The Brattleboro Selectboard held another virtual meeting Tuesday night. Utility rates are set to rise, the General Fund end-of-year looks pretty good, the FY21 Parking and Solid Waste budgets were discussed, preliminary options for holding Representative Town Meeting were presented, and dogs were warned of their illegality. Read on for the details.
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Tim tests his audio. People arrive at the virtual meeting in little boxes. Brandie is having coffee with chocolate milk. Tim uses a Mickey’s Coffee Shop mug, he says. Ian compliments Daniel’s jacket. Daniel says he is feeling serious today. Brandie has a budgeting necklace. Daniel asks if we are live on TV yet. “I’m feeling punchy today.” Ian suggests coordinating the taking off of jackets. Perhaps during budgets. Tim wants to do the wave.
Chair Tim Wessel welcomes everyone. I’ll sneak in administrative stuff here and there. If you want to comment, raise your hand in the chat section of the meeting window. Type that you’d like to say something. I can then line up speakers and interests. We have a full meeting. On the national basis we are all experiencing a lot of emotion. I continue to be impressed with the community here in Brattleboro. Two major protests and Town staff, people in the community, police, fire dept… everyone comes together for free speech and justice in these increasingly crazy times. More than just COVID-19…
Town Manager Elwell – I’ll add that in both cases, the organizers coordinated with the police department. We appreciate that. We see examples where people are working in partnership, and we’re fortunate to have that be true here. Safe for everyone. Hopefully that additional events will view our Police Dept as a partner and people they can work with around these sorts of gatherings.
Tim – let me know if you want to speak. Lots to do tonight. Any board reports or comments?
Daniel Quipp – I want to state my gratitude for Chief Fitzgerald’s op-ed in the Reformer the other day. We can’t stay silent. We’re a white state and our role as allies is hard to navigate but honest public reflection is really important. Continuing to have an open, honest dialogue is the way we do business and they way we will continue.
Brandie Starr – thanks to Brattleboro Solidarity and student at the high school. Grateful for the number of people who showed up to protest the murder of George Floyd. Lots of people there today. It was huge.
Ian Goodnow – Gratitude to organizers and Town – we participated and it reminded me why I’m happy I live in Brattleboro. I want to encourage that kind of discourse and respect.
Liz McLoughlin – I was at Sunday’s – I appreciated it. The sidewalk chalk and details and a lot to learn. I’m also happy to be in Brattleboro.
Tim – public participation?
Andrea Watkins – I just want to follow on about the comments on the letter by the Chief. I feel like there are still unanswered questions that citizens everywhere need to be asking – asking years ago – but definitely asking now. I’d likeBrattleboro to set up a forum with him. My question is what are we doing that we are only hiring in people to the force that have the right characteristics and morals. His letter addresses ongoing training, but the absolute brutality and callousness can’t be trained out of someone. As a taxpayer, I pay these salaries. What are we doing to hire the right people in the first place? I’d like the board to carry on this dialogue.
Tim – I know some details of our proactive hiring practices. Peter? There is a Citizen’s Police Committee and often there are slots. That committee is a direct dialogue to have ongoing communication with the police. Not ruling out a forum.
Elwell – the Chief can speak to this. I can say that the hiring process is rigorous and the values expressed by the Chief in the paper are what we live by. WE don’t just hire people to fill slots. WE want people positively engaged in the community. The piece referred to warriors vs guardians. In Brattleboro it is guardian. Some work they do and it is challenging, but here is the Chief… the emphasis is on the mission statement and values.
Chief Fitzgerald – great question. We never know what is in someone’s heart, but we try. Our background work is lengthy and in depth – we ask what have you done for your community without asking for anything in return. If they rattle off volunteer programs… if you get stunned silence, that is what we try to weed out. We are short staffed not due to lack of applicants, it is applicants we want that are hard to find. Happy to schedule a forum to talk about officers, standards, and working with the community.
Andrea – (can’t hear)
Tim – your mic is on but we can’t hear you. Your face seems to indicate happiness. She types in chat Thank You and she’ll follow up with the Chief directly.
FY21 Utility Rate Ordinance
Tim – the liquor request has been withdrawn so we don’t have to become liquor commissioners.
