Selectboard Meeting Notes – Budgets, Capital Expenses, Living Memorial Park and Sidewalks

selectboard november 16

At the first regular meeting in-person at Central Fire Station the Brattleboro Selectboard discussed funding requests for the downtown organization and SeVEDS, then looked deeply at planned capital improvements, including new plans for Living Memorial Park on the horizon.

The board also contemplated using infrastructure funds to replace all the sidewalks in town.

Comments | 9

  • Preliminaries

    (Pre-meeting grabs of water….)

    Chair Elizabeth McLoughlin – I’d like to thank town staff and colleagues for arranging this hybrid meeting room for us. One remark – driving over here I saw a lot of people with headlamps and reflectors which was good – those without them were hard to see.

    Town manager Elwell – we had a water main break on Bridge Street. They identified the location as being under the railroad tracks, which made it hard. There was an attempt today to run a sleeve through, but it didn’t work. Tomorrow there will be a pipe replacement. They have a plan in place. The railroad folks will be there. We hope it will be done by the end of the day and water will be restored to Barrows and Whetstone Station. If it takes longer we’ll let you know. Also, Lawrin Crispe advised he doesn’t intend to run for Town Moderator this year. I want to recognize him for his service. He’s done it or 10 years, and was a rep for 24 years before that. The way he showed up as the moderator, through some challenging discussions, and logistical challenges these last two years – he’s been calm, fair, patient. He’ll be missed. He and his wide can be in warmer places in the winter rather than prepare for RTM.

    Liz – thanks for his service and he’ll be missed

    Daniel Quipp – hi, I’m Daniel. Thursday morning is the Traffic Safety Committee. You can join by zoom. Also, Lawrin’s work as town moderator. The first time I saw him do that job and I was blown away by what it must take to handle all that in a calm and fair way. It’s an elected position. I hope members of the community will feel inspired to jump into those large shoes so we can have productive RTMs.

    Ian Goodnow – I want to acknowledge Senator Leahy’s retirement and thank him for his service to VT and the US. I went to DC in 5th grade and he came out to chat with us. That couple of moments sparked an interest in public service and government. Lawrin’s shoes are big to fill, too. It’s a difficult and commendable job done by him for years.

    Tim Wessel – I want to pile on the praise for Lawrin. His performance.. his service and especially in the last two meetings leading an online meeting. Thanks for the reminder about Traffic Safety – I have something for them. I am uncomfortable with the situation with us being at the fire station and no public allowed with us. It was cleared with our town attorney that this is permitted? (Yes). Good, but I don’t like the optics of this. I didn’t think about how we’d have three locations. It’s odd to have a pubic meeting where no public can attend. We should talk about it for a few minutes. Just wanted to get it out there.. the way this has shaken out… one spot for us and one for the public.

    Liz – I appreciate this set-up, with two places for the public – the municipal center or zoom. Doesn’t bother me in the least. Everything is strange in COVID.

    Tim – the reality is odd compared to the concept. I thought the idea was the public could join us. I don’t see the advantage of us being here like this.

    Daniel – I’d like us to have a proper warned discussion about how to go about this – on the next agenda.

    Jessica Gelter – one more reminder – Thursday at 6pm there is a workshop on housing in Brattleboro. On zoom and in-person options. Selectboard meeting room. An opportunity to give feedback to the housing study folks and the planning department.

    Kurt Daims – I work with Brattleboro Common Sense. Everyone has noticed the demonstrations at Pliny Park about Right to Life and abortion rights. It bears a lot on the state of the health of our society. We don’t have a good conversation about that… students from Thomas Aquinas came to protest at Planned Parenthood. I talked to them, but no one else does. No discussion. The ones I spoke to were friendly… and they invite people to converse but people counter demonstrate. I notice this in other issues. There is a discussion of Marxism on a list serve and people are trying to drown them out. I’m disturbed by this. I spoke to the students. I’d like to invite them to have a discussion with other people, supporters of the right to choice – to talk about this inability to talk. I’d invite people to come on both sides and get in touch with me. We need to talk, and to learn that again.

    • wonderful organization.

      brattleboro common sense is doing a great work . there a wonderful organization an i thought people out there should know this.

  • Consent Agenda

    A. Monthly Financial Report

    B. Wastewater Treatment Facilities – Ratify Emergency Purchase of Parts for Press Repair

    C. Crosby Street Washout Repair – Bid Award

    D. Pay-as-You-Throw Garbage Bags – Extend Contract for Purchase of Bags for Sale

    E. VOREC Grant – Authorize Application

    Elwell – I’m going to make a brief explanation about one different way we are using it tonight. It’s supposed to be for things that don’t require discussion, but members can pull items to be discussed. That continues as before. Tonight, item B, is the first time we’ve taken an action where you act as Water & Sewer Commissioners. We have some minor items to have discussions about. WE have full documentation. I asked Bob Fisher is we could add a Utility function could be added to the consent agenda as long as our documentation was clear. Bob assured me there would be no problem, so tonight and in the future you may see items like that.

    Tim – I have to tell you a story… I was this close to pulling the financial report. It bristles me to include it here. I feel it has a perception of just “check” – however, being hung ho to pull it, but I poured over it and couldn’t find anything I wanted to talk about. I’d love to take them off in the future.

    Ian – we’ll put it on and you can pull it. That’s a good reason to pull it.

    Liz – I’d like you to look to see if you want something to discuss.

    Tim – there is some reticence to pull something from the consent agenda.

