Selectboard Meeting Notes – We Need To Take Bold Action. Maybe. It Depends. Probably.

selectboard july 19 2022

The Brattleboro Selectboard discussed their own powers of resolution and whether they could do anything at all on the issue of abortion rights. They decided their lawyer-approved resolution needed more teeth, but also no chance of disruption to the State, and maybe funding, but not any special funding, and maybe something else as yet undetermined.  They’ll take up the urgent issue again at their next meeting.

There were grave concerns about data collection and not sharing any data with bounty hunters. A bit later, board members were impressed by the ambulance data being collected locally and asked for even more EMS data from the Fire Department.

It was a gloomy and restless mood amongst many members of the public. Many expressed feelings of impending doom. Two asked for a special session of Representative Town Meeting.

Comments | 7

  • Preliminaries

    Chair Ian Goodnow – I have no remarks this evening.

    Interim Town Manager Moreland – no comments.

    Liz McLoughlin – there is a heat wave and we’ll issue a statement about places to cool down.

    Jessica Gelter – I went on a ride-along with the police and got a tour of the new police space and it was informative. I appreciate the work they do, and learning about it.

    Public Participation –

    Kurt Daims – Hi, am I working? I would like to … about funding on an emergency basis for things not on the agenda? In 2011 we had unbugetted expenses from Irene repairs and we could do the same kind of thing for abortion advocacy. $100k wouldn’t be too much, since we spend that on the sustainability coordinator.

    Ian – we won’t ad anything new to the agenda. It sounds like your comment may also be good to bring up later.

    Ian – my eyesight is getting worse.

  • Ian - we'll put the expenses for the consent agenda, b

    Ian – we’ll put the expenses for the consent agenda, but we neglected to do it here.

    Moreland explains the consent agenda and any costs.

    A. Service Truck #106 – Authorize Purchase as Water & Sewer Commissioners (under $50k)

    B. Appointment of Town Treasurer – Kimberly Frost

    C. Vermont Department of Libraries ARPA Grant – Accept and Appropriate (about $6k)

    approved 4-0 (no Tim Wessel)

  • Resolution on a Pregnant Persons Access to Abortion – Discussion

    Ian – our first item is a discussion of a Resolution on a Pregnant Persons Access to Abortion. I appreciate the public who are interested in this, we didn’t get to it last meeting. The agenda setting committee put it on the agenda to have discussion of the language, and whether to adopt it, and if we have constructive advice to give to the Town Manager or questions for the Town Atty another draft can come back for adoption. Doesn’t need to get done tonight. With that, patrick…?

    Patrick – no.

    Ian – everyone reviewed it? Jess, you requested this, so I pass it to you.

    Jessica – After the Supreme Court decision there was a lot of conversation in the community about what this means and how it feels. Someone stepped forward to ask for us to take some sort of action to bring awareness to the issue. I think that while we don’t have a lot of power on the board to take action on a national or global issue, it is incredibly meaningful to share in values and show solidarity who need the support right now. As a person who can get pregnant, the action the SAC took gives me such fear because it undermines my autonomy as a person to have freedom and choice as my life roles out before me. Just because I can get pregnant shouldn’t hold me back. The decision changes a whole approach to the issue, and to me, any action, any segment, in solidarity with them is important and I hope the board moves on it.

    Ian – we have some zoom interference… is someone unmuted?

    (they mute themselves)

    (Jessica is talking… but no one can hear her.) .. and there are issues of equity and issues of increased violence and attacks toward family planning providers, Planned Parenthood is closing 5 locations in VT and NH. The resolution has four points. I’m asking that we resolve to oppose cooperation in any investigation into having/providing abortions, we won’t disclose online collection data without a warrant, open air permits for anti-abortion protests and rallies won’t be too close, … and you all had a hand in tailoring the verbiage and action words in these four.

    Ian – thoughts?

