Selectboard Meeting Notes – Water and Sewer Rate Increases, and Face Mask Review

Brattleboro Selectboard Virtual Meeting

The Brattleboro Selectboard had a long discussion about their long discussion last week about face coverings. Is it too strict? Not stick enough? What about the children? They then moved on to a discussion of raising water and sewer rates to help pay for the new water filtration plant. Is 6% a year too much? Is 2% too low?

The final discussion was of the parking system, and how with no income and continued expenses, the budget doesn’t look so good. Should the Parking Fund remain an enterprise fund or be rolled back into the General Fund? And who has the best ceiling?

Comments | 4

  • Preliminaries

    (Pre-meeting conversation about birds, and their tweeting.)

    Chair Tim Wessel calls the special meeting to order. He had no starting remarks.

    Town Manager Peter Elwell had not initial comments, either.

    No selectboard committee reports or comments.

    Public participation:

    Rikki Risatti – can you hear me? hello? This is my first successful goto-meeting. I was wondering if the link could also be listed on the municipal events calendar so it would be easier to access.

    Tim – couldn’t hear…

    Liz – Rikki asked that the meeting warning be on the municipal calendar.

    Elwell – the format doesn’t give us enough room to put the info into the calendar, but we could refer people to the home page, where the information is located.

    Tim – We have a caller?

    Summer from West Brattleboro – I was attending the meeting to listen.

    Tim – Oh, I thought you wanted to make a comment.

    Summer – I’d like to be caucused into the Town Meeting. I love politics.

    Tim – The meeting hasn’t been scheduled yet, so it is cancelled for now, but we hope to hold it soon.

    Elwell – We’re anticipating talking about this at the next meeting, next week. We’ll have an update on options we’re working on. One week from tonight.

  • Review of COVID-19 Emergency Order: “Wearing Face Coverings Required”

    Tim – any updates other than face masks?

    Elwell – not tonight.

    Tim – so we are to review the emergency order. There was much discussion last week, and an agreement on an order. It’s efficient and clear. But I thought it was important to get feedback, at this special meeting tonight. I’ll open it up and let others talk first and see if you’d like to share thoughts. I’ll chime in in the middle or end.

    Tim – anyone? Did we lose Ian?

    Ian – I’m still here.

    Brandie – when we changed the age to 5 years we didn’t change the text to match. If you can put a mask on a kid, great.

    Tim – I had the same feeling. That could be avoided by saying “on children under the age of 5 it is not required.” If you have a tolerant 3 year old…

    Liz – I got positive feedback and thank you for the action last week.

    Ian – I spoke to a number of business owners and employees, or tried to, because this order involves them and customers. I got a lot of positive feedback. I have some suggestion s to share. There could be a date mentioned that we’d look at it again… this is unending as is and would be mentally better if on July 15 we look at it again. The way the governor does the state of emergency. We also don’t clarify the order about employees wearing masks is what the governor ordered. From ours, it looks like we are ordering both. Two suggestions of feedback from people I talked to.

    Tim – I do sort of agree on the date certain idea, or a sunset. You said July 15, but the Governor’s order goes to June 15 right now.

    Elwell – I’m not certain. I’ll look it up.

    Ian – it was a random date.

    Tim – I thought of June 15th – two meetings away. How about line up with the state of emergency? Then we could examine both decisions.

    Daniel – there is a time tied to the governor’s state of emergency. June 15th – I don’t see an urgency to be reviewing this two weeks from now. Since we passed it, I’ve seen more people wearing masks in stores and on their way to stores. I don’t see a need to revisit it every few weeks. The governor’s order is probably the one to follow. At least a month from now.

    Tim – okay, back to the order itself. Anything else?

    Ian – one other thing was we spent a long time talking about this being an order rather than an ordinance, because we couldn’t enforce it. So we passed an order. A lot of people don’t understand the distinction. Not sure what the resolution could be – maybe tell people there is no enforcement of it?

