If you see something of staff or customers and don’t report it, you are guilty of “willful blindness” – and pharmacies are just like this. Were there polices in place and were they being followed? No specific pharmacies at this point. Just talking generally.

    Tim – I feel good about the original lawsuit that was framed in the newspaper. People had concerns for locally-owned pharmacies. I said we had a moral obligation to look at all pharmacies, and I hope our local ones would be doing due diligence and would be exonerated. I want to personally say I’m feeling like it is less likely I will support suing local pharmacies – its 175 pages – there are eye opening examples of national chains not following due diligence. The lawsuit in Bennington does name a locally owned pharmacy, but that doesn’t have specific examples like the national ones. When I see the specific examples. We need a strong case and it rests with these strong examples, and would be weaker to include our local pharmacies. We may not include pharmacies at all…

    Daniel – It is a long document, and still available at Town website. If you are out there it is important for you to give it a glance. It’s not hard, it’s just long. It’s a full supply chain from supplier to distributer. Some parts that were important – graphs of dosages of opioids in town. It doesn’t indicate wrongdoing, but we should do due diligence and find out if local pharmacies should be named in any lawsuit. I’m downtown a lot and had three conversations asking “are you reallY…” and I said we’re thinking about it. It is taken seriously. Sorry we’re going slowly, but we’re doing our homework behind the scenes. Within that 175 page document… I have a selectboard facebook page with a recent post about what pages to look. Taking a a look at the lawsuit will help inform you of if it is a good idea.

    Liz – What I gathered – these are shocking revelations and we may or may not recoup money, but an important part is to stop these practices from continuing so it is important to bring it all to light so it all will stop.

    David – these are thorough comments. The one organization left off the hook is the FDA, which approved opiates to treat longterm pain. That opened the doors.

    Tim – why would we bother to do this in the first place? Around page 6, it is pointed out that Americans are 5% of world population but consume 80% of opioids, because of marketing. Why? Brattleboro is now having to allocate substantial tax dollars, times, staff to address their epidemic. Emergency services are over utilized, and burden on law enforcement is increased. Intervention programs, benefit programs, schools… all been harmed. Nearly every part if the budget has been negatively impacted.

    Brandie – I really encourage you to read this. It really brings it home.

    Franz Reichsman – my opinion is that as long as drugs are illegal, this problem will not be solved. When we had prohibition, it did not work. It spawned organized crime. Good motivation, maybe, but that’s the root cause. The FDA not doing its job is interesting. The root casue is that these things are against the law. They aren’t that harmful compared to alcohol and tobacco – and there are OK ways to use opioids. People globally need to realize people want to get high. It’s a natural human trait. Four year olds spin around to get dizzy. You can’t fight it. Decriminalize and treat. I hope our society moves in that direction.

    Brandie – I share your viewpoint.

    HB Lozito – a Humanities Lecture last week at the library was on this topic. Discovery vs. suing? Could you elaborate?

    Brandie – I’ll try – discovery is pure due diligence and you hope through what you discover that in the process some get dismissed from suit, and others are found guilty. It’s bad practice to go into discovery if we don’t include local pharmacies. I hope they all pass the tests and show no local blindness. Suing is the lawsuit against those found through discovery to be negligent. We have to decide by next week for one of the suits.

    Daniel – What is the difference between the two suits?

    Elwell – the first one is the Bennington one – a national scale suit by a group of lawyers representing individual entities. Data specific to communities. Our suit would be related to Brattleboro impacts. While working on that, we got a letter from VT Atty General that there is a national suit being filed that is a class action suit that includes all municipalities unless they opt out. Should we continue along with both? Should we pick one or the other? Class action has one voice and broad impacts and we have less say. The other way is more tailored to Brattleboro and we’d have more of a say. It would still be a large scale case, out in Ohio.

  • FY21 Budget

    Brandie – Budget season kicks off!

