Selectboard Meeting Notes – No Business Likes Snow Business

selectboard february 15, 2022

The Brattleboro selectboard had strong words for downtown property owners over sidewalk snow removal. It was a good old-fashioned Selectboard -DBA battle for a while there, when the downtown organization tried to pass responsibility for clearing snow to the Town.  No, insisted the board. Building owners have always been required to clear it, and if the downtown organization feels it is a shabby job, perhaps they should pay to use a more professional service. Take that.

They also raced through some public hearings, updates and reports.

Comments | 9

  • Preliminaries

    They are late to start. Not just late but also having technical issues, which is rare. Patrick and BCTV are working it out.

    Chair Elizabeth McLoughlin – sorry to keep you waiting. A few remarks. It’s a big weekend coming up – Winter carnival – the 66th anniversary. There is also the Harris Hill ski jump and fireworks Friday night. BMAC is having artful ice shanties at the Retreat. I’ll be participating.

    Town Manager Yoshi Manale – no remarks.

    Tim Wessel – please do not skate on the Connecticut River. If you fall through you can be taken under the ice. It’s super dangerous. You could endanger a first responder. Please stay off swift moving water under the ice.

    Ian Goodnow – last meeting before the elections. If you requested an absentee ballot you can drop them at the Municipal Center box in the parking lot.

    Zoom user – hello help. This is Summer Price. I can’t change my name at the moment. I have a proposal. I was hoping we could take the housing and rental emergency proposals seriously. Looking at a tiny house community in Springfield MO. I have an appointment with the coordinator there and I spoke with the sustainability coordinator and want to support the planning commission, but I’d love to have someone on the call with me tomorrow for the tiny house community for the homeless – they cover every aspect of it, and they have a conference coming up, and I propose we send someone from the Planning Commission to it. We’re looking at other paths, and know about the Dalem Chalet project. I’d like someone on the conference call tomorrow with me. They made lots of houses. There is a documentary. People are swarming them. We’re doing so much here with the planning commission but this is good to look at. I’m asking to raise the funds for the conference as well as…

    Liz – how should people get in touch with you?

    Summer – usually I put it in the chat. Should I give my phone number? An email…

    Liz – how about you contact the town manager secretary and give her the contact info, and any one interested can call the office and messages will be conveyed.

    Kurt Daims – hello. It’s a great idea that Ms. Price suggested. The Youth Vote amendment was just approved Wednesday by the state senate – it has the provision for allowing younger people to serve at RTM. This was approved in 2019 in a very emphatic vote. It had been delayed by over a year by the selectboard, then at the statehouse. It’s been a bit of a disappointment. The select boards have not recognized their duty in this matter. They need to advocate for the vote. No one has made any effort to lobby for it. The board should go ahead and advocate. You should write to the governor. There was an editorial today that says the governor is not inclined to sign it. I’ve spoken to the governor. We spoke for a half an hour. He said he’d support it. The board should step in and advocate. Draft a letter and it is your duty.

  • Finance Report – Monthly Report

    Patrick Moreland – the board can see in the packet that we are at 59.6% through the year, and we’re about at 55.4% of budget. Parking fund at 51.7% – all a bit ahead of schedule. If any questions about the statements I’ll answer hem.

    Liz – any questions?

    Daniel Quipp – a softball – when is the next sales tax installment going to be announced?

    Yoshi – we should have it for the next selectboard meeting.

    Tim Wessel – there’s a line in here about intergovernmental – page 3 of 16 – has that always been there? In revenue…

    Patrick – the detail is zero and the total is zero. Depending on how you calibrate the reporting to generate this might have included lines with zero. It’s not really in use.

    Tim – just trying to learn. Newbie question.

    Daniel – we never had motions to accept before. It was just information.

    Patrick – yeas. It was done this way at the last meeting.

    Daniel – just want to point it out.

    Liz – we accept it on the consent agenda. Do we have to accept the report?

    Bob Fisher – you might as well move to accept it.

    report accepted! 5-0

  • Rule Requiring Face Coverings in Indoor Public Spaces – Continue in Full Effect

    Liz – the board will consider to extend, modify or repeal the resolution.

    Jessica Gelter – I’ll lay out some facts and CDC recommendations. The latest from the CDC is to have people wear face coverings indoors when cases are at a certain rate. 50 per 100k. We’re over that. We’re qualified to continue. The capacity of hospital beds.. US ADEpt of Health reports on capacity in region and BMH is at 79% now. Early on they were at 30-60%. Those are the numbers I use to think we should keep it going. Our case averages are still high. I vote to keep it.