    Daniel Quipp – one is my own personal opinion around whether the state can intervene in someone’s bodily autonomy… I don’t think they should. Then, what is our role and what are our powers? Does this do what we want it to do? We’d like this to protect people who have come from elsewhere and are being tracked. I’d like to know what VT law say about that? How does VT law stand in that situation? I’m not sure what’s in this would protect someone from that situation. I’d prefer it would do that rather than sound like it might. That’s my big piece. The second thing is the first point where we oppose cooperation in any investigation. We had a resolution around migrant workers and ICE a while back… I want to make sure we AN oppose cooperation and it is our place to say so, as we direct the police to behave in a certain way. I’m in general in favor of resolutions that have some power to them. If this just says we want this to be the case.. I want it to have some weight.

    Ian – I appreciate the question. Patrick?

    Patrick Moreland – So I didn’t anticipate speaking so quickly into the discussion. There are times when the board doesn’t have the authority to pass a law, but can make a statement that is forceful to the community. The board passes a rule for mask-wearing… it was a strong statement that had an impact. The statements in this resolution are similar expressions largely because advancing beyond them would be outside of the board’s authority. The board can oppose something, express a belief, encourage the town manager, or direct the town manager, and to support safe and equitable access. This you can do. Directing the police? Not so. We had an early draft and worked on it for an afternoon and got to this document, reviewed by Attorney Fisher.

    Liz – I have respect for the drafters and I certainly agree that it is everyone’s right to protest and express opinions, but don’t feel it is appropriate for me to make any statement about a subject that will be on the ballot in November. This and in November, this issue is in every race and every election. This November is about this subject and who we elect. We’re a non partisan body and don’t think we should influence that decision, or even share what our beliefs and wishes are, just because it is the Brattleboro SElectboard, not the state or federal government.

    Ian – so, taking that idea of the board voting on something considered on a state level, we did that with a mask mandate… the board didn’t act appropriately?

    Liz – that was an immediate decision to protect t public health. Those things aren’t equitable. This won’t protect specific members of the public.

    Erica Delorenzo – I mo ed here four years ago, and for so many reasons. Brattleboro is known for these sorts of things, health, and the unrepresented. I asked the board – what role do you have. I’d like to understand what can be done, and it was my feeling and is my feeling that regardless of the jurisdiction, what we are facing requires you to use your voice – there is a lot more at stake. Voting is under attack. It’s not enough that it will be on the ballot. This decision isn’t about abortion. We are facing fascism. This isa pattern. It is totally appropriate to say what our values are and that we will protect our citizens. We are up against powerful forces that aren’t good. It’s important to put something on the record, even if we can’t enforce it. It’s critical we hear from anyone and everyone. I’d encourage the board to think about the position you are in. It will be our neighbors we need to speak up for and protect. Thanks for putting the time into this.

    Bruce – If something strong is stated… this is the 14th amendment. All civil rights are based on the 14th amendment. You mentioned planned parenthood, and choice. I’m scared that it may be too late already. Like global warming, putting it off…

    Kurt Daims – I had bad reception at home and rushed in. Jess spoke of efficacy of actions. BCS promotes action on global issues locally. This is a national issue and people wonder what Brattleboro can do. A resolution is not effective. The board represents the people of Brattleboro. We have to put teeth into this, and the teeth is our treasury. We have to put our money where our hearts are. bruce is right when he touches on the political climate. We have to look to our adversaries for inspiration. Texas made bounty hunters of its citizens – it is terrible and effective. We have to take new measures and find a new way.

    Ian – so, let’s circle back to where we are landing. Daniel got some answers about the language… would you be in support if some of the terms were looked at to see if the board can have additional power than is currently drafted into this?

    Daniel – what I heard is that this is a segment of values, then if we are honest, I can live with that, but don’t want to say it is one thing if it isn’t, so I’m kinda on the fence. Maybe we could direct the town manager’s office rather than encourage. I want these to have some weight behind them. I don’t want people to think we took care of it and we in fact did not.

    Jess – on thing Erica said – it was about it is important for individuals to show their solidarity, but it means something else when system of government – part of the system that did this – says no, we don’t want to be a apart of it. I agree with Kurt that some funding could give it some teeth. Folks at Planned parenthood and found out that the Bratt office operates at a deficit and does struggle, so I’d like them to be more stable and offer more. To me, that funding piece could give it more teeth. That could be FY23, or FY24?

    Daniel – to the money piece. Kurt asked that we modify the agenda to add money in. WE declined to modify the agenda because there is already a human services funding process, and Town Meeting decides on that. We have that process. Process gets a bit of a bypass sometimes, but Planned parenthood would be more than welcome to apply there. Kurt proposed $50k… based on talking with them?