Elwell – the rate increase tonight is a five year ordinance that will show the paying of the debt to build the water treatment plant. First year is 2% increase, then 2% increase for sewer and 6% for water. You asked about alternative rate increases. This is based on a two part test – a positive balance in the water part of the budget, and then overall water and sewer together, the fund balance should be $1million. That determined our rate calculations. You asked for info about why it is $1 million. There is major infrastructure that can need to be repaired – it can be expensive. It tends to be more expensive than roads. Utilities is expensive. DPW provided us with a memo about the kind of things that can go wrong. WE can go into further details, but that answers the question. There was also a request for info about impact on individual households. DPW did a memo – it shows that three different types of households and how the 2 and 6% will impact them. The report shows the range – a single person household will be $10 increase and a 5 person increase at 6% would be about $34. Finally, you asked us to run a scenarios keeping the sewer at 2%, but try 3, 4, 5, 6, 6% – when we ran that through the analysis it didn’t pass both tests – it passed the million, but not the water balance staying positive. We then looked for a sweet spot, and there was, so at 3, 5, 6, 6, 6 the water balance would stay in the black, and at 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, it stays in the black. But this would be more overall. We think the 3, 5, 6, 6, 6 would be an alternative to the 2, 6, 6, 6, 6%. I should note that we discussed the budget first last night’s then the rates. The opposite is tonight. Depending on the choice, the budget is ready if no changes, but if changes then the budget needs to be updated to show more revenue. So, rates first, then the budget second.
Tim – makes perfect sense to talk about rates again. Daniel?
Daniel – It was helpful to get the unplanned expenses info and how it will look on household bills. In the memo there is an alternative rate proposal – 6% for water and 1% for sewer. It’s slightly below the $1 million. Want to kick that around? It is in last week’s packet… pg 24 of 40.
Elwell – Staff agrees it isn’t recklessly below. Daniel suggests consider the 2 and 4 sixes for water but 1s for sewer. There is enough play in this model – a reasonable estimate. $975k is close. You could approve that and you’ve met the standard.
Daniel – I like it.
Ian – I feel a similar way. I was caught on the second part of the test. Good to see the list of unexpected expenses and can see why we need to keep money in there. If it is close enough and we can reduce it, why not?
Liz and Brandie nod in agreement.
Tim – I tho9ught the purpose of the two’s was needed to keep things growing?
Elwell – the sewer fund is more solvent during this period because water is where the expense is.
Tim – the reason I say 3, 4, 5 was to was rate payers into getting up to 6%s. Given this is a five year plan that will be looked at before five years go by. We are preparing for an $11 million water plant upgrade. That’s why we are considering these large increase. The 6s we have done before on the other side when we were doing the sewer. This or a future board could revisit this – we’re hoping for better bond rates, right?
Elwell – there are three ways this could turn out better. We anticipate that the overall cost might come in 25% less than $11 million – just an engineer’s estimate right now. We might also get a 25% grant from the state, which would reduce borrowing. What we borrow could be interest-free – there are several ways it could tun out better. We did a conservative estimate to get to these rates. We assume paying 3% for borrowing, for example.
Liz – I was going to bring up the caveats Peter just explained. They could be real and we should prepare to be nimble.
Ian – why are we planning out five years if the plan is to have the Selectboard look at it each year. Why not just set it for one year and look again next year.
Tim – Peter’s fault!
Elwell – we meant no torture. The intent is that we know this major expense is coming and we think it is prudent and proper to see the impact and show we intend to protect the integrity of the fund, for five years. We have demonstrated that and we have a plan. If it is uncertain enough for you, you can adopt the 2s for a year, then we can use the real numbers once we know them. When we look for town meeting approval, there wouldn’t be this stable funding plan in place, but we could do the math on it and show what five years looks like. If your collective level of comfort is to to do one year, that is fine.
Ian – the benefit would be that next year we’d have the real numbers. Now we are making an educated guess. Is that accurate?
Liz – we could od that, or vote on this for the longer span then next year, if need be, change it. We like long range planning – it helps give confidence that we can go forward.
Tim – I’m willing, and I’ll be here next year, I’m confident that rate payers know we will review this again. I’ll defer to Daniel’s proposal. Ian, how strong do you feel about one year.
Ian – Liz points out it is more responsible to plan longer out. It doesn’t always sit well for me to make a plan without information we’ll have in the future… I’ll defer to Daniel.
(everyone points to daniel on the screen…)
Steve Barrett – we want people to know the money necessary for the project. If it comes in less, that will help. I’d recommend sticking to the 5 year. We spent money to build this model and come up with this. Projections are conservative. They help in times of need and to level rates in the future.
Elwell – one thing about the 1s – in the first year, it is still 2s in the first year, then four 6s for water and four 1s for sewer. You could approve the budget either way, since it has the 2s in the first year.
Tim – board? The Daniel amendment counterproposal? (Thumbs up from everyone).
Elwell – no need to vote tonight – we just needed to know what you want next time for approval. The budget was a straightforward discussion last week. Unless you want a deeper dive, just adopt the motion for the FY21 Utility Fund budget.
Utilities Fund FY21 budget adopted.
Tim – our traditional update from Peter.
