The Selectboard Show was on Tuesday night with a special extended edition.
It was their first consent agenda, with a review of SeVEDS current projects, a talk about renters and landlords, an Energy Committee proposal to align with state emissions goals, and a review of FY22 capital projects and equipment.
Lots of pre-meeting chatter – video cam focusing tips, cursing questions, tv delays, microphones, mute buttons, food deliveries, dogs, being early to the meetings…
Chair Tim Wessel – here and on time, ready to serve. I was going to make remarks about the Govenor’s remarks today. Go find them. They were quite good. He made good statements about responsibility. We’re have new restrictions for the Town. We want to keep kids in school and daycare as long as possible. Think about those with children. If you don’t have kids it isn’t as evident as it might be.
Town Manager Peter Elwell – I usually try to keep it short, but this is longer than usual. There are changes in Town Operations. Like in the spring, we gave many updates as we adapted to COVID operations. There was a lot to share as we found our way. The only enthusiastic thing tonight is we have that experience. This will be equally challenging and longer duration of being isolated. We expect more state restrictions in the days ahead. We are in the process of resuming maximum work at home functioning of town offices. Some are already working at home. Because we need to stay separate, we in town government are returning to providing services from home rather than the offices. Offices will be mostly unoccupied. We expect Stay Home Stay Safe, but now we are to work remotely as much as possible, and we are well equipped to do that. There is some transition this week, but after this, the only time in offices will be when a task requires it. Otherwise, call or email. We can do most of what the public needs. Field operations are being adapted. We are completing some seasonal projects and as we wind that down we’ll go back to our spring arrangements for field work, to keep crews separate, with work pods. We have an established system of work pods… they work together but don’t interact with other employees. Police and Fire will be like in the summer, but ratcheting it back up. Look for updates in the Friday COVID updates. The next few weeks will be important to check every week. Things will change a lot. There was time when police were not responding in person to all calls – we expect to get to that again. Those kinds of changes. Maintenance work will continue, but will be in divided work groups. The overall functioning is moving back toward more like April. The library is back to just curbside and delivery service. Rec and Park programming is also closed. Parks are still open, with signage to be careful with equipment, but get out and use the green spaces. That’s the update for now. This is a week of extreme transition. A lot of isolation and adaptation. One other thing – parklets! We have supported the business community with parklets for restaurants. There has been trial and error with that. We are in a status when two that have been well used – Fish & Chips and Hermit Thrush – will remain. We’ll leave them out. We don’t know how snowy it will be. They will share responsibility for clearing snow on Elliot and in High Grove parklets. If it becomes impossible then they will be removed. All the others have been removed – not desired anymore by the businesses.
Tim – parakeet by Blue Moose was painted nicely. What will we do with it?
Elwell – Town owns all the barriers. We’ll store them, and if we need them again we can use them for that, or we’ll use them on construction projects, which might add some whimsy when we use them. There was enough success – where it worked it worked really well. We’ll keep doing it even when we don’t have to. We have the materials.
Ian – stored so art will be maintained?
Elwell – as best we can. It’s industrial. No purposeful harm.
Brandie Starr – talking about COVID – even in non-covid years, holidays aren’t cheerful for all, and the light change can be an issue for some, and we add being locked down. Mental health is important and not a year to put on the back burner. If you need to talk to someone – call 211 or HCRS or a friend or family member. What you are feeling is valid and heavy. This is a marathon not a sprint. Reach out to a professional, or ask a friend to get you help.
Daniel Quipp – I attended the community safety public forum, where people shared how they have been impacted by systems. Good attendance. There are other ways to engage. Go to the Town website and take the survey, for individuals and organizations. There will be an arts focused event this Saturday. These are online. I had something else but it slipped my mind.
Ian Goodnow – this is our first use of the consent agenda, and public participation is for when someone from the public could talk about something on the consent agenda?
Tim – yes – the consent agenda. The idea is to put multiple (woof woof!) things together for one item to vote on without discussion. There are two things tonight – the monthly financial report and info on the bulletproof vest grant. Yes, this is where the public could ask to pull and item from the consent item to be spoken to. It is a board member will make that call. No debate. So yes, public can advocate for something being pulled.
Elwell – the public should understand that the intent is to allow space for discussion around items that need more review, and simpler items for the consent agenda… those items are still in the backup materials and items can be pulled and placed at the end of the meeting agenda.
Brandie – so, if we pulled something, we’d discuss it at the end of the meeting?
Elwell – yes, last item of new business.
Ian – we’d pull it when the consent agenda came up. Public can ask for it in public participation.
Elwell – and they should save their discussion for the end of the meeting.
Public Participation –
Kurt Daims – with Brattleboro Commons Sense, and a climate resolution in 2018. A senior town official wrote about the progress… “After RTM, the board asked staff to look into cow power. Instead, board agreed to local alternative. Time passed. Looked for local renewable projects. I began to question if this was the right approach. Had I made a bad recommendation? Sustainability coordinator can make the decision…” That was 8 months ago. This simple proposal for renewable electricity for the town hasn’t had any action, and it is as simple as calling Green Mountain Power. No action by board or committee, and this resolution isn’t even listed as a relevant document on their website. They have been derelict in their duty, and need to get back tot he original document. Now is the time to take that action.
Jackson – two questions – how do items get chosen to be on the consent agenda, vs regular agenda, and 2, at the last meeting the proposal about security deposits had a agenda item today?
Tim – it wasn’t discussed tonight, but staff comes to us – Liz and I – with a proposed agenda and we sign off on it.
Elwell – we prepare a draft agenda and they approve it. If there are difference of opinion, the board weighs in.
Tim – about the ordinance – it isn’t on the agenda tonight. There is a follow up discussion about some information on some possible housing matters. The ordinance is not on the agenda.
Trevor – no opportunity for public comment on the security deposit ordinance tonight?
Tim – yes. It isn’t on the agenda.
Trevor – is it still on the table or has it been thrown out?
Tim – 3 members of the board stopped the process. There is a discussion of rental matters, though.
Josh Wyman – question – there is an update coming on Friday about COVID?
Elwell – yes, every Friday there is a COVID update, for the foreseeable future.
