Selectboard Meeting Notes – Brattleboro Acknowledges Executive Session Open Meeting Violations

selectboard june 7 2022

The Brattleboro Selectboard held one of their longer meetings in some time. The public was active!  Complaints about downtown crime, lack of action on climate change, and open meetings kept the board busy until after 10:30pm.

Of note, the Town acknowledged their violation of open meeting protocols and adopted a new two-part process to make sure it won’t happen again. This wasn’t enough for most people, who wanted a more detailed accounting of the EMS decision making process.

The board changed RTM districts to conform with state updates, adopted Utility and Parking budgets, and poured luke-warm water on a suggestion to bring back the electric trolley.

Comments | 15

  • Preliminaries

    They start late…

    Chair Ian Goodnow – Sorry for the delay, making sure video is good to go.

    Tim Wessel – Usually it’s us that are late.

    Elizabeth McLoughlin – Wanna sign the card? Lovely card.

    Chair Ian Goodnow – Good evening. It is 6:25 and had a bit of a tech difficulty. We have an interesting bit of procedure to do first. I’d like to make a motion to add an item to the agenda. It’s a power the board has. It allows for any addition or deletion should be the first act of the meeting. I propose we had a letter – a notice of violation of Title 1… delivered to us last Friday and we’d like to add it to the agenda. Can the board just add something? We looked to VLCT for clarity. They don’t believe a body has free reign to add to the agenda, but the item was time-sensitive, within 10 days we have to respond, so we want to respond. With that in mind.. any questions from the board?

    Bob Fisher – it is the timeliness of the item. If it came in before you set the agenda, and there is a 10 day limitation, that’s why it is the first item of business.

    Ian – so I’d like to add this to the end of the agenda. One bit of justification about the place… we have a precedent, that if we pull an item we add it to the end, so I feel to maintain that it makes sense to put this at the end of the agenda. With that said, I move we consider the Oeser letter – Violation letter – and potential responses at the end of the agenda.

    Dick DeGray – listening to your speech on where it fits in. The biggest audiences are at the beginning and you have the authority to move it up. Having more people hear it behooves everyone. I’d ask that you consider to take it out of order and move it out.

    Daniel Quipp – I recall when it happened before, the old argument was that we wanted to give people time to get down here, but it is on zoom now, so I agree with Dick.

    Tim – Since it is a surprise to some, giving people time to think about it, but I’m fine with it either way.

    Bob Fisher – we told Oeser that it was likely to be at the end. If he is here now, fine, but if he isn’t here, I’d feel better waiting. But I see Degray’s point. But following the consent agenda method, that’s what I told him.

    Ian – if he told people it would be at the end… maybe we ask him. If he’s here, then… yeah..

    Dora Bouboulis – it was put out there it would be the last agenda item…

    Bob – Oeser – I put transcription on.. can you hear me? Dick had talked to me bout that and he makes a good argument. However you want to proceed. I did say it might be the last item of new business, but it is what it is. It is the meeting and you have the agenda.

    Daniel – people are expecting this at a specific point so we should wait.

    Ian – we’ll maintain that. I’ll keep the motion as it stands. 5-0. At the end. I have a couple of remarks. So, first I’d like to thank Patrick as this is his first meeting as Interim Town manager. I’m grateful for him stepping up and leading. I’d like to thank Steve for helping us with Zoom. The next thing is you are aware, Corky Elwell passed away this weekend. My condolences. He devoted so much time to the town. 1960-1989 town manager. I knew him briefly. The ceremony celebrating Corky will be Friday June 17 at 10 am at St Michael’s Episcopal, and it will be streaming. The third item, an incident with an illegal discharge of a firearm. Thanks to the Brattleboro police department. Quick neutralization of a dangerous situation with a firearm. It resolved without anyone being injured. And finally, I have a prepared statement from Peter Elwell, who helped correct the Civil War plaque. He wrote “the corrective plaque is being installed on the Common. Sunday June 19 is dedication. years of research and two years of work. The plaque is corrective because it includes those left off. It it is interpretive because it explains why. June 19 is Juneteenth. Some of the soldiers on the new plaque were among those brining news to Texas, 2 months after the war ended. That’s why the dedication is intentionally on that date. It will include explanations of the plaque and process, the reading of all names.”

    Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland – I’d like to say thanks for the kind comments. The only business I’d like to mention. The Town has learned that Captain Jason Davis, who has been an employee for 22 years, plans to retire. We wish him the best, and thank him for the years and years and years of service.

    Tim Wessel – I wrote mine so I won’t ramble. I’m wearing a mask because of a possible exposure I had over the weekend. I live downtown and I have to say there is an increased feeling of lawlessness – flower pots being overturned, windows smashed, cars broken into. Many reach out to me to say it is like the wild west, especially downtown. There has been talk of suitable steps to take, but it is enough of a problem to ask that we accelerate the process. It’s not to lay blame, especially with he police department and reduced staff. Just hear the concerns of constituents and commit to exploring solutions for a safer downton.

    Jessica Gelter – an agreement that all selectboard members have signed. Diversity rules the soul, our commitment to inclusion are at the center of our daily work. We welcome people of all backgrounds. The more diverse we are, the more unique perspectives we share. We are committed to including all voices. There’s more, but I’m proud of this statement.

    Public Participation

    Grant – Hello. Grant baker from Brattleboro and I’m with Brattleboro Common Sense, to bring up climate change again. Not sure where to start. Something has to change. Not everyone is doing their part to change. I want to keep bringing it up.

    Kate O’Connor – I have a quick easy question – has the AP-Triton study started and when?

    Ian – I think it hasn’t started yet.

    Lenny Howard – I had my first meeting with AP Triton on Thursday with assistant chief and Town Manager. We’ll talk of how we get started, then we’ll do a press release so people will know how to be a part of it.