    Liz – get over it.

    Elwell – If the group of you wants financial reports on the discussion agenda they can go back there, but it shouldn’t. The consent agenda is for items that don’t appear to need any discussion. IT’s not that they aren’t important. If you want to discuss something, pull it. 99% of the time the financial report doesn’t need discussion. Our finances are pretty steady. It isn’t that it isn’t important, it’s on the consent agenda because it doesn’t usually need discussion.

    Ian – the consent agenda is a concession – I have stuff to discuss on all these items. If you want to discuss the financial report, pull it. I think it works. I’m hesitant to say it looks bad. We’re prioritizing and leading.

    Daniel – I think for simplicity’s sake – have it up for discussion. If there is nothing to say we can be done quick. Pulling it moves it to the end of the agenda. I think without a finance director it is harder to have a discussion. The finance director helped me understand things in the past.

    Tim – if we pull does it have to go at the back end?

    Elwell – yes, for the prioritizing. The chair and vice chair set the agenda. Some things don’t seem to need discussion… but you can change the rules. But people are in line to discuss the items on the agenda, so if a consent agenda item delays the other items, that’s the reason we pull it and moved to the end of the discussion.

    Tim – and people have a bit of time to get to the meeting to discuss. I’d agree to keep on the discussion agenda.

    Jessica – I appreciate Daniel’s point about it being late. It can be on the regular agenda going forward.

    Ian – as a nerd for procedure, 3 of the other board members have told the agenda setters what to do…

    consent agenda consented

  • Downtown Brattleboro Alliance (DBA) Proposed FY23 Budget + Workplan

    Stephanie Bonin – thanks for having me. I’m the executive director. I’ve given you two documents – the annual report and the budget recently passed for FY23 passed by the DBA board and the members. Members who can vote are property owners and dues paying members within the DID. I’ll call out two programs from the last year and one big change in the upcoming budget, then answer questions.

    This past year has been full. Two programs – gallery Walk and Everyone eats. Everyone Eats people know about, but they don’t know it is still going on. At our peak 5000 meals a week were given out. As of this summer, we scaled back and about 2300 meals a week. Hundreds of people made that happen. We continue to distribute meals through community partners. The general public can get meals at the Retreat Fram on Thursday evenings and Winston Pouty on Wednesday, and BMH on Wednesdays. For me, the take-home is remain steadfast… it is economic development, supporting local ag, and food insecurity all in one – we use one dollar for multiple things and having the impact be that much greater. DBA is working with new people we’d ever had worked with before. We’re a team of three at DBA for Everyone Eats.

    Gallery Walk – we took it over. We first did all virtual, then did a public walk at galleries, and then Gallery Walk – very different than it has been. It is four different categories – Elliot Street live stage, the Market in harmony lot, the gallery walk with up to 22 galleries, and pop up art spaces and artful streets. We’re hitting pause. Galleries are still open. We’re pausing so we can fundraise and plan and extend beyond 6 months next year. There are ways to measure its success. Increase in sales at businesses, increase of people in galleries, and people attending events.

    We did plenty of other things that I’m equally proud of.

    Looking at the budget – the thing is straightforward. The only thing I’d highlight is the gallery walk line item – $40,200. We will apply for grants for marketing to add to this budget. $2.1 million for Everyone eats probably won’t happen again. That’s the only line item I wanted to pull out for you.

    Liz – I understand you are asking the board to authorize adding this item as a warning for town meeting. That’s your goal?

    Stephanie – the $80k.

    Liz – how does that compare to last year?

    Stephanie – level funded. The same, since 2006.

    Liz – your discussion points were about these other programs, but what you are asking for is level funding and people need to understand that… to collect an assessment on properties in the downtown district.

    Daniel – the money comes from an assessment that downtown property owners pay, in addition to their property tax. Property owners at large don’t fund DBA.

    Elwell – yes, RTM can impose taxes.. this is an additional tax.

    Daniel – the programs are amazing – I hope many people watching will access Everyone eats. I want to wake myself up about those two things and say thank you.

    Liz – there is the work you do, separate from the special assessment tax.

    Stephanie – maybe I was confused. The $80k is essential to our budget and plays a role in all the programs we do.

    Tim – you’ve been doing an outstanding job – Gallery Walk, Bloom… on those. You were mentioning Gallery Walk numbers… it is going up from 40 to 47k?

    Stephanie – no – the first year – we finished at $20k. It’s doubling it form the last year.

    Tim – Bloom – the flowers program – the truck was crowdfunded. Has the program been all donations? How much comes from your DID assessment funds?

    Stephanie – this year we bought the truck, FY21… the truck was fundraised through sponsorship and they got logos on the truck. Then the previous year we tried crowdsourcing with flowers. We had a match with Green River – a dollar to dollar match. We intend to do that again next spring. IT’s never the full amount. The flower budget is $26,000. We’ll raise about $10k of it.

    Tim – up $3k this year. Thanks again…

    Jessica – I work with economic development folks and I appreciate how you used Everyone eats to reach the whole community. I love how accessible Gallery Walk is – anyone can encounter it. It’s beautiful.

    Liz – can’t put a price on dancing in the street, but anyone want to make a motion?

    item on 2022 RTM to collect $80k – so approved.

  • Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) FY23 Budget Request

    Adam Grinold – thanks for allowing us to present.I’m the executive director of BDCC. You are familiar with our work. Our mission is to grow the economy of the Windham Region, using a comprehensive strategy – go to our website for details. Tonight we could highlight two programs to start a conversation and answer questions. I have with me, Alex Beck and Jennifer Stromsten. She’s director fo programs and will talk about the workforce development program.

