Selectboard Meeting Notes – Manale Begins, FY23 & RTM Loose Ends

yoshi manale brattleboro jan 2022

The Brattleboro Selectboard began 2022 with new Town Manager Octavian Yoshi Manale at the helm. He remained relatively quiet, letting staff do most of the explaining while he adjusted to the new surroundings.

The board made a few FY’23 decisions, punted a few others to another meeting, and helped approve some articles to go before RTM at what they cautioned might be another virtual town meeting.

Comments | 8

  • Preliminaries

    (some corrections to minutes suggested by Jessica Gelter)

    Chair Elizabeth McLoughlin – a few remarks. Wish you all a happy New year, welcoming Yoshi, and working with board and new Town Manager

    Town Manager Manale – Be patient with me as I get started. I’ll refer many questions to staff at first. If you have other questions, I can get answers. I’m stepping into very big shoes. This is a good moment for me and I hope for you.

    Tim Wessel – Happy 2022. We hope it will be a better year. Welcome, Yoshi. I hope we can make your transition comfortable and we’ll go easy on you. I want to than BCTV getting the word out and into people’s living rooms and all the media joining us…thank you. And of course, the interpreters.

    Daniel Quipp – I welcome Yoshi and look forward to working together.

    Ian Goodnow – I’ll make my mention of elections. petitions are at the Town Clerk’s office and the deadline is Jan 24th at 5 pm.

    Jessica Gelter – Happy New year and welcome Yoshi – get booster shots and vaccinated. There are places around town.

    Public participation…

    Rikki Risatti – did anyone have comments about selectboard meetings that don’t have comments that don’t agree with selectboard members?

    Liz – All comments are encouraged.

    Rikki – when I disagreed with the war monument decision the Reformer didn’t say why we disagreed with it, so any views on not raising differing points of view?

    Liz – everyone presented issues and concerns, and you presented issues and concerns, and that’s the democratic process, so there isn’t anything more to say on the topic.

  • Consent Agenda

    A. Development Agreement with Brattleboro Housing Partnerships re: Melrose Terrace – Approve

    B. Better Back Roads Grant – Ratify Town Manager’s Decision to Authorize Application

    So consented!

  • Review Status of 2021-2022 Selectboard Goals

    Manale – these are the goals, and this is a quarterly or three times a year you will review it. Go through each item?

    Liz – I suggest. It seems like time passed quickly since we last reviewed them… in November. If anyone has commentary we should bring it up, or just let is stand until the next review. Anything?

    Daniel – this is the last time we’ll look at them, and most are in progress or already achieved, so thanks!

    Liz – we’re sitting with Yoshi so that’s a task completed.

    Tim – in looking back and having done this four times. This feels like the goals which have been.. things have gotten so different. It’s the end of our service year. We could imagine being where we are when we started these goals. It highlights that goals help us focus as a board and if you read through this we’ve done a pretty good job. So many of these are checked off. I’m excited about working on our next goals, if I’m still on the board.

    Liz – we can see the progress and how they’ve evolved. Covid threw us a monkey wrench, but it shows our commitment to these goals.

  • Further Consideration of RTM Steering Committee Recommendations & Requests

    Millicent Cooley – thanks. The request for this committee is to place an article on the warning to include up to $2500 to pay for lunch for RTM if the meeting is in person, and BUHS will provide the lunch to raise funds for student programs. That’s the request. It’s the result of a number of motions and amendments that add up to that. The main thing is lunch on day 1 and funding for students. It follows the model of Everyone Eats. This was a majority vote, but some dissented. The reasons for providing lunch – it is support for long meetings (10-13 hours) and community building of sharing a meal, which is a tradition in some towns after town meeting day in Vermont. It would be handled as a pre-order and would use vouchers. If someone didn’t want lunch the town wouldn’t spend the money – just for the number of vouchers used.

    Liz – the memo we have has that as #2. Any public comment on that?

    Rikki – I’m on that committee and my impression is we agreed to offer the meals not just to RTM members – to provide to anyone who RSVPs. It shouldn’t only be deleted officials and others aren’t. Many others participate in part of the event.

    Sonia – I’m also on the committee. I want to underline the community building aspect. I joined the committee and others did because RTM is a part of our town’s culture and decision making and it can be intimidating. providing food makes the meeting more accessible and would change the culture from something that has been polarizing toward more of a community building experience. I hope you pass both of these recommendations. We discussed these at 3 different meetings at length. It’s important for town meeting to have diversity.

    Daniel – the memo – did this change? What I have is two things – a request for an article to ask about lunch. Item 2 asked for funding in current year for this year’s lunch. …???