Josh – what’s in it?
Elwell – it highlights what is new each week, then lists a repeat of current status of all town operations, and contact information, plus details about what special actions are being taken.
Josh – so that’s about Town government. Will there be resources for people as well?
Elwell – go to the Town’s website and you’ll see everything – updates, resources, and more. Archived since March. Health resources, financial relief… you can get in touch with us and we can get you info you need. If you can access the website, we didn’t compile info ourselves, because it is big and complex and so we link to organizations providing those services.
Daniel – the easiest way to get connected is to call 211 if you don’t have the internet. They connect people to resources. Even if you do have internet access, call 211.
Gary Stroud – Kudos. Groundworks and WWHT purchasing Dalem’s Chalet and giving people a place to stay. It would be good to have an update on the homeless in the community. They are part of our community as well. Will the portapotties be shut down for the season?
Elwell – the barrier is gone, the potties have been removed for the season. On the chalet project, that is on the Dec 1 meeting agenda for an update.
Gary – Everyone Eats and all the nonprofits – ti would be good to get updates on where to eat. Many are homebound. Just those two things. That’s it. Thanks.
Tim – excited to hear about Dalem’s Chalet very soon.
Tim – 2 items – financial report and bulletproof vest grant.
Elwell – make a motion to approve the consent agenda as presented…
Staff Update re: Research on Rental Housing Matters
(They congratulate themselves on their first consent agenda)
Tim – Staff Update re: Research on Rental Housing Matters
Sue Fillion – I did some research on options for landlord or tenant protection. Most of it was internet research, and spoke with tenants union, and spoke with WWHT. Essentially, there are three options. A private market option is landlord insurance. There are riders for options to protect an income stream, rent guarantee, and legal assistance insurance for evictions and such. Landlords would have to pay for it on their own. There is also the ability to provide a tenant subsidy via a local housing vouchers. You could set up a program to set income and eligibility and provide a subsidy to help with rents. The big one is the landlord risk mitigation fund. You can’t use CDBG funds for these, so you need revenues to fund the housing vouchers program somehow. The landlord risk mitigation fund is to expand opportunities. It provides insurance to landlords concerned about risks – damages, missed rents,- the needs of the community. A tenant carries a certificate and presents it to the landlord. If they couldn’t pay a deposit, it would guarantee the damages would be paid. Most of these programs deal with low income people. 80% median income is a requirement. There is a variety of ways to set it up. Families, vets, etc. Funds come from public sector or community organizations. Sometimes managed by the town, or by housing agencies. Getting into the program would come from referrals. The type of claims covered are limited – damages not covered by deposit, and unpaid rent or legal costs. Often a cap on funds. Tenants don’t hold the funds and isn’t responsible for paying it back. Research shows they aren’t used as frequently as people think. Tenant participation – they could apply for coverage from this fund – but we have a tight housing market so any fund shouldn’t hold up anyone looking for housing. Paper in hand when going to rent. Landlord engagement can vary depending on staffing or not. It should be created with input from landlords so they will use it and will take tenants who are challenged finding housing. Also, tenants shouldn’t be held up. A smooth process without waiting. That was the big program out there that is innovative. To end, we enacted lan use policies. 13 new housing units have been permitted. CARES funding helped. 18 units all together. Planning Commission is looking to loosen up regs to get more housing, and we are waiting to do the housing study to learn more. Questions?
Ian – Informative! The review of the land use regulations. Could you explain some of these things? What do regulating single use occupancies, and infill housing mean?
Sue – single room – zoning requires laundry on every floor… we want to get rid of some of those standards. Maybe cheaper to build, too. Allowing infill housing – we now allow one principle use per lot. We could allow two. There are also different housing types that could be easier to develop. Several towns have models for accessory dwelling units that are easy to put in. We could look at smaller lot development. Easier to build and get more units. Brattleboro has many long, deep lots with back areas that could be used for housing.
Tim – single room occupancies – would that be existing buildings? Or just new?
Sue – it could be for either.
Liz McLoughlin – there are a lot of single occupancy units lost in the Brooks House fire. The 18 units created, how much more than usual?
Sue – not really sure. Usually we are around 10 a year, so it is definitely higher.
Liz – the risk pool. Can we further explore whether there is any non-profit organization will to take this on, and also whether they or the town would be interested in seeking funding from foundations to bankroll this?
Sue – I don’t see why not.
Tim – at the end of your report you noted that the housing action plan might take 6 months, so that’s a better timeline than we heard before. That would be good data to go forward with. I was disappointed in Bob’s report.
Ian – Sue, one other thing. The survey. We’re excited about the housing survey. is there a way we could fastback looking for the consultant prior to getting the grant, to hit the ground running?
Elwell – I checked with Bob. There is no legal impediment to looking for the consultant and hiring them if the funding comes through. We could accelerate a bit.
Daniel – thanks for the report, Sue. I’d like to bring Bob in and have him talk about his memo.
Bob Fisher – after the meeting and coming up with ideas, the idea of funding program through CDBG funding sounded like a great idea. I looked at eligible uses, including program income. Unfortunately, those CDBG funds cannot be used for income type payments – food, clothing, housing, rent, montage, utilities. The common theme of ineligible activities – government functions, buying equipment, etc – the common theme is that it can’t be used for expendable items. Things that go away without a lasting impact. Eligible uses go to creating buildings and housing. So, it won’t help. Sorry about that.
Tim – I have an angle – can the program income and CDBG money be used for the landlord risk pool? If we set it up – not specific for rent but for damages – that is material to the rental and is tangible. It would be a requirement to not charge last month’s rent to be in this program. Would that be a way around the prohibition?
Bob – that’s a good angle to argue. I’ll look. There can be emergency grant payments – for emergencies. I’ll look at that angle on it…
Brandie – good to look to Washington State for their programs. Tim, are you saying this money doesn’t go away because it preserves a structure to be rented?
Tim – yeah, if damage occurs to a toilet, and this pays for it, it is a picture necessary to be re-rented. I’m trying to get at the system unfairness. These fund can be used to add on to a house and create an apartment but it benefits a property owner. We can’t benefit a tenant. I want to correct that and stay within the system.