    Kurt Daims – yes. They favor but don’t want to advocate for their own funding. Human Services budget is topped out. It needs to be an additional thing. You could fund it right away and procedures would be later to take it from the unreserved funds or to raise taxes. $100k emulates the expenditures on the sustainability coordinator.

    Daniel – not in favor of an unbugeted $50k…

    Liz – I appreciate the anti-fascist statements but I don’t think we should mess with the Human Services process… they give up to $20k sometimes. Not to fund in-full but to contribute as a means of charitable giving in town for valid purposes. These are political statements and I’d like our town attorney to weigh in on the referendum and funding regarding state election initiatives this fall.

    Jessica – it came up. There is a danger that our action could be seen as advocacy – the state amendment on abortion – Bob says as written this is A-OK and couldn’t;t make a suit that the vote was improperly influenced.

    Liz – that’s not resolved in my mind.

    ian – I can’t believe that because they are considering a state amendment that it precludes us from making decisions. If we said “Vote for Prop 5″… but I’m not the Town Attorney. Does this on its whole endorse this?

    Liz – Prop 5 secures that right for the people of Vermont and supersedes anything we’d do here, and anything we’d do here is more a protest more than concrete value to the citizenry. I don’t want to put the real lawmaking in jeopardy. In my heart of hearts think this is not selectboard business.

    Ian – I think I support this but also feel strongly that if we give it more teeth it would be more powerful. We’ve adopted resolutions without direct actions in them. Also curious about whether this endorses something on a state level. A couple of questions. I’d be curious to see if we could add to it. As far as funding, it would come out of FY24, and that process is clear. It’s more powerful if it comes from the RTM. It’s the whole town voting to fund human services budget. I don’t see the funding as the only teeth. There could be other actions, so I’d like to see that. So I’d like to see things come back to us.

    Kurt – the board has voted, even recently, beyond its power – the support of the Paris Accords, which Liz voted for. You could convene RTM in 30 days. This is important enough to do that.

    Liz – that fascist statement really sticks with me. This is aone of a series of critical issues happening nationwide. This november election is critical on many levels. It’s not a selectboard issue. It will affect our town in November, but it won’t boil down to resolutions.

    Bob Oeser- I agree with Kurt and Jessica. I think these are dire times. This is an extraordinary situation. The resolution is a message, and people need to hear it clearly, and maybe money should be involved. I’m in favor of process, but this is an extraordinary situation and a carve out for process. Convene and RTM immediately for that process, or do it and have them confirm the decision down the road.

    Erica – I’d like the board to not stand on ceremony. This is really important to us. It is short sighted to put process ahead of what’s going on. Other states are really bad, and will try to anything to prevent other states from helping their citizens. It’s a form of mysogyny to put all these process points in the way. We are asking you to do anything, anything at all. Say something. Do this now, we are asking. It was vetted and debated. Do something.

    (Ann – I don’t think you should mess up right now?)??

    Daniel – (reads part ) I oppose this but can the Town oppose it? How does it compare with no collaboration with ICE? I’d like to hear more from the town attorney and the police department. I was visiting with them the other day – fingerprints are fed into a database. What choice do we have in the matter if we are connected to databases… if all these words were actionable, I’d be 100% in favor of this. Whenever we do a resolution without weight in it, I feel icky. There is an immediate need for the health and safety, so I don’t want to pretend someone is safe if we say these things. If we CAN do these things (data collection)…

    Liz – People use those databases. My two daughters quit them and we all should. People should participate and govt shouldn’t steal information.

    Daniel – I can vote for it tonight, but I think it is more a statement of values than something with legal standing, but people forget that… I feel disingenuous. I want people to be safe. The laws in place and being passed are fiendish. I’d like VT to be a safe haven and hope state law will make it so. I’m more in favor of it than not.

    Ian – should we not or do more work on this?

    Jessica – would hearing from Bob change your mind?

    Liz – perhaps – I want to know what we can and can’t do, and what about state law. I don’t want to gum up the works, or do something merely symbolic.

