Selectboard Meeting Notes – Broadband, Break-ins, Trees, and a Trolley

brattleboro selectboard - feb 4 2020

The Brattleboro  Selectboard contemplated strange things at their regular Tuesday meeting. Shall  we plant $16,000 worth of carbon-capturing trees? Could we do without paved roads?  Should we bring the trolley back along RT. 9? None of these were agenda items per se, but they were intriguing side thoughts to scheduled conversations.

A municipal broadband survey is coming your way, the sustainability coordinator is on the job, and most liquor licenses will be renewed without incident.

Comments | 8

  • Preliminaries

    Elwell – Town Clerk’s office will be open for early voting on Feb 12. We also have a status report regarding the communications district work.

    Patrick Moreland – the board may recall the WRC got a big grant to do some technical assistance on this. The work will take 6 months, and will be broken into two phases. First is a feasibility study – poles, backhaul, and establishing how many districts might be feasible. The second phase would be to establish a business plan. We need to help with a market study. Each community must facilitate a survey of citizens. There will be an online survey, a written survey, and we’ll send a postcard offering everyone a choice. We think this will help us assess the feasibility. I’ll give you updates.

    Public participation

    Brandie – I think many are here to discuss recent break-ins. Anyone not here for that?

    Kim from the Rich Earth Institute – Reads a letter: We want to acknowledge the town and staff for providing public sanitation to the community. We could locally produce a cheaper better public toilet if you want one. Please keep us in the loop.

    Ian Goodnow – I’m one of the candidates for a one year position. I appreciate what you do and look forward to campaigning.

    Brandie – OK. Break-ins…

    Chief Fitzgerald – I really appreciate all the conversations and neighborhood meetings. We’ve met with 50 plus individuals. One email asked if we’ve seen any increase or reduction since this has come to light? In the weeks leading up we got 1-6 reports per night. In the last 10 days, we’re now at 1-3 reports. We’ve made some arrests. We’ve worked with agencies outside of Brattleboro and they’ve made some arrests. We’re not out of the woods, but we’re working together and it seems to have had an effect we’ve wanted, and hopefully a downward trend. Feb 29 is a community forum with representatives and professionals to answer any and all questions.

    Brandie – anyone?

    Micheal Lonardo – You can look at last week’s town mtg to see what I said. People are shy about talking. It’s ok. We’d like to hear from you. It’s great to have this conversation. It won’t go away overnight. The public forum will help. Relay your messages to someone who can speak for you. I got an email confirming State’s Attny Shriver, Mel Motel, Chief Fitz, selectboard members, legislators, and others at the forum. I’d like to see BCTV be there to broadcast. Maybe a reporter from the Reformer could cover it. It’s a good list so far. People need to know how the law works, and have it clarified. There is a misunderstanding about how it is written and what people think. Criminals seem to have more rights that citizens in this. It’s unnerving. My children and I am scared. What will I do in the heat of the moment. You don’t know what you will do. We want to make sure good people aren’t arrested for stupid things, like taking things out on who they think is a criminal. Tell people how you feel. It’s how things change. I can relay your concerns.

    Chief – I’ve attended forums. People don’t like to speak in public. Maybe we can have cards and the moderator reads the cards? Anything we can do to make people comfortable to speak. I’m excited that we can explain the law- it is confusing – we constantly read it and talk with advisors – but for the community as a whole – who is in what lane? And what are the capabilities and limitations – courts, lawyers, law enforcement… we all have distinct and separate responsibilities People don’t always know what we can and can’t do. Lot’s of wrong assumptions.

    Michael – it is important to stay in lanes, and having answers will help. Hopefully most questions will be answered, then we can work on making changes – maybe write a new law. Private property is huge! Especially vehicles, but they aren’t protected 100%.

    Tim – Representative Hashim has introduced a new piece of VT legislation to cover that hole. Other states have laws about trespassing if they go into cars. He was a former state trooper, too. Give the police a call. I’m all for first amendment rights on social media, but the police need to get a call. I had change taken from my car and didn’t call. It could have been a piece of the puzzle. Pick up the phone and don’t rely on social media.