Liz – seen as a capital expense, so it is covered?
Tim – yes.
Bon – repairs vs capital expenses…. operating and maintenance expenses are generally ineligible. But most of these are public facilities they list… not private landlord insurance pool. We’re in the gray areas and will need to look further.
Daniel – reading the memo, it comes back to where I was a few weeks ago with the ordinance. I had some concerns. I stalled the adoption process. I hoped we’d hear we could use those funds. Upon finding out we can’t use those funds that way, it takes me back to the ordinance we originally had and I’d like to bring it back to a future agenda. It was clear in previous memos that many in town are tenants and cost burdened. This proposal will improve the lives of tenants in Brattleboro, and will put some landlords in a riskier position. I hope, rather than free in this, this policy would improve the lives of people in Brattleboro ion a large scale. maybe our next meeting? I’ve gotten a lot of testimony from tenants over the last week about how this would help them. The housing study is coming but we know things aren’t great and I don’t want to wait. Sorry about my uncertainty but I needed more info and needed to wrestle with it. I read the federal regulations, too. I did see that it can be used for downpayment assistance. I got into my house with this – we got $5k for closing costs, that made the difference so we could afford to do it. I’d like some CBDG money for downpayment assistance.
Elwell – Bob – this had been heard on first reading nd not adopted on second reading ? If it doesn’t change is it a second reading again?
Bob – I thought it would go through both for notice purposes. More of a reconsideration. I’ll look at that and find the quickest way to get it back to the board. The other thing – there is a section for loss of rental income, but it is for loss of rental income when tenants are displaced by other program activity, like building a new apartment building. There is money for memory relocation. We’re at the edges of this issue and nothing hits it squarely.
Ian – I looked through the rules of conduct – we’re in rule G 2 a – if a majority wants it on the next agenda we can vote on it now, and no discussion now. If that is right, I have a motion.
Tim – Liz and I get first crack at setting and agenda and then it can be overused.
Ian – that is rule G1A. Rule 2Ga is just a vote of the board.
Tim – I don’t have the rules in front of me.
Elwell – I have advice. You’ll be disappointed. I think there are those rules in place so when someone is struggling to find a way forward as a body, so there is a method to overrule. My opinion is this system works better when the 5 of you work together. We’re in a moment when 2 people feel strongly, 2 others feel strongly, and one who has just decided. My advice, three of you want it back and it seems appropriate for me to put on a draft agenda for approval or not. Leave the meeting knowing I’ll add it to the next possible agenda.
Ian – thanks. Not try to make it contentious. Trying to simplify.
Liz – I would like it if Daniel could be interrogated about what SEVCA does for rental assistance.
Tim – I also have one for Daniel. Hold Liz’s. I’m confused by your desire to bring back the same ordinance and have Bob look at CBDG repairs again, during budget season.
Daniel – they can move ahead together. Not mutually exclusive. I’d like both pieces of information.
Liz – I have some questions about whether a non-profit could manage the risk pool, how would the town manage a risk pool… and funding it.
Tim – a procedural point.
Bob – with regard to our Charter. Our Charter is different than our ordinances. The last time you did not adopt it, so it is not still pending. My concern is that if you jump to a second reading, you might give opposition grounds to seek legal challenge based on its adoption. The cautious way to do it is to do two meetings.
Brandie – I felt the same way. Back to first reading.
Bob – motion for reconsiderations aren’t really for hearings.
Tim – so, to move forward tonight, let’s take the public comments then move on. We have a lot to do tonight, still.
Gary – this could be tabled for another time. How are we utilizing the COVID funds available. The hospital got $75 million. There is money for housing.
Daniel – I can answer this. The legislature appropriated over a billion. Many programs were created. Housing programs have a lot of money. The problem is there isn’t enough housing.
Elwell – that’s the money that is being used to renovate the Chalet project. There are actions being taken with those funds but don’t fit in this instance.
Daniel – call 211.
Gary – I got a huge sum to help with my electric bills. We don’t know when the next stimulus is coming. If you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s winter. Don’t wait. Seek the help now. Funding is available if you are behind.
Trevor – I’m here for the Tenants Union – thankful for Sue’s research and Daniel’s comments. We think you have every reason to move forward on this and we’d like to see it come back.
Elwell -timing. There has been some mention of the “next meeting” – next Tuesday is a special meeting for police procedures and policies. We can work together with the agenda to get it Dec 1 or Dec 8, so that you have additional info and can have both hearings.
Tim – a break, then we”ll talk about SeVEDS. 8:10!
Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) – Update and Request for FY22 Funding
Tim – It’s 8:11 and we’ll go ahead and invite SeVEDS reps to join us. (Liz sneezes)
Adam Grinold – Casey Hanes is with us, too. Thanks for having us here and the support at last RTM. This year we really needed support. last march we turned to new work and new ways to do it. We focused on our tenants and businesses in the community. We try to fit in our more traditional business support. We have had some inquiries of new folks wanting to move here. Today we are presenting some of the work we are doing, answer questions, and show you business support. Jennifer Stromsten is also with us.
Jennifer – There are two sides to this – adapting our programs, and some of that has gone well. A lot of what we did was a pivot toward relief work and intensive support. It builds on BDCC knowledge of disasters, and how to access assistance. We took folks and pushed them to the business support side. Everyone that we became aware of, we reached out and assigned them a staff person. 183 in Brattleboro. We emailed, called, and got them good info on programs, referrals, and other services. We also did one on one support via DBA. We had weekly webinars for partners in the region, providing timely information. We also had a business webinar. SBA gave answers about how to apply for PPP. 183 businesses and nonprofits in Brattleboro. We have some data – art of our goal is our fair share of relief reached this region. Of the funds allocated, we have second highest in this county. We hope to get more data. CDBG sole proprietor program – we became a provider administering it. There are 21 awards in the region and 8 in Brattleboro. About $67k for Brattleboro. SBA and PPP funds did well, and Brattleboro had 351 businesses and nonprofits access the program. 40 were nonprofits. 47 of them were loans of $150k or more. The 304 others got nearly #12 million in federal assistance. REVTA – BDCC is delivering it regionally and administering it statewide. It was designed to pay a vendor to deliver technical assistance, and doesn’t preempt them from other funds. REVTA has in Brattleboro 58 and the 88 in the county. Technical assurance means a range of help to reconfigure and help businesses. It promotes local vendors. Vast majority are Vermont vendors. 14 Brattleboro vendors serving people in and out of this region. It’s a great program with benefits on both sides. More data coming. As for adapting our programs – we still help people grow. We have succession planning going on, and a session to acquire a business. USDA is helping to fund programs. Another thing available is grant writing training. And, we did webinars for programs, even though people are worn out on zoom meetings. Over to Casey, who joined us at the beginning of the pandemic.