    Renee Woliver – I’m operation director at the Boys and Girls club and have been working with he police and town about situation on Flat Street. The exec director wrote a letter and after the incident with the windows broken at Sam’s and the Void we wrote another letter today. I’ll read something on behalf;lf of the BG Club. “We want our plea heard again regarding safety in town. We document issues in October in the youth cooridor. The lawless activity has persisted and increased. We can attest to the public alcohol and drug use, littering and loitering. Our club members are offered drugs near the Transportation Center. Patients don’t want to send kids down there. True compassion cannot exist without mutual respect. The activity is not respectful. Boundaries are like circles and I hope safety for our youth is valued more than the drug field party at the Transportation Center. We are begging the town to enforce healthy boundaries, and to give the police the resources they need. make it inconvenient, and instructions to move along if not waiting for a bus, would help. less talk and more action is needed. Thanks for prioritizing youth in the community..

    Ian – Chief Hardy saw the other letter and she’ll see the new one, and we’ll have a more thorough issue. We clearly need to be discussing it.

    Dick Degray – I have a request to put cameras on the agenda. Tim spoke briefly. I had 2-3 buckets tipped over. It was a week from now with summer flowers I couldn’t replace them. It’s becoming all too frequent. I spoke to Elwell about getting help and we installed som lights, to no avail. The bridge look great with he lights, but it is more frequent downtown. I made a stamens that the Town of Brattleboro is looking more like a city, and it isn’t a safe town anymore. The Transportation center is a mess – people are sleeping in there. The cameras are in poor shape – can’t recognize anything. I’m hear to say Tim requested action – I don’t know what action. People look to me to be the spokesperson. I’m not angry, I’m frustrated. I see graffiti on personal, town and federal property. It just creates more graffiti. I’ve been working trying to remove as much as I can. I’m going to ask you for help. People pay a lot of taxes. They are asking for help. When people don’t feel safe, that’s not a good thing. Right now it is not a wonderful place. I care about what is going on here. I know the police are short staffed, but that can’t be an excuse. We’ll bneed another plan. Maybe at the next meeting you’ll have cameras on the agenda or other actions that can be taken.

    Ian – My hope is that we do have something for the next meeting.

    … kid talking about getting an answer right now… sound drops out…

    … wants some sort of response.

    Ian – there isn’t another time.

    Daniel – you can say what you want, and email us and we’ll respond to it. If you have an action you want us to take, send it for us to put on agenda.

    Django – We need more climate action. Let’s do something. Transportation is our best shot. heat is a private home thing. In 1895, Brattleboro had an electric streetcar… transporting 1/6 of the population. I was looking into it, why not bring it back. Dayton OH spent $ and put in 4 miles of track. Portland OR is considering it. I want to ask, can we do it?

    Liz – I share your concern and resolve about transportation, and I feel strongly that the Moover be petitioned to buy electric busses and increase ridership.. that’s the solution you seek. Electric busses. We have the new member of the Moover board and he’s working on these issues. It is a goal of the board to have increased bus usage and to get electric busses, and there is transportation funding from the state. If we want this, we need to convey ti to the bus company. What’s the name of the bus company? Work with Steven to understand your concerns.

    Ian – I had never considered it. I’d echo Liz’s idea to improve infrastructure elements, but the town has made it a priority to look at climate change and be leaders in climate solutions. Take the idea and plug it in tot he people working on it. I appreciate the comment.

    Liz – Dayton is a great city. Birthplace of the Wright brothers.

    Django – can the town create a bus, or do we have to fund a private thing?

    Liz – the town did have a bus service for many years and we have merged with this company and we fund $50k of it and we seek certain things for our service. We have a seat at the table. It would be great if you would advance your measures in this process.

    Daniel – this is a public meeting, you can also go to the transit board meetings, and speak to them. They provide the service. We can ask for some changes each year.

    Jess – your idea of the historic part of town is inspirational. I really appreciate it. Pursue your dream and vision.

    Django – it would attract tourists.

    Dora Bouboulis – I have 2 things. As the person who was against losing town bus service, it has been an issue for a while. You should address it. A lot of people don’t use it because it takes too long and is off hours. The lawlessness spoken about – this isn’t the first time we’ve been through this. It’s that time of year, and the economic situation is worse. More people without homes, jobs won’t pay enough. We should expect this going on. More activity of normal things downtown is best. There have been fewer employees, empty storefronts. The public places where drug activity are going on have been mentioned, but private places that have been abandoned are used. Can we cite property owners? I know of one building we all know about. It would be a perfect place for some housing – let’s buy the property. This comes up every 5 years or so. There have been solutions that have worked, so maybe look at those things. Community groups did a lot of things.

    Ian – the private property question and prior solutions are good points. Appreciated.

    Michael Hoffman – Am I ok now? One thing having to do with environmental issues that an electric bus won’t deal with is the large diesel trucks going downtown. Any efforts we can make to let them find another way, and to deal with traffic on weekends and rush hour. Other towns can manage the traffic flow. As far as drugs and traffic and property, even if you go to an enlightened place like the Coop, there are many vagrants in the parking lot. It is a pervasive challenge we have. It’s not just deserted places – even places we hold near and dear to us are challenged by things and activities. We have tolerance for panhandlers.

    Greg Worden – a couple of things. I want to support what Dick said about better patrolling of downtown. One thing Renee read – the notion of compassion can’t exist without respect.. along with that line, on Oak Street, the Community House has signs that say no drug use, but there is a drug house right across from the school. People come and go all day and night. Again, mutual respect for downtown, for flower program, for police and fire… we all need to work to make it a better place. We know it is good and would like to keep it good. Dick and I would like to be on a task force.

