Selectboard Meeting Notes – FY21 Finals, Finances, and Fund Balances

brattleboro selectboard january 2020

The FY21 proposed budget inched closer to becoming the FY21 official budget at the first meeting of the Brattleboro Selectboard for 2020. The board ran through a list of final loose ends, heard from the human resources committee and police department, talked loans and grants, discussed public toilets, and were offered both CBD joints and liquor.

A citizen stood up for war crime whistleblowers, selectboard goals were reviewed, and more. A few budget meetings remain in January, but the board skipped the review of their upcoming meetings schedule so any meetings are theoretical at this juncture.

Comments | 13

  • Preliminaries

    The meeting started 11 minutes late.

    Chair Brandie Starr said there is a homeless vigil that you can find out more about on social media, or contact Groundworks.

    Town Manager Peter Elwell added that the vigil-goers can go to the vigil but also come to the select board meeting that night.


    Dale Joy – a Brat Reformer did an article about me as an angry parent of an overdosed son. I tried to retract the statement. My son was liked in town. I knew he was mentally ill with alcohol or substance addictions. I should have done an intervention. Professionals say this helps. This I learned too late. The addict is mentally ill, and need mental help, not prison.

    Brandie – sorry, and my heart is with you.

    Bruce Klausen (?) – I live on Green St and have a proposal (he hands it out to the board). I think we need to start talking about the crisis we’ve had the last few weeks: an undeclared war with a nuclear power. (Reads proclamation) We should raise funds for soldiers who refuse unlawful orders in war. This reminds me of the massacre in Vietnam. Whistleblowers end up paying the price for their moral actions. They should be recognized. It’s not right what goes on. I think we should start a fund to defend war crime whistleblowers, and the fund named after Hugh Johnson, Jr. We could have a justice coordinator get this message out. That’s about it.

    Brandie – to get this on the agenda you’d talk to the Town Managers’ office.

  • First and Third Class Liquor Licenses – Duo VT LLC, d/b/a Duo Restaurant

    Brandie – a First and Third Class Liquor Licenses for Duo VT LLC, d/b/a Duo Restaurant.

    Jason Lively – I’m in the process of buying Duo and this is a new license for the restaurant.

    Brandie – everything in order?

    Elwell – yes.

    McLoughlin – anything about the restaurant we should know?

    Lively – the restaurant has been a huge success and I can take it over. It will stay as is and be a fixture of the town.

    Brandie – he’ll be back for a small biz loan later, too…


  • Review Status of 2019-2020 Selectboard Goals

    Elwell – the update is done quarterly. You requested we do it now as you consider final decisions for the FY21 budget. The list before you is the standard form. In past years the board has made more progress. It’s online if anyone wants to see the details. 20 different goals and info about each goal. We can discuss any of it.

    Liz McLoughlin – on page 2, energy efficiency and sustainability, regarding SEVT transportation – I’d suggest our new sustainability coordinator review their operation and try to make bus travel and sustainability more evident.

    Brandie – I agree.

    David Schoales – Housing #2 – the sustainability coordinator should look at housing challenges, too. Also, opioids crisis – new funding for the Project CARE is almost accomplished.

    Liz – I wanted to make sure we weren’t missing anything and are happy to see how much progress we made.

    Brandie – explains why I’m so tired. I recommend people go to the Town website and look at documents of all sorts. Please go there and look.

    David – everything in our folder is online.

    Daniel Quipp – good goals, much done, much remains to be done.

  • Continued Review of FY21 Proposed Budget (i) Representative Town Meeting’s Human Services Committee

    The whole Representative Town Meeting’s Human Services Committee comes to the table.

    Ann – we’re not sure why you invited us…???

    Elwell – it is on peaceful terms. The board reviewed the budget and looked at your report. The recommendation was slightly higher than before – $4,510 more vs last year. And we had proposed level funding, so we suggested they increase the budget to match it, or know there would be an inconsistency. The board wants to increase the budget to match you, and they thought they’d like to see you so you could describe your process and choices.

    Ann – we’re happy to come. 33 agencies came and we funded all but 4. We had over $70k more that was asked for than we gave. We felt the pressure. All these agencies are worthy. The issues are fundamental and important. We had hard decisions. We kept cutting and cutting and felt we couldn’t cut anymore. Sue Graff helped design our process.

    Sue – the scoring process was that everyone scored all applications unless there was a conflict of interest. 5 people saw each application. Scoring was about categories – how much they do, what is program, how well do they do it, and is anyone better off, long term outcomes. The scoring reflected the questions in the application. How many people impacted, what outcomes… each was evaluated distinctly, then we went from lowest score to highest to determine the level of funding support.