    Elwell – you can get a copy of the proposed budget from the Town web site if you need one. Link from the homepage.

    Elwell – I’ll try to not go on and on, but it is normal that I present this and summarize it so everyone can think about it before we talk of details. Last week we only had three select board members so much rolled over, so tonight I’ll move quickly, but the summary is the broad context.

    Elwell- When we presented the Long Term Financial Plan – a 4.4 cent property tax increase for FY21 was proposed, and we are pleased that we found savings and non-tax revenue to we’d have a 3.3 cent increase now. There are significant expenses. One of specific importance is stormwater management. State of VT has passed legislation that increase our burden to improve stormwater and improve environment. Good laws but impact of cost is significant. We’re requesting $60,000 this time of additional funding for stormwater management. The good news is we learned of a way to use I-91 – a stormwater utility. There would be a separate fund to pay for it, with it’s own revenue and fees. The amount of impervious surface is how the cost is calculated. Roadways impact drainage, and the town has much impervious surfaces, but so does state of VT and I-91 runs through Brattleboro. It’s already a settled matter that the state contributes to the problem and the state should pay its fair share. Colchester did this. There is technical work to be done, but likely that the state would pay a significant percentage. Also, homeowners – the residential rate is $45 per property per year in Colchester. If it were property value, the state would pay zero and homeowners would pay a bigger share. Basing it on impervious surfaces allows us to collect state fees. It will take months to do this, but hopefully we’ll have this done in a year or two.

    Elwell – 82.5% is the percentage of property tax funding the budget. A year ago, it was at 86%, and it is now lower due to 1% local option sales tax. The major impacts on expense side? Personnel related costs. Pay and benefits are up plus new positions being created. 4.8% pay and benefit increase this year. All other expenses are slightly down from last year. Overall the revenues for the town are proposed to increase by 1.8%, and property tax portion is a 3.26 cent increase. Rooms and Meals taxes will be up to match what we actually collect – $440k. The same for sales tax, but a different reason. The calculations showed we could expect an amount but we just don’t know yet. Without a basis, we suggest $630k, like last year. Transfers into the General Fund for services provided to Enterprise Fund- we’ll get $340k. Retaining the 10% unassigned fund balance.. want to use $220k for a fire station replacement. The 10% fund balance is $1.8 million now, and we have $2 million… about $231k available for transfer. Other revenue is other smaller miscellaneous items. $20k increase in volunteer PILOT payments. Collective bargaining agreements changed health insurance so that employees make contribution to premiums, so we expect $20k and a new revenue line item. Town will pay full amount and get reimbursed from payroll deductions.

    Tim – Is that the proper place to put it… revenue? It’s a cost share.

    Elwell – Town provides the benefits, so we want to show full cost of premium and the full amount of revenue to pay for premiums.

    Tim – Is this a health item revenue item?

    Elwell – I’ll point out where it sits. Health insurance revenue is new.

    Elwell – Expenditures are expected to increase 1.8%. Non- union employees get 2% pay increase across the board, and we’ve been looking into equity of pay for non-union positions, and compared to comparable positions. We’re getting outside advice on how to make adjustments, and not ready yet, but this is just a placeholder. It isn’t an estimate, but we have $30k for potential salary increase. I hope to have specific details in coming weeks, and want to implement things in this fiscal year. This $30k is a placeholder to absorb some or all of the FY21 impact of what you decide. The sustainability coordinator position is now in the budget in the Planning Dept. and the climate protection section has been zeroed out. Something that is new in this budget is seasonal staffing – $24k for seasonal staffing. Very important to get those little extra things done. An example is the seasonal speed humps on Guilford Street – a tremendous workload to get them in and out. We need some summer help for highway crews, like Parks department. DPW used to have it, but it was cut. It is inexpensive labor.

    Daniel – Fairly paid?