    Ian – let’s table this for now and have Bob look into it to make sure action taken won’t run us afoul of Prop 5. Could we have more power to act? And, could Bob look into other avenues of power that the board could implement on an issue like abortion, given our position as health officers.

    Daniel – to be super clear – let’s get Bob’s legal opinion on VT law on someone coming to VT for an abortion and whether that protects them from their home state.

    Liz – and we should use the RTM process in place for any funding.

    Jessica – so, it was my p that we would have a process with this resolution and we’d discuss it, have questions, and express solidarity as we felt it. The one other value, I googled what other towns were doing, and there weren’t a lot of them out there. Some had more teeth language, and there weren’t any in VT yet. If there aren’t rules protecting people, it will help Towns know where they stand if bounty hunters come after people who’ve had abortions.

    Ian – I fully agree and look forward to voting for it when we tune it to be most effective. Thanks!

    • Abortion: COMMITMENT of the selectboard or the town

      Elizabeth McLoughlin and Dan Quipp worry about resolutions being ineffective. But both of them voted for the ineffective energy committee letter in November 2020, even as the board said it was “unsubstantial” and “frightening”. In 2017 the board supported the resolution supporting the Paris Climate Accords, also ineffectual and outside their jurisdiction, and the letter supported this. If they want a substantial commitment, then they can include the funding for advocacy and reproductive care. And if they want to include RTM, that can be done in 40 days.
      Daniel Quipp says he has an additional worry. He doesn’t want people thinking he promised legal protections and care here in Brattleboro. Piffle !! No one thinks the resolution would be a personal commitment from him. Besides, this is representative government. In case of an emergency resolution like this the board’s wisdom would come not in advancing its own opinion, but in their knowing the opinions of the people. About the commitment for the town and the town finances, Ms. Gelter and Mr. Goodnow are eager, but again Mr. Quipp and Ms. McLoughlin are hesitant, perhaps misunderstanding their place in the process. Not everything presses on their shoulders. Two examples: in 2018 BCS filed a petition for a resolution to create an energy/sustainability coordinator, and it was funded by RTM. Then the board followed with the details and the hiring. In 2017 RTM approved a resolution to ban plastic bags. The board followed up by drafting the plastic bag ordinance. This resolution will not allocate the money or specify the legaliaties. If the selectboard approves the resolution with the funding amendment, then that is THEIR commitment. The teeth of the resolution are in THEM. The selectboard must then follow through, and it looks like the board is almost ready for this hard work.

  • EMS Update – Discussion

    Chief Howard and Assistant Chief Kier

    Chief – happy to report things going well. Staff doing well. WE’ve done 132 EMS responses. Transported 97 times and 35 non-transports, avg time to scene is 4 minutes. Avg time to clear is 29 minutes. Had 11 max call, had min 4 calls per day. Used 3rd amubulance two times and no use of mutual aid.

    Liz – how are staff doing

    Chief – doing well..

    Ian – how is the integration?

    Chief – it’s good. It’s new. Different people working here and different ways of doing things. Minor issues have come up, but Asst Chief is on top of it. Things are.. I’m happy.

    Jessica – how is the dispatch process going?

    Chief -as of last Friday, it has been a smooth transition. No Rescue dispatches anymore. It’s going well. Good that it is just police and fire. Better for everybody.

    Daniel -I visited with the FD staff on shift last Friday morning and we had an honest and frank exchange. How is it going for you? What’s the experience like? How is the community treating you? I left feeling heartened. I was humbled and reminded of the professionalism of that department. These are real people delivering important services to the town every day. I feel really proud of them and glad things are working well. I expected it to, but it is good.. this was a big change for the town and confidence is a big party of it. I couldn’t be happier.

    Jessica – I was curious about the revenue side of things?

    Chief – we’ll add that. Every 2nd meeting will have a report about what GC billed.

    Jessica – Golden Cross is billing patients, not the fire department?

    Chief – yes.

    Ian – the data is shared with us.

    Bob Oeser – thanks for the report. Someone smarter than me… two questions: with respect to response times – what is the definition of that? Leaving the station, or when the call comes in? And, if the 3rd ambulance was needed 2x in 12 days, we should retain it after the 90 day period, so are we right on that? Also, do we then budget for a capacity that we may not use – extra capacity?