    Ian – great primer. I was hoping to save some time and propose… I’d like to maintain it for the moment. But there has been a drop incase numbers. Let’s keep it, but discuss it at every meeting until we lift it.

    Liz – the town is having an upcoming indoor public meeting called Election Day and we shouldn’t change the mask mandate until after election day,

    Daniel – our next meeting is on election day.

    Tim – I’m not sure its a new idea to discuss every meeting, since that’s what it is currently. I’m still against a mask order, but won’t bore everyone. We don’t order folks to wash their hands and we don’t have a rule about covering your mouth, and we should be doing those through flu season. My other point, later we will be voting to do an ordinance without enforcement is a silly thing. A rule with zero enforcement is pointless and perforative hygiene. Omicron is extremely contagious. My 4 yr old is refusing to put a mask over his nose. It’s ridiculous to have states around us dropping requirements.. I still continue to have faith in people doing the right thing. I propose we seta date certain – March 2nd, to drop the mandate. After election day. Let’s do it that way. People who are wondering, since caseloads are dropping. We can change our minds on March 1.

    Liz – I prefer Ian’s…

    Daniel – I’d rather not pick a date. let’s take it up on March 1st. There is desire to get rid of it but I don’t want to predict the future because that hasn’t been working out for us.

    Ian – I like giving people time to know what will happen, but it is better to wait and working with the most up to date numbers when we make the decision. I prefer my suggestion.

    Liz – if we go with Ian, we need to change the motion. Any public comment? (No)

    Daniel moves to extend the rule for 30 days… 4-1 (Tim against.)

  • Red Clover Commons II Grant – Close Out Public Hearing

    Patrick – there are two times in a CBDG funded project – at the application stage and the closeout, today. Red Clover Commons II was to create 18 unit low income development, in the making lot of the bigger project. Brattleboro Housing Authority took on these projects after Irene. With Red Clover Commons II, the selectboard endorsed a grant application and they got $300k, and the board kicked in $50k from the revolving loan fund. The project is built, complete, open, and occupied, and everyone has been relocated. $6.1 million total cost.

    Liz – if we have a public hearing, was that it?

    Patrick – yes. Any comments or questions? Public? (no)

    Ian – were these units considered when the housing study was conducted?

    Patrick – I don’t know for sure.

    Liz – then the close out hearing has been accomplished.

  • BHA COVID Grant – Close Out Public Hearing

    Patrick – similar situation. What this is, some funding came to the state and it was made available quickly to the community development block program, for additional COVID expenditures. There were a bunch of programs. The Housing Authority settled on money for hazard pay for staff going into people’s homes and doing cleaning. It was a solution that was hard to apply. Sub recipients had to demonstrate that the people they serve are income eligible. It wasn’t hard for BHA, so they used the funds easily and quickly.

    Liz – Public?

    Eve – My name is Summer Price. I wondered how far it went. I live in Tri park. Will we relocate people in the Tri-Park?

    Liz – Tri-Park is a private development, not subject to these motions at all.

    Liz – the matter is closed.

  • Board of Civil Authority – Election Appointments

    Town Clerk Hilary Francis – there is a statute that says that if the board of civil authority must have 3 members of each party, and if not members can be appointed. They can vote on election matters only. The legislative body shall appoint three members. If there was one member you’s appoint one. There are currently no Republicans, so they have nominated three people – Richard Kenyon, Richard Morton and Aaron Smith. Morton is here if you have questions.

    Liz – any questions about what we shall and must do?

    Daniel – none of us have a party affiliation, so on the Board of Civil Authority – how are people’s political affiliates known?

    Liz – they run as Justices of the Peace, and they have a political designations.

    Ian – two questions – for the board of civil authority there will be two email lists – the election matters and the other BCA emails?

    Hilary – meetings are open to the public, but yes.

    Ian – are any of these people running for JP?

    Hilary – that happens in April to August so we’ll know in a few months.


  • Downtown Sidewalk Snow Removal – First Reading of Proposed Ordinance Amendment

    Yoshi – this is a proposed change. It comes from several selectboard members. They asked what can be done about snow removal downtown. We reviewed the ordinance and there was no enforcement action in there other than getting reimbursed. We want to propose a fine. This was used with Rite Aid?

    Bob Fisher – When they were at the River garden. They went out of business, and that whole area didn’t get shoveled. That was when we last enforced it This would change it to a fine. Now it is the duty of building owners to remove the snow along sidewalks in front of their properties within 48 hours. Most do this. When someone doesn’t, there are complaints. They do have 48 hours, which is more than people are used to, but that’s what happens currently. If they don’t the person complaining, DPW will do it, and the town can send a bill to the owner.