    Elwell – Let’s leave that for later, but there is a substantive difference between summer student labor and employees serving year round. We’ll get to all of that…

    Elwell – Great news about health insurance program. Relatively speaking. Because of the forecasted increases being 10% and us coming in at 3.1%, the increase, we still have an increase of $100k, but a 3.1% increase in this marketplace is a great place to be. In addition, when you add the employee contributions, the taxpayers cost goes up by less than otherwise. Risk management is an unequivocal good story. Worker’s Comp had been increasing too rapidly. Our claims was above average for a while… having improved our practices, and implemented significant changes such as we followed additional safety procedures, and got people back to work more quickly. The sooner someone gets back to work, you save money and have better results for the employee long term. We may changes, and waited for results to show up in the multiple year averaging – our workers comp is flat. We’re now 6% below average. Nice impact to the budget means no increase. Department expenses such as fuel and vehicles and equipment has an overall increase. The total increase is $101k, a 5% increase. This pays for additional costs for stormwater, Also, an increase in cost for elections – for food and childcare at RTM. Pizza had good feedback – people liked staying on task. There is a public purpose to ordering pizza…

    Tim – We shouldn’t have gone that long…

    Elwell – That’s a different issue. We’re increasing budget to pay for food and childcare. Also $20k increase for police department – a variety of small increases added up.

    Elwell – Capital equipment we’ll discuss next week, but we’d like an increase for equipment and decrease for projects. Living Memorial Park and DPW both need work, and we don’t think we can do it with cash. It will have decades long impact for these major investments. We’ll have more details coming, but will have a bond that will pay for those projects. It’s related to debt service, and in 2023 when we pay off some old debt we can take on some new debt and keep up with recurring projects while paying for big projects. Debt service is expected to decrease this year and in two years. These are generally municipal bonds. In some cases, like half of aerial ladder truck, we borrowed from a bank rather than a bond. Other expenses, the catch-all, and overall decrease in this category due to the $100k climate protection item moving to salaries and benefits. Increase in Rescue Inc fees. Money for seasonal maintenance of portapotties.

    Brandie – and we’re still looking at permanent facilities?

    Elwell – yes, but those will be major capital investments. $100k each minimum. More likely $250k for a good one that can be washed down.

    Elwell – and that’s it for the financial overview – we have increased number of employees 117 FT and 10 PT. Questions?

    David S – the fund balance. When we formalized the guideline, we accepted the VLCT recommendation of 10%. $1.5 million seemed good to have on reserve for emergency. It continues to increase every year, but it hasn’t gone up due to expenses, but to salaries and health care costs and capital spending on projects. Does it make senes to stick with the 10% guideline and let it go up, rather than set it at $1.5 million. Maybe give us some advice on that? The reason I ask, there is nothing in capital projects for the pool. The pool needed three things done and we’ve fixed two. The poolhouse keeps getting left behind. It’s not in the budget for the foreseeable future. It’s old and dingey and a facility used by young children. We promised to fix it. If we took a bit more from the unassigned fund balance we could fund or start funding the pool house, and reconsider how we use the fund balance.

    Elwell – Let’s talk pool during Capital Projects next week. I would recommend you do not set a dollar amount rather than a percentage. The calculation goes up, but it serves as a proxy – 10% reflects that over time, the costs increase. Irene recovery would cost more today that it did 8 years ago. Our 10% marker is low, based on threats of storms and such. To be ready for those, we should not dip below 10% and over time increase it from 10% to a high percentage. I can show data on other communities.

    Liz – Inflation plus climate change?

    Elwell – It isn’t just for natural disasters. It could be economic reasons. You protect against unexpected significant financial impacts. We have a lot of retaining walls in town, and no replacement program. The expense can be great if one starts to fail, and we’ve seen that happen.

    Daniel – $10k for portapotties – the impacts of our public health crisis could be compared to Irene or an economic crash. Maybe there is something to be said to look at it and see if we’re planning for a solution, or that level of crisis. Our current public health crisis is a similar type of event.