    Jennifer – I’ll be brief. I’ll talk about our high school work. One thing that was pioneered was the high school program – a full time coordinator was hired to work with all 4 Windham high schools and the career center. We work with guidance counselors, we offer a course, we do career highlights, bring in experts, do mock interviews… taking a broad approach. Wholistic career… (freezes) so, two specific things in Brattleboro. Last week we had the software summit with 120 kids participating – a day long event and kids could go all around town and try things out. GPI , Welch Masonry, the Hatch Space, Stone Church, NEYT, DBA, the sheriff, town government, VTC, Against The Grain… in other years we did more field trips to go around to sites to see them. It helps kids make career choices and decisions about paths toward training and education. An incredible range of interests in these kids. We asked them what their goal was. 90% said they’d like to come back here to work. Most want to go see the world again but most would like to build a life here. We’re going to do a reality fair, and we did an intensive this summer to do a 4 day intensive in career education. It was packed. Kids showed up to learn about jobs, tie ties, interview skills, and so on. I’ll leave it at that. That’s some of the fun stuff. We do a lot virtually. Fun to be back with kids a bit again. Volunteer in the future! Learn how curious kids are.

    Alex Beck – the most recent news is a few weeks ago the multicultural center of the ECDC opened, which is great progress. We’re developing infrastructure for immigrants of all kinds in our community. It started years ago, looking at what was needed to make it more welcoming to everyone. We need to increase population. The opening of this office was years of work in the making. I can now support community engagement around employment transportation and housing, and will work with them to support a diverse population. We’ve learned from community groups that have done this work for years. We’re now helping employers learn how to be a welcoming workplace. In Burlington they are already emptying refugees in large numbers. Later this week we’re hosting a similar event for landlords. We have some research on best practices for renting to new americans. Landlords can feel more confident, and we can all be on the same page. It’s building inclusivity into existing relationships in the community.

    Liz – thanks for the presentation. Very interesting. Tonight you are here to ask for an item to be placed on the warning….

    Jessica – so, my question is that we’re putting this $3 per person to RTM for a vote. As it is worded, the funding goes toward SeVEDS. What’s the different between BDCC and SeVEDS?

    Adam – we’re better on the clarity now. BDCC and SEVEDS are affiliates – SeVEDS looks over the horizon and plans for the future, like workforce challenges due to population. Has its own board and budget, but contracts with BDCC to implement the mission. SeVEDS board meets monthly to look at trends, gather data, develop strategic priorities. They give them to BDCC to go work on. Their budget can support those priorities.

    Jessica – you said in your letter that you can leverage the dollars you get for addition funding. What does our $36k get us.

    Adam – the best money is the most flexible money – State and Federal funds have restrictions. The local requests are very flexible and can be used for matching grants. If we bring in $100k, we try to leverage it 30-40x.

    Jennifer – 97 times. It gives us a launching pad. We launched the high school program with it, which helped us go get other dollars. We can grow something to gt funders interested. We also try to not compete for local funds. We try to bring new resources into the region. We helped other organizations bring in about $4million last year. We want to go get other money.

    Daniel – good questions. It leads to some other questions. Thanks for the presentations, too. What is SeVEDS has been a question for many years. The description of the board meeting was very helpful. Are the board meetings open to the public and are the minutes available to the public easily?

    Adam – yes they are open to the public, and minutes available by request.

    Daniel – in arms of goodwill from the community – the easier we can understand the distinction the better. Town meting will ask these same questions. I’m fine with putting this on the warning for the amount requested and hope for further enlightenment.

    Ian – I’d like to add a law office to the list for high schools… my question is how many towns pay in, and everyone pays 3%?

    Adam – $3 per capita is our request. Last year we had the most support. Brattleboro was the first to support SeVEDS, but after a year we started to match that support, which got us to meet with municipalities. It was rough and bumpy for years. 18 towns gave us funds gave us just over $100k. About 84% of Windham county population approves the support.

    Jennifer – we ask everyone. They may never approve this, but it is important to go. It keeps us honest, and towns have different perspectives, and we get direct input.

    Tim – Brattleboro has an advantage in that we propose we take this money from program income, so it doesn’t impact our general budget.

    Jessica – clarify?

    Tim – sure – our program income comes from federal funds that get funneled through the state to the town gets loaned out, and when it gets paid off we can use it for housing and economic development. About $200k now…

    Elwell – a little down due to loan deferrals during COVID…

    Liz – the loan repayment is the program income that we can use. That’s were it comes from.

    Elwell – we make grants, primarily toward housing projects, and loans for economic development.

    Ian – is it unique that we can pay using program income? Or it it something other communities could do?

    Elwell – no.. it is possible that Rockingham has a program income fund, or maybe Wilmington, but unlikely others have such programs.

    Adam – some towns use 1% funds, but just a few.

    Liz – I want to appreciate the demographics you sent along. It’s helpful to have, especially with the new census. It’s changing and influencing our economic development needs and need for refugees. I was a former critic of your work but was so impressed during COVID, matching up businesses with personal assistance for grants and aid. Is it ongoing?

    Adam – through COVID, programming stopped, so staff was directed to work with all our tenants, then it grew to a broader business support role. We learned a lot. We had focused on large businesses, and we used some funds to employed a technical assistance provider for two years. Now we have two people working with startups and small business owners to help them get access to resources available in the state.