    Ian – we should have this on the agenda soon. I’ll keep the next comment short to move the meeting… (picture freezes)…

    (someone) something about taking the Moover. (The ASL person is waiting, too…)… and as it was before covid… due to the transportation center, we don’t take the mover after school anymore. People get on that smell like drugs and it is uncomfortable to be on a bus with them. I try to move to the other side of the street when I’m downtown… (freezes)…. (no sound, ASL folks waiting…)

    Ian – alright, I think we’re back. I like the public participation tonight.

  • Consent Agenda

    A. Patrick Leahy Bulletproof Vest Grant – Authorize Application
    B. VTrans Small Grant Bike/Pedestrian Facilities – Authorize Application
    C. 250 Birge Street Floodplain Restoration Project – Authorize Application
    D. Annual Dog Warrant

    DeGray – when money is attached, it is never spoken about, so if the vest is a $10k… if there is a dollar amount, isa should be part of the line item. I request you mention it in public.

    Ian – we could put it in the agenda [ed note: already there!]


  • Reappoint Deputy Health Officers – Chris Fellows & Matt Casabona

    Asst Fire Chief Kier – the role of the deputy town health officers serve as rental inspector and go out to properties in town. Their role is to do things outside of what the code requires – sanitation, heating and ventilation, rodents… that’s what they do. The two officers are Chris Fellows & Matt Casabona

    Re- appointed!

  • Winston Prouty Par for the Cause – Festival Permit

    Hilary Francis – (video breaking up) – a festival permit has been requested for this event. They’ve done this for a few years and are doing it again this year. Without a caterer. June 25th is the event. They want the permit for the 24th to transport the liquor.

    Chloe – can you hear me and see you.

    Ian – we don’t have audio… we have a little delay.

    Chloe – thanks and I have a delay on my end as well. I’m exec director. We’ve done this in the past. It supports Prouty and you can visit the campus. It is a fundraiser and an amazing place. Sat the 25th. Thanks for considering our application.

    Jessica – this is the first festival permit I’ve seen. I notice in the paperwork, there is a certificate of achievement for server training for Willie Gussin.

    Liz – tell us about the event and further, about the mission of Winston Prouty, and if they can donate.

    Ian – do you need to register?

    Chloe – the event is one day, and it is mini-disc golf at 2pm, no registration. Each hole will have a theme. At 4 there is a BBQ and picnic and music. Our mission is to focus on supporting families with young children. We touch over 600 families in the community each year. Lots of ways to support us. Visit our website.

    Ian – Daniel went to the restroom…

    Dora – I see the bookmobile all over town now.

    Tim – My son loves it.

    approved 5-0 (Daniel made it back…)

  • Representative Town Meeting District Certification

    Hilary Francis – some background. Every ten years the census happens, then the state legislature redistricts and they just went thought that process. We were involved in giving feedback. They passed new house districts. In Brattleboro – Windham 2-1, 2, 3, are now Windham 7,8 and 9. Now we look at RTM districts to see if they match. The board of Civil Authority met and voted to have the district align with the house districts. Now the board must certify to the Town Clerk the number of registered voters in each district, and then the number of town meeting members elected. We did calculations. there should be 3 for every 180 registered voters, so… District 1 (Windham 7-1) 43 town meeting members… D2 has 48 town meeting members, and D3 ahas 49 town meeting members. (video breaks up) The more cumbersome but descriptive names make more sense. There’s one town meeting member impacted by the shift. Any registered voters will also get letters if the district changed and they vote for new state reps. (breaks up…) so that aspect is a different way of determining things… (breaks up)… (lots of tech problems tonight…)

    Ian – are we ok?

    Liz – Hilary identified a solution in mapping and representation. It was unique in the state because of RTM, she brought this map to the legislature twice and was so respected for the completeness of her presentation and it carried the day and did a wonderful job.

    Tim – a really great presentation.

    Ian – on a larger note, that kind of work and dedication to the process of local control – the state sees it and respects us because of it. I appreciate the dedication you put into this. Couldn’t have done it without you.

    Daniel – I appreciate raising the difference between resident and number of voters… our charter is out of step, which is something to consider addressing.

    Ian – I’d be curious if it was an intentional decision. Thanks!


  • Annual Utility Fund Budget & Capital Plan – Approval

    Patrick Moreland – One thing before we dive in. In constructing the agenda, we should include this under water and sewer…

    (they convene)