    Elwell – We’ll talk more about all of these, and we keep a list of all things that come up, and we’ll come back to them on other evenings as appropriate, or at the end.

    Cutiss Reed – where in the budget is cybersecurity hidden?

    Elwell – there are IT related expenses that include cybersecurity, but no specific line item.

    Curtiss – I saw supplies and equipment…

    Elwell – all of that is done by a company we contract with – some of what they do is firewalls, but no separate line item. It’s drawn from all departmental budgets and managed by Patrick Moreland.

    Schoals – its security so we have to keep it secret…

    Franz R – from Finance Committee – as I recall, we’d devote a million a year to infrastructure. This year we see a substantial drop, so that’s one question. If we bond $5million we’d pay interest, would that be part of the million dollars, are they related?

    Elwell – no – they aren’t related to that. Just wanted to flag it so we all see it coming. Premature to use numbers now. As for the million dollars, it is for capital, not just capital projects. The total amount 5 years ago was less that $400k. We’ve made progress, and are planning for projects and equipment. We wanted a million a year in cash on capital, and we got there last year. This year, and looking 25 years out, we’re starting to fund the long term capital plan for the first time. The value for doing that for equipment is it keeps us away from wild fluctuations (it’ll be almost level each year from now on). We now want to get up to $1.5 million, but big facility upgrades, such as replacing original rink equipment, which we’d pay for with a bond. The debt service would decrease and we’d be able to make it work. The most expensive year of a bond is the first year in VT. The start off figure could be daunting, but the good part is that it goes down every year thereafter.

    Brandie – we’ll take a break at 8:15

    Alex Fisher – who does the layout of the budget? Could it be made more visibly accessible, with some graphs and charts? More ways to make it accessible? Happy to help you with that.

    Elwell – we got that feedback from the board, too. Now with public encouragement we’ll aim for better visual representation.

    Alex – better design gets better engagement. Easier to get broad values across, too.

    Elwell – let’s meet soon!

    David – when you create graphs it helps draw attention.

    A break for 10 minutes.

  • Fy21 Budget, Part Deux

    Brandie – all clear!

    Peter Elwell – Revenues! Well go over four pages of revenues, then we’ll move on to DPW and Rec and Park overviews.

    Elwell – Revenue – the items of change are PILOT up by $20k, local option taxes up, slightly higher property tax revenue, and some licenses revenue. Otherwise unchanged.

    Liz – why more dogs?

    Elwell – more licensed dogs!

    Hilary, the Town Clerk – last year we had 100% of previous dogs renew, and we saw an increase in revenue, so we expect the same this year.

    Elwell – planning permit fees are expected to go down. We’ve been overly optimistic. Employee insurance contribution is up, reimbursements at library are up, nonresident fees at library are up, decrease in misc revenue. Just trying to be more accurate. No policy changes.

    Elwell – fire has no changes. Level with last year. Municipal Center has a slight decrease, with less rental income. Police revenues are up for rental income and down for uplift expenses, so revenue decreases overall. Police outside revenue is down – we’re doing less outside details. We refer requests to Windham County Sheriff.

    Tim – false alarms for police? Aren’t they for fire and do we have a line item?

    Elwell – it is tracked in dispatch, so no line item. We may have a new fee system for buildings, but not ready to unveil that yet.

    Tim – false alarm calls happen. They don’t get charged?

    Fitzgerald – outside revenue.

    Elwell – rental housing fees is for rental housing registration program. The fee structure is level for four years, then we’ll look at the next four years. Final page of revenues – the state current use payment is up, small increases and decreases total a small increase in Rec and parks fees. Utility fund transfers are increasing slightly due to inflation.

    Tim – what’s the reimbursement of $14k in Rec and Parks last year?

    Carol – a promised grant for playground equipment at Crowell Lot.

    Tim – what about the parking garage revenue?

    Elwell – that’s in the Parking Fund.

    Tim – we’re we going to align these?