Daniel – do we need to adjourn as Water and Sewer commissioners (yes. They do…)
Elwell – just three things to highlight tonight. Three pieces of good news. The police department is back to responding in person unless the caller requests otherwise. For five weeks it was only certain types of urgent matters resulted in an officer going to the door. It is a good thing for all of us. It is safe, they are following the special protocols, wearing masks, distancing. But now they will come to you unless you ask that they don’t. Likewise, the swimming pool will open. It is very limited this summer. Very restrictive. Good things it opens at all. Health professionals show that we can open. There is a lot more to this. Go and look on Town’s website for details for information and forms. There will be schedules of certain windows of time for 25 preregistered swimmers can come, then staff cleans, then another 25 can come in. Every day all summer, as far as we can tell. The third item just gelled this morning. Been discussing it for a week or 10 days. A year ago the selectboard supported the Work Today program at Youth Services for day work employment and public services – because of COVID-19 and need for cleanliness, we are working on a plan to do that sort of work through the program. We believe that in maintenance of portapotties, to keep them clean, the Work Today program will take it on rather than us adding staff. This and other cleanliness work downtown, like wiping buttons at crosswalks, and wiping down parking meters. We think we have a combination – Work Today is meant to be 3 days a week. – we think a combination of Work Today plus seasonal Town staff can do this 7 days a week. We’ll set up a schedule for Work Today slots, and for Town staff. Funding isn’t an issue – it isn’t expensive for the seasonal employees – not a large expense and it can come from the General Fund. We’re ready to move forward as soon as we can – maybe one month from now. Til October or November.
Tim – I think it is a terrific use of the program, and will make people feel better about high touch surfaces. Knowing people will be on it is a nice piece of mind for some. It’ll be a month before we feel comfortable going downtown again.
Liz – I use my elbow.
Elwell – I saw someone use their toe.
Daniel – the buttons aren’t needed to cross the road? I f you don’t press it…
Elwell – No – you have to get the button to get in the cycle. If the red light is lit, you don’t need to touch this.
Ian – I’m learning so much.
Liz – me, too.
Brandie – people still ask why it says “walk like a dog at all crossings” That’s all I hear now.
Elwell – walk light are on for all crossings.
Ian – portapotties in the same place as last year (yes)
Elwell – Prestin Lot, High St lot and Brattleboro Common.
Ian – other spots?
Elwell – these seem to be the right locations. Never heard people asking for a fourth.
Brandie – some hope Preston will be handicap accessible, but it has to be up on a curb.
Elwell – that’s the general update, and now we have a substantive issue with the parklets. What Town and merchants can each do is being worked out. DBA is finding out which restaurants and places that serve liquor – where can we safely put them? Each business needs their own space. And only when a restaurant wants it there and will operate it. Seven are confirmed now. Pretty good chance of 8-9. Won’t get to 12. Still some safety issues to work out, and staffing. We’re asking that you authorize staff to implement this plan, and spend up to $30k from program income for economic development for parklets. We’ll buy and install jersey barriers. Each will be two spaces in size. To do that 12 times at $2500 each will be $30k. We’ll probably spend less. There might be some incidental expenses to hep DBA get businesses installed. We need you to provide me and Hilary Francis some additional authority. You authorize me to implement the plan and sign documents with restaurants as permits to occupy public space. These might be installed within one week and could stay until October or early November. Removed before snowfall…
Liz – it could snow in October.
Elwell – for Hilary Francis, we ask you to delegate your liquor authority to help businesses that go outside that normally don’t serve outside. They’ll be able to provide what they provide inside, outside. This could be in their parking lot, or in a parklet. In either case, we want to you to let Hilary Francis issue the outside consumption permits for this.
Tim – questions?
Daniel – insurance question. This is public space that we are giving to public entities? Who is responsible for the space?
Elwell – Bob Fisher thought that private entities occupying these spaces meant we should have them accept responsibility.
Daniel – same with clean up? (yes) They understand that?
Elwell – some are choosing not to do it because they can’t take on the obligation of the outdoor space. It is free and potentially beneficial, but it comes with responsibilities.
Daniel – smoking is prohibited in these spaces?
Elwell – yes – smoking on sidewalks is allowed, but this is an extension of restaurants. No smoking.
Brandie – are these parklets for food or food & alcohol, or mostly bars with token food?
Elwell – can be for either or… businesses not in the food business at all can do it, but here it will be food and beverage businesses. But not limited to that.
Tim – each parklet will take up two spaces. I hadn’t absorbed that. I though one, but that would be small. Will they be together, next to one another. How much parking will we lose and the pushback we get from that?
Elwell – we’ll find out about the pushback. In the balancing act, the economic and health needs plus we have lots almost completely available and much on street parking, we think it won’t be a problem. If we hear otherwise, it will be a lesson learned.