    Patrick – I’ll walk you through the budget and the capital plan, and the cash reconciliation. It is an enterprise fund and is different than the general fund. The rest of the team is here… Kim Frost, Dan Tyler, and Pete Lynch. The recommendation is to adopt the budget as presented. Revenues for FY23 are proposed to go up by 8% – 6.7 million. The majority of revenues come from water or sewer rents… utility bills. Those items are going up by the amount the board voted on in 2020… in 2023 that’s a 6% water increase and 1% sewer increase. Down slightly in revenue is bond interest. Revenues coming from TriPark are going down. They refinanced and had debt forgiveness. Only real change is a grant of $440 expected… toward the water and were capacity at Exit 1. Expenses – I want to point out, I didn’t direct my comments to the detailed budget but to the summarized budget. It’s easier to look at staffing. When we look at expenses – they are going up 1% to $6.3 million. Salaries are going up. This is the net impact of salary adjustments – older employees retire, newer employees com in at a lower rate. Net impact is an $80k increase. There is one additional person on the payroll this year due to the water treatment facility project at Pleasant valley. There is a $14m project there, and we staffed it by having a chief water operator who is retiring who looks at the existing plant. The new chief water operator is concentrating on coordinating with the construction project. 18 employees. Also, some expenses in repairs and maintenance, to accommodate some building repairs at buildings and wells. Operating expenses are up, due to a number of increases and decreases… the rise of the cost of sludge removal at the treatment plant. Mostly a trucking expense. They are sky high right now. Sludge removal is going up. Reductions? Bond interest, related to TriPark and to a grant the town received to forgive some wastewater treatment plant principle forgiveness. So, there we have it. The next thing I’d direct you to is the fine memo from DPW that has included a 10 year capital program for the Utility Fund. Some projects carry over year to year. Dan has outlined a series of carry over projects – water upgrades, tank resurfacing, pump station improvements, generators… projects that are midstream. Moving forward we have new projects – FY 23 – Hinsdale water main replacement., tank resurfacing, sticky brook dam improvements, and two pickup trucks to be acquired. That’s the capital program. then the last thing is probably the most complicated. I’m not an accountant. This is a page that Kim Frost and I spent weeks on this. The general fund is managed like a checkbook. The rolling balance is under RTM. The enterprise fund is a business fund, and total cash and available cash need to be kept an eye on. This is cash management to see reserve resources, actual expenses and revenues…then the lower half of the page, we do interesting things with this accounting. Debt principle gets noted. We spent $1.7 in capital projects. We spent bond proceeds on water treatment facility. You can see the impact on the budget, add back in depreciation, then deduct cash outlays, then that is added to or deducted from the beginning budget. There are long term pension liabilities and other things that Kim First can explain. The end result is we had a flat year – $5.7 m to $5.7 million. Available cash is at $4.5 m. The middle column is the budget as approved. Capital cash allocation as of 11 months into the year is shown – $3.8 million spent at water treatment project. We can see we anticipate that the end of FY22 fund balance will rise, but available cash will drop into FY23. It’s been harder to do these projects during COVID and we have a bit of a backup. The final column is the budget you are being asked to approved, a surplus of $450k. Hard to predict how the year will go, but we expect growth in the fund balance. So, a final point, when we review this and the board looks at rates…it may prove to be that we could look at Utility rates and possible decrease them. Just have some patience. Kim Frost is new, but it will take some time before we have a reasonable opinion. When we can we’ll come back. No rate adjustments tonight.

    Jessica – this was an incredible piece of work. Thanks and thanks for presenting it clearly. I got it. Shutoff rates – are folks having trouble? Should we go ahead with 6%?

    Kim – I did follow up after the last conversation. Shutoffs aren’t at a higher volume. Very few shutoffs… maybe one one a property that isn’t occupied… with all the state programs and mailings that go out, they are taking advantage of those programs.

    Daniel – sometimes this budget is hard to understand and Patrick did a good job presenting it. Thanks to all who worked on it. I do expect we’ll look at rates in the near future.

    Tim – I, too, would like to look at rates. Th other reason to delay is we’ll have the full fiscal year under our belt. My question.. for the Putney Rd project, there was $500k carryover, but what’s the overall budget we expect for our portion of the propose 2025 Putney Rd upgrades…. half a million, then a quarter million.. what do I do? Add them all up?

    Dan- our portion of Putney Rd is $1 million.

    Tim – what if it gets delayed – just keep banking it?

    Dan – they’ve invested a lot in the design, but there could be a delay.

    Tim – it’s been going on for so long – it was decided over 10 years ago. Drives me nuts.

    Liz – our review of this matter is simply representation for the public. This is all helpful to the public.

    Ian – When I was going through the capital carry forward projects… looking for Bridge Street sewer system. I’m glad we have waterfront improvement… I didn’t see it in FY23… you feel confident it will be done in the next fiscal year? There are a lot of projects in that part of town.

    Dan – $500k is the estimate. Most projects are shovel-ready. There are issues with material availability, etc. Hoping to see some grant money.


    10 minute break until 8:30 ish.

  • Annual Parking Fund Budget & Capital Request – Approval

    Patrick Moreland – They FY23 proposed Parking Budget. Like the other enterprise fund, it is a business enterprise and is managed with the same accrual rules as the other Utility fund. One things to point out, there is an update to the operations. Everybody here knows the parking fund took a serious hit during the pandemic – literally no revenue for a few months. Just recently we se parking meter revenue approach pre-pandemic levels. The reason I mention it, it is reflective of a return to normal of economic activity in the downtown. Parking is a good proxy for that. Revenues and Expenses. Revenues are proposed to be down. The largest decrease is from the $68k in rental space income . The pandemic had a negative impact at the Transportation Center tenants and retail in general. Dotties was dissolved. Experienced Goods moved. We don’t have any tenants, and the budget shows no revenue. It was about $107k. This has taken a dramatic hit and will it return to normal. We have to think about the use of the space. Would we like to use as an income generator? Is it realistic? If we sought other community development or function… Manale had visions of artists space… is that something we should be seeking? Something to be aware of. Other than that, there was a slight decrease in hood rentals… down over the last few years – when someone rents a space for the day. It’s been decreasing for a few years. Expenses are up slightly. Most increases are staff related. salaries that increase, social security, retirement. This expenses. WE have some decreases of note. Utility Fund interest… the parking fund borrowed from the Utility Fund for smart parking. W e are finally paying that back. The interest will decrease and go away. Snow removal is make or break in the parking fund… it can the reason for a good or bad year, and we have little control over it. We average the last 5 years. Pretty good year, so it brought down the 5 year average. $258k deficit in the fund. We include depreciation in the operating fund. There will be a slight addition to cash in the parking fund. The capital request… not enough resources for a full capital plan – we have to fix the Transportation center. Rusty beams. There are funds available. We don’t have the estimate yet for the costs. We know water got into the occupied space, and that can lead to mold… now is a good time to clean it up and make it dry. The one capital item the board should authorize is the joint ceiling between the concrete slabs. We put out a bid a couple of years ago. We didn’t have money to replace the joints then to do them all, but that’s changed, so we’d like to do the next floor… the top floor. To try to keep water from getting into the building in the first place. This is an opportunity… not to exceed $25k. Then, the cash reconciliation… I won’t do line by line details. You can see we had a $290k loss in the parking fund… $220k of debt principle is the last payment of the Transportation Center. In reconciling back to cash we add back in depreciation.. get a negative $244k. That leaves us with an ending balance of about $115k. Given paying off of the Utility Fund, we are getting rid of a good bit of cash in the fund in FY22 and FY23… down to about $18k… alarming if not for an action you took to reimburse the parking fund for its losses – $565k. The transfer hasn’t happened yet. We have authorization. I wanted our new Finance Director to see how ARPA funds would be managed. She led an effort to discuss how we’d recognize the funds. VLCT, auditors, and others were consulted. They’ll be transferred this month and the $18k will have $565k added to it within the parking fund, to cover the $25k.