    Ian – so, for the 3rd ambulance, I was planning, I should ask about the modification of the contract, and I realized it is unfair to ask this early. This present 12 days under the new contract. I agree that having two calls for the 3rd ambulance should be considered, but I’d like us to wait… there is the 3rd ambulance, and additional staff time. The question will be both of those elements and by the fall, we’ll be well informed about that. 12 days is too soon.

    Chief – my feeling, too. We have a hot map that has areas of town for calls. It is pretty interesting. The two areas that are very hot zones, and it helps understand why our times are quick. I’ll have that hot map for you so you can understand where the majority of calls come from and what time of day.

    Kier – response time – there are three numbers – the time dispatch receives the call, they translate that to a dispatch and hot a tone and translate that to a written dispatch message (BFD notified) – we mark from time we are notified to arrival on the scene.

    Gary – how many didn’t have to be transported?

    Chief – we’ll have that at the next meeting. Out of 132, we’ve transported 97, and he’s asking for the percentage. We’ll report that in August.

    Liz – I think the last piece of data needs an explanation. There is a reason why people don’t get transported. Some anecdotal words might be appropriate. It tells a story of the type of calls we get.

    Daniel – in the monthly reports for the police, there is a call by call document. Is that something FD would do? Not just EMS

    Chief – yes. Very doable.

    Kate O’Connor – Can you tell us, has the Triton study started?

    Chief – about a month ago – me, AC, finance director , HR, and Patrick met and we got our homework assignments of the info they require. We’ve consolidated that. Patrick is reviewing that info, and we should have that info for AP Triton next week, then they’ll get started.

    (The interpreters ask that the public speak into the mic!)

    Ian – so, the board is being updated every 2nd meeting of the month, but the actual EMS service is being monitored…

    Patrick – daily – The FD is doing a nice job, adapting to the knew responsibilities and providing me with regular data. New information every morning. We talk 4-5 times a week. Doing a great job.

    Bob Oeser – can you make the interpreter bigger on zoom? (Pin It!)

    Ian – they have to pin it, we can’t do it for them. Thanks for the presentation. I’m incredibly grateful and look forward to the August report.

  • Medical Director Services Agreement – Ratify Agreement

    Patrick – late last meeting there were items left unaddressed. It was my sense that there was no good purpose by delaying this contract ( for EMS Medical Oversight services in the amount of $16,980.48 with Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic. ) It’s required, and will allow doctors to work with BFD to do quality control, coaching and analysis. Doctors will work with our staff to improve things. There seemed nothing to gain by delaying this. Town Atty said I could execute this and am asking you to ratify the decision.

    Chief – Prior to the ambulance service, we were already upping our license to the paramedic level and we applied for our license, so this was coming regardless of whether we took over ambulances. It’s for the paramedic level service. people are doing technical things in the field and we need a doctor doing oversight. I met with the two, and it being our first year, they think 8 hrs a month for now, and cut in halff next year. Regardless of if we did the ambulance. next Monday we meet with the doctor to review some calls and it has been positive to work with the doctors.

    Daniel – this was coming anyway is new information to me. I’m curious, there will be a review of cases. Are there situation where we consult with them by phone from the field?

    Chief – yes – they can consult anytime. This is an oversight of our QA. A good tool to have.

    Daniel – this is an agreement between the town and the medical director?

    Chief – It goes through Dartmouth Hitchcock…

    Daniel – where are Golden Cross in all of this> They are the experienced party, right? Will they be in this process?

    Chief – they are overseen by those two doctors, in district 13. They might have their own agreement with them. Rescue Inc has a similar agreement.

    Liz – you could ask them.

    Chief – I could ask them

    Ian – was there oversight needed for the lower level of paramedic service?

    Chief – we got two free hours, but once we go to paramedic level, we have to have more. We still get 2 hours free and charge us for 6 hours.


  • Good time to wrap up.

    It’s hot and they’ve done the big items… so… enjoy the evening!

    (or keep watching for

    D. Ordinance Amendment Chapter 18 – First Reading

    E. Monthly Financial Report

    F. Interim Town Manager – Approve Contract

    G. Authorize Street Name – Red Tail Lane

    H. Committee Appointments)

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