Tim – not in any handicapped spots (no, not there…)
Tim – how about we limit this to calendar year 2020. So if anyone has a problem, we should revisit this for the next year’s season. Don’t want anyone to get the idea it is a done deal for the rest of time.
Brandie -I dunno, it might be cool…
Liz – I think we lift it to this year then see how it goes.
Daniel – I’d love to leave the door fully open for a discussion next spring. It’s nice that we get to have this little parklet experiment.
Tim – limit it or not?
Daniel – we will revisit in the spring, rather than THIS WILL END.
Tim – the motion says parakeets downtown. 2020 would be more clear.
Elwell – I don’t think anyone signing up expects this to be permanent. There is excitement around this that once we try this, people will want to do it again, but not automatically happen without further review. We could make it say 2020 and it would be really clear,
Liz – parklets are all the rage and we’ve heard from the Planning Commission to support this idea. Nice that we have their support.
Ian – seems great. Might be clunky and might need changes. We’re making strong definitive action during a pandemic during the businesses and might make downtown cooler. I’m so excited about this. I’m super excited.
Daniel – we will do all we can to make these barriers look better than they usually do.
Elwell – incidental expenses again… the DBA is working on some ways to beautify them. To spend a little to help them implement that will make this successful. We instead on concrete to be safe. They might get used for other purposes, but go ahead and make them pretty, or put flowers around. We’ll try to help the DBA look great.
Daniel – property of the Town of Brattleboro, so no business names on these, right? (right)
Elwell – if we don’t use them for parklets in the future, we can use them for construction sites. Artists can express and enjoy themselves.
Tim – Daniel is a fan of chalk. A reference to social media.
Liz – good use of chalk on Sunday.
Wendy Levy – two questions. First – what is a parklet? It is an area that a business will use outride the business that will probably be public space, with some sort of deck and protection for outdoor use of the business and their patrons. Won’t get taken down at night?
Elwell – when you spread this to the Whetstone or places with private parking, they will do their own areas on private property. The parklets are on public property. All but two will be in the street. One in Harmony lot and one in High St lot. The platform within the parklet is the responsibility of the business will be to put in a proper deck that is a flat safe surface at the same level of the sidewalk.
Wendy – hours of operation? On one hand, I’m excited for this. Jersey City did a street with no cars and it made the area so much nicer to be in and walk around. We can’t close Main Street but proposing more outdoors and reasons to be out, but the noise complaint – on the other hand there is noise complaint potential when liquor is served. What regulations are there?
Elwell – whatever the business hours are normally, that will be their parklet hours. As a starting point. We can make changes if we need to.
Tim – and the noise of motorcycles…
Felicity Ratte – thanks for mentioning the Planning Commission. WE’ve been talking about PSAs for safe behavior. Could the barriers inform the public about safe behavior – demonstrating 6 feet distances? Or just pretty pictures?
Daniel – pretty and inspiring lift spirits and we need lifting of spirits.
Brandie – each business is probably thinking about what they want to do.
Liz – On beautification – are individual artists being contacted? Or do restaurants do it?
Elwell – I think DBA is tapping into the artists community. Town will allow them to be decorated. They’ll make arrangements for artists. Amanda is hearing all of this tonight.
Tim – so, approve parklets and the legal issues?
Elwell – FYI -provisional permits are issued by the state. We’ll do outside consumption permits. In your motion, drop the word “provisional”
Tim – have I been bullied out of my 2020 suggestion?
Brandie – bullied?
Daniel – the democratic process determined it to be unnecessary
Tim – a break is in order. Until 8 pm.
General Fund FY20
Elwell – our early estimates were cautious but we’ve had better than expected performance of property taxes and local option taxes. We didn’t think we’d have a deficit, and probably not a surplus. Because all three came in higher than expected in May, we will have a surplus as much as $480k. We’re in a pretty safe space. We’ll come in with a favorable experience. The nuance to this is that when we say “to the good” the budget always presumes a use of Fund Balance to accomplish capital work. This year that was $377k. If we break even, we’d use $377k of the Fund Balance. We’ll have a small surplus and not have to use the Fund Balance. One reason for all of this was the property taxes collected by the Town (and then get paid to schools…). The Town still pays the school even if taxes don’t come in. There have been years were we have an under collection and have a little loss, and sometimes a benefit. This year, the adjustment was $234k – that kind of reduction for education funding. This year the figure 4th quarter was $234k less than previous quarters. That’s why we think we’ll end the year in a strong financial position.
Daniel – great news. In advance of the Parking Fund discussion. Can the General Fund transfer fund to the Parking fund for capital work?
Elwell – yes, thanks. We haven’t discussed this but I was going to suggest it when we discuss the Parking Fund. Before June 30th. After that, it would be in future years. You can ask for it tonight and we can do it June 16th.