    Brandie – did applicants like it?

    Sue – it’s the first time they are hearing we are doing it like this.

    – I’ve been on the committee for years. What Sue proposed is a formalization of what we’ve done in the past, and is helpful. One surprise was the number of new applicants, and the amount of requests – just short of a quarter of a million dollars. There is a lot of work to do. We had to pare, and it was a difficult process.

    Liz – last year people were late. Anyone late this year?

    – yes. we didn’t reject anyone out of hand for being late, but it is a problem. We have the requirement to have some order and process. Late applications with legitimate excuses – post office late delivery – are forgiven.

    Tim Wessel – one reason I thought it would be great for you to come in is that this is a RTM committee and at RTM it gets to be a jumble if people don’t have faith in the process. A lot of work goes into the decisions and RTM members should realize this. I’m looking for people to understand how much work is put into this.

    – we receive 35 applications, and each member reads each application. The rating program is new, and it helps organize the thought process. We then go and review each application as a whole committee, ratings are submitted, and we get a tabulated summary of where we were. We then walked through all requests and the amount requested and put together some numbers. It took 3-4 months.

    Sue – we wrote up the process and want the public to understand the process. We’d encourage it to be posted on the website with the application. I’d invite RTM to help guide our work if needed. We’re open to guidance if and when they want to provide it.

    Daniel – Would the rubric be available for people to see? (Not the scores).

    – Yes. There was uniformity in reviewing. Some agencies had strong advocates for or against, but we were pretty much in the same range for most scores, and wended up with he groupings and three groups.

    Daniel – If you could do it again, what would you do differently?

    Ann – We had a great year. Sue really helped with skills from United way. It’s a process that is easy to explain. We now have a rubric we can show you. I wouldn’t do anything differently.

    – Kip, John, and Sue joining this year brought new eyes to the process.

    Schoales – Become a RTM representative! Watch the sausage be made.

    Liz – You are part of the sausage…

    Tim – Anyone looking at the numbers we are spending here – it has taken a few leaps and RTM has been generous for a few years in a row. A straw poll showed a 1% budget target level for human services was good. This is a bit above 1% this year. My idea is that we’d cap it for now and let the 1% catch up with current spending but we can talk about this later at RTM. It’s a reasonable discussion to have. Taxpayers have limits.

    – Do you suggest we get on the warning something to be voted on? To make it an official guideline?

    Tim – We put the amount in the warning…

    Schoales – Yes, it would have to be us, or you get a petition.

    – We’re using 1% as a guideline. If you want to make it a brick wall, than that is different.

    Liz – I respect the 1% as a guideline. We wanted you to explain the process, so when you go over the 1% it can be explained. We don’t have to stick to the 1% because we have an understanding of your decision making.

    Franz Reichsman – I feel kinship as member of the RTM Finance Committee – we come forward from the shadows with our recommendations this time of year. Hi there! In the minutes of the Nov 19 mtg you mention a spreadsheet. Are there copies? (yes) The rubric – I’d like to see the data and the rubric – to review the numbers. Can it be compiled?

    Liz – I’m not in favor of that. Their deliberations, like yours, are in the spreadsheet.

    Franz – I disagree – open meeting was says there is no need for secrecy.

    Schoales – I agree, but maybe you ask they do it next year.

    Ann – A member of your finance committee attended all our meetings. He has copies.

    Franz – I think it would be useful to have this information made public. At RTM last year it was a bit haphazard, with reps having so many suggestions. It made some of us question why the committee was needed. It was needed to avoid the long RTM discussion. I’m wondering, did that have any effect on your thinking this year?

    Ann – More money was awarded after that meeting, so it made us wonder if that was a new starting point for us. We just started with that number. We’re aware of the taxpayer burden and are trying to keep things down, but it jumped up so it did effect us.

    – Yes. The 1% guideline was helpful…

    Franz – Is it worthwhile to reinvigorate the idea that the work you do is intended to ease the burden at RTM?

    – Part of last year was because of the late applications of two agencies. They were separate on the warning. It split apart the effectiveness of the committee. As long as that is a possibility, we may open up the whole process. Had that not happened, it would have gone as previous years have.

    Franz – Just some way to reaffirm and remind people of your role?

    Brandie – That’s on all of us – you, us, our pages. It’s on all of us.

    Liz – The rubric will go a long way.

    Brandie – There’s only so much we can do.

    Ann – Our pleasure to be here. Hope it was helpful.