    Tim – some of my issues with it as it currently sits are similar to Ian’s – some people are curious about enforcement. If there is no enforcement so why have an order? I was hoping to encourage the board to do something more like a proclamation or a guidance that din’t imply that there was enforcement behind it. What happened was that it is difficult to be a char that tries to get everyone to speak fairly and also once it was presented the resolution tuned the conversation into a discussion of the document rather than us talking it out more. Something that didn’t imply a rule of law. I’ll be the voice for those who are a little disturbed by the Town making something like this, rather than clear communication and guidance. It is about semantics. All five of us want people to wear masks when they can’t specially distance. The available evidence is that it does help protect people. It could be a fair amount. It’s good to go with a string recommendation, but I’ve heard from people more than a little disturbed that the Town is telling people they have to wear masks in buildings they don’t own. My attitude is the goal is to get more participation in mask wearing. How we get there is messy. I would have preferred to take a carrot rout rather than a stick. Sorry to those I didn’t advocate for. Trying to do that a little bit now. I want to ask the rest of the board, if we’re passing something that is implying some penalty for not doing it, why would we do that vs a very clear and well-communicated proclamation or emergency health guidance. To encourage mask use, doesn’t that have the same encouraging effect? We’ve all received communications about people not wearing masks in the town of Brattleboro – and, what will you do about it?

    Daniel – since we are clarifying, I’ d rather have an enforceable ordinance. I understand it might not be fully enforced, but it should have some teeth. The plastic bag ban was required, and became the norm. There is a norm among many that you will wear a mask inside. We’re saying we take the health of the town seriously enough to require. There will always be some who break rules. The pros outweigh the cons in this case, for me. I’m up for re-election next year…

    Tim – a clarification – if you wanted an ordinance last week, how do you mean “enforced ordinance?” How do we do that as a Town?

    Daniel – it would be part of Town operations. We have a limited number of police officers. If someone wasn’t wearing one or kicked up a fuss, I’d like to think the business owner was supported by the Town. I’m not trying to police the mask use question. I just think the sinuousness of the order should have some way to enforce it if need be. 99% of the time people will do the right thing. Having police backup or something less heavy handed would be nice. I didn’t hear it was a struggle to get people to comply with the order this week.

    Brandie – whenever we put something out from the Town, we get tattling emails, we get them about panhandling. We always get these emails, generally from the same people who have string feeling about people not following things we put out. We are going to get feedback, but my job to do what is right. I have no problem with the word of Guidance. I’m confused about people’s confusion. It is clear that there isn’t enforcement – we clarified it on social media. Their feedback is valuable, but I need to balance their views with the health of every citizen.

    Liz – health, safety, and welfare. It is the whole range from which we get our power to regulate anything. I worry about changing the wording. It will be viewed as a dilution of the original order. Enforcement – I just see it as a quirk of what was passed last week. If we water it down it will be a sign of weakness. We all feel people should be wearing masks and we have the authority. I’d need a good reason to go backwards on this order.

    Tim – replacing “order” with “Guidance” or anything like that?

    Liz – yes – any clarification we make could make people think we didn’t mean it. We can be more careful with language. The purpose is to help the shopkeepers.

    Ian – I think well put Brandie. I think we made it clear and spent a long time working on it. I agree with Liz, too. Daniel I’m a little frustrated. I’m not sure your feeling was communicated last week, and would have been more productive to discuss before we passed the order.

    Daniel – I’m happy with what happened. I didn’t want a 3-2 win. I’m happy where it handed up. I just wanted to be honest, but really happy to find consensus.

    Ian – excited to hear what the public has to say.

    Tim – maybe there are things we agree to tweak?

    Wendy Levy – My question was answered when Ian was speaking before but now that I have the mic, could you remind us at the beginning of the meeting, remind us how public participation works.

    Tim – I thought I did that.

    Wendy – just a reminder.

    Marta Gossage – I live on Elliot St. I understand that enforcement.. people aren’t wearing masks and suggestion distancing to the Hanford manager. He said rudely he wasn’t doing that. A lot of people feel unsafe shopping. Walgreens, too. I guy purposely coughed in my direction. I just had my last chemo treatment last week. It impacts if I can go shopping. More people are thinking this is a big nothing burger, is there any medium thing we can do to make elderly and those at risk feel comfortable going out in public for the foreseeable future?

    Tim – Sorry those things happened to you. I was surprised, things travel though social media and you don’t know the source. My personal experience with Hannaford is a lot of people are covering their faces. Probably saw 100 people and only 3 or so without them.

    Daniel – after we issued this order, I thought about grocery stores. Those would be potential flash points. In the absence of enforcement, the only way to do this is education. We can talk to managers of stores. I’m sure Hanford has lawyers. We can do this by talking rather than issuing tickets, just like we try to do with pricing in general. Talk first. Anecdotes aren’t good for policies, but can point things out. I went today, out of about 50, 3 weren’t wearing masks. All staff had it. Only 3 customers didn’t it. The store sign said the Town requires this to happen. We can do this with conversations first. Curious what Peter found out…

    Elwell – I’d like to give a little complete explanation of what enforcement would look like, so people can understand how it is more of a distraction than the substance of the matter. I’d say my interactions with grocery store managers as mixed – not entirely positive. I’ve also seen masks being worn. My take is that this would be a civil ordinance. A town rule rather than a law of the state. Not criminal. We feel careless non compliant individuals are the purpose of the act. But it is not criminal. It would have been a civil ordinance. The enforcement would require warnings and cajoling to comply, then a ticket could be issued. It doesn’t get to the nub of the matter of protecting one another. The intent is to enable store owners to tell visitors to tell customers… I didn’t force a business owner not wanting to require masks. Good has come from this, and I don’t have an opinion about making other changes. People that know that certain stores are being lax can choose no to go to those stores.