(they all say yes – more discussion coming under parking)
Tim – part of this good news is about people paying their taxes.
Elwell – when we were at 97% collected, it wasn’t abnormal. We expect to get at 98.75%. We’re already at 98% tonight. About $100k to go, and we expect to hit that mark. Another indication is that applications for abatement, as of right now, we only have three. Only one is for inability to pay. Really normal looking year for tax abatements as well.
Tim – I fished for that. It blows me away. It’s a difficult year, for my family and for other families. With jobs disappearing and unemployment issues. I hope it shows a value that the Town provides. Thank you to everyone who pays taxes.
FY21 General Fund Budget – Review of Recommended Budget and Process of Adoption
Elwell – usually you send this to Representative Town Meeting, they approve it, and we’re ready for the new fiscal year. This year, we almost had a Representative Town Meeting, we got to the informational meeting. Didn’t quite make it. We don’t have an adopted budget. Our early optimism that we could meet in early June faded quickly. We came to realize we need special permission. State reps and Senators made an exception this year to have a budget before July 1. The legislature made it possible this one year for the Selectboard to adopt the budget. When we have an RTM and you could place a ratification question, but not obligated to do that. We need you to adopt the budget so we can provide public services after July 1. Staff recommends that the budget can be adopted as is, but if you want to look at anything any more, we need to know that tonight and we’ll have a special meeting for that in June. If ready for adoption, we’ll bring this back on June 16th.
Tim – we sure did go over this really well, though Ian didn’t. Not his budget… it is a unique circumstance where we know it all and you are playing catch up. You can vote against it.
Daniel – there is only one of you.
Ian – I was thinking of abstaining, since I wasn’t part of the budget preparing. I would inform the board that I intend to abstain unless I hear a good reason. It isn’t mine and this is a unique situation.
Liz – I’d suggest that Ian is a selectboard member and he has reviewed it and he doesn’t have to abstain. You have the full authority to vote on the budget as you see fit.
Brandie – Liz is right. I’d probably abstain, too, but if you feel confident, you have the right to vote as you want to. This makes me so uncomfortable. This is not how our town is meant to do business. We need to do it. It makes me sick to adopt a budget that reps haven’t approved. Wew can offer a ratification option. I’ll vote in favor, but on a moral level it doesn’t sit well with me.
Tim – yes, a technical disruption and a spiritual disruption.
Daniel – I’m in favor of adopting it. What does Town Meeting look like after this. You usually spend more time on other articles. They will still vote on all the other issues, and ratifying this adopted budget.
Elwell – yes. We’ll need to review the warning you issued carefully. There will be substantive changes. Such as, the Town Treasurer that we now have, rather than the interim treasurer. There will be other things, too.
Liz – one thing we will miss in terms of Town Meeting – I’m concerned about the human resource budget. The committee reviews charitable giving of our budget, but I would think it would be a good idea for us to ask lawton Crispe to ask the committee to check in with these agencies to see how they are doing and have their responsibilities changed dramatically and do we need to adjust the calculations. If only to just report that nothing has changed, that would be the responsible thing to do.
Tim – Wendy, from the Commons…
Wendy Levy – I’m not with the Commons, Tim. I appreciate Ian and Brandie’s comments. I get that without a budget it would be really disrupt things. I hope this won’t be a precedent. The vote on whether Brattleboro should have a Mayor affirmed that people want to keep the form of government we have. I see why you have to do this. Thanks.
Tim – well put and well heard.
Elwell – We all know this is a deviation due to the circumstances. The reassurance I can provide that it is the law that it can only happen this one time this year. Then back to what we usually do.
Tim – usually Selectboard members are reps first, then return to be reps…so I don’t want to do something I’d be against…
Oscar Heller – I have a comment and a question. Comment – looking at the human services budget again. This all gets weirder if anything happens other than passing the budget. The intention is good but the democratic town meeting concerns increase if the budget changes. If the board wants to leave as much power in the hands of RTM as possible, how can they approve the budget in a conditional short term way… or is it just a formality for RTM?
Elwell – My advice is that the board adopt the budget and not attach any conditions. We are all committed to having a RTM. But I don’t know how that will unfold. making the adoption of the budget on an expectation about RTM is risky. Adopt the budget straight out, then when RTM is able to be warned, warn it in a way for them to address the budget. RTM has the authority to make decisions about human service allocations. The funding to support the committee’s recommendations is in the budget, but RTM has to approve it. The warning of RTM is where the board will bring up questions of review or modification. Bob Fisher should weigh in, too.
Brandie – during the ratification process, isn’t there full discussion?
