Selectboard Meeting Notes – FY23 Budget Finishing Touches, Bike Paths, Tax Stabilization for Alternative Energy

sb january 18 2022

The Brattleboro Selectboard did some final tinkering with remaining FY23 budget items, with a discussion about bike paths and whether waiting six months is worth $16,000.

They approved some sidewalk improvements, Human Services requests, and a tax stabilization idea to encourage solar projects on already-developed land was discussed and sent along to RTM.

Comments | 8

  • Preliminaries

    Chair Elizabeth McLaughlin – Oh good, we were muted before. Good evening. Welcome to the meeting. No remarks.

    Town Manager Yoshi Manale – No comments.

    Daniel Quipp – Thanks to the DPW for the snowstorm. The snow removal is tonight? (Yes)

    Tim Wessel – a procedural thing that bothers me. On there consent agenda we have quite a bit. I’m concerned it is a bit quick for anyone coming to the meeting and seeing the agenda. Tonight there are 6 items. My suggestion is to give the toppling subject matters before public participation. I did that when I was Chair. Otherwise, public participation happens, everyone hears about it, and we go to voting.

    Liz – we can also ask if after they are read.

    Tim – It’s good to take a breathe and let people raise hands. Just a suggestion.

    Ian Goodnow – FY23 budget – Let’s get it done.

    Liz – Public?

    Kurt Daims – My computer is set up fr two people. My neighbor Laura would like to speak about better snowplowing and sidewalk clearing. I’d like to comment about stable d CT procedures. I recall that the police review committee was begun with a special interest in citizen oversight of the police department. The committee was formed without a policeman on the committee. There was back and forth with documents and the implementation table. People lost site of it being a citizen led procedure. To much was left to town staff and the interim police chief. It is ironic and insulting to the committee to have their work supervised by the police. The board should recognize this and recover the initiative that began with BCS proposals.

    Laural B – I’ve found the sidewalks today covered in ice, from Price Shopper down – the sidewalks are sheer ice, you can’t walk int he road. There’s no place to walk if you can’t drive. Is there a way someone could sand these sidewalks? It’s convenient for people who don’t drive. I don’t mind walking, but it was impossible to walk down the hill by the hospital. I had to walk in the street or in the snow.

    Liz – thank you. We got a foot of snow yesterday. Clearing isn’t perfect. Today wouldn’t be the day to judge…

    Laural – it was this way after the last snowstorm, too. I’ve fallen, others have hit their heads. That’s why I bring it to your attention.

    Tim – I had to walk in the street, too, today to get my car. In front of my house, the water pooled and created an ice skating rink. We haven’t had all the removal yet, it melted then froze again. We can only make sidewalks as safe as we can. We rely on citizens to help out as you can. We can’t cover every sidewalk, but you are being heard.

  • Consent Agenda

    A. Annual Appointments for Ratification at Representative Town Meeting

    (i) Town Clerk

    (ii) Town Attorney

    (iii) Interim Town Treasurer

    B. Annual Contract Renewal with Town Attorney

    C. Bike Walk/Master Plan Grant Agreement – Add Authorizing Official

    D. VT Department of Environmental Conservation, Water Infrastructure Financing Division – Add Authorizing Officials

    E. Bus Service – Update

    F. Mask Mandate Renewal

    Liz – (reads the list) Any discussion?

    Daniel Quipp – if someone wants to discuss this we pull it and put it at the end, right? (yes)

    Tim – I’d like to pull the mask mandate renewal.

    Liz – okay, end of agenda…

  • FY23 Budget – Review Final Details

    Patrick Moreland – at the end of your last meeting, there were two open items. Finalizing the capital fund request and use of funds. In terms of the use of funds balance, it has been said that if the town adheres strictly to the 10%, we’d left it at $50k. Early on, Town Manager Elwell explained this, all things being equal, the money will be there at the end of the year. The board discussed a range – $249 – 350k. I’d say go with the lower number. The money will be there, but we have six months to go, anything could arise, and I’d caution against expecting the best. The target we’re aiming for is lower than in previous years. WE could rely on savings from vacancies in the police roster. We’re using that $200k for community safety, and we set aside $70k for fossil fuel facilities fund. Caution is a good thing. In terms of other capital requests… they are on the agenda for new business. What I can say now that there was a request made of the board to accelerate the bike lanes planned for Western Ave. There is currently $12k for a Trans match grant, and the new bike lanes would be there in 2023. If we paid for the entire thing, we could have it done in 2022. Up to you. The second request is a cost overrun in a sidewalk replacement project on South Main St. To afford it, we would tae away funds from FY23 projects. To avoid it we could add another $88k to this year and we could stay on pace. In the table I presented to the board, you could use the $249, 300, or 350k, plus $16k for bike lanes, and the $88k for sidewalks. You have a good range of options and I urge being a bit conservative.