    Elwell – you are thinking of the Utility fund and fees. It’s possible we might have that discussion before you are done here, but it may be at the very end of that.

    Tim – I thought I was remembering lining up water sewer budget with normal budget process?

    Elwell – no.

    Moreland – was it Solid Waste?

    Elwell – we’re looking at projections beginning 9 months from now and ending 21 months from now. Because utility and parking Funds don’t go to RTM, we do them closer to when they are due to be more accurate.

    Tim – Meals Alcohol and Rooms and Sales tax… we don’t have evidence of trends. Do we have a finger on how much we should be rising?

    Elwell – it is based on actual collections of 2019.

    Tim – and we’re locking in the sales tax?

    Elwell – we have such partial data that it would be a distortion at best. It isn’t yet fully implemented and reliable data. We have a concern that this first year may lag the $630k. Until that hit an equilibrium, we’re not getting everything that is owed to us. Not sure where the state is on this. We still think $630k is a good calculation for next year.

    Daniel – any talk with other towns that have also done local option taxes, about their early year experience?

    Elwell – no, but when we did talk they mention that we get 2/3 of the revenue and the state gets the rest, and the state doesn’t share much of their process. We’ve been in touch and have had some answers. It’s just slow to roll out.

    Tim – it would be super handy to know what percentage is AirBnB vs traditional hotels.

    Elwell – no way to get that data.

    Daniel – it would be interesting data to get.

  • FY21 Department of Public Works Budget

    Steve Barrett – I’ll go over some line items. Overtime is increasing to reflect actual cost. The actual is over $100k and we’ve been budgeting under $100k. Catching up. Seasonal help is going up. They hep regular employees. Quite a bit of savings there. The pay is $11-12 an hour. It’s college or high school, 40 hours a week. Great success recruiting for those jobs. The season can be spring through August – 10 to 12 weeks on average. We had this for many years, was cut from budgets, and we’re bringing it back. A lot of sidewalk work can get done. We think it is a good benefit.

    Daniel – Did any seasonal workers become DPW employees?

    Steve – Yes, former seasonal help have joined the town.

    Liz – Men and women?

    Steve – Yes. Professionals services is up $2k, equipment rental… everything is level funded. Phone, safety, clothing… we have 30 bridges and thousands of culverts to be repaired. Stormwater funds are up. Upgrades are the physical work to stabilize ditches. Permits and fees…

    Brandie – the extra $60k for state-mandated and it comes out of our pockets?

    Steve – there are some grants available to pay for stormwater.

    Elwell – another grant next week, too, but state isn’t fully funding things. The increased cost is $60k this year to meet state requirements, and the overall cost of the program is $84k. We’ll create a stormwater utility to cover all these costs.

    Steve – Equipment costs are up. Accessories are up. Small tools… gas and oil is averaged out with no increases. Summer roads dust control is money well spent. Hot mix account is for patching and repair work. We have a hot mix box to recycle it, but we also use colpatch. Gravel is slightly up this year. Guard rails going up a bit. Sidewalk repair…

    Steve – Retaining walls is a small fund for smaller retaining walls. This can also be used to pay for planning for bigger retaining walls, or design work. Street markings are level funded. Sweeper broom, traffic safety, rapid reflecting beacons, etc. There will be one installed by the Common as you come into town. Tree removal is up for storms, tree care and replacement, line striping…we do it in spring and fall. Salt is up, sand is up, chains and blades, equipment maintenance are level funded. Yard expense, fuel expense is level funded. Electric costs have gone down. Building repairs and the last item is traffic lights. You just don’t know with the traffic lights. When they run they run fine, but then there is a problem. We average $8k per year.

    David S – sidewalk repairs. $27.5k – didn’t we increase that?

    Steve – that’s in capital. We’ll talk of that later. This is the smaller projects.

    Tim – this doubled just for spot repairs.

    Steve – this goes with seasonal repairs. Never a shortage of sidewalk repairs. They go out and it is quite efficient once they are trained.