    Tim – some insist all customers wear masks.

    Daniel – some people don’t have a choice of grocery stores. If we had one manager saying they wouldn’t comply, that is something we should have a conversation about with them.

    Tim – a conversation isn’t enforcement. Sort of like violating the Governor’s order. Usually a discussion begins. We are in public participation but speaking amongst board members.

    Franz Reichsman – can you hear me? I have a couple of points. One is the degree to which a mask protects other people is very significant and could be determinative. There are countries where mask wearing was mandatory and it works. It protects people. It should not be up to the individual, or voluntary compliance. It has to be the Town said so. That’s the answer. If you go back in history people have said “you can’t do that” – Typhoid Mary liked serving food. We are in that situation with this on a population basis. We should not weaken this. It has to be that people understand this is what the Town said you must do.

    Tim – weakening isn’t the term – changing language to make it more understandable.

    Peter Fish Case – After last meeting you know my position. It is good as is. It’s about messaging, and what wearing a mask will mean to people who walk into a store, and pulling the burden off the shop owner. It provides them with insulation. We owe it to the shopkeepers. I’ve been getting good feedback. The greatest issue is the potential of there being an issue. Send a clear message, don’t change it from last week. Maybe some consistent signs around town?

    Kate O’Connor – I think it is helpful to have this discussion again. There are mixed reviews and I would ask people for a bit of patience. In our looking at what people are doing, sometimes people feel that they doubt the confusion of what people should be doing. If you are a retail shop, the State guidance is really confusing. The new order gets mixed in with the state requirements. Many like safety of saying it sia Town order, but store owners still have to tell people about it when there is a violation. Acknowledge it and give some people the benefit of the doubt. Some are really trying. A lot of retailers are not open because of the rules from the State. More will open in a larger way, and we’ll need to educate this retailers of this new guidance. be patient. Thank you for talking about it tonight. The Chamber is really trying to get people to wear masks.

    Brandie – I said there might be confusion – that perspective makes sense to me Kate – I like the way you phrased it.

    Tim – there are sorts of merchant issues for tiny shops and rues making it impossible for them. We feel for them.

    Elizabeth Clauson – upside down – I was concerned about the term “enforcement” – the retailers are taking the brunt of various remarks. There is confusion about masks. It protects your neighbors and others, not you. The other concerns is sanitizing door knobs – anti bacterials don’t wash away viruses. We can request using the mask. But we have to be careful with enforcement. Self enforce!

    Amanda Whitman – thanks for the thoughtful discussion. I’ve been working with the DBA to support businesses. We’re keeping a list of mask donations and sales. Some will supply them for free. Helping people access masks should be a priority. I know of 6 shops that sell them downtown. Masks are available!

    Martha Ramsey – sorry about not putting up my hand correctly, but I liked the order – clear language and a good thing to have in a town that is an intersection between Boston and NYC. Thanks for doing it. It does seem that… I support whomever said it was not about right now but going forward. Say we have another round and it comes though here quickly. The Spanish Flu hit really bad and really fast. Let’s not get too complacent. Because I agree the expectation that Town officials could punish, ticket, or enforce an order like this isn’t possible, but conversations are the way to go. I say Yes! Let’s have those conversations. Who in the Town will be having those conversations with those business owners that are confused or recalcitrant. Could you explain to me how will those conversations take place, and if they are necessary. I hope this will help in case this becomes common necessity. If we have people getting hostile about not wanting to wear masks, that is a little scary if you are vulnerable – it will be difficult line to walk due to the polarity of the issue. How do we walk that line where we are civil and conversing with people who are not willing to comply with safety measures? They are putting an entire community at risk.

    Tim – as far as hostility – if something approaches violence or threats it isn’t tolerated. Merchants can call the police to keep things peaceful, or issue a no trespass order.