    Ian – right to the chase on it. I’m in favor of $300k. The board has a responsibility to balance being responsible and not overburdening the taxpayer. $249k seems low and $350k seems his so lets go in the middle.

    Liz – Ok Goldilocks.

    Daniel – this is the last discussion? Settle it tonight? I like the middle. I understand the caution of $249k, and the budget started out lean, so increasing the use of fund balance a bit this year will receive some of that burden on the taxpayer.

    Tim – I’m a fan of the middle way. I was looking at the whole picture. Should we talk about sidewalks?

    Ian – my proposal is $300k, with sidewalks, with bikes, without either, is the right proposal.

    Liz – we need to vote on the $300k number then the add ons later in the meeting.

    Ian – that’s how it is warned but Tim wants to do it now.

    Tim – no.

    Jessica – I’m delighted with the middle road.

    Patrick – I hear you. $300k. You’ll have a two item meeting next week to approve the budget and warning on the 25th.

  • Safety Improvements at the Intersection of Canal Street + South Main Street and on Oak Street

    Safety Improvements at the Intersection of Canal Street + South Main Street and on Oak Street – Second Reading, Public Hearing and Adoption of Ordinance

    Patrick – we spoke of this at the first reading two weeks ago. This is the public hearing and second reading, and if you are ready, a vote. If approved, staff will publish the new ordinance in the paper and 60 days later it takes effect. The first is an attempt to make safety improvements at Canal and South Main Street (a stop sign), and to limit parking on Oak Street in the morning and afternoon for pickup of children, and one hour of parking in-between.

    Liz – members of the public spoke in favor of both.

    Daniel – the Canal Street stop sign. It is not a stop sign for both directions. Coming down canal you will have a stop sign, on the way up the hill it will be a yield sign. You won’t just strat driving up the hill and half to stop. It’s a decent solution to a part of the problem. The other part is pedestrians crossing where they shouldn’t.

    Jonathon Weber – I want to chime in on the increasing funding for bike lanes on Western Ave. I encourage you to do it this year. Staff can move to other priority projects in the bike/walk plan…

    Liz – any comments about Canal and South Main street.

    Jonathon – sorry.

    Ordinance is changed!

  • Western Avenue Bike Lane Project Timing – Consider Request

    Patrick Moreland – I’d be happy to take it up again. The board has an idea of the decision. There is $12k in the FY23 for a Trans match, and if we do that the bike planes would happen in 2023. Several community members asked us to pay cash and use local resources to do it by 2022. Which way would you like to proceed.

    Liz – and extra $16k to save ourselves a year.

    Tim – we are making some assumptions – that Trans will be quick to grant our request. Not always the case. We also have to find a contractor to fit it in to their schedule.

    Liz – How do we feel about this action?

    Tim – could Sue Fillion weigh in?

    Ian – Tim itemized some assumptions. What are the other factors being considered?

    Sue Fillion – the two options. If the Town full funds it, we think we could do the design work. Trans would review it in 30 days. We did the scoping study. It’s just getting their approval. Having that should make the review easier. We could put it out to bid. It depends on contractors to do linestriping and some grinding. Probably a grant in June. We feel more comfortable with a spring contraction timeline for that… in 2023. Both cases will need Trans to sign off on it.

    Liz – a six months wait? If the award is in August, could contractors do it before snowfall?

    Sue – they could be booked all through the fall.

    Ian – the next item is paying an extra $90k that the bid price came back higher than expected. Could that be the case here?

    Sue – not as familiar with sidewalk and paving prices. If they came from VTrans estimates, it’s a good price, says the DPW.

    Liz – it isn’t something we generally do – proceed before a grant.

