Selectboard Meeting Notes – Stop Asking Us About The EMS Decision

selectboard aug 16 2022

The Brattleboro Selectboard doesn’t want to review what led to an abrupt change in EMS services in town last spring.

As much as some citizens would like to know, the board resists. No lookin’ back. No way. Don’t want to even think about it.

The next animal control officer will serve 40 hours a week, a fancy new B&B got a liquor license, the Town will work on plans for permanent downtown public restrooms, and the board expressed gratitude for the monthly EMS update and all the fine work being done.

Comments | 12

  • Preliminaries

    They start a minute late…

    Chair Ian Goodnow – I have two remarks. First, a request from the executive assistant Jessica that I remind the public that comes to the in person meetings that they sign in on the sign in sheet. Helps with minutes. We have the zoom names. The second, I want to take a moment to speak to the primary election on the 9th. I want to thank the Town Clerk’s office and JP’s and volunteers for a successful election day. It was a busy day. The numbers – we had 31% turnout. 2, 909 votes cast out of 9, 391. Second highest primary since 2020. 58% were early ballots. 1, 233 came to the polls voted in person. Thanks to American Legion for hosting.

    Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland – no specific remarks but ask our Library Director about announcements…

    Starr Latronica – thanks for asking. I do have remarks. So, those who that use the library know that they are responsive institutions. We evaluate and reevaluate our services. Sometimes we take a view from the balcony, rather than the dance floor. We look to the community and want to hear what you have to say. We are holding a public forum next Wed Aug 24 at 7pm and invite everybody to come and let us know what you think. For those who can’t come out, the next night is a zoom meeting. We’ll send you the link. Or drop by and chat with me. We also have a summer reading program fro grown ups and not too late to enter. Vermont authors. Also, sci-fi fans, we have a sci-fi reading group starting up.

    Ian – thanks. One other election announcement. The November general election will have ballots mailed to everyone in Sept, so if your address changed, update your info so it goes to the right place. Or talk to Town Clerk’s office.

    No board remarks.

    Public participation….

    Mary Casey – I’ve nagged behind the scenes, when will public safety be back on the agenda? We seem to be locked in a crime rate race with St Albans and not in a good way. Since I came down here, has the bridge at Frost place been fixed?

    Ian – community safety – you mean cameras?

    Mary – sure, but would like it broader. We have more data and can see what’s going on. Yes, cameras, and the possible funding sources. We see some cities are using ARPA funds to install cameras in crime areas registered with the police department. We can come up with solutions.

    Patrick – My belief is that fixing Frost Place bridge has not taken place yet. We have the funding but haven’t done it yet. As to when will the board discuss safety concerns, I don’t know. It’s up to the board. Staff is lookin at potential for an auxiliary public safety facility at the transportation center and options for installing cameras. We’ll have that info to them soon, but not sure exactly when that will be? Definitely this year. September or October..

  • Consent Agenda

    Patrick explains the two items, defeating the purpose of the consent agenda. : )

    A. Grant in Aid for DPW – Accept

    B. Board of Listers Vacancy – Appoint Member (Danielle Lee Elizabeth LeClaire)

    so consented…

  • Liquor Commissioners - The Brattleboro

    Tim Wessel joins the meeting.

    Patrick – There might be someone from The Brattleboro at 770 South Street. This is a 1st class license… and outside consumption for a bed and breakfast sort of place.

    Chad Tinti (and Roth and – A 3 room B&B and we want to sell wine and beer and cocktails to guests when they are on property.

    Liz – you have acreage….

    Chad – yes, 21+ only. We have a large deck off the dining area and want to serve drinks around the pool.

    Jess – what’s special or unique?

    Chad – we are opening in Sept and are making a luxury inn on this property. 32 acres. Working hard on the remodel and the landscaping and we have a retail boutique opening on site.

    Jess – looks beautiful.

    approved 5-0

  • Temporary/Permanent Public Restrooms

    Patrick – so, there is a memo that lays out the history of public restrooms in the downtown area for the last couple of years. More frequent public waste led to 3 ports potties in three locations. We rolled out that program with Groundworks, but it became clear they couldn’t participate, so the Town had to do the work and we provided them and serviced them weekly and we provided some rudimentary cleaning. It seemed to be effective the first year. When winter came they were removed, and in the spring COVID had begun and the hotels had been opened to homeless, and there were less problems downtown. We struggled to keep them clean. It is a challenging job – no running water, cleaning supplies on location. Has to be carried. As the pandemic moved on, people didn’t want the job anymore. The next year it fell to building custodian staff to keep it clean and I didn’t think that was fair to them with their other building duties. In addition and because these became attractive nuisances for criminal activity. All sorts of EMS calls, public works calls. This last winter staff decided to wait and see. That’s where we started, without them. The problems aren’t the same as 2019. I don’t think it is a great idea. One other thing is there is research done on fixed bathrooms and more permanent locations. It’s a much better idea. There could be illicit activity, but cleaning is altogether different. Made to be cleaned. If interested, it would be a good conversation to have about where they could be located. There are many designs available – self-cleaning, more basic… and everything in-between. If you want, we’ll come back with recommendations that could work for the FY24 budget.