    Liz – I support this funding request, especially since it is program income.

    Ian – this is our 2020 census population number?

    Jennifer – yes, in our report. The per capita number is 2010, but the data number is 2020.

    Liz – looked interesting?

    Tim – what’s the change?

    Elwell – 12, 184

    Ian – can we bump it up… to match the accurate number

    Liz – let’s give them what they asked for.

    Daniel – I agree.

    Tim – I make a motion to increase this to current census data.

    Elwell – new math: $3 per capita = $36,552 instead of $36,147.

    Daniel – interesting development, thanks. I’m more inclined to stick with what they asked for. Our program income is low and I’ll go with what they ask for, but, we’re not the deciding body and RTM can hash it out, so maybe I can go with the real number..

    Tim – the real number.

    Liz – for years they asked for $3 a head and for many years we said we’d give you $2 a head. Recently we changed to the full request, and now you want to give more than their full request? I have a dislike of per capita requests. There are various regional entities ask for this. We are paying a large percentage more than the services than we get. Not necessarily SeVEDS… happy to pay what they asked for. It’s extreme to do more, especially when we are the largest contributor but not necessarily the largest receiver of services, and we’re being taken advantage of because of our population and you want to give more?

    Ian – Daniel – in our last meeting there was a discussion over $5k not correct in the budget. Using that same methodology we could apply that here.

    Daniel – I’m sure they didn’t expect all this tonight. The request is for a sum of money – $3 per person. I have a question for Peter. Are there other request on a per capita basis?

    Elwell – the one other is to pay an assessment to Windham Regional Commission. That is statutory. No decision by the board.

    Liz – do you get bills and pay more than they ask for?

    Tim – depends who is sending the bill.

    motion to increase amount $405 to current census data…. 3-2 (Daniel and Liz against)

    Elwell – important to note during the record who wasn’t unanimous

    new motion to send the modified amount on the warning for the 2022 RTM – approved! (3-2 with the same split)

    Daniel – I voted nay – when it comes up for RTM I’ll consider it. But I’m not in favor of the new number.

    Ian – to explain my aye – at RTM, when this comes up, I will explain the board’s position to reflect the new census data.

  • FY23 Proposed Budget – Capital Night

    C. FY23 Proposed Budget –

    (i) Equipment Replacement

    (ii) Capital Projects

    (iii) Looking Ahead to Major Improvements at Living Memorial Park

    Elwell – we’ll talk about the capital equipment replacement program for this year, and capital projects for this year, and the final item is a preview of significant financing to do some generational improvements at Living Memorial Park, in 2023. Some planning has been done and we’ll report on that tonight. A year from now you can approve the projects themselves. We’ll get to that.

    Capital equipment replacement program – this is the third year of implementation. It has set us up as we desired. To have steady replacement of equipment. Going forward the average over a 20 year period increase in about $20k.. about a penny. Inflationary. To keep all vehicles in good condition and replaced in a timely manner, better trade in values… we get better value back… and for larger items like fire trucks or graders or dump trucks.. we are pre-funding.

    Liz – we have these documents… and pages…

    Elwell – uh, if you get the FY23 budget proposed fro the town website, it takes you to a page with everything except this document. The 25 year plan is missing and we’ll add it tomorrow. So, we have a funding program to refund fire trucks. We’re increasing by $5k what we contribute to the firetruck fund. We’ll draw on that when we buy a firetruck – the fund builds up, and we draw it down, then it build up… a subset of this is just about fire trucks. In a few other places in the chart, like in DPW for the versivac – in 24 and 25 there are two amounts. We’ll pre-fund part of it so we can keep things steady. The whole point of this is that they are recurring expenses that we can do in a smarter way and a way that keeps the financial impact steady.

    In FY23 we propose $115k for firetruck fund, paying for some radio equipment, replacing an EKG, the fire chief car, computer hardware town wide , replace two police cars, ballistic vest replacement (matched by grants), the older grader gets replaced, a pre-fund for a dump truck, and new electronic signs for around town.

    Daniel – in Traffic safety we talked of upgrading speed radar, is that included?

    Elwell – probably not – just variable message boards.

    Dan Tyler – yes, the $19k is for variable message boards for community awareness, not the speed signs.

    Daniel – we’ll talk about it on Thursday.

    Elwell – if you want us to price that for you…

    Daniel – if the Traffic Safety Committee tells me…

    Liz – 10 minute break…

    Tim – two questions before I leave -a comment – the grader is on the schedule, it is very expensive. I’d like to discuss it. And a question to Lenny – do we need the new ford explorer this year for fire chief.

    Elwell – I’ll respond to that. Tim has to leave. I wanna preface my strong urging that as a board you don’t tinker with this plan. I want to remind you. You make policy decisions, and if you think the grader is too expensive and Lenny doesn’t need a truck, we’ll do that with smiles on our faces. But there are few ways that the better practices we’ve done over the last 7 years. Some are way more subtle and some are debatable. The town suffered for nursing along old vehicles and patching them up and not having them when they are broken. It’s not wrong to do that in your household. We have an opportunity to be smarter than that. To replace on a schedule we get all those benefits – better trade in values, more work done, we’re safer…

    Liz – an we don’t pay interest

    Elwell – yes, we earn interest rather than paying it. There are example I could cite but won’t about putting things off turning into painful outcomes. We can avoid that if we stick to the program. It should be a big reason to change it, because it throws off everything in future years.