    Patrick Moreland – when we put together this year’s budget we didn’t set aside funds for a meal. If the board thinks we should, we’ll find the funds in the budget. No motion required. Just ask.

    Daniel – the likelihood of an in-person town meeting this year is slim or none, so I don’t think this is a big thing. Fine to put it on the warning.

    Ian – I feel the same way. This is an opportunity for the board to establish our interaction with the steering committee, and this is an oppportunity for them to resent something to RTM. Not in support of any meals this year.

    Liz – I feel much the same. If I spent $15 on lunch I’d feel terribly guilty. That seems like a lot. Team building.. other towns have potlucks, not spending taxpayer money. My concern is if we follow the process and take their recommendation to be an article… we aren’t endorsing this, just sending this along to RTM and we are not endorsing this, and I want it to be clear. All nt in favor of funding meals this year. It goes against volunteerism and fiscal frugality.

    Jessica – I love the idea of eating together and some support so all can participate. I feel we will have a remote meeting this year, but it brings up the question – how can the selectboard spend money outside the budget that is approved, and if there is some relationship between the steering committee and spending.. I support putting it as an article to be warned, but also want to put out there that I’m not sure we should fund things outside of the budget without the approval of RTM and the town budget.

    Tim – also in favor of putting it on the warning, so we can poll the members. They can tell us if they support spending taxpayer dollars. I often choose to leave and head outside, so people might not want to stick around, or bring their own bag lunch. Let RTM weigh in on this. There could be an in-person meeting.

    Ian – this is what the steering committee is for. To work on things and put them on the agenda. There was a big question of how to get things on the agenda, and this is a version of that process.

    (they haggle a bit on details of how to warn paying for it…)

    On the warning? Approved!

  • Further Consideration of the FY23 General Fund Budget Unfinished Matters

    Manale – there may be an increase in the request for sidewalk repairs by $88k coming later this month.

    Liz – want to walk us through this memo?

    Patrick – the memo shows the open issues for which the board needs to make a decision before we can wrap up FY23’s budget – there are attachments to help with information. Capital request, are we going to do anything different with sidewalks? The process for south main sidewalks came in, over budget by $88k. The sidewalk replacement is fresh news, so one open item is do we wish to increase sidewalks, in light of a cost overrun? Two positions will be carried in the budget – an evidence technician in the police department, and an HR assistant – unless you say otherwise. The use of fund balance. The question of making changes to sales tax data revenue estimates. Open issues about the community safety fund and whether it should stay in the police budget this year (since that’s where the money came from this year.) The last item is a community engagement item. One was stipends for committees. That is usually small dollars we can find, but there was the more comprehensive public information officer idea – dedicated staffing to make communication and engagement a more regular practice. We funded the web site redevelopment thinking we’d bring them on in the future. That could be in the FY24 budget.

    Liz – let’s go over this. The purpose is to make sure further information isn’t necessary and we’ll be ready to vote on the budget. There was a lot of discussion of the fund balance. Elwell suggested the board reduce the unassigned fund balance to 9% and the board increase the use of fund balance to $249k.

    Daniel – Thanks to Elwell for this memo from the past. I recall at the time, and we asked about other numbers and he said no more than $350k. Just want to remind everyone and invite us to consider it.

    Ian – the Chair has laid out the purpose as “do you need more info?” – so I don’t see the purpose of going through it twice.

    Liz – we’ll save the fund balance decision until the 18th – I’m looking for closure on as much as we can. We had a compelling presentation about the evidence technician. Settled. Similarly the HR assistant. Settled.

    Tim – Not entirely sure about the assistant…

    Liz – I was convinced of the need.

    Jessica – I’m on board.

    Liz – se of fund still up in the air. Sales tax revenue…

    Tim – let’s get that done…

    Liz – a modest increase to $1 million.

    Tim – there is a historical summation of all first quarter revenue for the last few years. It summarizes how the trend lines have been going. In the sales tax line item for 22, it says $825k, but it says we are starting at $925.

    Patrick – FY 23 is the new number and we propose raising it to $1 million.

    Tim – this is taxpayer money and we should be realistic about where it is coming from. What is the current budget for FY23 first quarter?

    Patrick – $395k

    Tim – I was going to suggest raising it to $400k.. a nice round number.

    Daniel – let’s leave it.

    Tim – my attitude is that we are at our limits, and pushing them, adding full time employees. The sales tax revenue is impressive – this pennies add up and even shopping on Amazon – almost a million not paid by property taxes, but wee haven’t given any tax reduction, but we may have better services, so let’s be respectful of how important this revenue is to the taxpayers in the community.