  • FY21 - Fund Balance Guideline

    Fund Balance Guideline

    Elwell – the board asked for a reminder about the best practice advice behind the guideline of 10%, and asked us to check what other municipalities in VT are doing. My memo has summaries. For best practice, a minimum of two months revenues and expenses should be on hand – which would be 17%. When we looked around us, there were a variety of guidelines. Greenfield, Keene, and six in VT. 4 of the 8 had no guidelines, and the others ranges between 10-25%, and average was about 16%. Our advice to the board is that 10% is below the recommended minimum standard, but we can stay there, but not go below. Right now we are right at 10%

    Tim – who saves 25%?

    Elwell – the actual? Keene has an actual, and St Johnsbury has a goal of 25% but aren’t there.

    Tim – I though it was unfair to include the ‘zero and below’ in the averaging…

    Elwell – it is an average of the positive values. No exaggerations. I thought it was a concern that a majority are not adhering to their own guidelines. Not fiscally smart.

    Quipp – Great. Love it.

    Liz – I knew it was Keene.

    Franz – So, it’s all well and good and useful. I wonder if you’ve seen the VT Digger article about VT towns in fiscal trouble. Some towns are in good shape and others not so good. Brattleboro is in NOT so good shape. The biggest strike against was that our fund balance was at such a low level. It put us in the “bad” group. Worth reading. It is based on underlying academic info worth looking at, too. It’s from the Ethan Allen Institute. Substantive from people with an opposite point of view.

  • FY21 Police Department’s Contract with Axon for Body Worn Camera Services

    Police Department’s Contract with Axon for Body Worn Camera Services

    Chief Fitzgerald, Captain Carignan

    Chief Fitzgerald – we’re purchasing an extra 2 terabytes of storage. What I didn’t do for you last time was break down the $3k line item. We’re having a problem with storage. We have to keep use of force incidents for 7 years and any non-criminal activity (,our officers are live with all interactions with citizens,) we keep for 90 days. We started out with 20+ cameras and our storage rapidly fills dup. We didn’t buy enough at the beginning. I wouldn’t have thought we would have reached the level we did in just a year. Non-criminal activity is our only wiggle room. We could limit it to 30 or 60 days, but weigh that against public perception. Complaints usually come within 90 days. People have asked for video footage of the lobby area and we didn’t keep it – deleted after 30 days. So we want $1600 for 2 terabytes of storage, plus extra services from Axon – security is unbelievable. We can identify certain individuals in a video and have some people blurred (such as children) and redacted. It expands our clerks ability – gives them more time. We don’t manually carry videos to the states Attny. Videos just get tagged and uploaded, and the attorney can then get access. Saves us time preparing cases. Also, we are getting additional cameras plus two more user licenses.This is how that line item breaks down.

    Brandie – Record retention is a thing. Feel good about 2 terabytes?

    Fitz – Yes. I’m a big fan of body worn cameras. It is a good positive thing to have. Cameras aren’t on when they walk around, but if they do a law enforcement action they turn it on.

    Liz – A necessary expense, for communication and transparency.

    Brandie – Transparency is what it is all about.

    Rikki Risatti – I wasn’t available to speak earlier but want to offer these CBD joints for the board to be able to sample tax-free weed. To see how it compares to taxed marijuana.

    Tim – I’ll decline…

    Rikki – They are thin micro mini ones…

  • FY21 Project C.A.R.E.

    Project C.A.R.E.

    Fitz – things I’d like to mention. 2019 was another challenging year. Brattleboro isn’t alone in opiate epidemic. Fentynyl is more potent than heroin. More overdoes in 2019 than 2018. Without intervention, fatalities would be higher. Project C.A.R.E. addresses the health crisis. Professionals meet monthly for a preventative approach. Outreach is aimed at those most at risk. We also follow up with overdose victims. Additionally, a new group is meeting to discuss case studies to meet specific needs. Records show 32 of 37 people in program have engaged in treatment. Recovery coaches transport people to treatment facilities. We give rides to in-town treatment facilities. Prisoners are also transferred for treatment if needed. We endorse diversion programs. For those that victimize the community, enforcement efforts run parallel to recovery programs. Many people have succeeded through this program. Recovery coaches making a positive impact in the community. It is unfunded and all volunteer. For $16k we can fund the whole thing. Some $ for recovery coaches – 780 hrs at $15/hr. Transportation reimbursement would be the remaining $4k.

    Brandie – Transportation is an issue. Beds can open suddenly, and to find someone to volunteer to drive to Bradford VT suddenly is pretty challenging.

    Quipp – I’m proud to live here in this town with this police department doing things this way.