Casey Hanes – great to do relief work. I run a paid internship program. We were able to place some in Brattleboro… with the DBA. We had a student from Smith College looking for COVID issues, and she talked with Stephanie Bonin about a pilot program. Career Services at Smith helped with a scholarship program. This inter can get paid to work on a pilot program. Now some of you have met Francis, who is managing Everyone Eats program. Very personally fulfilling for me. We have other great projects. We’ve been welcoming people to the area in safe meaningful ways.
Adam – we’ll leave it there and take questions.
Brandie – no question. Everyone Eats is amazing. It is so great. I’ve used it. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s not a thing to be proud of, it is THE thing. The person at doggie day care just had a meal from there. A wonderful exciting thing.
Casey – that internship was a success in every way. It doesn’t get better than that.
Liz – I sat in on early BDCC pandemic meetings and was so pleased with what I saw and heard. In the past I thought BDCC was lacking that one to one contact, but during the pandemic, the buddy system was phenomenal. Keep up the good work. It’s a tangled maze to go through the aid programs. Adam learned so much from storm Irene, and one disaster helps another. The work is very necessary.
Adam – thanks. The importance of the strength of the network – working together and reminding the state of what is important.
Daniel – I agree about the support provided to many small businesses. I know of some who accessed that support and found it useful. You must have been busy. The part that interested me was succession planning. Several Main Street businesses closed – what outreach do you do to the downtown businesses?
Adam – this is a new program for us. Often succession planning is within the family or put it up for sale. We want to create opportunities for people who’d like a business. Often business owners aren’t prepared to sell, but they haven’t run their books to prepare for that. We try to match people up and create a relationship over time, the business gets ready for a sale, and the buyer learns the business.
Jennifer – we let all our partners know… its a challenge getting the word out to the region. There is resistance to doing this, and business owners talking about it. I don’t know how to introduce it to more people. What’s the educational piece to make people feel better about this. 7 out of 10 don’t have a succession plan. People need to know it and engage with this. We feel like dentists.
Daniel – like end of life planning.
Ian – shout out to Casey. The internship idea hits close to home for me. I am in a longterm internship that brought me to Brattleboro. It is a lot of work, but it is great. Also, a question. Can you give us percentages on these numbers?
Jennifer – 58 Brattleboro businesses out of 88 in Brattleboro for REVTA. For SBA we were about 8% of total state awards. On CDBG, 8 of the awards went to Brattleboro – 8 or 9%
Adam – for the southern side of the state.
Casey – 8 out of 160 or so.
Jennifer – when it comes to delivering CDBG it is structured. With all the others we can play favorites. Behind the scenes we have more contact with businesses. We’ve all crossed-trained to know about profit and loss statements. It’s been really great and demystified business services stuff. Businesses need a little assistance and a lot of patience. Customer service makes this happen.
Adam – we did a good job of getting the word out and getting applicants.
Tim – so much love, but some criticism. I need to see that stuff more than a day before hand. When was the annual report done?
Jennifer – two weeks ago, and 12 pages.
Tim – why did we get it yesterday?
Jennifer – sorry. Lost track of time.
Tim – board, there is an ask tonight. We always say yes, and we’ll decide in January, but my own comment about the funding. During these times we need all hands on deck and this organization will bob and weave and fill in. I’m in support that we recommend it.
Ian – I’d vote now. The material after the deadline… we shouldn’t delay this tonight.
Daniel – I’d like to remind watchers that this money doesn’t come out of taxes. It is program income money form CBDG money.
Tim – a luxury we should take advantage of…
Gary – I got confused. CBD money? : ) Kudos to Adam and BDCC. Many businesses are reinventing themselves. Farm to families. Is it true people come to BDCC and ask about bringing things to the people, something they might keep?
Adam – as we start to plan the sort economy conference. so many people have reinvented the way they deliver or engage their customers, and keep people thinking of these things even when the pandemic doesn’t require it.
Jennifer – we’re shaping how… we helped design the programs based on what we see out there. We’re pushing the limits for what dollars can be used for. We’re helping someone buy a food truck next week.
Gary – there are ways to do this without closing up…
Adam – come and talk any time…
Tim – yes, let’s move on this…
motion to put the funding of $3 per person from program income to SeVEDS pn RTM warning.
Energy Committee Proposal – Climate Goals
Tim – Oscar has 10 minutes… just kidding. Next we have an energy committee proposal. Oscar, I have a new mic… (he shows it).
Oscar Heller – I’m Chair. I’ll speak as will Millicent and Django. We recommend that Brattleboro adopt the emissions goals in the document. The goals are that we commit to a 26% reduction by 2025, 90% by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2050. They are established by the global warming solutions act. The act applies to the whole state. We think it would be good to get a head start. Everyone here believes in climate change. It is important stuff and the longer we wait the harder things get. If COVID taught us anything the cure is worse than prevention. Sometimes you don’t have a cure, and that applies to climate change. This is just about goals. It has no policies. This sets the goals. When the town has a goal, there is some power to get things done. That’s what we are asking for. We can exceed these goals, but we want to be realistic.
Millicent Cooley – the Vermont Act – it makes sense to align with what the state is doing. This law was passed in September, and local communities need to get on board. Having aligned goals can help us get started. If we don’t adopt these we don’t have any goals at all.