    Daniel – the thing to weigh is free money for a slightly slower pace, or paying a bit more and speeding things up a bit for people who want a better quality o life with bike lanes. It’s almost a toss up. I we fully funded it, would it be done all that much sooner? Is it worth $16k to do it 6 months sooner.

    Liz – yup that’s the question.

    Daniel – part of me says, yeah! It is! It’s not as big as the skatepark, but people have wanted this for a long time and we could do it, but also part of me says to wait for the free grant money and it won’t set the project back years.

    Tim – it’s not a lot of money. We have an almost $20 mill budget. This would be $16k coming from the state for a grant. It’s a gamble to shift it to the taxpayers. It’s .1% of an increase, so I’ll vote no.

    Jessica – Same as Tim. WE are committed to this. It is in net year’s budget to do this work. Fall vs spring… we can do our best to be thrifty and save the $26k. Nothing terrible about waiting 6 months if we are committed to this.

    Liz – if everyone sped up work, the budget process would break down.

    Daniel – taxpayers won’t notice, but users of the lanes and roads will notice sooner, so which do you want.

    Tim – we hope it will show up sooner…

    Ian – this is interesting for me as a board member – how much to pay to make something happen a little faster. I was leaning toward Daniel’s side… does he have a side? Toward paying the full amount to get it done earlier. But now I feel like the info we got tonight isn’t enough to know if it will happen in 2022. The idea that we could still cost more and might still not happen. So, I’m for getting the grant.

    Liz – I also think it is a bad precedent.

    Jonathon – I’m back. I’ve been working with folks in BRattleboro to move these projects forward. To me, safety – there have been two accident sin the last 5 years in that area. Sooner we have new lanes could improve safety there sooner. Small price to pay. This is a central corridor and $16k is a small amount of money. It’ll show you are committed to making these improvements. And we are in a climate crisis, so improving biking and walking is key. Faster we do this the sooner staff can move on to the next project.

    Liz – Sue, the bike ped master plan… how does this fit in?

    Sue – we just got the grant to do the plan this year. We’ll look to see where we need work. This would be a piece that is complete and consider and existing conditions that need connecting. It’s not designed yet. We’ll work on that this spring. DPW can do the majority of the design. There might be a small bit a firm would need to do.

    Kathleen While – I represent the coalition that put in the request. I agree with what Jonathon said. It might be a year for the grant. A year for people who bike is a long time. We have so little bike infrastructure. I think it would make a lot of sense to do it as soon as we can. To become a bike-friendly community we need bike lanes, and we’d like to see us become a bike friendly community.

    Kevin O – I agree and look forward connecting this over to Living memorial park. This portion having improvements will sho off Brattleboro’s commitment to be livable and on the forefront of climate change.

    Daniel – former planning commission members – what does the town plan say about safety for cyclists. I’m sure we say this…

    Sue – we do. We speak of complete streets, and planning roadways to meet the needs of everyone not just cars.

    Daniel – as Kathleen said – a day in the life of a cyclist is a long day. I think I go for putting it all up and doing it sooner and if we can’t I’ll take the blame.

    Liz – I agree. There is great concern for this and it isn’t too much to ask.

    Jessica – a question, Daniel. Is this an area of concern about the accidents at Traffic Safety?

    Daniel – honestly – we haven’t discussed any injuries on that stretch of road, but on this week’s agenda we have three incidents (none on Western Ave) and one bike lane might have helped with one. Bike lanes make things safer.

    Liz – when we discuss Rt bridge rapids, the tremendous amount of interstate traffic along that road was a surprise to me. It’s a major conduit across Vermont. A dedicated bike lane would be good.

    Jessica – if we do this work, is it valuable to have the striping through the winter season.

    Daniel – there is a hardcore group of people that cycle year round. So having bike friendly infrastructure would be good 12 months a year.

    Liz – could we apply, then choose not to accept it? Do both ways? If we can’t find a contractor in the spring, and line them up, then we’d want the grant if it was going to be delayed.

    Sue – I could see getting it designed and putting it out to bid.. I don’t usually deal with bidding. Maybe Patrick has more experience. You might be able to pull it back.

    Liz – contractors are in flux and things are delayed. WE might not be able to find someone this year and should submit to the grant.

    Yoshi Manale – Dan said we wouldn’t have problems finding a contractor.