    Elwell – so we can follow up. I hear there is a desire for us to follow up. I’m only aware of two businesses that have had complaints. Two fairly large corporate.. stores in our community that are in a network of stores. I will go and speak to them again. I have to say. I tried to dance on this. I don’t want to call out any particular store. I had varying responses. I’ve been trying to gauge how things are going out there, and what I’ve heard is what Daniel and Tim reported earlier. The vast majority wearing masks. I don’t know of any other places that people are complaining about. Let’s not overextend ourselves trying to solve that small amount of decision making by those few exceptions. I’m concerned there is likely to be a small minority of our population that will rest this as a matter of principle. WE won’t get 100% compliance. We need to support the message and people trying to comply. Have low expectations, but I’ll go talk to the two stores again.

    Tim – the board doesn’t ant you to spend a large amount of time respeaking to recalcitrant businesses. Ian and I had some minor tweaks…

    Ian – I think after hearing things was what I have is just feedback from the community. It sounds like the majority feel comfortable with where it is at. I defer to you, Mister Chair.

    Tim – gee, thanks. It would require us signing a slightly altered version. I have concerns about the small children language.

    Elwell – I’ve amended it if you want to adopt the change. Anything else?

    Tim – read that and we’ll get it out of the way.

    Elwell – cloth face masks “are not required on children under 5…”

    Brandie – that sounds good. Important we clean it up. If they are lucky enough to have young kids who will wear them…

    Ian – where did the language about”unconscious” come from?

    Elwell- the CDC.

    Tim – something that bugs me. Is no one else worried about addressing special circumstances around restaurants? How people eat in restaurants? Burlington exempted restaurants. That one is coming down the pike. Could get messy.

    Liz – the Governor’s order has a lot and is confusing but some want people to wear masks when they come in to order. Order online or in advance. The ordering component protects people. It’s real. Let that roll out to see how it works and if we need to tweak it. I thought it was clear that the initial entry of patrons is when you wear a mask.

    Brandie – yes.

    Daniel – when Peter wrote this and we adopted it, it was in response to the opening of retail and in each sector there is a ton of stuff. There are other guidelines businesses need to address. It is tough to eat through a cloth mask. We can trust people, but if restaurants are struggling with this we can revisit it. Common sense should prevail.

    Brandie – I went to the Whetstone and kept the mask on all the way to the table and when servers were around.

    Tim – Ian and I both mentioned sunsetting… it already mentions that state of emergency… June 15th? I want this on the agenda for June 16th meeting.

    Daniel – we can add that it is in effect until we rescind it or the Governor lifts the state of emergency.

    Tim – this isn’t something that will be ongoing unless it is necessary.

    Ian – we did attach this to the governor’s order. One person wanted to see a date. If the governor’s order changes…

    Elwell – I hear among you to not change the text of the document, but Tim wants to revisit it on June 16. Sounds like a good middle ground place.

    Tim – I though Brandie and I wanted too change the kid language.

    Elwell – yes. I’m talking about the end date. If you just have the one change then I’ll read it and you can make a motion and you will be amending and reissuing a new order with modified language, and we’ll prepare it again for your signatures, and we’ll send it out to the community.


    Tim – let’s take a quick break… 7:55pm? 10 minutes? OK… we need a “board on break” placard.

    Brandie – some elevator music.

    (a 10 minute break!)

  • Proposed FY21 Utilities Fund Budget – Presentation and Discussion

    Brandie got some water. Daniel is broadcasting from his attic. Liz says our boss is the public. Brandie says she might run again out of spite. Tim notes this is still be recorded. Daniel says it is no big deal. People like Daniel’s angles and colors in his attic.

    A. Proposed FY21 Utilities Fund Budget – Presentation and Discussion

    B. Review of Utilities Fund Capital Improvement Plan

    Tim – okay, back to order. What days is this? May 26, 2020. Now on to the Water and Sewer Commissioners. First up is a FY21 Utilities Fund budget proposal.

    Elwell – couple of brief overview remarks, then Steve will dive into details. We have a significant discussion about rates tonight. We are proposing rate increases to help with the capital costs of the replacement of the water plant. I want to underscore the levelness and stability of the operation budget. In summary – revenues will go down 1.7% – about $100k. Even with the rate increase. The model we’ve been using hadn’t been recalibrated and had an old assumption about consumption. We aren’t selling as much as predicted, so we haven’t been collecting as much, so we recalibrated. So, when we did it, the rates go up 2% but revenues will decrease $106k. Expenses are expected to go up $22k. Essentially a flat budget over last year.he’ll also address the capital plan for FY21

    Steve Barrett – Dan Tyler will go over the line items. We went over this carefully to be accurate and reflecting our needs.