    Daniel – Glad about seasonal staff. What do they do in one hour?

    Steve – they could form a sidewalk, lay them out, spread gravel, use a compacter. They might use a huge vacuum to clean storm drains. You need two people – full time staff to operate the machine. When they come back, they are more skilled and get even more done.

    Daniel – I looked at all the budget and salaries, and saw department head – why is DPW head so much lower than all others? The answer it isn’t just in the general fund. The utility fund pays some of it.

    David – Steve has been working 15 hours for the town today. And Dan.

  • FY21 Recreation and Parks Budget

    Carol Lolatte – I’ll take a different approach. I’ll give a nutshell. Then I’ll take questions. We want about a 1% increase. We have 8 FT employees, and 40 seasonal employees. They are mostly high school or college, working at pool, park maintenance, day camp staff, skate guards, evening supervisors, program staff…. we rely heavily on volunteers, especially through youth sports. Parent help us out. We have program instructors – contracted service providers. Many programs for youth and adults and seniors. We coordinate use of facilities with other community organizations, and rent facilities. We maintain parkland in town, playgrounds, buildings, 20 mini parks , 5 traffic islands, cemeteries, Living memorial park, pool, skating rink, and Gibson Aiken Center. I had very little changes in expenses, most changes are in salaries, and minimum wage is a big one with 40 seasonal employees.

    Daniel – contracted program staff… where do I see that in the budget?

    Carol – in revenues – where we pay out instructors. Program fees aren’t in this budget.

    Elwell – Town pays 80/20…if you pay $100, we get $20 of revenue and the instructor gets $80.

    Daniel – wages – seasonal employees all make minimum wage?

    Carol – they start there, but in summertime we add some managers and assistants that get a little more than minimum wage.

    Daniel – you use a lot of volunteers… is that a satisfactory situation in that view?

    Carol – it would be beyond realistic to pay 18 coaches. It can be challenging to get volunteers and coaches. Time isn’t there like is used to be. We rely on parents giving back.

    Daniel – do you partner with Time Trade to find people?

    Carol – on other projects, but not youth sports. You needs some knowledge. The high school football team are going back – helping young kids how to play.

    Liz – early recruiting!

    Daniel – there should be a continued relationship that leads to something – and employment opportunities.

    carol – I offer 40 jobs each summer to teens.

    Tim – you have pretty strong revenue as well.

  • Resolutions for a New Bank Account.

    Tim – a question – regional taxes? What night do we discuss?

    Elwell – December 10 – the potpourri evening of topics.

    Brandie – Resolutions for a new Bank Account.

    Elwell – the board needs to have a resolution as we open a new account.

    David – is this where we’d like to look at sustainability practices and investments of local banks?

    Elwell – if you wish. At this point, we’d like this account.

    Daniel – when the school board had the HRA they had bad feedback, how about us?

    Elwell – lots of positive feedback on our health plan in general. There is a tricky point where you are in-between out of pocket expenses and the deductible amount. That part is more complicated but not too bad for employees.

    David – Does Richards Group handle this?

    Elwell – Yes, and staff in town, and the insurers and contractors.

    so resolved!

  • Brattleboro Community Marketing Initiative

    DBA and Chamber of Commerce…

    Stephanie Bonin – this is our second visit. Round one we put together and RFP for a firm and got proposals but didn’t;t choose any. We tweaked the RFP, got another project team and 10 different people, and put out three proposals to community stakeholders, then the project team chose a recommendation for two boards, the boards had questions, we got answers from the candidate, and boards voted to offer the contract to penniless project. That’s how we got to today.