    Tim – we decided $300k in 2.4 seconds and are arguing $26k… this has been a $300 discussion in past years. It’s fine however we do this. Laural came to us asking for more sand. Our job is to look at the big picture. We’re trying to plan for the future and all the places to spend money. I don’t like giving up $16k. I’m impatient, too. Our job here is to look at the big picture and how to move forward. I don’t like the idea of… she’s right that we should have better sidewalks and more sand, but because of that statement we aren’t getting $16k more of sand. That’s not planning, that’s reacting. I like to look at the big picture. W don’t know if this makes things safer. More crosswalks doesn’t always mean safer. It can be an illusion of safety. It’s an easy road to go down, as it appeals to emotion, but that isn’t our job.

    Liz – being all over the place…

    Patrick – there are a number of hands raised.

    Kevin O – referencing the town plan – promote pedestrian and bike mobility, so that falls under that, it it does make a difference with safety and 56 months matter. If the upkeep isn’t there it isn’t safe. Having the bike lanes will narrow drive lanes, which will slow traffic, and more will use the bike lanes. It will have an effect on safety. You don’t see the stats on ho doesn’t get in crashes.

    Fhar Meiss – I don’t have a lot of opinions on bike lanes. If having lanes there in the winter means they’d be plowed, that would make a difference right there.

    Gary Stroud – Happy New year and all that. I did my own research about incidents and accidents in Brattleboro. Many are creating bike lanes of their own. West B and Putney Road, after a point there is no bike lane, but it is very narrow. I watch the road and respect the road. That $16k is an ounce of prevention, compared to hospital bills. That will be a lot less. Safety is job one for the town. I’d like a bike for myself. Will I feel safe? No, probably not. Maybe on some of them. Not too many parks you can ride around a lake here. Table it and come back?

    Liz – the question isn’t the value – it will be this year maybe or next year. Do we want to forgo the state funds in the hopes of accelerating the project. Let’s vote.

    Daniel – the benefit outweighs the cost. taxpayers won’t notice, th people who cycle will notice. I’m in favor.

    Straw poll = Daniel (yes now), Ian (wait for grant), Jessica (don’t know), Liz (I’m wishy washy), Tim (Let’s wait)

    Daniel – we just opted for more risk in our use of fund..

    Ian – that’s fall equivalence. I won’t accept it.

    Jessica – can we do the money and apply for the grant?

    Patrick – if we got the grant…. there are a whole lot of variables here.

    Ian – we could damage relations if we drop a grant we applied for.

    Daniel – I move to add $16k to the FY23 capital request to expedite the bike lane project, potentially.

    2-3 (fails)

    Liz – next year!

  • Sidewalk Reconstruction Bids on South Main Street – Award Bid

    Tim – this will take two minutes. It’s more money.

    Dan Tyler – Patrick laid out how this came to be and the money we are requesting. It started with a grant to pave South Main Street – it will be a 90 day 2023 detour when the hinsdale bridge project is underway. We got a grant to repave between Canale Street and Cotton Mil Hill. There is a section of sidewalk in bad condition, so this is the time to take care of that section. There are other sidewalks in better conditions. This is right against the road. This will be grant curb, slightly widening to achieve 5 feet. There are some poles we won’t be able to move, but it will be better width. The low bidder was LaRock and Son, but almost $90k over what we have. We want to accept the bid to keep the project on track, and ask that you consider increase the capital sidewalk request in FY23 to compensate for that overage. We have another section near Station 2 in FY23.

    Liz – I’d assume all over the state projects are over budget. What’s everyone going to do? Will the state pay us more?

    Dan – The grant we received for resurfacing the roadway – the sidewalk doesn’t fall under that.

    Liz – federal infrastructure money?

    Patrick – it is certainly possible. I’d hope the board could do this, or not, so you can get your budget next Tuesday.

    Tim – granite curbing is the best…

    Dan Tyler – comes from Concord NH.

    Tim – I used to live on streets with concrete, and they are in bad shape. Granite is worth the investment.

    5-0 to award the bid, and increasing the FY23 capital request accordingly.