    Dan Tyler – everything is pretty level funded. Expenditures. Pleasant Valley expenses. There is a decrease in sludge waste income. We’ll clean the lagoons one more time. This is the annual cleaning. We expect this to go away completely. Pleasant Valley expenses are costs associated with running the plant. Next is the expenses for the wells, on the Retreat Meadows. Same situation. Electrical consumption is down over the last few years. Water Distribution and Storage – the crews out on streets making repairs. We changed some wages and benefits. WWTP – salaries changed. The solar net metering means we reduced electric costs by $29k, and reducing odor control by $10k – we have it better under control. Some increase for building and safety. Pump Stations – sewer pump stations. Electric costs are going down due to solar net metering. Sewer mains is the other half of crews on the street – some scary and benefit changes. Administration – we increased permits and testing by $5k. Equipment maintenance and fuel stays the same. .4% increase over last year. Questions?

    Tim –

    Steve – the change in revenue – if we have a hot summer, that can have an impact on our revenues. A long hot summer brings in more money. Utilities is a supply and demand business. As rates go up, people conserve. As devices get replaced, water saving devices are being added. It makes a difference. That’s why it goes down.

    Tim – water meter upgrades?

    Steve – in the capital budget, and some in the general fund. I’ll explain it in capital – a yearly account to upgrade meters.

    Tim – a line about penalties? It is going up? Maybe I’m looking at the wrong document.

    Daniel – it is there.. an increase.

    Elwell – there has been an increase in recent years, so we changed it to $50k. If we always lean toward the conservative, we collect more than necessary for rates. We don’t want to be under predicting here.

    Ian – water distribution and storage – is salary increase for a new job, or all employees doing up?

    Elwell – all employees – a new union contract and some non-union supervisors got increases.

    Steve – Capital – DPW site evaluation, to further develop a plan for the new facility to repalce the 1050’s building. We’ve done some engineering. At this point, we want additional funding to explore options to test different sites. The Hinsdale Bride Water Main replacement – when they replace the bridge it will be time to upgrade the water main. The elevation will change. We will upgrade the water main at that time – $51k. It is being engineered and designed. Water Meters – we have almost 4000 in the system. Over the years we upgrade the meters to more efficient ones. To replace them all would cost a million, so we upgrade meters as we go. We’ve replaced almost 2,000 meters in the system. It is an important program. Newer meters are 99.9% efficient. No moving parts. Sign Hill Pump Station – the state of Vermont looked at everything and they identified this station as needing an upgrade. It was a 1970’s private development. $300k for that pump station. Engineering is underway. This is to build the pump station next spring. It will meet future demands, as well. For potable water and fire service. We can increase the fire safety zone in that area. Black Mountain Pump Station generator, up by SIT – needs a back up power supply. This would be a back up generator. $7k Putney Rd Utility Planning $15k to begin planning for Vtrans Putney Rd redesign. Water mains need to be upgraded in this area. We want to put them in as they upgrade the new road.. in 5 years. Puntey Rd Water Relocation is to replace some water mains. Whetstone Interceptor along the Whestone Brook carries sewage, since the 1950’s, preventing sewage in the Brook. Because this is in the brook, it is frowned upon now. You wouldn’t build it in a brook now. So we want to protect it – $30K. Walnut Street sewer main needs replacing. The line failed last year. This year we’ll hire a company that works in railroad zones – $53k. Old Guilford Rd manholes. You as a board approved waterproofing some manholes, and we’ll do additional manholes this year in the budget. To keep in good condition and prevent odors. Putney Rd Sewer upgrade – $50k – sewer upgrades for same Putney Rd project. vehicles – This year we have a loader for $100k that doesn’t need to be replaced yet. We have a service truck we can hang on to. We do have a truck, and two economy cars to get – this year we will trade in two economy vehicles and look at electric vehicles.

    Ian – for Whetstone Interceptor tightening – has there been discussion of moving it out of the Whetstone, and how often do we tighten it?

    Steve – it may be $100 million to move it. Big dollars. A line from West B all the way to Main Street to the RR tracks. All those homes discharged into the brook. YOu’d have to intercept all those lines and pump stations and pump that wastewater. In my lifetime, I focus on protecting the integrity of the pipe. It is an ongoing expense, but seems the right thing to do. Sometimes we try for grants, and work in sections from east to west. It is a big project now, and was when it went in.

    Liz – how did it do in Irene?

    Steve – there is one small bridge that crosses the Whetstone and the water took that out completely. We had it back in service within a week. pretty incredible. We had one break in one other location. We did pretty well, and we did get funding to protect some piping. It could be taken out in a big storm. It was built with good integrity then and now, but it could break again in a major storm.