    Kate O’Connor – we gave you a nice color version. Penniless Projects is out of South Newfane that has a team – the main thrust is Love Brattleboro. This is the proposal. They’ve done plays on “Love Brattleboro” – craft beer, recreation, parades, festivals, events. Then they want a minicampaign to LGBTQ community. Part of what they recommend is different graphics we can tailor to what we want to do. They proposed digital , print, the driveable community – from PA to Canada. This is the concept they have. This may change based on outreach to the community. If people don’t want to do the mincampaign we might target another demographic, but three of our project team will be on the steering committee. It’s a nine month project. June 30, 2020 deadline. They will deliver clicks, and a landing page to track click thrus. In nine months, you won’t have details data, but we like this proposal. Any questions?

    Brandie – the mini campaign for LQBTQI – has there been any outreach to Out in the Open? The queer dance parties and drag shows… a lot of time has gone into it and they’ve invested a lot. I’d like to see a partnership as well.

    Kate – they are on the top of the list. We want to be sure the people who need to be involved are involved.

    Stephanie – they could only go so far in answering the RFP. There is more market research to do. What are we already doing?

    Brandie – under scope of work, they use the phrase “homosexual couples” – it’s cringey. Out in the Open will be direct about representation.

    Daniel – when I read the documents they gave you, I find marketing distasteful in general, and you have to identify a market. A group we will seek and invite to spend money here. I don’t love it. The way in which this proposal was done by someone local enough to know, but didn’t do reaching out to the premier local LQBTQ organization. People are coming because of rich experiences, not marketing . I feel that this firm didn’t even send them an email is concerning to me. They may come up with a brilliant plan, but it gives me pause now and concerns me.

    Kate – none of the high proposals reached out to anyone in the community. All said they would do that when and if they are hired. We had no expectation to research yet. Don’t hold it against them.

    Daniel – if we say yes, they really need to make some robust efforts to connect with existing organizations already doing the work in the community.

    Stephanie – It serves us all to respect what’s already here. This is an example for campaign, but we can suggest others.

    Kate – It’s the “Love Brattleboro” campaign that is the big thing. Curtiss Reed questioned them about marketing to people of color.

    Tim – I own a company that respond to RFPs and to do something this complete is a big time suck. It’s all pre-work, pro-bono. You need to strike a balance, and don’t want to give away all your ideas for others to run with. This seems like a great project. There are great names involved that we all know.

    Daniel – the RFP is an example of what they can do and what they are all about. I’d like to see stuff I’m excited about. This town’s community is a big part of what makes this place this place. Any campaign targeting an LGBTQ market would do robust community connection.

    Tim – what about overall?

    Daniel – sure, I love Brattleboro.

    Liz – as the one who requested this selectboard review, thanks! I know the penniless people and they’ll be fine. What was missing from first group that was present in second one?

    Kate- we liked a concept but not graphics. Two revised proposals and resubmitted.

    Stephanie – no common theme. Each had red flags for different reasons.

    David – I recognize this is a sample. If you are to target an audience, it will need to be inclusive. It won’t be easy, but don’t leave out other groups? Race, gender, and ability.

    Stephanie – isn’t that the opposite of the target audience? Oh, Brattleboro representing those things. Right!

    David – differently abled and so on need representation.

    Daniel – data tracking. That’s mostly through web clicks. Will that data be owned by penniless projects or the community marketing initiative.

    Kate – to us.

    Daniel – Love Brattleboro seems to use numbers, and one of the great things about eh town aren’t the numbers. It’s quality, not quantity. We have three empty storefronts. Numbers don’t tell the story of our wonderful place.

    Stephanie – one of my goals is that they are the experts so they get it and run with it. We all have opinions. I wanted to walk away and they know what they are doing.

    Daniel – yes a lot of trust all around. What if we all hate this?

    Stephanie – any time we offer a job it may not work out.

    David – how far to we go before we accept this?

    Brandie – just don’t use words like “homosexual” in there…

    Franz – is there something about dollars being spent? Anything left for implementation.

    Stephanie – they get it all and it is all-inclusive of all media buys.

    Liz – this is faint type and I cannot read it.