    Liz – but that doesn’t happen?

    Bob – not in a long time. Not sure about this winter. No legal enforcement for quite a long time.

    Liz – so the change is the town will issue fines?

    Bob – the town can issue a fine or ticket and there are waiver fees.

    Liz – who shovels the snow?

    Bob – repeat offenses mean the town can enforce it. Someone will have to. If the town steps in or another property owner…?? It will get expensive to pay the fees compared to paying for shoveling.

    Tim – I like that this is before us. Is this more of a problem now? Just in the DID.

    Daniel – from my experience, there are certain.. our downtown is small and it thrives on pedestrians moving around easily. We have an aging population, and I’ve seen some snow and ice impeding the passage of elderly and disabled people. I’ve helped people on Main Street and High Street, so in my personal experience I’ve seen many people struggle. Some businesses are clear right away. Next door, it becomes hard to work with if left. I’d like to see that after the snowstorm everyone clears it for the benefit of all. There’s no pointer one to be perfect and someone next door to be not.

    Liz – this is 48 hours still? (yes?)

    Tim – I think 48 is too long. 24 feels better. If we have a fine based system, it doesn’t clear the sidewalks. So we should do both. If not cleared you get a fine and a bill for clearing it. That’s if we want to use a big stick…

    Daniel – we don’t have to go to the stick right away, but we don’t have a lot of tools. 24 is better than 48 hours. I’d like to hear from Dan Tyler about the ability to clear this snow.

    Liz – I think we should combine the two sticks – a fine but a chance to repair it before the town clears it.

    Dan Tyler – repeat the question?

    Daniel – Tim was imagining a situation where public works will clear a sidewalk, and that’s during the storm more generally – how could you handle it.

    Dan Tyler – we reach out and try to get the business owner to do it. We’re busy. We’d do it after the storm. We do have a crew, and a contractor clearing crosswalks after the storms, on Main St. Maybe they could help out. We get complaints and we reach out. DPW hasn’t removed any snow.

    Liz – is there a problem?

    Daniel – yes. I don’t want to name buildings but…do they call DPW?

    Yoshi – we get complaints sent to us, and there was a DBA survey and business owners thought it could be improved. They are also seeing the same thing. That’s part of where this is coming from. How can we make this a better thing?

    Ian – I walk to work every day, from Frost up to Putney Rd. I’ve never called to complain. The timing – I hit it in the morning and when I’m leaving, and it is different. Some have cleared, and some have not and the ice has built. There is a real issue here. Dan, we do have town crews downtown clearing crosswalks. Any other parts of downtown?

    Dan Tyler – they clear crosswalks from the snow our truck dup. Our sidewalk tractor do go downtown a bit. The town has properties. And tow and from the.. they plow continuously. Elliot, Flat and High Street get some overlap.

    Fire tablet – Dick Degray – how is everybody. I guess this is a good reminder that the town should review all the radiances. This is draconian 48 hours after a storm. And Harmony Lot is plowed horribly. 12 hours is sufficient. 98% of building owners/tenants… The fine should be escalating. If not in 12-24 hours, it should escalate. And enforcement. When we have people paying parking tickets, we boot cars. What is the plan for enforcement? What if the bill isn’t paid?

    Bob F – the fine would come from Parking Enforcement, and then if someone isn’t complying, ….

    Liz – does parking enforcement know the owner?

    Yoshi – it would be the address and our office would contact them

    Dick – you aren’t answering my question – if you send me a bill, what happens if I don’t pay it? No penalty? My taxes get a percentage added for every month I’m late, then I go to tax sale? What will you do to collect fines on building owners?

    Liz – we have to consider that.

    Bob – there is the ticket, then the judicial bureau for collection. If they don’t pay a bill, the Town can go to Small Claims Court, attach the building, etc. WE’d have court enforcement if people were really not complying.

    Yoshi – the old one says that legal costs will be included if necessary. That would go back in if you add this back in.

    Ian – they’d have to pay interest and lawyer fees?

    Bob – yes

    Dick – my last comment – is this much ado about nothing. When I served, any ordinance we talked about the lack of enforcement. Valuable oxygen is being wasted here. This isn’t a huge problem. Things can freeze in 24 hours, so change it to 12 hours. People come down after a storm, and 24 hours is a long time. WE’ve had awful cold weather and things freeze up. Reconsider thinking about 12 hours. I support the fine. But if the town has to go and shovel, that should be a charge for time and labor and attorney’s fees if necessary.