Django Grace – not talking as a youth, just me. I’m behind these goals. If the selectboard commits to the goals, it isn’t a solutions to climate change. It opens the door to other solutions, or act as a springboard. I am excited to move forward into the future. We are aiming at the target – we’re ling up the shot with these goals. It is crucial these goals are a good aim and have to be the last time we aim. I trust these goals, from the Paris Accords. This is the last time we look at the target, and now we need to start shooting for the target. If we adopt these goals, we set it up.
Stephen Dotson – glad to be able to work with these people. I get emotional when I hear voices from the community. This is all in concert with everything we talked about before. Within cow power we were swimming in goals. We’re trying to hammer it down, just like the state. This is not enough to be sustainable. You can sustain for so long, then there is an end point. This allows me as staff to ask the state for funding to reach their/our goals. This is not exclusive to how power and emissions are put out. It is also about food, and managing lands, and carbon sequestration. Others will need to pitch in. All parts and pieces of this are to benefit by saving the world. I’d like to see this strengthened or improved, but at the bare minimum, let’s align with the state. It’s a modest proposal.
Oscar – that’s it for us unless questions.
Brandie – Stephen is right that this is a modest proposal. It doesn’t go far enough. As someone elected, it is a reminder that we have to start somewhere. We can’t let perfect get in the way of good. It is the right thing to do as a minimum. To Django – it will be more important for you – understand that compromise can be pushed and kicked at from the edges. Stay fierce.
Django – I’m going to be kickin’
Ian – Oscar – it makes a lot of sense to have new goals and directions for the energy committee. The numbers… you are parroting the global warming solution act goals. I looked at the language – it isn’t explicit in your proposal if this is about Brattleboro or about supporting the state goals? Is this goal for Brattleboro emissions? And if yes, does it make sense. If Vermont’s total emissions, if we want to reduce by 26% overall could we do that differently in different towns, and should Brattleboro goals be more specific?
Oscar – yes, it is taking state numbers and applying them to Brattleboro. Yes, you are right that if you broke down emissions by town it would be unequal. We are using the state goals as a rough guide. I had an objection that says these numbers are arbitrary… yes, but hard to set local goals so best to use state estimates.
Stephen – Data availability – the key point is no matter how we split the difference – our portion of Vermont or our numbers in house, carbon neutrality is the goal. That’s the real piece. We set goals in 2002 with no end date. This puts us on the same timeline as the state with the same goal. Focusing on our footprint and neutralizing that is the most important, but the state may measure things differently. We should detour own goals.
Liz – Brattleboro is different from he site. A dense town is different than say, Putney. Transportation is a big carbon emitter. Have to spend some time finding a better number for Brattleboro. We’d do a disservice to just cookie cutter the state goals onto ours. Also, Stephen, when you came with the report, COVID changed your work dramatically. I don’t see how hitching yourself to this wagon is going to allow the flexibility you’ve had thus far. Sustainability must viewed as you see fit, and you had flexibility with COVID. If you hitch yourself to this wagon won’t you be hamstringing yourself?
Stephen – I view it differently. I have to respond to the community need, and the energy committee helps me distill this info. I have had to adapt my job. This proposal supports everything I’ve been doing – relocalizing and shrinking our carbon footprint – food, housing, Main Street, Everyone Eats, – those solutions with cobenefits. It isn’t my choice about hitching myself to them, I follow them and support them. It is central to solving equity issues.. all these things have to do with managing natural resources and managing things on a hyperlocal level. This is in line with everything I’ve been doing. It’s about measuring. I’m open to feedback.
Django – we’re not cookie cutting it.. these are the goals from the Paris Accord and are being adopted all around the world.
Liz – we already supported the goals of the Paris Accord.
Daniel – Liz is right – I work with 350 and brought forth a resolution to tie ourselves to these goals. People of Brattleboro support these goals. If the energy committee needs goals and like these, great. Get to work.
Oscar – Liz’s point about Brattleboro being different in density. When I think about it, I think that no matter what goals you set, if neutrality is the end, the percentages may not be right along the way, but at the end of the day, the numbers can only be so far off. The end point is zero. I’m not that worried about it. For Daniel – we hope the board will adopt these goals and take this on yourself as a priority.
Daniel – if these goals you like, I support you in that, Let’s get to it. We haven’t done nothing. We haven’t made no progress, but without some well defined things to aim for, how do we know where we are?
Liz – I just see this as symbolic and we’ve made several gestures and have agreed with the Paris Accord, and have a suitability coordinator, but I don’t see actions. Before the potion, the Town had a plan to save money and that program is ongoing. I would have expected additional measure brought to us from you with these actions for the town and population to do to reach these goals. Instead we have another set of goals. I don’t see think gets us anywhere. This is just symbolic.
Tim – I’m confused about the goals – are these measurable?
Stephen – ye indeed and every town will have to measure them. We need a common base for doing so. Chris Company is on the climate council. There are solutions we need at the state level – if you are a fuel company and I want to know how much oil is sold in Brattleboro, no one will tell us. We need a legislative requirement to access the data. All of this is possible and necessary, and we’re on track to develop all the things you are speaking to. We need to be working on cost savings for the town. I went through the waste water treatment plant to identify remaining items and we did identify some, but Paul Cameron did so much. Automated lighting and thermostats, LED replacements. It is all concurrent and having a deadline is great. I’d appreciate you taking a step forward tonight.
Tim – these numbers have numbers behind them, right?
Stephen – there are state numbers.
Oscar – for these goals to have meaning, we need all cards on the table. We have no numbers for 1990 or 2005 in Brattleboro, and can’t measure yearly emissions in Brattleboro. It is a huge challenge we have to meet in the near future. We have the resources to get the answers. We’re starting to move forward. Commit to a goal and the first step will be for us to wrap our arms around it, and estimating those baselines, then moving to actual measurements. We’re maybe 3 years away from that. There is no way to progress toward goals if we wait. We’ll already be at 2025. These are not goals I want. It should be more. I’m happy with this compromise. It is symbolic, and if you are bored, you can watch meetings with me saying just that, but we decided to take this one last step, plant our flag one more time, with full buy in, then move on and be free of this and get down to work.