    Daniel – RTM approved 10% for 1 year thing. But this is part of a five year plan, so tell me about year two…

    Stephanie – we always proposed an ongoing thing.

    Kate – we hope it remains in your budget for RTM…. $42k

    Stephanie – the firm will come do homework on who and what the target audience should be and what do we have at our disposal.

    Peter Mann – Stephanie and Kate put many volunteer hours in to get to this point. The leap of faith is that there has been a process. We’ve taken a bet and are confident it works. Thanks for spending the time on this.

    the board approves!

    • Ahem

      Everyone note that the $40k marketing plan proposed last year is actually now a five year $200k request.

      “It was always proposed to be ongoing…” ??

  • DBA Annual Plan with No Tears

    The DBA presents their annual workplan and budget.

    It’s the downtown organization, etc. etc.

    All the info is in the summary materials for the meeting. Proposed budget is similar to current one.

    Events, pop up gigs downtown, portapotties. Marketing. More pop up projects. We want to increase membership. Partner with other organizations and the town. Fundraised for flowers. Did a mural. Art and partnerships. Stay to stay program. We do great with Facebook and getting new followers. Incremental changes. Want to be sustainable and a vibrant community.

    Brandie – your events are useful. We don’t just care about tourism. Grounded community events are good to see. Very visible.

    Liz – what were these summer events?

    Stephanie – block parties, music, etc.

    Peter – we’re building our board and have a nice balance of gender. Watching what’s happening with our budget. Taking our role seriously with these funds. Stephanie is very engaged in the community.

    Daniel – who is on the board… how many? (11, now listed on the website). The mix of people on the board? Is it all downtown businesses or all of downtown? Is it a varied cross section of who is downtown?

    Peter – downtown property owners fund us so we want to be responsive, and businesses, and also the employers in town. It’s a mix of all those things. We have a good balance…

    Liz – what is DID assessment and where does it come from?

    Stephanie – that’s the assessment on property owners that funds DBA.

    Elwell – that’s why they bring the budget to you. This will come back later as we put town meeting warning together. As far as a budget, you can give tentative approval?

    Liz – is it always voted at RTM?

    Elwell – yes. Smoother in recent years but was rocky some years.

    Tim – BrattleBoo – it was a great experience. Word is spreading and it will be bigger next year, on a saturday, withe full moon. Even spookier. Maybe we close off a street for the parade. It would be a great idea. It does cost taxpayers money, but I’m looking for excuses to close the streets once in a while. To think about pedestrian streets.

    Liz – a pedestrian idea!

    Tim – a 10 o’clock joke!

    Board indicates satisfaction to DBA over budget.

    Steph – we greet and welcome new stores. Very warmly welcoming Dosa Kitchen to downtown – to Provisions on Elliot Street.

    Dosa – a storefront with seating and light at the front and open for lunch and Gallery Walk and some dinners. Regular Dosa menu and more. Soups in the winter, crackers, breads. 34 Elliot Street. In Peter Havens….

    Brandie – early December! Okay… we adjourn!


  • A disaster in the making

    My immediate response to the marketing to the LGBTQ+ community was: Please don’t!
    The fact that the company who would be overseeing this thought the term “ homosexual “ was adequate clearly has little to no knowledge about the complexities of gender or non gender or the scope of the spectrum of sexual and gender identities that exist within the community. The current LGBT+ organization that exists in this area does much needed outreach to rural communities and sponsors some great events. But, in terms of visibility in the town they really don’t have a very public presence. There are other ways- not suggesting not including them- but there are people interested in Brattleboro having a larger LGBTQ+ presence that would make Brattleboro a more attractive place for members of that community to visit or live in.
    As a town we do almost nothing for Pride Month- a picnic; maybe a dance but no fun and engaging public celebration of any kind. Even Bennington has a Pride Parade.
    I hope if this initiative goes forward that it includes more people that just the known organization and that it is careful and inclusive and respectful in the language they use.

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