    Tim – the Putney Rd water relocation – a big ticket item. I’m in favor of the Putney Rd project, but is it really happening in 2025?

    Elwell – the utility relocation happens first, and it will take a couple of years, from 2025-27. Schedules have been delayed, but it is a big deal and big project. Progress to date and interactions about utility adjustments, we have some confidence it is reasonable that in 2025 it will commence and be a new road in 2027.

    Tim – the first year of capital funding – how many more years do we need?

    Steve – it goes out quite a bit. We got a big estimate.

    Dan – $250k for the next five years…

    Steve, yes it is. It is $250k for next 6 years.

    Elwell – 5 years of $50k after the first year.

    Liz – does Vtrans think all municipalities will need to move their utilities? And have funding?

    Steve – the town put the pipes in the steps right of way. We have a responsibility to upgrade when they do these projects. There is time to plan for this, and maybe some work can be done earlier to save money. On Putney Rd they have an asbestos water main that we want to replace. They dovetail with road projects. It can be difficult for some municipalities that don’t have a good capital plan.

    Liz – you are doing asbestos you can…

    Elwell – it is expensive and not altogether our choice… and you wonder why they did things the way they did when they did it. The alternative to using the state’s right of way, the Town would have needed to buy property all along the way. It is time for it to be replaced.

    Liz – are there other utilities to upgrade?

    Elwell – yes, but not our utilities.

    Steve – Two years ago we had a water main break on Main St. The state did canal and main street and we chose not to do that project at that time. No utility upgrades. The danger is to have the project take place and a water main break – that would be cost prohibitive. There are sections that are still good up there that won’t need replacing. Some things really should be done. We want to remove the asbestos main.

    Dan – 500ft of asbestos and additional mains relocated. A significant amount of pipe.

    David Levenbach –

    Rikki – I was wondering if there was a plan for landlords to do water quality tests…

    Steve – we deliver good water to the tap – we haven’t discussed interior inspections. Haven’t explored those options.

    Tim – the water quality report just came out.

    Elwell – the water delivered is healthy clean safe water. Once it gets past a meter, then private piping is responsibility of owners.

    Rikki – they don’t take that responsibility, like with fire safety.

    Tim – might be feasibility of testing every building.

    Steve – that’s an enormous task. The task is to bring water to dwellings for a public water supply. Then it becomes the building owners responsibility. Not prepared to take on inspections.

    Elwell – the fire inspection program already existed and we added a fee. The checklist already existed. Town increased frequency of inspections. In this case, it would require creating something new from scratch to test water in buildings. It can be done, would be a new program, and would need to be funded.

    Rikki – any motion to start that program?

    Tim – no. Members of the public can’t make a motion. David is having tech issues so he sent this question – for deferred capital expenditures what happens to the money? Set aside or moved to future?

    Elwell – when money is appropriated and we don’t buy something, they stay with the purpose for which they are approved. In Capital expenditures and in Utilities and parking Finds, when money has been approved for capital, it stays with that. We report about money that has accrued in the capital fund balances. Sometimes we fund things from this fund. But a deferral of something scheduled, the money hasn’t been appropriated yet and is not money that is deferred.

    Tim. Item C – Utility Rates FY21

    Elwell – we are recommending a significant rate increase, and we’ll explain our rationale. For each of next 5 years, that we have a 2% increase in sewer rates.Over the long haul, we expect a rate of increase is a reasonable carrying cost for the utility. The water – a 2% increase, and then 6% for the following 4 years. To pay to replace the water filter plant at Pleasant Valley. It has outlived its useful life. We can’t postpone any longer. So, we are doing everything we can to engineer it well and be solid investment in long term performance. Right now, the conservative cost estimate is $11 million. We hope it will be lower than that. There is state funding assistance for municipal utility projects.We might be able to borrow at 0% interest. We’re a year away from doing that. We have ground to cover yet, but to be financially responsible, we recommend a 5 year ordinance, and that you revisit these rates each year. Things can change – hopefully for better. Adopt this path forward, and then revisit rates each year to make adjustments – likely reducing the rates. The reason for the 2s and 6s… we applauded two standards in estimating the cash flow. Selectboards have been preserving a large cash reserve – 3.5 million of fund balance. We want to apply a standard – never let the fund drop below 1 million. There is no standard in the totality fund like there is for the general fund. We think it is prudent to keep it above $11 million because when there is a surprise it is usually expensive. Had the big water main over I-91 at exit 2. Wasn’t in our plans to fix that leak. We also think the water and sewer funds – don’t let either component to drop into the negative. If we let the water drop into the red, then sewer rate payers are subsidizing it. Most customers are both water and sewer, but some are not on both. We want to be fair and not have one part carry the other. We looked at alternatives with the smallest increase in the first year. If we did no increase this year, and you had no increases last year, but going back, water and sewer was going up before that, and we reversed it. WE looked at what would happen with zeros in the first year. Any 0% alternative failed the test. Then we looked at 1% increases, and they failed to keep the water balance in the black. We then looked at 2% for water and 0% for sewer, and that failed test 2 – didn’t keep the fund balance above $1 million. We looked at alternatives with 2s in the first year, and that is where we arrived at rates that would past both – I do have some data on the outcomes of those different alternatives. If we could have come with lower numbers we would have been happy to do that, but it was trying to maintain financial stability of the fund that we arrived at this – the least amount of increase that would meet the two standards. Annual reviews could bring better news. For now, this is what we recommend as increases – the 2s and the 6s.