    Brandie – social media has never been a form of reporting things.

    Cindy – I’m seeing trespassing signs on people’s land, but they mean nothing unless they are cleared by the Town?

    Chief – not aware of that. If it is in plain view, it serves as a warning. It doesn’t have to be registered with the town. If it is in “plain view” it serves as a warning.

    David S – please tell us what you are thinking. Better than us guessing. We can hear you now… what you are worried about. We don’t bite. People at home can’t talk back.

    Brandie – the forum is Feb 29 at 10 am at the library…

  • Liquor Commissioners

    Hilary Francis – we renew licenses at this time each year. The process is the Dept of Liquor Controls sends us the applications, we send it to businesses, they send it back to us, you approve it, and as long as it is in order we send it back to the state, they approve it, send it back, and I get it to the businesses. You have the full report with the types of licenses being requested. Peter Havens doesn’t want a second class licenses this year. Violations for others are shown. You sometimes ask for violators to come in speak with you.

    Elwell – there was a time when these were brought in batches, but because of the volume, it felt more efficient to do it this way. Approve them, subject to full review.

    Francis – I send the same report to the fire and police dept, and they had no issues.

    Tim – without naming the businesses – a couple did have state violations. One says one day suspension on 11/4/19. Another says second violation = $300 or suspension… what does that mean?

    Francis – the letter says they sold to an underage person. Second offense and that’s $300 fine or multi-way day suspension.

    David – I think it is valuable for them to come explain things to us, especially the one you just cited. I’d like to have them come in and explain the steps they took.

    Liz – I concur.

    Ivan H – I work at Saxtons River distillery. My understanding the suspensions happen immediately. Generally they shut you down, so it probably has taken place.

    Cassandra – we’ve been involved in previous years. I looked into it. The one that did not get an ID violation – 5 people came to an on-site training. The other three – they did online training. It would be useful for them to do an on-site training. It does cost $25, but so does online. This is good for staff who struggle saying no. This who do pass get thank you letters. We have some resources – sales policy, numbers to call for rides, a self assessment tool… I can help. This shouldn’t be punitive. Usually new staff people, not owners, cause violations.

    Liz – So, your group administers the testing?

    Cassandra – we provide space for DLC testing.

    David – still do trainings for selectboard members?

    Cassandra – yes. The DLC’s resources are diminishing, and fewer people come to trainings since the state started changing for it. It’s easy training – it’s the one on one interaction that works.

    Brandie – so it looks like the Winston Prouty festival folks can go to an upcoming training…

    Liz – can you provide a list of licensed bartenders? I needed one for an event.

    Cassandra – no. Sometime people at trainings are looking for a job.

    Liz – some bartenders do freelance work. A list would be nice.

    Brandie – Shall we ask people who had violations to come in?

    Tim – I don’t think education violations are too bad…

    Elwell – I can read this. Approve all licenses, subject to paperwork. McNeils and One Stop must come Feb 18.


    Tim – strange for Peter to read motions.

    Brandie – item B is a festival permit – Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development, Par for the Cause Festival.

    Willie – I completed the training and am the payroll coordinator.

    Chloe – we do a spring fundraiser each year – an indoor mini golf fundraiser. We have a catered and a bartender. Having our own license means we can try to do it ourselves and see how it goes.

    Brandie – they can keep more of the money.

    Tim – it’s a fun event and a great idea.

    Liz – we’ve been asking if you have non-alcoholic beverages (yes). I know it is a fundraiser, and friends want to donate to you. How can they do it?

    Chloe – we have a PayPal button on our website, or send us a check.

    LIz – and your mission?

    Chloe – education help for children and families. An early learning center, services in the community, the bookmobile – we touch hundreds of families in the community each year, to help kids get the best start they can. Come visit our campus – we have trails!

    Cassandra – is this the first time a staff person has done alcohol? Will this be a trend? More liquor because more staff can do it? At family friendly events?

    Brandie – they’ve always had it, but are trying to keep the cost down.