    Liz – we’ll be considering those as we settle on our budget next meeting – sidewalks, sales tax, use of fund.

    Agreement on the $1 million goal for sale s tax revenue.

    Daniel – Let’s stick with the $395k. No need to add more. I went to lunch today and it was really quiet. I predict a reduction.

    Liz – Patrick recommend we keep the community safety fund stay in the police line items, and we change it later. (all nod, Jessica against…) I consider the matter settled.

    Liz – create a community engagement line item. There are two parts to this – do we want a position when we have the website?

    Ian – I hadn’t seen this until recently so I’d like to keep it open to discuss on the 18th.

    Liz – easy for us.

    Jessica – there was one other piece – helping the public know more about elections and committees. A line item in the town clerk budget to boost communication. That’s why it is on the list.

    Liz – Andy Davis now informs new town meeting representatives.

    Tim – on the 18th we’ll talk about community engagement in general, or the public information officer… that’s not going to happen.

    Patrick – can staff help with any info?

    Ian – hard to nail down what we’d do with this line item. This continues the discussion about the web site and we haven’t completed that yet – there’s been work on getting the rep and the community members, but the site hasn’t been made yet. That first step isn’t done, so I don’t feel we need… don’t agree it should be in the town clerk’s budget.

    Tim – this is a small expense that can be addressed… it doesn’t have to be addressed in budget discussions

    Daniel – our goals are to have anew town website and do ongoing outreach, and increase quality of community engagement – the website and community engagement was germane to last year’s budget discussion. We won’t have anything new on the 18th about this. Did we ask the town clerk about increasing community engagement?

    Liz – the committee wanted an RTM postcard. I don’t think it is necessary. If we had the engaged public and engaging website, we’d be there.

    Ian – I find Daniel’s comments compelling. I agree it doesn’t make sense to continue this on the 18th. I do really strongly feel this..and will plus that I think the public info officer is an important topic…

    Daniel – our goals.. that piece is not achieved yet, and last year we said increasing the quality of community engagement is important. We’re not letting this go forever.

    Jessica – just thinking about the sustainability coordinator position came from a wishful process… the person helped defined what we did. That could be a model.

  • Agricultural Advisory Committee Recommendation for Ag Land Preservation Fund

    Yoshi – Stephen is on the line…

    Stephen Dotson – good evening, how are you? Happy to be sharing this proposal to you. We are excited. The committee rebooted last year and its focus had been narrow on farmland preservation. There was a Town Plan goal to widen this. The fund has been dormant. The idea is to put it toward the larger food system, approved by the town. Details will be worked out. This request is to bring it to RTM to ask if we can do that work. We expect to come back with a request for a food system needs assessment.

    Ashlyn Bristol – happy to answer any questions. Ass the chair and as a farmer I support this. It is a move away from an emergency response and towards resiliency planning, which is more and more important. I think the fund will be more accessible to farmers, people of color, the BIPOC community.. the fund as it currently exists is to protect farmland. A change to it will allow many more projects, from a wider range of people (you won’t have to own farmland, for example)

    Liz – thanks – very interesting!

    Tim – who can educate me about current ideas of how the fund would be funded. It’s been inactive?

    Stephen – the current state of the fund – It has had a balance of about $50k. It was raided as it Greenw interest. Moving forward there is the question of how to replenish the fund? There is enough to get started. The process for giving out these loans will be professional.

    Liz – does this come from state or federal sources?

    Patrick – my recollection was from an appropriation by RTM. IN about 2015, it had $95k, and it hadn’t been active. There was a plan to wipe it out for energy efficiency. The Ag Advisory committee said to leave some – there is value to this fund. RTM approved keeping $50k for the loans.

    Liz – are you looking for grants and other funding to reimburse the fund?

    Stephen – yes, and hopefully the loans are paid and it is sustainable. There is the round up program at the Co-op. If we care about farms, we have to be creative about expanding and growing it. Not a lot of other funding sources.

    Daniel – could you speak to the things the money could fund?

    Ashlyn – our farm has a long list of business improvements and investments we could use loans for – a database for inventory management for a pasture based farm. Slaughter equipment to increase output. Pulling in a consultant. Those kinds of things create a stringer business for us. As CSA farmers, getting a loan here is really appealing to us – a local fund we are repaying, plus improving our farm. Distributors and processors, too.

    Liz – who determines the use of fund?