    Liz – so the point is that the big items… it all fits together in a complex way. The main benefit is the expensive things can be paid for over time.

    Elwell – without large spikes or dips…

    Tim – thanks for taking the bait. This conversation has to happen every year. I’ll take the hit for being silly.

    Elwell – I never called you a name.

    Tim – I expected you to offer that argument, and I support the program, but we should talk about it.

    Liz – break until 8:20

  • More capital

    Ian – I want to stay on track. My first question is I’m curious if in DPW, if the 1975 item doesn’t have any monies until 2027… what is that? It is so old.

    Dan Tyler – The latent is a drag box paver. It’s non motorized and hooks to the back of a dump truck to pave trenches or small patches. It’s non mechanical and has a long life.

    Liz -the significance of a grader. It takes a gravel or dirt road and grades it.

    Dan Tyler – we use them for snow removal and grading roads. Used year round. We have two of them. This is a 2005. It was bumped a year to make the plan even out. It is in need of replacement. Seeing more breakdowns. There were times both broke down. We use them a lot. This is ready to be replaced.

    Liz – It is an important element.

    Daniel – the grader and the census… the census told us the more rural part of Brattleboro grew. More important we have functioning graders for out there.

    Elwell – specific to the grader – this is different from he first year. It felt awkward that we had accurate numbers. Some items 20 years in the future were down to the dollar So, one change we made was we now round off to even thousands so it makes more sense. Also, we do have a replacement interval for every piece of equipment but we aren’t always bound to it. This had a 15 year cycle and we moved it to the 16th year. Sometimes we move things up.

    Liz – Peter is rightfully proud of it. And town manager interviewees all liked seeing such capital planning. We should all recognize that.

    Jessica – a big picture question. 25 years is a long time. Technology evolves and systems evolve. Is there a system to address and adapt at how equipment is being utilized, and efficiency and sustainability. I hope we aren’t in a rut of same-old, same-old.

    Elwell – there are items in the later years that won’t be purchased. That’s the challenge for staff to keep things level funded. This will always be changing. The most obvious is switching to electric vehicles. I expect sometime during this everything will be electric. So, to plan, we forecast to replace in-kind, but we decide as we get there and will be in the plan as soon as we can put it in there. We’ve already bought electric vehicles that were shown as gas vehicles. We’re starting with small pieces of equipment and ramping up. Everything gas powered is being replaced and converted to electric. You’ll see that plan in a few months.

    Daniel – still on vehicles and equipment? Replacing computer hardware?

    Elwell – as a systematic replacement program, this started before the long term replacement program. When we looked at IT 5 years ago, we had security needs, but also we used things until they broke was haunting as here as well. We put everything onto a schedule. 4 years for heavier pieces of equipment. printers and copiers can last longer. We’re rotating out older equipment. We started with $30k the first year. In this plan it is $45k then increasing $1k per year.

    Daniel – when IT breaks, who fixes it?

    Elwell – depends on the fix – minor things we do ourselves. We have a vendor (CCI) for emergencies and help, and they help us replace equipment. Lots of ongoing work to keep security and software up to date. We call CCI if it is a big problem.

    Jessica – trade ins… where is that value reflected?

    Elwell – when it results in a net savings to this plan it falls to capital fund balance. It’ll be rare that we put aside the precise dollar amount. It will cost more or less… so we can save a little to, or pull from, the fund balance. Trade in values are buried in the chart… what here is net values, with responsible best estimates, but not exact amounts.

    Ian – so, on the whole, each year when you look at the current year, how many years forward is under modification and change based on tech or departmental changes?

    Elwell – it is the whole thing, based on known things changing. It might be changes to th technology, or how we do business. There can be things that impact replacement cycles… a 10 year cycle might become 12-15… it happened this year… the solving is in the smoothing, and we look where we land, and if that is out of whack, we do some adjusting. The end result is we look at the whole thing every year.

    Liz – we see this play out in our meetings…

    Jessica – I’ll keep going on that. So, creating something like this, would it be helpful to have an innovation baseline to make room to invest in new technology… some planned wiggle room.

    Elwell – I appreciate you wanting to make a good thing better. You should ask Yoshi and work with the team because, I love the idea. Anything that gives us more flexibility is great, but it is an unnecessary convenience – this is our best work and it is unscientific. We could debate each item… nothing has a right or wrong answer. We work through these issues each year. Working within the confines of the existing system hasn’t hindered us. You’ve created the FFFFF… that’s an extra.

    Jessica – this is a good reflection on what we’re committing to.. not cutting corners today and paying for it layer. Another reflection of our values could be sustainability and tech innovations within a long term plan.

    Daniel – they consider all those things when they go to buy something. We’re not grader experts, but Dan is. There is an attempt to move toward sustainability. It’s a broad goal of the town. You buy it when it is at the time that is right to buy it for the town. Town staff know when those points are.

    Elwell – It’s true, and about not just getting off fossil fuels… that’s already reflected in some past action is the IT stuff. Our IT processes are better now. It’s changing fast all the time, and keeping up is challenging. We were vulnerable and became sound, and spending more than we used to. We’re not doing it on the cheap. It costs a fair amount of money, and we’re functioning that much better for it. The overarching point is it is a plan, not a contract. Doing something slightly different for the right reason is great. Policy changes can make a difference in the plan.

    Ian – if there is a moment when accessing a fund could be utilized to not maybe make it so there needs so much smoothening – we could get a more efficient blah blah blah if we use FFFF funds…

    Elwell – that would normally be from the capital fund, not the FFFFF. Maybe…

    Liz – shall we move on?