    Willie – we have the adult portion Saturday night, and the family part on Sunday. We try to balance it.

    Cassandra – we want to be thoughtful about who does this.

    Tim – if someone came without an established event it might be different.


    Brandie – this is just the Saturday night portion… there is a family part on Sunday from 11 am to 1 pm.

    Liz – when you go to their website to donate you can find out.


  • Sustainability Matters (i) Introduction of Sustainability Coordinator Stephen Dotson

    Elwell – nearing the end of Stephen’s second day. We’re excited to have him join the team. Bright days ahead, working on a variety of things. So, I’d like to introduce him, then Patrick will talk about something else.

    Stephen – you will hear plenty from me in the future.

    Sustainability Matters (ii) Carbon Offsets vs. Renewable Sources of Electricity

    Patrick, Lester, and Oscar…

    Patrick – in late last year, we discussed this in response to RTM. The public wanted renewable electricity and signing up for Cow Power. In September, I showed you our energy consumption, and what percentage was renewable. I suggested a local project rather than Cow Power. I withdraw that recommendation. I recommend that we continue the conversation with the Energy Committee and new staff person Stephen, and look more completely at what to recommend to you. Maybe cow power, maybe carbon offsets. The conversation is more complex than originally thought. Lester and Oscar reached out to me. While supportive of what I was recommending, I learned it was more complicated than I had thought. I had equated net metering credits with renewable energy. They are fundamentally separate – credits are financial, and renewables are a tradable commodity that we do not own. Lester and Oscar told me that if we did it locally, there wouldn’t be an improvement in the world. The town would enrich an already functional renewable energy project. That wasn’t our goal, so it is more complicated than I thought. Following my path would be a mistake. Continue the discussion would be best.

    Oscar – we’re happy to keep working on it. As we talked about it, the original idea of Cow Power might be an option we recommend. You weren’t far off course.

    Lester – thanks for meeting with us. The goals are the same. There is new info from Cow Power and we look forward to finding out more and presenting a more complete proposal.

    Brandie – lucky when we have people who reconsider. If more people could be like that life would be much better.

    David – the only concern I have – the sustainability coordinator and staff are to work on this. We developed a good plan for the sustainability coordinator, and would not want him to be distracted from surveying the larger goals of the town, rather than putting out fires.

    Elwell – we agree. There will be other tasks and small projects that we’ll work on while the larger undertaking of the survey is taking place. That’s intended. This won’t take our eye off the ball. The position also is to provide assistance to the Energy Committee, too.

    Liz – I think we’d like a project as local as possible and as real as possible rather than writing a check to make us feel better.

    Daniel – The humility it takes to walk back a recommendation. I think it is great we have that humility and to do it on the public record. This memo here is really helpful. It says renewable electricity vs. carbon neutrality. I question that binary choice. There is more than just that. The resolution at RTM led to Cow Power, and then we thought we could do better, and I want to stay away from the binary choice of investing $16k toward this or that project and make it local, meaningful, and real. The way the town arts fund functions for local artists to create projects that benefit Brattleboro is a model for some kind of local , meaningful, real fund to help people engage with energy issues. I get excited about an idea like that – equity, justice… but then why should taxpayers fund it? I’d like to keep thinking about it.

    Brandie – this is all the good stuff. It’s made me happy tonight.

    David – Don’t want to be here til 10 pm, but maybe we broaden the mandate from renewable energy to find ways to reduce carbon. New coal plants are being built in Japan. It’s difficult to reduce carbon, maybe we look at ways to capture carbon. $16k worth of trees to give out.

    Daniel – planting $16k of trees is more meaningful than if we get a certificate about distant trees.

    Tim – I’m not for carbon offsets either…

    Cassandra – I’m excited for Rolf, who is planting crop trees with school kids. It’s happening!

    Ivan – so, there was a proposal for that, then new info came out and it needs to be reevaluated? What sort of delay does this cause?

    Patrick – What needs to happen now is a regular conversation with the Energy Committee to try to determine what we think we ought to achieve. I don’t know how long it will take. It’s more complicated than at first glance. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if energy committee, staff, come here with a plan and how long it will take.