Elwell – implications of RTM modifying it would mean modified tax bills. We’d collect a different amount of taxes. It’s a normal thing and that could certainly unfold that way. A bit of levity – I testified before both committees in Montpelier and they were concerned that Town Meetings chip away at budgets. They ere concerned about the democratic process, and whether it would encourage the reps to reduce a budget. I told them how the board recommends a budget and RTM adds more for the last two years – to tax ourselves higher. That brought more than a few chuckles from the legislature, and put their minds at ease about Brattleboro.
Oscar – I’d love to hear some discussion about making sure RTM gets to have its say. The bill says the Selectboard can approve the budget. RTM doesn’t have a say. It would be an interesting discussion for people to see.
Tim – beyond what we’ve already had? Daniel?
Daniel – we can do this once and once only. I’ve said what I want to say – we worked hard on this for many months.
Liz – while Oscar is nearby I want to thank him for the mask tree in Pliny Park. It is useful and helpful. Thanks to him and all the sewers who make masks.
Brandie – as we draft the warning and make plans for RTM, I’ll be making it clear that I want RTM to have their say and talk it up and down. We’re doing this because we have to, and have our support.
Tim – and this is why we are talking about this now.
Liz – this is a time for more democracy, not less.
Tim – always messy, but always the right way to go.
Elwell – warn this for two weeks from tonight? (Yes)
FY21 Parking Fund Budget – Continued Review and Possible Approval
Elwell – it is really straightforward. It has had no operating revenue the last few months. It is a break even budget, similar to the utility fund. A small decline in revenue and small increase of expenses. The major concern going forward… we intend to resume parking by July 1 – an important part of this business. If we wait longer we’d lose more revenue and would impact this budget. This budget is about break even. We are writing fewer tickets. The more digital system is allowing users to have more successful outcomes. That brings down the revenue. We no longer make more than we spend. We contemplate a rate increase, but given the General Fund is above what we expected, and we have capital needs – leaking at Transportation Center into retail space below – we don’t have the funds to address them. If you want to move funds from the General Fund, you can do that and it might be best to postpone final action on this so we can bring you an item to do that transfer, and it could be reflected in the budget you adopt.
Liz – I agree… we ask other landlord to be responsible and we should be modeling that behavior for ourselves.
Daniel – I was thinking about parklets and each one takes two spaces, do we have a projection of the revenue loss from those spaces. We should be able to see how each meter did with revenue.
Elwell – Patrick? There will be some reduction in revenue, but more marginal than the spaces. We should expect that people who would have parked there and will park elsewhere. We can bring you those cost estimates.
Liz – if that impact becomes significant, can that be accounted for with program income to reimburse the parking fund?
Elwell – we can look into that as well. Could be tricky.
Tim – what about lot resurfacing?
Elwell – we’ll itemize the work needed.
FY21 Solid Waste Budget – Presentation, Review, and Possible Approval
Elwell – it is limited in scope and relatively fixed, so we ask you adopt it this evening. It continues to be strained by the success of the operation. It is remarkable the amount of garbage diverted into the compost and recycling streams. The sale of bags has been far less than we expected, and the cost per ton of processing has gone several times higher. The combination has put us in the red every year, as so, we ask you to transfer 40k from the vernal fund to the solid waste fund. Because it is so dependent on the General Fund transfer, we think i should be reintegrated into the general fund budget. It doesn’t serve a useful public purpose to keep it separate. Better to be in the overall operations of Town, and under the watch of RTM. Do the transfer, approve the budget, and direct staff to not separately do a solid waste budget next year.
Tim – great. I have string feelings but others can speak first.
Brandie – I have feelings about this budget but am not ready to talk about them yet.
Ian – I voice my opinion to see if Tim and I disagree. I think this and the parking fund can be in the General Fund. This one makes no sense to be on its own, but because we are thinking, we should wait and do it next week.
Tim – I feel strongly we should put it in the General Fund. Better to put all budgets at the same time of the year. I couldn’t find anything to talk out and the public will tell us they don’t like PAYT. I can wait, but I’m all for pushing forward. No problem with it.
Daniel – good to go tonight. Let’s do it.
Brandie – kick it in that fund. I’m tired of looking at it.
Liz – Ian thought if we moved it more people would chime in?
Ian – no. WE have received some info from people about waste management. People in the public care about this.
Liz – I thought you had inside information we should all be informed of.
approved – the transfer, the budget, and the folding into the General Fund.
Daniel – last year we asked about recycling from the supplier -let’s ask for an update from the hauler.
Elwell – we’ll ask for that information and circulate when we get it.
Windham Solid Waste Management District’s PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes)
Tim – this sounds easy and fun.