    Elwell – we’ll now go back to the other part. There are 4 items in the request, on the town website. Street paving, bike infrastructure, sidewalk replacement, and fire alarm replacement at Brooks Memorial Library.

    Paving is at $400k. I know you’d like to go higher but we might not be able to afford it this year. The next two you might want to shift around. From the community – BCAT – bike and ped safety. They made a request for $20k more in sidewalk replacement. This year we suggest $120k. Bike infrastructure we’ve never done before. I propose $12k (their request was $20k). Could be lanes or racks or other investments. This would be the first year, so we’ll tie it to a specific focus which is the result of the scoping study for a bike lane on Western Ave from exit 2 to Main Street. It needs to be two pieces. High street will be harder to do due to parking on both sides of the street. On Western Ave there is parking but it is sporadic and we can move lanes back and forth and change parking around. Sue Fillion has done research on grants for implementation and there would be a $12k match to make it happen, and we think it is worthy of a brown commitment.

    Liz – very well thought out to just have the match here. What about sidewalks?

    Elwell – that wasn’t for specific tasks. Sidewalks are chosen to be replaced based on conditions but also they relate to current conditions and usage. Routes to schools and routes into downtown take priority. Those get more attention than beat up sidewalks off the main path. It would cost millions to replace them all. That’s a bond if you want to replace all sidewalks. Communities do that but it isn’t part of our plan.

    Daniel – routes to school and downtown, but what about routes for an elder population, or disabled…Fairview and Red Clover?

    Elwell – yes, we’d say yes to the Red Clover area. We follow guidance from DPW. They are thoughtful about what they bring forward. Sometimes it relates to adjacent work in the street. We sometimes do them together, even if it isn’t the worst.

    Daniel – my sidewalk got replaced. Previous years were really dangerous I worry about people who are not able to get around so easy. We have this discussion every year. Even downtown with snow can make it hard to move around safely.

    Elwell – I’m finding this time of year is treacherous, too.. leaves cover sidewalks…

    Ian – I’m finding it interesting this year that last year we asked about redoing all the roads, and the we got the answer. With sidewalks…there are less…

    Elwell – imagine that the number will shock you…

    Ian – but we could actually get a number. With the roads it is constant war…

    Elwell – True, but I’d urge you to make pursuit of a bond for sidewalk that you undertake in the future.. we’re going to talk of Living Memorial Park, and it will be millions. Then worry about sidewalks.

    Ian – I find it helpful to talk about these things

    Elwell – details of federal infrastructure aren’t known – it could accelerate all of these things.

    Ian – so we could impact the community as the whole, like a full redo of all sidewalks.

    Liz – we wonder if we’ll come together with a goal for federal money, and I think we’re hearing it.

    Elwell – there is a lot of transition, and we’re doing budgets, and to do it well you want to figure it out some months from now, not years from now. When more is known about huge infrastructure funds. maybe it will fund a sidewalk replacement program of that scale.

    Jessica – would it be worth discussing money to do an audit of current sidewalks?

    Liz – there have been AARP grants available for walkability.

    Daniel – could we hear from dan. Last year I saw a map and table with conditions of sidewalks. I know it exists.

    Liz – on another night…

    Alice Charkes – Whoa ho. I want bonus points for being here at 9pm on a school night. A couple of things. I think that you should think about winter maintenance, too. We have the extra sidewalk plow, but if you revamp sidewalks, you’ll also want to maintain them in the wintertime so people can walk. To the bike infrastructure money – as part of my work with BCAT we want bike transportation supported by the town and this is an excellent first step and we hop you get your support for this. Bikes are energy efficient and we hope the board supports us in this and RTM, too.

    Daniel – Alice is on the traffic safety committee and knows the impacts.

    Ian – It is an excellent point about 12 months of sidewalk use.

    Elwell – I think the happy medium is you’d like info on what it would cost to do the planning effort to be more ready to access infrastructure money when available, and that should include a sidewalk replacement project and more robust sidewalk maintenance like a 3rd or 4th sidewalk plow.

    Jessica – and in bike infrastructure…

    Elwell – for the striping on Western Ave, it won’t be a significant expense.

    Liz – Living memorial park?

    Elwell – there is the 5 year plan, and the fire alarm we should mention. We look at commitments to obligations, and sometimes unusual smaller things. last year we had the small elevator system in the Gibson Aiken Center. This is the fire alarm at the library. It’s been failing and becoming unreliable.

    Daniel – do we really need a fire alarm at the library.. : )

    Elwell – one point about the five year plan. I do forecast bike funding going up, paving will hold steady for five years, sidewalks at 120k a year. In-between there are intersection improvements. We identified 5 high priority. The design part is going on, depending on the design it is expensive to do. We show these as grant funding. Good candidates for infrastructure money. Improving safety of intersections is likely to be fundable, so moving these along is something you’d want to seize the moment. two are close to done.

    Liz – all of these are potential ARPA things?

    Elwell – infrastructure. As the rules become clear, these will be solid opportunities to gain funding from that bill. ARPA, I had hoped would help, but it is moot. ARPA won’t be useable for much of this because of the relation to a COVID related impact.

    Daniel – with he operating budget we get the actual expenditure of back years but we only see going forward here. It would be helpful to see what it used to be…

    Elwell – in general paving has been $300k. Sidewalks has gone from $20k to $100k.

    Daniel so good the paving is more than the old $300k.