    Ian – I want to frame this for us. The 2019 decision was a town manager decision, not the board.

    Tim – with board support…

    Ian – this is more an opportunity for a policy discussion about public restrooms in either form. That’s where we should be at. What direction will we provide?

    Daniel Quipp – I want to frame his framing. I had members of the community ask me about them and I noticed money wasn’t being spent on them and we had a bit of a conversation. I think the explanation about where we are at regarding port potties makes sense to me, so I’d like to explore options for permanent bathrooms for the public.

    Liz McLoughlin – the permanent way is the way to go. I’ve seen excellent models. A location on the Common or near the Chamber. More public than the portable ones. Seasonal… it may pan out that winter use is less needed..

    Tim – I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about this. It leads me to believe that the original intent served the purpose and a need at the time. Why haven’t my constituents asked about this? Constituents have their person they come to for an item. Are people not interested, or have they always been interested. I advocate for some canvassing on this.

    Jessica Gelter – in sport of public restrooms. I’ve heard from my constituents that it makes community events more accessible. Human dignity is an issue, and visitors feeling welcome without running back to a hotel. It would be worth the investment.

    Ian – I think the community interest canvassing could happen at the same time. Maybe we’ll hear more. It’s a municipal policy question – do we want to pay for public bathrooms.

    Tim – it is a capital cost and ongoing costs.

    Liz – it could be an ARPA cost.

    Jess – what about the Transportation Center… (8-4 )

    Patrick – they are abused more than any other. Nobody is down there. It is a particularly attractive nuisance. The substation discussion – the lobby and bathrooms are large. One thing we are looking at – if we redesign it, does it need to be 1200 square feet? Maybe not? If smaller, maybe it would be less attractive. As of currently, we have kept it open when someone is around to keep an eye on it.

    Daniel – if we explore more options of locations and facilities, then whatever one we do, we assume it will be ADA compliant.

    Public… (no one)

    Ian – I hear consensus, we’ll give direction to bring us the options for locations and types of permanent municipal bathrooms.

  • Financial Report

    Finance Director Kimberly Frost – It’s the first month of FY23 and are tracking it.. at about 8% utilization. Billing revenue comes in the next quarter. We have 3.8 million in outstanding loans. We have 201k for additional grants and loans, and 22 active grants plus 7 in the application process.

    Daniel – I have small specific questions. Page 3, general fund, public works, revenue- insurance reimbursements… 54k

    Kim – that is for the bridge. It’ll get moved.

    Daniel – the financial report contains everything. Page 9, fire expenditures, training – 224%?

    Kim – we are paying for three members to go to paramedic school.

    Daniel – public works admin – equipment rental is a minus?

    Kim – not sure about that. Might have been a refund?

    Daniel – parks budget… same questions….program supplies and misc.

    Kim – I have the answers. Misc is for the monument at the commons. Program supplies were the balance of what was not raised for the 4th of July also some fireworks and ball nets. There was more in 2022 because of the balance of fireworks.

    Daniel – page 3 of the Utilities budget, wastewater treatment plant – encumbrance for sludge removal… refresh me?

    Kim – Patrick will speak to it – it his his expertise…

    Patrick – The encumbrance – the sludge removal is treating waste. There are liquids and solids. Solids are dried out and hauled away to sludge places. We have a contract with a company…

    Kim – it is variable, so we set a certain price, then we adjust at the end for whatever we did or didn’t use.

    Patrick – things that require hauling are costing more….

    Daniel – Utilities Fund – last page – the total is a minus number…

    KIm – bills did not go out yet for FY 23… that first quarter starts in October.

    Daniel – the parking fund is a negative?

    Patrick – we passed a negative budget expecting a deficit. There have been changes. We’ve lost all tenants at Transportation center, and they brought in 110k annually. That’s a big hit. We’ve rented Dotties space for a while to the construction company renovating a building. We need to think about other ways owe could raise rates, we could put a public safety center there we could pay rent. But we expect a deficit.

    Jess – on page 1 – I’m curious about in lieu of taxes line item. What’s the timing?

    Kim – we just sent this bills a few weeks ago. You should see some revenue coming in in August. It get’s hand build, coming from the Assessor’s office… not our regular billing system. It lags a bit behind taxes.

    Tim – local option tax –

    Kim – that’s rooms and meals and sales tax comes in at the same time – sales was 231k, and 113k for rooms and meals for the last quarter. The annual for rooms and meals was 450k, and sales was over a million. Up 11% over the last year.

    Dick Degray – Question about the Transportation fund… the parking fund and why did the board adopt a negative balance budget? Rate increases? We just raised rates 4 years ago?

    Daniel – I don’t recall.