    Liz – did the initial ceiling successful?

    Patrick – yes. a solid job and we were all impressed.

    Ian – Is there a way for the parking fund budget if we were to use the rental space for cost or below cost or for free?

    Patrick – if the board was to say there were other goals for that space, there is a cost that comes with that. Should the cost be from the parking utility or the general fund? Perhaps there’d be a transfer to the parking fund to subsidize something. It is possible the board could desire to get something other than money from that space. Do you want it to be on the Parking Fund or be more General?

    Ian – I’d like to have that discussion sooner rather than later. Filling the street can only help. Keeping them vacant can only cause problems.

    Liz – a Police substation might be a good idea.

    Patrick – we do anticipate some additional activity to contract for some time for the construction firm working nearby. there could be some income.

    Ian – is the mold in Dotties?

    Patrick – if it exists it is in Experienced Goods space.

    Tim – since we are at the end of FY22, when I look at the revenue projection, are we looking at something above the budget of FY22, so we’d have more parking revenue in FY23?

    Patrick – I looked at that. I recall the more recent months looked good and recall when we did the FY22 budget it was a bit aspirational. FY23 feels more confident. I think it is the right number.

    Dora – It was always an uneasy feeling when the parking garage came on. It was uneasy competing with private owners for commercial space. New have lost so many public space – River garden, BSL community Room, SIT, Marlboro Tech… you could have a substation and meeting rooms. We had a lively public participation about issues downtown. The best way to counter that is to have activity. There used be up to 1000k employees downtown… none are there and they aren’t coming back.

    Tim – also, you could have a substation and a laundromat. I brought this to Elwell when I was first hired… by the voters. He talked me out of it. But maybe it is time.

    Ian – lots of reasons to have a discussion for using the space.

    Dick Degray – I think you are right Ian. I thought this meeting would go past my curfew. One thing I haven’t heard is about increasing rates for parking and fines. That all needs to be on the table. Taxpayers can’t bail out the enterprise fund. We can’t vote on this budget. I’d like to hear about potential rate increase. We have the cheapest parking of any town or city I’ve been to in 5 years.

    Ian – so if the bailout id from the ARPA fund, that is money from the federal government to alleviate COVID impact, and that’s what happened. But I may misunderstand.

    Patrick – in the proposed FY23 there is no subsidy from the general fund or tax dollars. We can look at raising fees…

    Daniel – parking rates did raise not so long ago…

    Patrick – in 2018 when the new system came in. It’s less expensive than elsewhere. We didn’t make any adjustment to the permit rate. We made the permit that much more desirable, unintentionally. It could warrant a second look. Approve this tonight, though.

    Daniel – so we did raise rates and were fines adjusted?

    Patrick – it was a long time ago… I’ve been here 12 years in August.

    Liz – this investigation might look at the parking study, because there was a study of varying rates and proximity. Go back to that source.

    Ian – also, I’d add that I’d like to know what other towns are changing, especially if rates vary by location?

    Liz – it’s probably the case that fines have gone down now that cards are accepted.

    Moreland – absolutely! Immediately after we switched over to credit card acceptance, it became more convenient to play by the rules, so it was a less punitive system, which is a good thing.

    Daniel – one thing we are failing to talk about – the meters are too high. I’m 5’7″ and a bit, and I see people struggling. If we ever get a chance… it’s to high.

    Moreland… maybe DPW could do something. maybe doing a few at a time. They are highly variable. It’s an undertaking. But a couple a month maybe you can work your way down the road.

    Ian – the one thing I would say Yoshi brought up that I’d be curious about – to move to a system that other communities use… changing companies to change the app? Good discussion to have.

    approved, just after 9pm. And they are doing the $25k project at the Transportation Center top floor.

  • FY23 Salary Increase for Non–Union Employees

    Patrick – each year at this meeting the board authorizes the wage increase for non-union employees – management, some part time employees, and some confidential employees. We propose a 3% cost of living adjustment. Largely consistent with collective bargaining agreements.

    Tim – it seems important with crazy inflation going on…

    Liz – this is fair…

    Patrick – this is the figure already in the budget, approved by RTM.

    Ian – every time we do this I reflect on a large portion of the town budget is paying town employees. Any community comments?


    • Salary Increase

      Pardon my total ignorance, please. Really, this is an honest question as I am clueless.
      What is a “confidential” employee?

      “Patrick – each year at this meeting the board authorizes the wage increase for non-union employees – management, some part time employees, and some confidential employees. We propose a 3% cost of living adjustment. Largely consistent with collective bargaining agreements.”

  • Depot Street Parking Lot

    (i) Award Construction Bid
    (ii) Award QEP Contract
    (iii) Transfer to Capital Fund

    Patrick – a project years in the making. Hope you are as excited as I am. Amtrak is building a new trailer station in Sept of this year and will take a year, and will result in a new beautiful new ADA accessible platform and station. That will reduce parking capacity. The board approved a plan to expand parking to repurpose the turnaround and taking down the Archery building (old train building) – approval was in 2021. It was determined that it wasn’t in need of historic preservation for the Archery Building. Windham Regional helped with funding to help us with he corrective action plan. that area of town is a brownfield. Any disturbances to the site need to first have an environmental assessment. Qualified Environmental Oversight – an environmental engineer to ensure there is no environmental damage and the material stays encapsulated. The construction project was put out to bid and had one bid from a local firm. Bernie LaRock from Guilford – 365k. Higher than we budgeted two years ago. We had $300k budgeted. Only one bid, but Rocky didn’t know that when he put the bid in, and saw others at the site walk-through. So we feel pretty good about this bid. Steve Horton looked at it. There are three things to do – award a bid to Bernie LaRock, award a contract to Stone Environmental, and to transfer $99,250 from the general fund to the capital fund. In order to one forward, we would need this. FY22 will have a general fund surplus, so you can do this.