    Kathleen White – I’m also a member of BCAT and I appreciate that Peter put the 12k in for the bikes. You said you’d increase it to $20k?

    Elwell – in the five year plan, informationally, I show it adding $20k each year according to this plan. But based on the conversation tonight, we’re likely to end up happier than this and it won’t be accurate.

    Kathleen – I like the $20k for the next year, for other things that may come up. Maybe a covered bike parking area.

    Liz – if you followed the discussion, it is best to have a concrete list of things and work with the new town manager. There could be more than is planned here for FY23.

    Kathleen – thanks for explaining the two phases of the bike plan.

    Jessica – if we get a grant and matching funds…. can they apply for a grant with matching funds and can the board match that grant?

    Elwell – it is possible – if a person or group in the community wants us to pay match that can be tricky. But, what is more common is to encourage the town to pursue a grant that has a match, and if they are good opportunities, the board can match funds from capital fund balance if urgent. Our budget is large enough… I can’t remember the last time something came along with a small match and we said we can’t afford it. You could allocate funds for matching fund balance but it is a tough luxury to justify. We can be nimble.

    Liz – in the consent agenda there is a grant…blah blah blah… it is an example.

    Ian – do you think the ARPA restriction will get tighter now that the infrastructure bill has passed?

    Elwell – they stretched way out beyond COVID – water and sewer and broadband – they’ll stay in the guidance but probably no more flexibility

    Daniel – Still draft language.. so slow.

    Elwell – you get 3 years to decide and 6 years to spend it, though. It will be fine, even if it has been delayed.

    Ian – not everyone can be as fast as the Brattleboro selectboard.

    Elwell – there are large expenses for the next item, and we show $34 million of borrowing for the improvements at Living memorial park.

    Carol and Patrick…

    Carol Lolatte – a year agio I came to approve working with Steve Horton to plan for these projects. the generational improvements starts with three large ones – the rink roof replacement, upgrading the refrigeration for the rink, and replacement of maintenance building plus upgrading the ball field lighting and expanding parking at the shelter. The benefice of the rink for our citizens – it is the home of the boys and girls hickey teams, youth hickey association, figure skating clubs, hockey programs, public skating… school programs and special events in the winter. In the off season it is the site for indoor summer camp and indoor street hockey.

    The roof project is a 30k square foot roof replacement project. Built in 1974 and opened in 1975. It’s the original, uninsulated roof. Over the last 45 years, it was semi-outdoors with a fence and tarps. Locker rooms were added, we enclosed the remaining sides in the 90’s, which created issues of condensation. the metal roof needs to be replaced, but the structure underneath is sound. It was tested. Looked at other options to add insulation. Maybe up to 10 inches will be ok. Working with the sustainability coordinator to move forward and meeting commercial energy standards for VT. These are broad bush layouts. The final determination will happen a year from now. $700k for no insulation. 10 inches would be $1.4 million. Insulation will help with condensation.

    Jessica – efficiency costs and energy savings with the insulation. If we spend more to keep the ice cold depending on insulation? One time savings might not make sense in the long term if this is for 30 years.

    Carol – we’ll figure it out over the coming year, and show you the benefits of each. Still a working document right now.

    Daniel – in this year’s budget and at town meeting we are expecting a bond request?

    Elwell – no – we want to keep planning so a year from now we can take action. Because of the cost and importance we wanted to tell you about that planning process. It’s about a $3.5 million project, but we’ll keep looking to save costs. Tonight you can say stop, or tell us to keep going so a year from now you can recommend this to RTM to be approved and financed.

    Liz – more money for planning this year?

    Elwell – not needed.

    Carol – also at the rink, in FY24, a year from now, the refrigeration is the original R22 1975 technology. Components have been replaced. We can do better now. We had an analysis done by IB Story. They looked at the entire system and gave us a broad range of options. The R22 refrigerant is no longer being manufactured. It’s getting more expensive to replace. It’s also highly toxic. Need to move to a more natural refrigerant, like CO2 or ammonia based. We need to go to the natural refrigerant. So we’ll look at what that system will look like. As we go through the planning, we’ll look at pros and cons and efficiencies and bring them to you next year with our recommendation.

    Liz – that’s the type of thing jess was talking about early about being flexible…

    Carol – moving on to the maintenance building. It’s across from the pool. One is a wood structure, one is a block building. BHS shared a photo from the late 50’s of that wooden building, still standing. In 1972 the cinder block building was put up. They don’t meet our needs. Trucks and plows are bigger and we are busting out of the seams.. the seams are split. We are constantly moving equipment – lots of man hours just moving things around. We need A facility big enough to house the trucks and other equipment to service all of our parks. We’ve been looking at several options – metal, wood, and so on… we’re looking at the aesthetics in the park and the usability, so we’d recommend a wooden structure and we’ll add our own internal walls. This would be a basic wooden structure, aesthetically pleasing. It also houses all the electric for the lower part of the park, for the T-bar, ball field lights, and so on. That’s a big ticket item. Re-establishing the electric. Once done we can put our vehicles inside, lawn care equipment, tractors. We’ll fine tune this project over the next year. It’s a pretty solid number of $660k for the four walls and the roof.

    Smaller projects – the increase in new programs at LMP, we’re busting out of the seams at the shelter, with disc golf, dog park, skatepark… we need more parking. People used to park where the skatepark is. We want to double the spaces up there. A gravel parking lot to lessen frustration of users in the park.