Elwell – I believe it is easy. We get a payment. They are more sustainable with their compost and solar, so they collect less money from the members. The rebate we get as a host community has gone down, because it is a factor – PILOT is 5.5% of what we pay. Some other member towns wonder if it is necessary and if there is any burden for us as the host community. We get property tax revenue from the solar array. There is a balancing act here, and lively debate. The board of the district has agreed to continue the arrangement for two more years.
Liz – I want to congratulate Town staff for these negotiations.
Elwell – that’s Patrick Moreland entirely.
Tim – thanks to the WSMD board as well.
Representative Town Meeting – Options for How to Hold the Meeting During the Summer of COVID-19
Elwell – options for RTM. Some broad points then all walk through the memo. The first broad thing to say is that this is a very preliminary discussion. At this time, given the gathering constraints, we don’t think it is safe to warn a RTM yet. It will be some time. The purpose of tonight is to look at some options – the best way a RTM can be held that will be most like being in a large room together. Once a year people come together and make the biggest decisions about borrowing and spending. We need to provide a process that is as normal as it can be, but should accept that this can’t be normal. We don’t think there is a way forward with that, so we need to look at other ways to accomplish the purposes of RTM. It’s a preliminary discussion. Throw things out to add to the mix or narrow it down. The other thing I’d say is a caveat or apology to reveal – our intention was to show six different alternatives for discussion. I think these are in descending order of desireablity. I think the likelihood is that there are elected officials that can’t participate in an online meeting. You can hold a webinar with a few presenters and Q&A, but evenly distributed opportunity to participate is impossible. Interacting with other humans will leave some behind with the technology. WE should not further pursue a full RTM online. That leaves four things. Note that one that moderator Crispe and Town staff think is best is to have about this many boxes in a gotomeeting setting, but it would be 5-8 venues to participate around town. BCTV would have a camera in each location. They would get sound and video for each location – Lawrin could moderate by making sure each location had an opportunity to participate, then a secondary stem with each district in their own location. We could have 60 people in a room by later… if it goes to 50, for this purpose, maybe we can get special permission to get to 60 people. Each district would be together in a room and the district chair would keep the process fair and balanced, and would be the person Lawrin would rely upon to help moderate. If we can’t do that and have to have smaller number, then each district would be split in two locations, and maybe have to co-chairs per district. 3-6 district locations, plus one with bard and officials, and one more with lawton and Town Clerk. And then we have to figure out the public. The public could be in the room with selectboard, or in with Lawrin. The public being with the board would preserve the independence of the moderator. There was consideration of an outdoor location but think that is not workable – accessibility and bathrooms, and weather. We could have a rainy or hot day, and that would interfere, so we don’t think it is a good idea. We also looked at a two stage process. Decisions by ballots and discussion ahead of time. We don’t think this is as good – the ballot process means no amendments, just yes or no. But there would be a discussion. A 5th option is go all australian ballot, but that is tied for last with 180 people on goto meeting- we lose all interaction to casting a ballot, so we’re happy to explore other options. We need to refine what we recommend. The 5-8 bocages go to meeting is the best way to go.
Liz – I would just hope lawton and Hilary have all the support hey need. It sounds complicated.
Daniel – sounds like a lot of testing would need to be done with BCTV. They work hard to bring meetings’ and that comes through cable – this seems above and beyond.
Elwell – we’d pay, and maybe buy some equipment.
Daniel – 180 people, and currently 25 is the max, so that is 7.2 places – a few school gyms, the selectboard meeting room, the library…
Elwell – BCTV has an opinion. Pretty likely we’d be in the selectboard meeting room. They are prewired for some spots, but not enough spots. Lawrin and Hilary maybe could be in BCTV studios, and we have the selectboard meeting room. The districts would be up to BCTV – what is simple and reliable.
Tim – I was on the board of BCTV and have video experience – it is doable and it wouldn’t be that expensive. I’m both fearful and excited for it. It is the best option at this point. I have a technical issue – I think the wonderfulness of this stops every single town meeting member will be attending in a certain venue – vulnerable or old people.. that’s a large ask. It is a personal decision. Phones are difficult, but if there was a phone option or something for those who aren’t comfortable and really feel the need to be at home or a group of 5 rather than 27… just want to throw it out there.
Ian – were going to cram as man as we are allowed into a space. If the whole point is to be safe during COVID-19 – it doesn’t sit well with me either. Could multiple places outside be used? 60 people in a room, with a mask, socially distanced – it sounds impractical.
Liz – Instead of being outside, we’d want to look for a venue that has sufficient air handling – windows that open and good circulation. Keep the air moving.
Brandie – the passing around of the microphone creeps me out.
Elwell – maybe a shared mic to step to at a stand.
Daniel – no touching.
Brandie – but spittle.
Daniel – we have to figure out how to reopen our radio station with shared equipment.