Tim – why not do real things to improve the environment. These goals are not yet measurable, or on a state level. I feel like I want the committee to come with us… the solar array is a great thing, improving efficiency in town buildings is good, different fuel sources is good, recommendations to planning dept. These feel like real things and this feels like setting and goal with no meaning to me.
Oscar -I agree. I still think it is important – we’ll continue to chip away without a goal. Let’s just set the goals and we’ll come back with actions. Let’s just plant a flag and move on.
Liz – Stephen already has this mandate. Everything is about sustainability now. What this symbolism of the goal is to get the community to change habits, and that’s the real work, and these symbolic actions don’t get people to change their habits. It is symbolism without substance.
Oscar – the effort has been put in. If you think the goals are clear… we’re not asking to go study goals.
Stephen – we are all saying a lot because we all care a lot. Liz, I want to understand what you think the mandate is for me. There is a 2002 statement that came before the Paris Accord…
Liz – we approved this…
Stephen – then maybe we are affirming the goals, then we don’t need further discussion. That’s what it is based on.
Tim – I have it in front of me.
Stephen – in the cow power question, there were three goals – one from the Town Plan – 25% of energy should be locally sourced by 2025 which is hard for us to control. Then we became interested in offsets, and asked about cows power – are we trying to invest in local energy or being carbon neutrality – it was unclear what we were trying to achieve. If it is already clear I’m sorry for wasting time.
Daniel – I could care less what the goal is. Having an ambitious goal is important and we need to continue to act to move toward that goal. It’s where we are trying to get to. The state act has a stick. People can sue the state for failing to meet these goals. The goals aren’t completely irrelevant, but even here tonight we aren’t clear on what our goals are. That we have so little reliable data makes it really hard to have a informed conversation about this stuff. I remember when I first went to energy committee meetings, Lester’s spreadsheet was our data. I expect we’ll be putting more data together, and the energy committee need to measure their progress or not. We’re striving for carbon neutrality. I’ll do what I can before now an March on this board.
Tim – I’ll read what we did Sept 1017 – Bratt should meet or exceed the Paris Accord goals and the state goals and the board commits the town to these goals and asks the whole town to join, and that the energy committee give us options to vote on. That was right after Trump pulled us out of the Paris Accord. It ties us to specific things.
Liz – it is disturbing that the committee and coordinator didn’t know that…
Stephen – you are asking us to inform you of new things and we are now telling you about the state law, so we are in the spirit of that resolution.
Mollie Burke – interesting. I support this proposal. Been working on this issue for years. The new state law in September – we have had goals for years but emissions were going up, so the goals are in statute. It sets a standard that can be inspiring to people and doesn’t conflict with what you want to do. The duties of the council will identify strategies to reduce greenhouse gases and build resilience to climate change. The economic benefit of doing this, and equity issues. It would be wonderful if Brattleboro was going along with the state, and it isn’t symbolic – it is a goal to work toward. The council will identify ways to measure emissions so you can work hand in hand with he state and that is exciting too. The town can be a leader to encourage citizens to do their part and save money. A win for everybody.
Tim – Brattleboro is part of Vermont.
Mollie – some done’t think so.
Tim – sell me on the idea that us passing the same resolution is necessary – should every town pass a resolution in support?
Mollie – it supports the work of the state, but it says these are your goals as well.
Tim – Brattleboro already leads in what we do.
Mollie – goals and actions work together. I have trouble knowing why the goals are problematic.
Tim – carbon credits are a sticking point for me. How real are these goals? How measurable. The state passing the act does put something there the is more concrete.
Mollie – these aren’t binding goals, they are aspirational, which can become inspirational.
Millicent – I understand why Liz and Tim want more actions from us. I don’t understand why you seem to think these goals aren’t good as well. We can do actions and goals, why not have goals?
Liz – when this issue comes up, we don’t see a lot of action. I continually see symbolic gestures rather than solid action.
Millicent – but why don’t you want to see goals?
Liz – that’s all we see. We were told the sustainability coordinator will lead to actions.
Millicent – Tim?
Tim – they are super squishy and one bugs me. If we dropped carbon neutral, but I don’t want to get into horse trading.
Brandie – I was ready to vote 20 minutes ago.
Franz Reichsman – I don’t follow this committee so closely so I hadn’t heard of this issue. I’m troubled by the reaction of the board. What I feel like watching it is an undermining of a citizen committee. I’m a little bit shocked. Why put people in the position of doing lots of work and they bring you something, and this won’t cause harm, if I brought you this I’d think you didn’t care. And whatever your issue with Stephen is, I don’t know, and why you put down the committee in the process. This whole discussion is a mountain out of a molehill. I don’t see any harm in passing this thing. It feels like there is another unstated agenda going on.
Brandie – I felt it too. This has been.. not the most productive 30 minutes.
Gary Stroud – I worked with Paul Cameron and we got things done, but that was a different time. These times are different. Taking a step back and trying to get Brattleboro to the forefront, it would prove that this needs to be done. Setting that example rather than dissecting it. It is a phase. This sets the ground and plants the seed. We don’t know what is coming and what will happen, but this team wants to do this. If we don’t have trust and faith in them, then what direction do you want to go in with this? Look within yourselves – can we give this a try and see how it works? Gotta have faith in them and the work they are doing.
Kurt Daims – I think the quality of the discussion is good and I’m leaning something from you all. I think you are doing a good job. You aren’t being rude, some are more critical, but that is fair. My mind is changing back and forth, but this is a productive debate.
Daniel -let’s vote and take a break.
Ian – one question – I appreciate all the discussion. Oscar, putting in a goal for the number of years until we have a complete set of data, was that number something you thought of putting in here as well, or just to align with the state?
Oscar – didn’t really consider that. We wanted to keep it simple. We’ll have to establish baselines.
Tim – before we vote. I wasn’t intentionally bashing any work done by the committee. I’m upset that was the impression he got. I believe we are talking about tactics and some of us don’t believe unclear goals do any good. Recently, someone int he community wrote a letter about members of the board being climate deniers. It was offensive and not the community spirit we should be having this conversation in. We need to take a break.
Daniel moves to adopt the goals as set forth in the energy proposal…
Elwell – you adopt what you were asked to adopt and cite the document.