    Final project included would be upgrading the upper field lighting. The current system was installed in the early 80s. hard to find replacement ballasts, and the safety of the height of the poles is an issue. At West River park it is 60-70 ft poles. The upper field poles are 45 feet. Bats and balls have changed – they go higher and farther. The ceiling is low and players are losing the ball, then it is a safety issues. There have been mishaps and we want to address he safety concern. Technology for lights has changed – less lamps and more efficient. In 2019, we have 38 mens teams and 12 women’s teams using the facility 6 days a week, on top of that we host weekend softball tournaments. It’s heavily used.

    That describes the five projects at this time.

    Jessica – thanks so much for doing such a good job with this. One big question about how the rec department facilities are funded. They have community sponsors that help. If the selectboard hesitates, could the community do a public fundraising campaign?

    Carol – that’s always an option. This is a lot of money – $3.4 million to raise. It would be something we’d see what type of grants are out there, what other funders have supported this type of project. We use that with many of our projects. If you want us to do that we could help lower that cost … not sure I could get all of it.

    Liz – children grew up waiting for the skatepark. It’s named perseverance skate park for a reason. There was some municipal funding, but it took a very long time to raise the money, and these facilities don’t have that kind of time. Many people wondered why the skatepark wasn’t municipally funded. I don’t think it is an option for this project.

    Daniel – there is nothing more crowdfunded than a municipal bond – everyone contributes. All names go on a big plaque.

    Ian – thanks, carol. I appreciate the presentation. Ona board level, with things like generational improvements, it seems like a responsibility of the town. Youth utilize these and we want to encourage that. But on a more basic line – facilities that provide essential services, the town should pay the money to get it to a new safe place if needed. We should look at other funding, but the idea that it is the town carrying the heft seems right.

    Jessica – to be clear, I fully support this project. I just know other resources can be applied, and maybe someone or some entities want to make significant donations. It’s a great way to build connections and community. I was curious if it was a possibility…

    Liz – I bet Carol would like lots of people to support, but roof and walls are the responsibility of the town.

    Patrick Moreland – good evening. Good discussion. thanks, Carol. The bottom of page 4 has a table showing the bottom line – a range of projects with a cost of about $3.4 million. With each project, the scopes are being refined. This is the worst case, most expensive version….

    Daniel – the maintenance building doesn’t seem to be the worst…

    Patrick – fair point. Staff would recommend the middle option. That one is in sharper focus. Our work over the coming year will focus each of these and come back throughout the year or by this time next year with more specific recommendations. We hope to refine the scope and we hope to cut these numbers fairly significantly, but not in every case. In terms of borrowing, I want to point out that some of the projects will be in service for decades. You could break them out by approximate useful life. Some will last 20 years. Some will last 40-50 years. You have options. You could borrow the entire amount for 20 years at 3%, or you could break out some for a 40 year loan, which lowers our annual costs but increases interest. There are financing options and we’ll bring them back in as many ways as possible. If we did it this year, we’d beat that 3%. We’ll see about next year. Carol will use her fundraising skills to further reduce costs.

    Elwell – it’s a bunch of big numbers. To pay this back, if we do them all at once, it would take about 2 pennies on the tax rate. If we split them up it would be about 1.5 pennies. That’s about what we forecast, worst case scenario.

    Daniel – our current debt payments are 1.1 million. These are predictable…

    Elwell – most of the old stuff has dropped off. The most recent to drop off was the Honeywell project.

    Daniel – so FY23 debt service is $1.1 million, so FY24 will be closer to 1.4 million?

    Elwell – in the next year… yeah about back up to $1.3 million.

    Ian – so the water treatment process is similar – get a bond, RTM approves… and this one to use it for or or two payment plans?

    Elwell – yes. It could be one or two questions. If two, part could fail.

    Ian – this is helpful to talk about and like to know it is coming up. I appreciate taking the time to talk about it now.

    Liz – we approved the planning last year. Great, thanks Patrick and Carol. Nothing left on the agenda…

    Daniel – what about the financial report?


  • Quality of Publlic Discourse / CORRECTION

    Chris mentioned my comment about intolerance of an event about Marxism (on Front Porch Forum), but it was the mention of “Americanism” that alarmed some people. They began to raise a stink.
    Brattleboro has become a liberal enclave, and we are becoming intolerant of people with conservative views. In the last week I have heard my liberal allies say that they won’t talk to religious people because religious people are prejudiced and wouldn’t listen to them. Another person, a dear friend of mine, said she won’t work with church-goers because they are all stupid and evil — her exact words! Last year six Republicans had a little pro-Trump demonstration in Pliny Park, and a large crowd came to shout them down. An acquaintance on Facebook said that the “pro-life” students who protested Planned Parenthood had secret violence in their hearts and are the type who support domestic abuse. (She never met them. I have spoken with them. They were quite friendly to me and were sad that no-one wanted to talk with them.) Public discussion has rotted down to demonstration and counter-demonstration. This isn’t just a matter of lost politeness. Without civil public discourse the chance of progress on every moral issue. I invite you, especially pro-choice people to talk with the “pro-life” students — NOT about abortion. Brattleboro Common Sense will sponsor a panel discussion on the loss of public discourse in Brattleboro and America, and you’re invited. RSVP me.

  • A needed reminder

    Thank you, Kurt, for reminding us of something we need to remember. In this time of terrible division, it’s easy to give up and assume “the other side” (whichever side that may be) is not worth talking with. I confess to feeling this way at times, and it’s so much better to try to be less prejudicial.

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