    Brandie – The coordinated effort in Brattleboro is showing in the data. Time for this to be funded.

    Tim – Important work. Thanks for the cooperation model.

    Liz – are other towns doing something similar?

    Fitz – ours is a model from MA that has been adapted and molded to our community. We go to their conference in Boston. A whole collection of people charged up about new ideas. Great networking and contacts. Getting to a first name basis with treatment facilities. Small things add up. It’s been a community effort.

    Brandie – also glad about new polices to transport people to get medicine

    Fitz – yeah – 3 days without medicine is borderline inhumane

    Elwell – $16k in the next budget update!

  • Port-a-Potties and More Permanent Solutions

    Elwell – So, included in the budget is $10k to have another summer of portapotties – a service we should keep undertaking, for general public health and for people without access to facilities. Our units are old but serviceable. We can repeat using them and put them out earlier -( Preston, High Grove, and Common) – but we’ve learned more about permanent facilities. The Portland Loo and a more fully enclosed option. We don’t know any funding sources yet. One is $150k per unit, the other is about $200k per. We want them and are looking for grant money to do this. Since we are all set, and looking for permanent facility funding, you should be all set. Andrew from Planning can answer questions.

    Daniel – He’s here – let’s hear from him. It was interesting research.

    Andrew – The Portland Loo doesn’t clean itself, but it is open a bit for police to see in. They are timed, and work 24 hours. Work in all environments. The Canadian Urban Blue model is more modern. Self cleaning. Graffiti resistance. Timed use. There are three models – a 1, 2, and 3 units in a single buildings. Can be heated. Private public partnerships might fund this? Burlington is installing one and we can see it when it is installed.

    Liz – Timing? They throw you out?

    Andrew – The doors unlock.

    Tim – Maybe auto-cleaning is how to get them out?

    Brandie – …like the rain coming on in the produce section, you get warned before cleaning comes on…

    Daniel – Could we look into building a simple brick structure with a toilet?

    Elwell – yes, but… no.

    Franz – I second what Daniel proposed. For $200k locally you could have something called a house, with a toilet or two in it.

    Elwell – No one is proposing spending this much now…

    Liz – We’re talking about a self-cleaning fortress…

    Daniel – Or just a place for people to use the bathroom in town.

    Tim – We’re still getting a sense of how they are used and are they in the right spots.

    Elwell – I don’t have data, but anecdotally, the heaviest use was at the Common. Preston was heavily used as well. High Grove wasn’t used as much.

    Daniel – I used it a number of times.

    Brandie – I wonder if it’s about ADA accessibility ? Could we switch it to a better location?

    Elwell – It would need to be moved out into the parking spaces to make it work, and at the Common, you’d have to go “overland” with a wheelchair, so High Grove was chosen.

    Liz – So the next step is to explore grant potential?

    Andrew – There is a USDA grant meeting this Thursday, so maybe then. And we’ll look at building our own structure, and ADA compliant pre-made units.

    Rikki – Any investigation into family accessible bathrooms?

    Andrew – The Urban Blue model is larger and can have accessories like a changing stations, multiple stalls.

    Rikki – It would be more beautiful than portapotties.

    Liz – This all came from Parks and Recreation? Are they happy?

    Elwell – Yes, employees found lots of human waste last year and portapotties were the solution. Human waste reduced to near zero. It’s a solid, effective solution while we figure out exactly what to do. It serves an important need for a broad cross section of the public.

  • FY21- Windham Regional Commission – Update

    A break until 8:10pm, then…

    Brandie – One thing agenda-wise, we are going to switch the financial reports and have the small biz loan come first. Right now, though, WRC update.

    Elwell – You asked for info about the WRC. There are several documents in the materials tonight that give an overview. The most important part of what we looked into is that the money that the town pays to them is more like the solid waste district and less like SEVEDS. We can adjust our payment to SeVEDS, but solid waste district is an assessment from a governing structure on which we have representation. It’s an obligation as long as we are a member. WRC is structurally the same – created by the state, the board determines the per capita rate, then that is imposed on all members. It is a non-optional expense unless we withdraw, which we don’t recommend doing.

    Schoales – We don’t HAVE to be members. Their services are mostly for towns that don’t have planning departments.

    Liz – Our planning department works with WRC.

    Tim – Current tax maps created by Jeff at WRC.

    Elwell – If you wanna deeper dive…

    David – No.

    Tim – Happy with that report.

  • Small Business Assistance Program Loans (i) Jason Lively/Duo VT

    Jason Lively returns from Duo.