    Tim – Alright! You got me most of the way.

    Liz – this is some of the most important work the Town does. MY concern is regional. How does this compare with surrounding towns, and have we considered a regional system? Would that be beneficial.

    Elwell – Because we are in Vermont, a regional system would mean running public water to places with wells. Sometimes we go outside our borders.

    Steve – one thing about regional is we do wastewater disposal regionally. As far as rates, a recent study was done and they used Brattleboro – it included other similar sized towns – showed that avg cost was $211. Brattleboro is $182. Keene was $267. Right where we should be regionally.

    Daniel – I did some math and I have my water and sewer bill. Real world impact – $133 next year, $137 the year after. That 6% a year looks like a lot, and from my bill, I can probably find the extra money for it, but some households really struggle. Trying to weigh the benefit of the improved plant and impact on ratepayers. I had an old meter that got changed out. The new meter was more accurate. Would increasing the number of water meters give us a better picture of users. Revenue is down, but we should pay for the water we use, and the new meters are more accurate.

    Steve – everyone has to pay for the water meter upgrades, too, so replacing slowly is more secure over time. In 1989 we didn’t have a water plant and some didn’t think we needed one. There isa price. water isn’t free. When we were kids, no residential users had meters. Just a flat fee. Commercial users use less nowadays and homes have to pick up costs. These are quarterly bills.

    Ian – to the standards – who wrote the memo? Great job! Keeping $1 million, standard 2. Standard one is about staying in the black. Standard 2 has some room to move around with. What if we changed it to $750k or $500k? I know why it as at a million. I’d at least like to know what would happen if you changed it.

    Elwell – a million in this case is arbitrary – I think it is necessary. We have real life surprises and they cost a lot and we want to be prepared in this fund, so if you want to lower it to $500k, that scares me. Would 8 or 900 be reasonable. – maybe. Up to you. There is one alternative that failed the million dollar test that would pass the water test. At $975k. That’s close to a million. It would still be 2s and 6s on the water side but 1s and 2s on the sewer side. For 1% savings on the sewer side to pare away at our standards, it failed the test so… it wouldn’t be wrong to change it to the $975 and sewer users would save a little. It is less fiscally conservative. I always recommend conservative funding for surprises, with old infrastructure in town.

    Liz – Steve, this water plant is not a choice about improvement, it is about a new system needs replacement.

    Steve – that is correct. We are saving a couple of pieces but most of the building has been condemned. Standards have changed and this will allow us to comply.

    Tim – there are compliance issues, too.

    Elwell – I gave you one example, Ian. One other thing – every other test failure was below $900k.

    Ian – that was my question – I realize I am making you nervous.

    Elwell – at $500k all of them pass. The other numbers range between $645k-$838k. We urge you not to go as low as $838k in the fund balance.

    Tim – this is a preliminary discussion and I don’ want to drag it on to long, but I have a question and a not so simple idea. Are sewer rates based on water usage?

    Elwell – yes. There are some nuances with large customers, but yes.

    Tim – you mention fairness, but how does that factor in? Something for me to think about. You had me on the criteria, but I return to the 2-6-6-6. I want to give it a good amount of thought and no one wants to look at these rates again. 2% looks like cost of living to me. If we front boded it a bit more than made impact over years… 3-4-5-6-6…you get to almost where you want to be but not quite.

    Elwell – We can do that. Want 2s in sewer? If you front end with a 3 instead of a two there is a compounding benefit but we’ll check and tell you the result.

    Tim – we hope the costs will go down, too. Trying to balance everything.