Tim – thanks. Break until 10:15 and then the budget.
FY22 Proposed Budget (i) Revenues (ii) Capital Projects (iii) Capital Equipment
Elwell – Some of you have budget notebooks,. Look at the operating budget tab. For those at home, look at the FY22 proposed budget. We’ll look at the first four pages. I’ll focus on what items are changing from last year to this year in revenues.
Elwell – At the top, the second line is investment income. We expect a $70k decline. It is a conservative number but realistic. Interest rates are so low and we don’t know if they will bounce back. In 2018-19, we invested in some liquid investments. There is a fair amount pooled together and we took $5 million to earn money and not be at risk. Real money. We saw a positive impact and it has stayed around $100k. Interest rates plunged and we don’t want to bet on them going out. This number could be way lower than we’ll perform. better to count on $30k.
Elwell – in current taxes, that is the 81% of town revenues. These are property taxes. We propose they up 2% or 2.7 cents.
Elwell – local option taxes – rooms and meals took a hit and sales tax did better than projected. Rooms and meals $385k and sales tax to $825k.
Daniel – I see fiscal year 21 – that’s the year we are currently in. Oh, wow.
Elwell – yeah, that’s an important point. What you have in front of you four years of actuals, of how we actually collected and spent money. Like interest. Because FY21 is what we are in, and we don’t know where we are in, we show this year’s budget. Four actuals, this year’s budget, and the proposed next budget.
Elwell – Planning permit fees – $30k is what we have been collecting, so we adjusted the line item to reflect it.
Elwell – employee contributions is up to $65k. It is part of the union contracts to have employees resume contributing to premiums.This is up because of the increase in contribution rate from 1% to 3% this year.
Elwell – some minor changes to library revenue accounts. Just some adjusting to reflect reality of collections.
Elwell – the $120 in fire tower rent – this is the revenue from a lease from people on our tower at central fire. It will now be $6120.
Elwell – solid waste revenues are new this year. It shows all the revenues – $307k.
Elwell – the police budget is most affected by the rental agreement with the Reformer. Rental income and uplift reimbursement. The uplift is finished, and you approved a rent decrease, so that reflects in the $18k for rental income here. Town ordinances are ticket revenue and people paying fines. We had been putting in $20k but not getting it. $15k is a reasonable estimate for that.
Elwell – State current use payment – a rebate the town gets related to properties in town that are being conserved. They get a tax break for current use and the town gets a portion of lost revenue from the state. It has been increasing steadily. The last year of actual was $187k, so we are bringing the budget figure up to this most recent number.
Elwell – in Rec and Parks the budget is lower than 2019 and higher than 2020. COVID was punishing for 2020 revenues. We lowered the budget in FY21 before COVID. The proposed budget here will be post COVID – so we suggest, and this has more risk than most, we can’t be as confident in these numbers because it depends on how well we get covid behind us and programming recovers. Lots of variables. We think we can get not the best but not the worst.
Liz – the skating revenue will take a hit, right?
Elwell – right, and other places as well. or programming is closed and we are doing revenues. We may have no revenue at the rink this year. 2020 will take a beating, but in 2021 we’ll get more in sales tax. We’re not going to collect $254k of recreation this year.
Daniel – was there more use of the Kiwana shelter… but revenues are way down for the year.
Ian – are the dashes zero or not recorded?
Elwell – dashes are unchanged…. oh, yes, at the top, reimbursements, we didn’t budget anything for it in 2019. We got $14k that year. We don’t budget for it because it is negligible.
Daniel – because we are in budget season, I’m not going to withhold questions because it is late. The second from bottom – senior program donations? $$4500 going to be steady?
Elwell – this is a proposal for normal times (after next June). We think $4500 is a year of collections.
Carol Locate – yes, it will be that over time. And we take donations for senior program and it was in misc revenue, and now it has its own line item.
Elwell – increase in use of fund balance. This number fluctuates and is the one place that has fluctuations with no impact in property taxes. We set aside 10% then have money to spend. because we did well last year, we can use $600k. That will be on capital expenses and the website upgrade.
Elwell – little increase in fund transfers. Services to enterprise funds by town employees.
Ian – in the police budget there is a line for misc revenue, what is in that? Bike registration is its own line item.
Elwell – bike revenue – the $20 is there for selling bike registration. Everyone would register their bike. The people who still do it like doing it so we carry on as a nod to history.
Daniel – maybe we have a bike registration drive.
Tim – we could pay people register bikes…
Elwell – ready for Capital? OK, for those at home the first page will be the capital request – the items we want funded for this year. I’ll go in reverse order.
Elwell -now that we have a 25 year equipment replacement plan and we have smoothed it out to replace things in a timely manner to save money and have good equipment, the way we do that is to buy things over the long haul. Police cars last 5 years. Some pieces last 7 years like dump trucks, Pickups are 10 years or more. Fire trucks and stuff are 15 or more. This smooths that out. In the big plan, large pieces are funded over a few years. We spread them out then work with that to smooth it out, and over 25 years, the largest year increase is $37k, or a third of a penny. Most years it is $13k, which is all but unnoticeable. It is steady funding of a large expense. We go up so softly and gradually, from year to year, and can be recurring costs of town government. To fo that we have to be willing to do one thing, starting now, and going forward. The one thing is the creation of a future fire truck reserve fund. This year, this will be the last time to spend operating funds to buy a fire truck. There are bad outcomes from that, leaving us with lower reserves. Or we borrow. The last of our debt for rolling stock has been paid off. If we stick with this we’ll earn interest own the savings and can replace fire trucks when it is time to replace them.
Tim – it is a lot of money.
Liz – a well oiled machine.
Ian – when is the next fire truck?
Elwell – I’ll get back to you on that. Around 2030.
Ian – it doesn’t affect when we buy one?
Elwell – no. Th entire replacement is within the 25 years, including the ladder truck we just bought. Patrick just said it was 2028 is when we replace a firetruck.
Liz – as a town rep, there were wild swings trying to buy fire trucks and getting to think long term is a great accomplishment.