    Liz – I’m in favor of all three. This project is very important – parking and the new train station. Particularly pleased with environmental oversight of the project.

    Dora – just an aside. I sat on the Union Station Committee when the original project came through. We did put in extra funding to put the conduit to bury the wires. I just want to point it out. If there are wires to be buried, we should do it because there was $75k in the budget for it.

    Ian – not sure of what wires you refer to.

    Patrick – we have some conduit down there. We’ll use it.

    Liz – DPW is on top of the utilities.

    Ian – Amtrak will cost us? (zero) So it is worth it to spend this.

    Patrick – Amtrak will come to see you soon. They’ve been great to work with.

    all three items approved!

  • Announce Committee Vacancies

    Jessica – These are challenging times, and people think they don’t have control. Committee work with the town is a fantastic way to have a voice and shape change. It is a wonderful experience and an outlet for energy, contrary to social media.

    Daniel – every June we announce vacancies and fill open seats.

    Jessica – an easy form to fill out for: ( committee vacancies that will be in the press release in a few days.)

    Ian – if someone has questions, call the Town Manager’s Office.


  • Notice of Violation of 1 VSA § 313 , § 314

    Ian – the final agenda item not previously warned, but to remind viewers, we made a motion to add an additional item because of its time sensitive nature and to give a brief explanation, Bob Fisher will explain.

    Bob Fisher – the Town received a notice of violation by Mr. Oeser on Friday, he alleges that the Town in moving into executive session, they didn’t make a finding before making that motion. We reviewed that on Monday, and we need to respond in 10 days by acknowledging it, or stating that there is no violation. That’s why you added it to the agenda today. Your next meeting would be more than 10 days. The first item would eb a motion to acknowledge the violation. When the town moves to go into executive session, the board member is reading from a checklist that has been made up. It was back in the 1990’s after Trombley cs Bellows Falls… you need a finding of premature public knowledge causing a disadvantage. You don’t need to make it for executive session items for certain items… to negotiate a real state purchase, …they don’t require a finding. At some point the Town has a checklist and the Town believes it was covering two things in one motion. So, the statute reads that a public body may not have an executive session unless making the finding – contracts, labor relations, etc. The VLCT recommends a two step process. The first motion, like today’s executive session, is to first make the finding and state the topic and why the town would be at a substantial disadvantage, then make a motion to go into executive session. The town tonight is going to acknowledge this violation, if you will, and specifically say to cure that there will be the recommended two step process for open meeting law. So, make the motion and make the intention to cure. You have 14 days to cure the violation. You don’t need to wait. You can do it tonight. You can cure it by ratifying the action taken in executive session – Oeser mentions 3 specific dates but you can do all prior executive sessions – and adopt new measures to prevent future violations by implementing the 2 step process. Acknowledge the violation and you attempt to cure it, then cure it and ratify it and adopt the process going forward. Oeser is urging the curative action to revoke the Golden Cross contract. I don’t believe that is needed. I was done in open session, and there is case law that says that even if a body fails to comply, the town can still ratify the actions taken. It’s not revoked. It ratifies the contract de facto. Hit this head on today. oases brings ups good point. I’d venture a guess that any town that makes a finding will have a yes motion after, but we’ll implement the two step process.

    Ian – good for the board to understand. We’ll vote on each motion. First is to acknowledge the violation. I appreciate Oeser bringing this to our attention. I personally care deeply about process and we are following our statutory duty and advice of VLCT. It does credit to him and us so we can improve the process. Future chairs will use a process that is better. I also say this error is an error in form, not substance. Our actions absolutely would have put us at a disadvantage with a contract. We need to warn it effectively in the future. Public?

    Bob Oeser – thanks for the presentation and explanation. I apologize for filling that on a Friday. I was working on my own internal deadlines. I want to highlight some of the explanation that flows from the statutory language. In the VLCT FAQ is says that they also recommend that you provide in your motion, as much information as you can without giving away the details. So, the notion that there’s a abalancing act about what gets disclosed and what info really needs to be in Exec Session. In Trombley there is similar language – you can make a careful analysis before going into executive session. In the absence of a case by case determination, a policy of openness would be frustrated by the need to describe what is permissible. There is an exercise of judgement that needs to go on. I’m not finding it in the minutes of when the contracts were discussed. So, out of those executive session came some final work product discussed in open session, but going in, there were more discussions of policy – how are we making this decision. process or policy decision are not matters for discussion in executive session. the example that is given in what I have read. The monitor issue. If we hired a PR person, we don’t want to say our not to exceed amount is $50k… so we won’t give that away, but whether we use on service or another is policy decision. And why is this important? We’ve come up against wall with the ambulance service. I can’t find in the minutes where any of it wa discussed. The minutes aren’t clear. There was one other matter – a personnel matter had the statutory language. I don’t know from the minutes when you looked at this or when it got decided. To repair the harm I ask the board make a clear account of how we got to the ambulance decisions… publishing contract on April 15. Part of the cure is being transparent about how we got there. And if it is important, and decisions made by the board re: ambulance services are void. In another case, the court said any contracts done that are outside of the process , from the beginning, they are not voidable, they are in fact void. Like the fruit of the poisonous tree. Part of the cure is acknowledging and changing the ways, but also going back and looking at how we got here and that we have a contract that might be void.