    Elwell – if we take an affordable approach now and don’t get the funding you want, you need to change later. There is no right answer on these things. Regarding timing – the ordinance needs to be adopted in June to be effective July 1. If you feel comfy as group that you’d be inclined to approved what we recommend to you, we could do first reading next week. You can change the rates. If not, we do have some time to work with this but would require a special meeting in June to hold hearings.

    Ian – can I get the fund withdrawals for the last 10 years – what we are basing the $1 million level is on?

    Elwell – yes, operating costs vary. You’d want to age the level of protection – you are more interested in the surprises we’ve encountered and their costs?
    Ian – yes. Thanks.

    Kate O’Connor- real quick. Are you going to show what the rate increases mean for the average customer?

    Elwell – yes. in the backup materials for next time. $183 is the avg in Brattleboro, then we’ll apply these rate increases and show you.

  • A. Proposed FY21 Parking Fund Budget – Presentation and Discussion

    Tim – at 9:26 and we are getting tired… an initial discussion of the parking fund budget. I’d love to make the papers with this one.

    Elwell – this is a most unusual time for the parking fund. Shutting it down was right, but our expenses are not at zero and revenue is at zero. We’ll end the year in the black, but at a severe deficit, and if we don’t begin operating at old levels quickly, it will be in the red in the fall. Look closely at the numbers we propose. It presumes we begin operating July 1, and we think that i reasonable. We would give up some parking revenue and capacity for the system to do some things we are trying to collaborate with businesses. We think paid parking has benefits. It is important to have the July 1 date in your mind. If we wait longer, all these numbers get worse.

    Patrick Moreland – you summarized the memo. I’ll do the budget. The proposed FY21 budget is $876k of revenue – $40k less than last year. Bond interest has dropped. In FY21 it goes down $21k. Parking meter revenue will be on the increase of $25k, and we think this is because it is easier to pay with smart meters. The flip side is we write fewer tickets. parking fines is down $45k. It is a more successful experience for them in the parking system. So revenue is down. Typically the parking fund has a positive balance. It brings in more than it spends, so it can maintain all the lots and meters. The cost is paid for by users in the fund, and the positive balance is required so we can make capital improvements. If in the future the parking fund is balanced, we could raise rates for permits or a minimum payment for using a credit card. We need to have the parking fund generate revenue in order to maintain it.

    For expenses – it is close to level from last year. Some scary increase, offset by health insurance. It is a small pool of people . There is a slight increase in depreciation and operating expenses – more expensive batteries for the new meters.

    Brandie – your angled roofing rivals Daniel’s there is competition! I think the regular citizen in me likes the free parking – it is so easy, but is important that we gently show people what we need to pay for. We need to shore up leaking in Expreienced Goods and Dotties. Not having water leaking would be a good way to support business. I’d love to park for free, but we need to talk about what this pays for an it being self sustaining.

    Tim – we’ve had complaints and issues about the wild west of parking we have now, and if things ramp up, it could be even worse. The July 1 projection is a reasonable one. If Governor ramps up more quickly we could do it before then.

    Ian – what is depreciation?

    Elwell – it is a number from the finance department that represents the diminishing value of our assets. After we make a significant investment, or depreciation is high at first, then drops off as it gets older.

    Daniel – a stupid question – does the parking fund have to be the parking fund? Couldn’t it be part of the general fund? Does it have to be a fund like this?

    Elwell – no. In other communities it is operated in other ways. It can be part of the general fund.

    Daniel – I hear it needs to make money or else be a drag on the general fund. If we say parking is free, we won’t get turnover…I just want to voice it and hear someone talk me down.

    Elwell – there is no right answer. It is a good practical way to run something with a fee structure, to run it like a little business. If you were to decide that running it as a department is more appropriate, there is nothing wrong with that. The decision to allow parking to be free is a really different question. If you want to move it to the general fund, we’d still operate as we do today. It is a well run operations. Employees work well together. They do a good job, year round.

    Liz – I like it being an enterprise fund. It shouldn’t all be on the property tax payer.

    Tim – reminder – we did a good job being responsive to downtown merchants and works and lives down there during smart meter upgrades. The response has been positive. The happiness level has gone up as a result. The revenue has gone down, but we can be happy about it. Like composting. The other good news in revenue – the parking boot income is almost halved. We had buzz about how terrible the boots are a while ago. It’s been cut in half for parking boot income. I think that is a good thing too. A necessary evil is less evil. That’s my feel good comments for the day. Closing comments? I feel like I get stares rather than voices. Nothing else?

    Liz moves to adjourn!

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