    Tim – RTM could chime in.

    Brandie – more people will be involved.

    • If you need carbon offset trees...

      … I can supply an unlimited quantity of black walnut trees. : )

      I have to say, I’m thrilled to hear the selectboard finally talk about planting trees. I think it is the first time anyone has mentioned it since I’ve been watching meetings (2001).

      Brattleboro has been lax about trees, letting all sorts of big, beautiful shade trees get cut down without replacement.

      A tree planting effort would both be good for the planet and good for people, plus it will make the town more attractive.

      Plant trees!

  • Proposed Handicapped Parking Space on Canal Street Adjacent to the Coop’s Community Meeting Room

    Elwell – we’re excited to bring this forward. More collaboration! Town committees and town staff coming together to bring this to you. This is the third recent, on-street handicapped parking space. We used to think it wasn’t possible due to tight spaces downtown. The ADA committee and Patrick learned that it is proper to designate spaces without ideal dimensions – making what you have available is appropriate. A year ago we approved a space on Main Street, east side. Then we did the west side on Main Street. And now we have a request for one near the Coop. The Coop requested it. They recognize the need for it for the community room and residents at the WWHT apartments above the Coop. It’s an ideal location. Staff recommends doing it. We’ll do this and bring an ordinance back with details.

    Liz – the site of a recent accident! The crosswalk…

    Daniel – I’ve parked there many times. I appreciate the committee work for ADA and Traffic Safety.

    Liz – and real progress has been made.

    Brandie – first spot after the crosswalk near Coop on Canal Street

  • Certificate of Highway Mileage

    Dan Tyler – So, this is the annual certificate of highway mileage. It helps determine funding from the state. There are no changes this year. We recommend we submit,it it as it.

    Elwell – things like this – annual things – they can sometimes feel rote, and you might wonder about how careful attention is paid. We’ve had changes in recent years. The fact that there aren’t changes isn’t that we are rubberstamping.

    Tim – this says SelectMEN… when will it be updated.

    Daniel – 107+ miles…

    Dan – we’ve been measuring these since the 80’s.

    Tim – this is paved and unpaved?

    Dan – Class 2 Ames Hill…

    Brandie – I still take Meadowbrook

    Tim – I read about towns unpaving their roads… many are using the reclaimer and putting down dirt roads instead. In the long term they are cheaper.

    Dan – I have read about it.

    Liz – paved roads are a benefit of a civilized society

    Daniel – the stretch by Centre Church is in rough shape – downtown, between Brown and Roberts and the Library – nasty potholes. How is that being handled?

    Elwell – recently we had warmer weather and a tremendous amount of patching was done. We had a lot of potholes.

    Dan – we’ve had a lot of freeze/thaw, and a lot of rain. That stretch is class 1 and we maintain it, but we wait for the state to repave it.

    Elwell – RT 9 isn’t properly constructed due to a road underneath. This winter we saw new potholes appearing all over town. For a while it was hard because it stayed cold.

    Dan – they are out whenever they can

    David – let’s put the trolley back along RT. 9.

    certificate is approved!

  • Certificate of Attestation – No Appeal or Suit Pending– 2018 and 2019 Grand Lists

    (Daniel changes above form to say selectpeople…)

    Jen – I have a dry annual request. This year is going to be two years of certificate of no appeal. In 2018 we had appeals, now resolved. So, sign of on 2018 and 2019 because we have no appeals to the Grand List here.

    David – Due to your excellent negotiating skills?

    Jen – yes… (I was wondering how you would get humor into this…)


  • Committee Appointment

    Brandie – our last item. One committee with two openings.

    David- I nominate my friend and neighbor Ashlyn Bristle to the Conservation Commission.


    Daniel – we have a typo in our own application…

    Elwell – it is easiest to say selectboard because you are a board.

    Brandie – in this town, it is one word. There is no more business. It is strange. 7:36 adjourn. Back to bi-weekly meetings. Feb 18 is next. No meeting next week!

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