    Bob Fisher – case law does not provide that actions taken in violation of the open meeting law is not void – any action taken in open meetings. We’ve acknowledged and exressed the cure. And we want to ratify the previous actions. say we went in for collective bargaining. You say 3% raise, but do you want to start there? Or start t 1% and go up. This things are discussed by board members that would be at a disadvantage in open session. So, I agree in the case law… going forward, you are saying why to the premature public knowledge – that needs to be in the finding. Ratifying this is making finding for the ability to discuss this in exec session. I don’t think the Golden Cross contract is void – done in public.

    Ian – the board is considering statutory cures, with our legal advice, so we will ratify the three decisions mentioned in the letter – we were discussing EMS and it would have placed us at a disadvantage.

    Dora – It’s been clear to me since the beginning that policy discussions were happening behind closed doors – way prior to RTM. You could have warned RTM about a change of service. Even this contract has talked about this. If it has been ongoing, why hasn’t it been discussed publicly about changing service. You violated the spirit of open meeting law.

    Spoon Agave – I can image a town having a policy or protocol where it contracts for the best possible service at the best possible prices. It was pretty clear we are not getting that. I sat on the board and went though this year after year. It was always sketchy if we were being charged correctly. So it is proper for the Town to ask Rescue for info and they didn’t give it. We can do better by ourselves, more accountable if it is under the town. An obvious no-brainer. I can’t recall changing a contract and saving half a million – I can understand how it was practically a no-brainer. Then we find that it erupts in town about everything except what the savings are. Everything is the heartstrings stuff, but never one comment or opposing idea that it wasn’t the proper financial thing to do. So, when Oeser sent me a heads up of his action, at first I thought Oh God, now we’ll get involved… but he’s right that this entire issue is about transparency. The transparency we did not get from Rescue. probably the board should have spoken up and been more clear about this, however you didn’t and we’re here now. It was the easily the proper decision. I do hope there is more transparency if you want to go back to it. Give the town the financial information. Everything about it feels right.

    Carolyn Conrad – Hi. So, when the discussion here is not about whether this was a good or bad decision, it was whether the selectboard followed the spirit of the law and how transparency is supposed to work. As a 25 year Brattleboro resident. I don’t pay as much attention as I should. I don’t often look to see what’s discussed on agendas. However, in looking back through the agendas, it was not clear to me as a resident that a decision that had been made at RTM and a contract in effect was going to be upended. I found out just a few days before the selectboard meeting. I reached out to a member of the board and it was not successful. The issue the statute is in place, so that decisions that affect policy are transparent to the resident of the town who put our faith and trust in members of the board to represent us. The fact that this tchange of course was no transparent to members of the community, and that is the essence of Oeser’s letter and complaint. That transparency was not faithfully followed, so the decisions that came out of it are suspect. Moving forward, the board needs to consider the trust of the community and what the lack of transparency does to the trust and weigh it as you look to cure it. The cure is bigger than this decision. There is a feeling of discomfort that discussions were going on. We put our trust in you to let us know when there are issues we need to weigh in on, and RTM already weighed in. The board did bot meet the spirit of the law and need to take corrective action that reinstalls trust in the community.

    Tim – can we address any of these? There is a common tale going around that somehow – watch more selectboard meeting to see how diligent we are to inform people all the time – you said that RTM was approving a specific ambulance service…it’s a line item for ambulance services – an agreed upon amount. That contract was ending – somehow people think – the letter we received that set everything in motion was a week after RTM. You can’t change time and can’t make up a story that we had prior knowledge that we’d receive an incendiary letter that set this policy… action to change to Golden Cross. There wasn’t any discussions beyond “yeah, we’re working on it.” Until a week after RTM occurred. Anyone looking for… we were talking about many things but they weren’t ambulance contracts. I want to push back on the idea that policy discussions have been going on. This discussion has been going on for 20 years, and this letter sent us searching for a better partner.

    Bob Fisher – as regard to facts, when you look at the agenda items in the administrative report, it has a full explanation of EMS contracts and cites manages memorandum, and that was discussed in open debate. There is an agenda item and admin report to discuss the contract in public. They had the opportunity. That gets… maybe I’m going beyond the issue tonight. Moving forward, if you go into exec sessions for contracts you need to say why.

    Liz – I want to go back to Spoon’s comments. I really appreciate them. It was $200k, but the spirit of the reasoning is correct. I agree. I want to say that all the information that the selectboard used to decide this contract is public information. The letter Tim refers to can’t be stressed enough as a significant factor in our negotiations. I researched its truthfulness and it was seriously wanting. Our response to that letter is also public record. Today I revisted what each selectbosrd member said and it was all sound and thoughtful decision making. What we did was we went with contractor B instead of contractor A, and decided in public. It was all public. Many news places didn’t report on them. We all publicly decided our decision making process to the community. We stand behind our reasoning. The decision we made was sound.

    Jessica Gelter – We don’t have a policy that we must contract with Rescue. There’s never been a vote…no formal policy around that?

    Ian – Every three years, the renewal process was in an open meeting and was voted on.

    Daniel – one point made was that our actions somehow undid a contract made by the previous town manager. I’m at a loss to understand why there is that thought in the world. The contract was due to expire. It was a live contract due to expire. Not sure why it is out in the world, because it is wrong.