Elwell – we did it together. The 25 year plan makes the equipment decisions easy. Projects are harder. We can focus on projects going forward without worry of equipment. The other equipment is… I don’t need to read the list. Okay…
– replace a 2005 radio system in FD and utility truck
– replace computers in town government for $45k
Daniel – replacing 4 year old printers?
Elwell – the ones with CPUs are on 4 years. Printers aren’t on that. Some take a beating. I’ll ask Patrick.
Brandie – how do you have a 12 year old printer? My one from last year won’t work with windows 10. I want mine fixed.
Elwell – all the other times are replacements. We’ll get some recovery value:
– 2010 vehicle for animal control
– two 2017 patrol vehicles
– a 2012 dump truck and 2013 pickup for DPW
– a 2012 sidewalk tractor
– a 2012 dodge pickup for rec and parks
Daniel – some of these vehicles, if they break down another can be used, but with the sidewalk plow breaks down it has an impact on snow clearing. Are we confident this plow will get through the nest two years til replacement time?
Elwell – we might have one next year. It comes available July 1. It needs to ge through this winter. Steve can tell you about this vehicle. This is something we will replace before it wears out.
Steve – it is why we are doing. When we had one, w e didn’t replace them… now we have an extra, and the one we are replacing will get a higher trade in . It is reliable and we’ll get a good trade in after this winter.
Elwell – that’s equipment. If you are ready, I can do projects. I’ll just defer to Carol and Steve.
Carol – for Rec and Parks – these are five different improvement upgrades to parks. 1. swimming pool $10k for a bandaid to stop water loss. We had a diver help us patch it this summer. This will buy us some more time with the pool. 2. paving at Living Memorial Park – it is in rough shape on the hill. It’s been pushed off for years. 1800 feet up the hill to the shelter. We’ll put in speed bumps or dips. 3. Utility upgrades at LMP – a mishmash of water lines that often break. Well upgrade piping on the hill to the shelter and skate park and dog park. 4. Gibson Aiken LULA – an elevator for a wheelchair. It is hard to find parts. We need it to be reliable. 5. A life safety issue at Gibson Aiken – upgrading our fire alarm system to a more conventional, addressable digital system. New smoke detectors and city box to communicate. That’s the five items we are requesting. Questions?
Tim – is the elevator functional?
Carol – yes, but it goes down. We had to call for a repair.
Elwell – we have postponed this for the whole time I’ve been here. The time has come ten years ago. If we let it fail, it will cost more to do it in a hurry.
Steve – DPW – 3 items. Dan Tyler will come on to explain. I could do this in my sleep, and it feels like I am in a dream right now.
Dan – At the bottom – the redesign of high and green street intersection – 20k for engineering of that intersection, and looking at speed issues on the hill. Sidewalk replacement – 100k – 35 miles of sidewalk in town and a lot in poor or fair shape. Many small sections to fix. We focus on areas plowed in the winter. The heavy travelled areas. Canal Street. Western Ave. Black Mtn Rd. We have a list and once we get through winter it will change. It is a moving target. yeah, sidewalk. paving is also a moving target. Flat and Elm Street area will be expensive. Central, pearl, and Thomas was repaved 20 years ago. It’ll be costly. Those will eat up the budget. That’s our capital projects. We also want to do some pavement patches to keep things going as long as possible. Advancements in pavement preservation to look at.
Tim – could we get previous year numbers on paving and sidewalks? The history?
Elwell – over the last 5 years we’ve gone from 30k to 100k for sidewalks. Lots of walking in town. We do more repairs and more large sections being done. paving is different. In the current five year plan we’ll increase it up to a number beyond $350k so we can get more work done. It has varied because of swings in equipment costs. This year is a good year.
Brandie – there are people who don’t drive or have cars so it is in our wheelhouse that they can access life.
Daniel – yes. The sidewalk on my street is bad but I don’t want special attention.
Steve – we had a complaint from a neighbor.
Daniel – I read the memo. It stuck out that paved roads last 15-20 years, and many of our roads are 25 years old. I’d like to see the number to get ti to 18 year in town.
Dan – $665k for 15 years.
Daniel – folks in town want to talk about the condition of roads and sidewalks, and this is a bottomless pit to maintain the roads. I’d be interested in seeing projections to get on that 18 year cycle.
Steve – we’ve had years and years of neglected paving. When I took over it was $80k and the roads were deplorable. In the 90’s the budget was $200k. We’ve been lobbying state folks for help with state roads. We also get funding for class 2 roads. At $350k we’re in a good place. There’s a balance here. We’ve made good strides here, but we could tell you what it would take to get to different numbers. Rebuilding is expensive.
Liz – the board supports this activity and what Peter brought up was that this was a good year to spend on paving. This was a good year. We support the concept.
Elwell – paving increases each year for the next four years because equipment costs are stabilized.
Bradie – I support it too, and want to remind us that things get ore expensive when we try to cut corners. It is more cost effective to do it right the first time and not cut corners.
Ian – I support this as well. Because we’ve leveled our equipment costs, so we can be more consistent here as well.
Elwell – with sidewalks and paving, yes, but with the projects. We’ll always have to find a way for things like the pool repairs. And we may require bonds. Equipment plan makes a project plan more confident for us. Some years we’ll have more than other years. We’ve narrowed down the peaks and valleys to this projects area and will do everything to keep paving and sidewalks steady.
Daniel – nice work on south main street.
Tim – we’re really late…
Elwell – need anything for future meetings?
Daniel – I’d like to hear about the 18 year paving schedule…
Elwell – we’ll give you a memo on it…
Ian – when we pass something, it can come back?
Elwell – this is the first pass through. Not passing anything. Just poking at it and learning about it. In December, we’ll do unfinished business then in January we’ll do that list.
Brandie – it is the best meeting. My favorite. We can know we’ll come back to everything at the end. It’s really good.
Tim – okay. That’s good. What should we do about appointments? I’m disappointed about Joel. Is it bad to put it off for a meeting?
Oscar – We have one opening and one member that might step down if someone was interested. Both could have an opportunity.
Elwell – if you are inclined with the one interview, with Ryan and Rikki, it is contrary to your process and just move to appoint them both. Ryan to energy and Rikki to Arts.
meeting ends 11:30 pm