    Elizabeth – I’d like you to yield this point to Stephanie. I’m a business owner on Main Street.

    Stephanie Bonin – thanks. Could we back up and talk about is this much ado about nothing? What is the problem we are trying to address – whether we have proper and safe snow removal downtown – it isn’t just the property owners not removing it. Because of the ad hoc nature – many removing snow at all levels of expertise, out downtown doesn’t have the best removal. My question is who should be responsible for the removal of snow. Why are DOD owners in a different situation than all other owners?

    Bob F – some towns will remove all the snow downtown, and it is part of what is charged in taxes. In Brattleboro, it is my assumption that we can’t do that because the sidewalk plow and sander cannot fit between the parking meter and the building. It can do some parts. Some towns don’t have meters so it is easy. Part of the answer there is the meters are physical obstacles to that occurring.

    Dan Tyler – yes, meters but also steps and other stuff. We don’t have the right equipment. The shovel is the best tool for the job. We’d have to look at the best way to remove it if we were to consider removing ourselves.

    Liz – DBA could collectively remove it via a contract, people in the association. Have you considered that Stephanie?

    Stephanie – so, I don’t, I, is it our responsibility? That’s my question. Who’s responsibility is it? The downtown organization? I did send you all information about the 23 agencies around the state. 11 answered, and they all said the towns remove the snow. More than 50% in town think we’re not effectively clearing snow. It’s the overall quality of the clearing, expecially around intersections. The curb cuts next to the sidewalks. I asked if a fine would be effective and more than 17% said yes. You’d fine the property owners, and that’s tricky. Overall quality is hodgepodge.

    Liz – do you want to be fined, I”m surprised only 50% said no.

    Daniel – you should ask who is responsible, and the answer is the property owners. I’d like to get at… I feel strongly that we have safe, accessible, walkable downtown everywhere in the downtown district. I don’t care how it gets done, but I want to see clear sidewalks downtown.

    Liz – property owners are currently responsible and will remain, no matter what we do. We don’t care how you do it, collectively or individually, we don’t care.

    Stephanie – I’m understanding what you are saying, but I’d like the conversation to continue. I don’t have a public works department. It would be .. lets keep going on why property owners…

    Liz – it has always been.

    Daniel – I can name the businesses that do an excellent job, and next door is the opposite. I want to remove the inconsistency. I want the downtown organization to talk to members and make this happen. If a business is going to operate downtown, people need to walk there safely.

    Stephanie – some get out and do it theirselves, some make businesses responsible, some hire others to do it. Some people are good and some aren’t. It’s essential we have good snow removal in the downtown. You have consistency and skilled people you’ll get a difference response.

    Tim – I agree, but this board doesn’t want to shift the cost burden. This is a problem for the DID. I don’t walk the taxpayers to pay more because the DID can’t get its act together.

    Stephanie – the town takes care of it elsewhere. Why treat us differently. Maybe it doesn’t work?

    Liz – we aren’t going to change who is responsible. We can implement punitive matter. You can change your organization any way you want to be more efficient for your members. We can make it more of a priority. That’s where we are.

    Ian – doesn’t the town clear sidewalks around town?

    Dan – we clear around 15 miles of sidewalk in town. It was more, then reduced, and now we’ve increased it. They are focused around the schools and neighborhood near school. The main routes.

    Tim – the town doesn’t clear all sidewalks, just those in the common good. Side streets get less attention than main routes.

    Elizabeth – I have a store next to an area that is a n unoccupied store. That property owner should be responsible. I am responsible for my snow removal. I get it done by someone, and salted, and he clears it. We clear our sidewalks and put it in the street along the curb. I followed the sidewalk plow and he put it on the curb in the streets. The safety issue is the pile of frozen snow along the curb. People park and try to get over the frozen mound. DPW does a great job at crosswalks. The issue is the snow collecting along the curb. I said my peace.

    Liz – you need to get rid of parking so that section of snow can be removed?

    Dan – it gets pushed to the curb. When we finish plowing we get out the next night and remove snow from the curb line. It’s not every storm. We might wait a couple of small storms. We removed snow once this winter. W try to be mindful of that pile, but it is a big operation. two graders, dump trucks, people working overnight.

    Gary Stroud – booting up her, my handsome face in a moment.. hi all. A while back, we had people to get paid to shovel walkways. Maybe it could be resurrected. A program with Groundworks to get people back into the workforce. Working with businesses will build bridges with people downtown. Downtown needs to be clean for guests. Cleanliness is next to tidiness. I’m willing to help. We’re in this together as a whole family and keep the town clean and pristine.