    CC – I think that the timeline of events is seen differently depending on who you talk to. Elwell met with Rescue and agreed in principle that the contract made sense, and the outgoing town manager made claims that Rescue could only continue with no compensation – it happened in person and not in writing, there has been dialogue about the impetus for the letter…Rescue was saying they can’t provide service for free. To address the policy change – there was never a policy, but with 56 years of history it is understandable that the public would like more discussion about moving away from that legacy contract. Also, Yoshi said in a public meeting that he wasn’t sure his numbers were right. There has been a tension between town, fire rescue, but even Yoshi said he doesn’t know that his numbers are right. You have two ambulances covering Brattleboro – 12k people, plus another 15k come in to work each day. Plus people on I-91…two ambulances can’t cover it in my opinion. Both sides are not being transparent and both sides are problematic. No one is blameless. But to change a relationship after so many years, it feels to the community that it was a policy by happenstance and there would be more discussion about changing something so significant.

    Daniel – to stay on topic…

    Ian – It’s not clear to me what is on topic – executive session and the warning…

    Daniel – I understand why people would like to rehash a decision that was already made, but we are discussing the violation of open meeting law.

    Franz Reichsman – Good evening. So, the board members are right – two issues. One legal and one political. The two issues are linked in Oeser’s letter because he request a decision being unmade. I can accept that but isn’t possible. We can go to court. The political issue underlying the whole event at 10:30 pm is that is is really hard to say that things went really well with hiring a new ambulance service. people are very unhappy with this. I was director of Cheshire Co Medical… I saw how things worked. It’s very much a municipal service in Keene. I get it, that this can work very well. The potential system. To my way of thinking, there has been no public accounting of what happened, why it happened, and what can be learned of it. It would be worthwhile and would reassure the substantial unhappy segments. Give us the timeline. Why was there such a breakdown in negotiations for such along period of time. That’s the kind of information I’d like to have made public. Or these questions will resurface.

    Marta Gossage – hello, so in an attempt to be brief, I’ll read notes. Initially I was upset about the change. I now understand it. This letter that changed everything came after RTM, all of this made more sense. They know we had 60 days to file a plan, which gave the town little time. The first communication being a press release, before it was discussed. It was less than what the community requires. I still don’t know about the historic animosity. Much of the reaction could have changed if the information behind the decision was offered in open meetings. If it seems like it is being rehashed… Yoshi and other were completely transparent and available to the public. Chief Howard has been transparent. So, again, I’m talking about the non-legal, no-policy parts… the spirit of open meetings. I hope this is a learning experience. Surprise press releases don’t explain the issue.

    Kate O’Connor – Hi. I want to bring us back to what Bob was talking about an executive session. I understand talking about contracts in executive session. The issue he is raising is that on April 11 a press release went out – ‘careful consideration of many options’… when did those careful considerations happen that led to the decision to change policy. I think the issue is ‘did this careful consideration in executive session?’. None of us heard it at all until the press release. The use of executive session for policy discussions that should be in public. If that happened in executive session, its a policy decision that should have been in open session.

    Tim – I want to remind that switching ambulance service changed…enabled us to be a willing partner to any of these changes. As we made clear, we’re making a move in that direction. the change was made because we felt we had to make a change, and they are going to be a cooperative partner so we hope we can get to where we want to go. The impetus to change was not about going to Fire EMS, it was we have to change.

    Liz – and we have to change contractors. We’re the town and we can hire contractors. if one sends us a nasty letter (laughs) we go with contractor B.

    Ian – interpreters are tired…

    Dora – I want to counter a few things, especially said by Spoon. He may think that this was a big discussion, we discussed it about once. Looking at the budget, not service, and it was a length dialogue. david Emory was the chief. David wanted to have the fire department cover closer calls, and Rescue do the more distant ones but it didn’t work. They looked at whether the town should do ambulance… it was a wash or a money-loser. They only had a few EMT’s. Any issues that may have been occurring between Rescue and Fire were handled by staff. It never came to the attention of the board. I’m not sure what Spoon’s talking about. Also, you guys heard publicly from several former selectboard members – many years of experience and disparate in their politics and personalities – DeGray, Kate, Dora, Pal, Worden – a lot of people don’t believe that the letter was the impetus for the policy change, that certain selectboard members were aware of. When did those policy discussions happen? Understand that people don’t believe you. Give us a timeline and let us know what happened.

    Bob Oeser – Three points – Spoon may be on the opposite side of the issue, but helped discuss the money being discussed. Liz talks about the letter, but we know that as early as Jan 18 there was movement on the ground. On Feb 9, Feb 15. We want a clear timeline. To Kate’s point, her question has not been answered – there were careful considerations – when were those careful considerations done?

    Ian – I entertain two motions…

    Daniel – to acknowledge the violation and state the cure. 5-0. To ratify actions previously taken as listed in Oeser’s letter and to use a new two step method. 5-0.

    Ian – at this point, the board is going to move back into executive session. Should I make the motion again now?

    Bob – make a new two part motion for that for clarity.

    Ian – to find that premature public knowledge that the mutual aid agreement would clearly place the town at a substantial disadvantage… 5-0

    Ian – move to go into executive session to discuss mutual aid contracts and invite Patrick Moreland, Chuck Kier, and Len Howard.

    on to exec session, no action when we come out.

  • Denial by Daniel and Liz re Climate

    Responding to Grant’s comment on the urgency of climate rescue, Ms. McLoughlin and Mr. Quipp talk about climate leadership. It’s sad and incorrect. The selectboard took three years to act on BCS’ short climate resolution (Cow Power) that RTM approved in 2018 , and the board’s action only partially approved the resolution At 2019 RTM Daniel opposed BCS’ simple proposal to test common sense conservation in town buildings and re-hire an energy (sustainability) coordinator. He passed out literature saying it was too controversial and needed amendment. He did not offer any amendment. Later in 2019 he opposed the Climate Emergency Declaration — that was endorsed by an national coalition — because it contained wording about war. Week after week goes by and the board needs reminders to say or do anything about the climate. This board is NOT making a priority of climate change. Climate Delayed is Climate Denied.

  • Denial by Daniel and Liz re Climate

    The energy committee had fully endorsed the short climate resolution.

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