Liz – could people bring their own microphone?
Elwell – we’ll look at how to make it safer. It can’t be passed.
Tim – the proximity and speaking and shouting, not surfaces, that are the main spreading mechanisms. Everyone has a different level of risk. There is no safe.. we’re reducing risk, not keeping people safe. Reducing the most risk we’d ;look at the other two options… australian ballot choice and discussion. That is the most risk reduction, but you risk something when you cross the street as well.
Daniel – it would not be impossible to do it on this platform. People would need to be patient, and we might need to work out some permeating tech support. I don’t want to dismiss it out of hand. I wouldn’t want a 13 hour meeting that way, but it isn’t impossible.
Tim – we’re hoping for a window of people feeling comfortable, and the window closes, it might be our only option.
Liz – we need to explore and be comfortable with the public attending the selectboard. We don’t know how many would attend. We have to be comfortable with that.
Elwell – maybe 5-9 rooms. Public is separate from us. There would be no given co-moderator for the room. Maybe a member of town staff sits with the public.
Elizabeth Fox – the considerations – remember ASL interpretations are part of meetings. If you have more boxes, we get smaller and it is impossible to see the ASL. Always happy to help with logistics.
Franz Reichsman – Am I audible? Then I will speak! The idea on air circulation – that is bad. You want dead air so nothing circulates. The importance is there are a lot of details to think through. You have to factor in a significant lead time and conditions for meeting could change at any time. There will be a second peak of the infection. Almost any option may be abandoned again depending on the infection. I’d include that in the thinking 0 that what is undesirable might be the only solution.
Elwell – so I hear you feel pretty fatalistic about the first two – as usual or outside. Of the other four, it sounds like we should further examine everyone at goto meeting, and more details of the 5-10 venue option. Australian ballot options would be fallback options. More on this in July.
Tim – and push the idea out to RTM.
Ian – if someone thinks they have COVID-19 and wanted to participate, we should work that out.
Elwell – yes, how to accommodate people who don’t feel safe. On the list.
Tim – I’m starting to lose it.
Brandie – me too.
Award Bid – Police Department Partial Roof Replacement Project
Elwell – the upper roofs at the new police facility didn’t get replaced initially, and RTM gave money to replace the roof for $100k. We got two bids. Take the one at $98,860 from The Melanson Company of Keene, New Hampshire.
Annual Dog Warrant
Tim – we have Brandie’s favorite topic… the annual dog warrant.
Brandie – this is so petty.
Elwell – the state imposes an obligation to adopt this warrant and this language, which includes a mention of euthanizing – Brattleboro never does this and will never do that, but we have to have it in the document. The dog warrant warns the deadline is passed for dog licenses, and we believe this list of dogs haven’t yet been licensed. It is the notice to this edog owners. They will get letters, then fines or other penalties, but not euthanasia . The deadline wasn’t extended technically, but we waved late fees. That is still in effect. It can be done remotely, and no penalties. We need all dogs to be licensed for safety.
Brandie – glad to hear that. This list looks longer than usual. If we could start the letter with an acknowledgment of hard times. This is a lot of dogs.
Elwell – this was our worst fear for property taxes.
Tim – the future dates mean they don’t need to be licensed?
Hilary Francis – the dates you see are the dates they need rabies. They still need to license the dog. The list is way longer than normal and part of the problem is vets were closed, and many are trying to get in and there is along waiting list so people can’t get updated with rabies shots and we had to cancel the rabies clinic – many want to license their dog but can’t get the rabies shot. Until further notice, there will be no ticketing yet. We’ll warn people if that changes. We don’t know what will happen a few months from now. Get appointments booked now. It is required and is important.
Elwell – this is unusual, but want to note for Hilary that the letter will be modified, will you also please include what you just described about making appointments. It would be helpful to be softer in our town and explicit about what to do.
Hilary – we already sent second notices. We field a lot of questions. It might freak people out more if we send another notice. How about prior to ticketing?
Ian – where does this list come from?
Liz – Santa
Ian – previous registrations? I’m amazed we have this knowledge.
Hilary – previous registrations guide us. If things change we remove them from the list. Some never register. If nothing happens… but if there is an issue they are responsible.
Liz – what about new people who have dogs? How do they get informed?
Hilary – their vets?
Brandie – I think it is hot or miss with vets. I think people just know. I think my parents told me.
Daniel – one of the good things about the list is you get to see all the names of dogs – Bagel. Brooklyn. Two of them. You can see who owns which dog.
Tim – There are colors I don’t recognize – Brindle.
(This meeting is falling apart rapidly as they descend into discussion of dog colors…)
Tim – Wait, we need to do something…
Town Committees and Boards – Announce Vacancies
They annonce ’em. Full list likely to follow.