  • RTM Human Services Committee – Accept Recommendation

    Anne Fielder/David Miner

    David – we worked diligently from Sept to early December. Our role is to review organizations, requests, and suggest funding levels. We look at how town funding would help each agency. Look at all sorts of things, and may look for specific topics to work on. We updated the application form, sponsored and informational meeting, met eight times. There were 4 new applications this year. Total of 37 – a trend of increasing requests. We read 685 pages, scored each application in three sections – services to Brattleboro residents, good benefits to Brattleboro, and experienced management. Conflicts of interest led to recusals if necessary. There was consensus. It was fair and equitable. 1.4% of the budget is set aside. Requests exceeded this. Had to exclude some or reduce amounts to hit the level. We recommend the RTM approve allocating $275k in FY23 to 34 agencies… (provided in documents).

    Liz – thanks very much. I’m a big admirer of your decimation and service and I thank you.

    Jessica -a question. I support this. Must have been a hard task to divide it up. My question is, is the Human Services committee a committee of RTM? (Yes) Does that mean we don’t have a lot to weigh in…

    Tim – Hasn’t stopped people in the past. Thanks for the report and the presentation. We don’t need to add much. Great work was done here. I understand how you came to decisions. I had one suggestion – feedback – I loved your A, B, and C… I have one more for you to consider: how well is the organization supported by others, to evaluate the need for the town to support that organization. It’s a complex funding world, and it is important to weigh that a bit. It’s important to know what the burden is on town taxpayers, and what could be taken up by other agencies. You may have it. (nods)

    David – it falls into what we do under C – that is an important consideration – other funding vehicles for the organization.

    Ian – yes, our role is to accept this and send it off to RTM. Just one second – I received som criticism about human services funding, so I wanted to reflect on this being a statutory right under that allows municipalities to fund services that provide for a wide group in the community, so the town doesn’t have to do it. That balance, the money we devote to that is the right amount, and it is a good things we can do.

    Daniel – I accept the recommendations and I look forward to discussing at RTM.

    Kathryn Parlin – I want to thank everyone who worked on this. I’m a bit new to this, too. My interest is looking at how our budget is matching up with recommendations in the community safety report. This is out of order, but the police budget went up substantially, but the community safety report suggest level funding the budget. How do I get more info?

    Liz – the increase is in salaries, it was discussed in November. At the same time, the board established the community safety fund for alternatives to policing.

    Kathryn – where could I get police budget info?

    Liz – ask at our next meeting when we discuss the budget, or call the town manager or assistant town manager, or review the presentation in November.

    Daniel – or, become a town meeting member, get 10 sections, and got to RTM and vote on the budget and you can discuss and be passionate. If you aren’t in the room that day you don’t have as much power as you could have.

    Kathryn – on the community safety implantation table, 13-17 talk about how we should reinvest some of our money. I’ll quickly summarize – 13 is safe housing, feee meals, community gardens… 14 is mutual aid support, BIPOC organizations…. 15 is voluntary support… 16 is community mutual aid… and 17 is restorative justice. How does the huma services budget fit with these priorities. It looks like restorative justice got a little bump up. How can we see this in the context of these priorities.

    Liz – Human service requests are organization specific, from the bottom up. What you are asking is about top down dictating of spending. It’s not how it works.

    Kathryn – no. I assumed the process is how the priorities are set out, and I was wondering if the committee considered the community safety report.

    Ian – it’s an interesting government question. The community safety review was adopted by the selectboard as a policy decision. Human services is an RTM committee… it’s not as simple to ask if they followed the report. It’s for the town, not RTM. This is a good question for RTM to ask for future allocations, but it isn’t fair to put it to them right now.

    Liz – and we have to understand those recommendations and actions were something we were advised to take slowly, look at the big picture and work with the community. We put aside money for the implementation.

    Daniel – the Restorative Justice center merged with Youth Services, which will get $21k. The bigger question of does it fit with the community safety review – I think those perspectives were there. But it wasn’t there charge.

    Liz – they don’t need to be interrogate.

    Kathryn – I wasn’t trying to interrogate anyone.

    Ian – just a term.

    Tim – one correction – the rubric, the recommendations we approved – it was a policy recommendation document, not a policy document.