    Elwell – The small biz loan committee unanimously recommends a $27k loan over 5 yrs at 3% per annum – interest only at first… we’ll be in the second position. We recommend approval, with two conditions. Current owners must pay off current loan to BS&L and current owners must pay off loan to town of Brattleboro for just over $9k and discharges of all liens.

    Jason – I worked at Duo for a few years here, but also for them in Denver. I managed the bar at the Whetstone, then here. My experience is pretty deep. There isn’t a restaurant like this with such a paternal feeling. I don’t have a lot of capital behind me so this helps me start up, pay the staff for a month, purchase beer, wine, liquor and food… prior to income under my name. The restaurant should seem seamless. There shouldn’t a be a jump for anyone walking in.

    Tim – It’s been on the radar that it has been for sale, so great that someone familiar is taking it over. Just you?

    Jason – Yes. I’ll be owner and bar manager. It will help the financial viability of the restaurant going forward. We’re open tonight – come for a drink.

    Tim – We turned down the CBD…


  • Small business loans - (ii) Northeast Processing

    (Jason really appreciates the loans and it is the only way to make his dream happen, he says.)

    (ii) Northeast Processing

    Elwell – This it is not the making of a loan, but approval for the town’s position in the line of creditors in event of a failure. We always sit in a low position. We fill small gaps. We made a loan to Northeast Processing – they are taking some additional loans, so we need to acknowledge it and take a new position behind BS&L – it is a short term bridge and the committee recommends it is a risk worth taking because it is the right thing to do. Questions?

    Liz – What is Northeast Processing?

    guy – We do hemp extraction – we need to purchase biomass to extract hemp and extract oils. We started this here to help local growers, and we look to support Vermont farmers. This is a growth period. BS&L is helping us with short term purchasing power. Town’s fund would be for physical facility expansion.

    Quipp – Where does this size loan fit in? This is $250k? No… $70k…

    Elwell – The loan was previously made, this is about the 6 month period of subordination before restoring our position


  • Financial Reports – (i) Audit and Financial Statements for FY19 (ii) Single Audit for FY19

    (Northeast Processor guys appreciate the loan program as well…)
    (Tim – we should be collecting these quotes…)

    Elwell – John planned to be here but was home sick. I offer a brief overview and read his memo. The completed audit documents are done for last fiscal year – clean with no findings and no corrective actions. Both in overall and single audits. Single audits look at grant administration. Some terms are important. John says in his memo that the audits were accurate reflections of the towns business, and followed accounting principles. No findings. $376k better than budgeted in fund balance (less than expected). General fund closed over $3m. (more numbers…) We’re above the 10% fund balance recommendation. There is more info in the auditors report. Single audit had no findings. Shows good internal controls. No material weaknesses.

    Brandie – How long has the auditor been with us?

    Elwell – I think it was 3 or 4 audits.

    Brandie – When was our last finding?

    Elwell – A small technical finding last year or so relating to a new rule about grants?

    Brandie – When is our next RFP?

    Elwell – Every three years, so we have one more… I can check on details.

    Brandie – Questions from the Franz? (no)

  • Neighborhood Designation Area – Information re: New State Program

    Andrew – I have a short presentation…

    Elwell – The state allows and helps hub communities in some ways. Two programs – the designated downtown and village center programs. This is a new program that builds upon those programs regarding housing.

    Andrew – Sue Fillion would have been here but she is sick. This will provide incentives in the designated areas. NDA designation is within walking distance of the designated areas. (Map shows most of downtown). It would encourage new homes. The benefits – qualified projects are exempt from Act 250 regulations, saving time and money.

    Liz – and aggravation!

    Andrew – The areas get discounts, priority grants, and exemptions from land gains tax. Conditional uses can not be appealed in certain circumstances. We submitted a draft proposal for this designation in Brattleboro and got some feedback. We want a final draft in Feb, then we’ll give a presentation and we’ll find out this spring.

    Tim – I’m excited by this. I’m a proponent of densifying our downtown. Slightly disturbed that a house I own is in a blue section – underwater already? – but should I be excited – it might encourage urban area development?

    Andrew – Yes. Controlling where growth happens is important. This encourages developers to use incentives. Think of all the cool opportunities we could see. A variety of housing. More walkable.

    Liz – walkable, transit friendly, keeps growth east of 91, and incentives are pretty good for the state of Vermont. They seem to know that Act 250 is a pain in the butt. A great program.

    Brandie – It will be a big deal program if people understand what this means.

    Andrew – We want to be proactive when growth happens.

    David – Anything that can reduce construction costs is welcome, given housing shortages.

    Brandie – the Franz? (no)


    (They forgot to confirm their January schedule…)

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