    Dick Degray – You made a comment – I would have pulled my hair out. This is not just a DBA issue. Board members are afraid to name two property owners. There names should be brought up. This is a town ordinance, not a DBA ordinance. I won’t pay for snowplowing people who won’t take care of things. You bet you ass I’m fired up. You are trying to pass this on to DBA. We don’t have a la carte tax services. Forcing me to pay more for deadbeats isn’t fair.

    Tim – you were reacting to the idea that it should be the Town’s responsibility, not pointing a finger at DBA.

    Liz – DBA members are who we are talking about. We don’t want to change things back to the municipality.

    Elizabeth – Disk – you are a rock star. You nailed it. A selectboard member mentioned public safety. Isn’t that the issue. Don’t talk to me about extra cost. We’re talking about public safety, included in our taxes. Fine who you need to fine. DPW needs to clear up after we shovel sidewalks.

    Daniel – we saw it after a meeting recently. That’s not free. It’s labor.

    Bob F – this is a first reading. You can give town staff direction about changes, if any.

    Liz – 24 rather than 48 hours. 12 would be ideal but that’s really fast.

    Tim – 24 feels more doable.

    Liz – and add in the paragraph Yoshi spoke of.

    Ian – so if they don’t pay, should we be more specific about recovering? Or keep it vague?

    Bob – if you put in a time limit, you hamstring the town. What is a reasonable time to give notice to a property owner? You give us direction, but leaving it flexible is good for our enforcement.

    Liz – we’ll take a break! Back at 10 after 10. Er, 8…

  • Parking Revenue Losses – Replenish with ARPA SLFRF

    Liz – ready? We’re reconvening. Parking Revenue Losses.

    Yoshi – ARPA funding has come to the town $1.7 million out of $3.4 million. As we get them, we want to look at what can be done right away parking was hit by COVID. We lost 555,225 from parking and the general fund gave $90,000. This would replenish them.

    patrick – this is now under final rules and the same categories apply. The one major difference with the final rule is there is more flexibility for municipalities in VT. The UYS gave a one time $10 million allowance for “government services” which can be staff, roads… anything the government usually funds. This impacts everyone except Burlington. There is broad use of the funds, but replenishing lost revenue is an obvious choice. Things are rebounding a bit Staff did this caclulation. We’ll be back with more requests for use of funds in the late spring.

    Liz – this is a clear use of funds, but the bigger picture is the selectboard has a multi year responsibility to determine funding from ARPA. We’ve heard how to use the funds, but we need to consider and plan this carefully. We’re carving out this use now to getting the a parking fund while, but discuss the further use of ARPA funds at another time.

    Jessica – there is stress on transparency and community engagement. They need to be proportional to the tram experienced, and designed to benefit impacted individuals and groups . W should look closely and work with people to find out how to find the best recovery uses. Not just staff, but a more wholesome inclusive process.

    Liz – and selectboard meetings are public process.

    Ian – grateful that these fund cover the one big economic damage to the town fro COVID. Is the $10 million one time allowance for general use in VT municipalities, does it overstep the guidance of impacted people?

    Patrick – there continues to be a wide variety.. you can use it for the general provision of government. The reporting and usage depends on how you use it. If we built housing, would it be a general provision of government? There are elements in the guidance that if you are providing program to respond toe cocomic harm, it should be for those who felt the harm and those who felt the harm most.

    Ian – why not allocate it all to general funds to do whatever we want?

    Patrick – I will pursue more info on reporting. VCLT’s advisor on ARPA has indicated we can use the $10 million for the general provisions… for ease of reporting.

    Yoshi – it’s a nuance. We’re under a general provision but can accomplish what you are saying. Otherwise it is a different type of reporting That’s why the VLCT recommends doing it this way.

    Tim – there is language about government tasks. If that’s even in an area that we haven’t traditionally provided?

    Patrick – if it is government service, yes. There are few things that they say we can’t use the funds for. You can’t pay debt or settle lawsuits, or replenish pension funds.

    Liz – so maybe selectboard members would like to study this

    Jessica – a technical question. If we accept our share of the $10 million (about $2.8m) can it be used to leverage matches for additional funding?

    Patrick – yes.

    Daniel – it becomes money.

    Ian – with those limitations.

    They accept the allowance and apply some of it to the parking fund and some to the general fund.

    Next up, assigning motions for RTM (yawn), and announcing of committee vacancies (there will be a press release…)

    So goodnight. : )

  • THANK YOU iBrattleboro!

    Another great write up thank you Chris. You are appreciated!

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