    Liz – let’s take a break until 8:15

  • Tax Stabilization for Alternative Energy Systems – Consider Request from Tom Mosakowski

    Tom – I know you want a little presentation, the summary Patrick wrote in the selectboard report was good. This incentive I propose is enabled by a Vermont statute, giving towns ability to waive the sporty tax value of alternative energy projects . Sort of like with commercial, industrial or farm properties. It has to be decided at town meeting, then they give authority to the selectboard to enter into such contracts. The board can develop a program for renewable energy. It includes wind, solar, hydro, geothermal… the way it is going to be implement here is largely solar. I want to leave it at that. Not the most clear cut explanation, but the memo summarizes things well. Any questions? Ag committee, conservation, committee, energy committee, and planning commission were supported nearly unanimously.

    Liz – thanks. My initial thought is I am loathe to enter into tax stabilization programs with anybody but this is a valuable public purpose. Solar arrays could locate on a variety of land, and you want to give this carrot to give to them if they choose brownfields or other disturbed or developed land. You’d also like to have ht e selectboard develop a program that includes already existing sites.

    Tom – I’m aware of that concern. I haven’t changed the memo while I brought it to committees. The third intent is the crux – to reduce the municipal tax portion of solar arrays to incentivize them on already disturbed sites. I included existing sites because I wasn’t sure how applicants apply. maybe if someone does something on a rooftop and they bank on this stabilization, maybe they are considered existing. And just because a plant was already developed in a way that aligns, maybe they should be retroactively rewarded. The purpose is to make it easier for solar and renewable to be done easier while protecting land and farmland and forests.

    Daniel – a clarifying question – the statute that gives us the power to do tax stabiolization – it says we can do things related to energy generating plants… we already enter into payment in lieu of taxes agreements with commercial and industrial properties?

    Patrick – the Town has existing tax stabilization agreements. We’re at a disadvantage because we can’t define how much an entity can pay for a PILOT. If I have a million dollar manufacturing plant and want to double it, the town would normally exist the old portion of the building, but might phase the new part in over time. Our revenue grows each year but it gives an incentive to grow the business.

    Daniel – RTM has already given us authority to enter into commercial, ag and forest, what about open space?

    Patrick – we found two instances – 1960 and 1962. None were for alternative energies.

    Daniel – makes senes that we add this and let RTM decide, and if it gets approved we develop a procedure.

    Liz – a case by case basis

    Patrick – I believe so. He’s asking you to put this to RTM, and once granted, staff could develop a program.

    Ian – It gives the selectboard another tool. A straightforward thing.

    Jessica – the work that Tom has been put in, and the support from all the committees, it is a good reflection that he’s done his homework and it should be sent along to RTM.

    Tim – don’t we already have this ability? No? So we’re not tying the warning to number 2 at all, because the way it is arranged on our notes… I don’t really get the why of #2.

    Tom – My intent was to combine the two that combines them on the warning. I couldn’t get a whole memo in there, but wanted to say already developed and disturbed. Bob Fisher advised that the article just have this wording. The moderator may entertain an amendment for criteria or wording. I’d love it to the original article. Why? I wrote it in the memo below – to meet our town energy goals we need more renewable energy goals, and that will mostly happen though solar. It’s cheapest to be located on fields and forests, but we want to preserve this locations and do compact development in established locations. It aligns with our development goals.

    Tim – we have a huge array on a former landfill, and one is right b I-91 which isn’t too pleasant to develop or preserve. Are you projecting into the future?

    Tom – six sites are currently located. Five are on fields and forests. You identified the two largest ones. The Ag advisory committee said that was ag land. By the vitamin business. New Chapter. Projecting forward, field and forest is the easiest location.

    Tim – glad it is two separate things, to get RTM approval for the first.

    Liz – Windham Regional Commission had a study to study site suitable for alternative energy in Windham County and found them in Brattleboro. If a developer came in and developed on one of those sites, it wouldn’t be prohibited, it just would have this amenity?

    Tom – repeat that?

    Liz – WRC identified solar sites, a report and map, and there are sites, and Brattleboro has land use rules that allows solar in places you aren’t preferring. Nothing would stop them, but no incentive?

    Yoshi – For now. You could make it broader in the future. This creates the tool.

    5-0 sent to RTM


    The next two items, months finance report, and setting Town Meeting Election on March 1 and Representative Town Meeting on March 19+20 are pretty much self explanatory, so I sign off to have some soup.

    There’s also Tim’s desire to discuss the mask mandate.

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