    Stephen – it would be separate from the committee so no conflict of interest. the town has a process for doing loan decisions, so we’d copy that format

    Ian – thanks for hat last bit. I don’t think we’re had a farmer present to us while I’ve been on the board. My question – for a revolving loan fund, there needs to be a base amount at all times, or maybe not. How many loans could this help – a couple grand, or one or two bigger loans, or??

    Stephen – mostly we don’t know. It depends on market performance and the requests. We don’t want to deplete the funds. We hope to structure it for flexibility so some years maybe we don’t give much, and others we do. It’s be a flux situation in that case.

    Jessica – love how you cited the Town Plan – this is in line with the grander vision of agriculture in Brattleboro.

    Tim – it’s an RTM fund. I caution that it says agricultural land is still important – can it be used for the original purpose? It’s a very specific fund, and purpose to protect land.

    Liz – all good questions for RTM

    article on RTM warning approved!

  • Childcare for Representative Town Meeting

    Chloe Learey, Executive Director, Winston Prouty Center for Child+Family Development

    Liz – we may or may not be in person this year, but hopefully by next year…

    Chloe – happy to be hear. I don’t have a robust plan, but an outline of thoughts. This has been in the works for a couple of year. When we talked about the Prouty Center helping to organize a childcare, we can do it. Our population is 0-5, and RTM has older children. We have lots of folks doing lots of programming. Who needs care, what’s the timeframe, and what will work for people? There would be details to figure out, but there are lots of spaces on campus, indoor and outdoor. I can image a varied program that is supported collaboratively. That’s the board outline of what we are considering. If RTM isn’t in person, offering childcare doesn’t make sense. Those are the broad brushstrokes.

    Liz – RSVPing is important to your plan – ages and willingness.

    Chloe – yes – who is coming, what ages? It wouldn’t be part of our licensed care programs. Parents would have to register for this program like a summer camp program.

    Jessica – I want to push back about childcare and remote meetings. A kid can be distracting. Childcare could help. I want to say even though people tune in from home, child care is still important.

    Tim – can’t argue with that. No specific questions. Good partner for the future.

    Liz – he was making sure he had the opportunity to say he was done. Tim did not have my full attention.

    Chloe – childcare is needed in a long zoom meeting. But wondering about brining kids together if they haven’t been together. Maybe outside, or limiting the size… just a bit more cautious this year.

    Daniel – we should leave the door open. Much we don’t know about the coming months.

    Ian – the rsvp component is super easy. We can send a survey and get good response rates.

    Liz – thanks Chloe…

  • Safety Improvements at the Intersection of Canal Street + South Main Street and on Oak Street – First Reading of Ordinance

    Yoshi – an ordinance change, first reading, and Sue will give a brief description.

    Patrick – there is a memo and tonight the board is just asked to do a first reading, no action. The process is a first reading, followed by a second reading and public hearing, then a vote, then 60 days later it goes into effect unless it is petitioned. These changes have been vetted by the Traffic safety Committee – the first is to add a stop sign on Canal Street at South Main Street, to alleviate a dangerous condition at that crosswalk and to better manage traffic. The second one is to limit parking on Oak street during two periods of time to help parents drop off and pick up kids (24 Oak St). The request would be to also update the language in the ordinances.

    Daniel – I think it is noteworthy that these need to be ordinances is to make them official and enforceable. These are things we’ve discussed, the hard has heard about these issues, we’ve taken public comment. It’s straightforward.

    Tim – don’t think we talked about oak Street, but happy with the recommendations.

    Ian – is the timeline different for a code of ordinances for traffic signs?

    Patrick – it’s a statutory process – for all things. We have a long, multi-step process to get these things done – with lots of sign offs and buy-ins, and public comment.

    Tim – do we have to open a public hearing?

    Liz – not today – It’s a first reading. No action required at this time.

    Rikki – if all of these are approved, when is the date that it be installed, and can it be in the motion? That it be installed?

    Liz – it is such an involved process, and we can’t pick a date certain because of the state of Vermont?

    Daniel – it’s 60 days after ?

    Patrick – 60 days form the date of publication – it could be installed before that 60 days. It’s in the DPW to-do list. But takes effect 60 days.

    Liz – we have to get permission from the state then we can put it in place?

    Patrick – on a to-do list at DPW. The motivation is to get in in as soon as we can, and the ordinance will catch up.

    Liz – so we don’t need a date in there.

    Sandra Stromberg – on the west side of Oak street – it is a danger to release student with the backlog of cars in that area. It is a pressing need.

    Liz – thanks for telling us. No action required. Any other comments? Thanks, Yoshi, for your first meeting!

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