    Dick – why not raise rates when you knew there was a negative balance… does that go back to taxpayers to make that up at RTM?

    Dick – ultimately it could potentially but I don’t foresee it this year. The parking fund took a beating through the pandemic….the general fund propped it up. We used ARPA funds to make it whole again. There is a fund balance now. When the budget was adopted, tenants were moving out. It looks a big piece of revenue from the fund. A rate increase could happen, but this as the budget that passed.

    Dick – I understand that and your comment about charging the general fund a fee for rent. Usually that’s a reversal where you are generating enough from enterprise funds to subsidize the general fund, but we’re going the other way. You haven’t raised rates in 4 years and have the lowest parking rates in the country, there should have been a discussion of raising rates, fines and parking passes to offset a negative balance fund.

    Tim – I don’t remember the overall discussion, and I agree that enterprise funds can’t be costing us forever… but the drop from the rentals was not a drop in parking. parking couldn’t make up all that revenue. I was hoping the drop in rentals would be temporary, but it doesn’t rule out raising rates. I’d love to .. take a look at rates soon and make sure we’re in line with what other towns are charging.

    Dick – the rates for the parking passes.. the transportation center has the highest rate?

    Patrick – reserve and open permits..

    Dick – I know of quite a few people who have changed their permits to other lots in town so they don’t have to deal with issues there. Will that have a negative impact on permits?

    Patrick – I don’t have an answer for you. If they aren’t getting a permit at all… that would have an impact, but if they just move… too early to gauge that. One other thing – is there some work that should be done… sure. But we had another transition in the town mahger’s office. There is work to be done here. Plenty of work to be done here.

    Liz – the new meters are user friendly and people are using them so less fines. I share the idea that parking meters need to compensate the town for lack of rentals. We are going through ideas for that space and acting responsibly. Something we have to do.

    Daniel – I assume rental is a temporary issue. If next spring if we are deep in a hole we’ll need to look.

    Tim – we should look at where our rates land.. next time we look at this budget. We can do field research ourselves.

    Jess – in the police budget – overtime costs so far are slower than usual, so they aren’t working as many overtime shifts. Excited to see.

  • EMS Update – Discussion

    Ian – an EMS update discussion

    Chief Howard and AC Kier

    Chief – as the memo says (see memo…) 313 EMS calls. Response time is under 4 minutes with avg time 27 minutes. No need for mutual aid. I did get an update today and they billed for $109k and collected $28k. Things are going very smoothly. We’re still learning every day. Staff have stepped up and are doing well. On Aug 7 21 EMS calls and 2 mutual aid to to other towns. Working on training, met with the doctor EMS director, some minor issues for reporting to him. Pleased with how the transition is going.

    Liz – I want to comment that this is a positive report, especially the doctor’s opinion.

    Tim – wow. To get a little glimpse into what staff are dealing with is really valuable and makes it human.

    Chief – we had a list of calls we did and we gave them to the board – public are welcome to get them emailed.

    Daniel – thanks to staff for the work you’ve been doing. AC Kier has provided us with… if we are making this more accessible to the public, we live in a small place and knowing the full street address lets me know my neighbor had an incident… so taking off the street number might help. My only request. It’s good to know.. reviewing that data gives me a feeling of gratitude. I feel reassured. I assume you could have a day with 8 really hard calls… not just volume. I’m grateful for all the work going into these calls.

    Liz – I really like the section about the two entities working together and each is learning about each… nice to see.

    Ian – we appreciate the transparency when you come speak to us. I’m really grateful and glad it is going well.

    Chief – with AP Triton – yesterday they said October would be when they’ll come meet – maybe the second week in October, plus town staff will have weekly meetings with them starting next week. Finances, GIS mappings,… it is in full swing and by Nov or Dec you’ll have the report.

    Bob Oeser – thanks to the Chief – I sent a bunch of questions and he took the time to answer them today. Following up, if I may, on the questions. $109k was invoiced, and $28k was collected, so that’s about 26%. Is that because of a processing lag? Is it too early to know? Is it because of uninsured or non collectibles?

    Chief – we had the same questions. Golden Cross explained to me that it takes 3 months or so to show a consistent collection rate. We had the same question. Dale says it is too early to nail down a specific number yet. He hopes 3-4 months for a more solid number.

    Bob – there was some info that there was a spike in overtime in July? A temporary issue due to lack of staff and new staff are coming on board? Final thing… seems to be hard to figure out what amounts are attributable to EMS service from the department budget. Will regulatory agencies require reporting and they insist on things being coded can work with our system and…. not sure if I explained that. Regulatory reports and accounting on the home base?

    Daniel – how much fire dept budget goes to EMS? Up until now, the FD has provided those service alongside Rescue… we employ them whether they sit in the first station or are in an ambublance… they are in the budget. Capital expenses will be visible clearly.

    Ian – that discussion can continue in budget season.

    Chief – the study should answer many of these questions as well.

    Tim – not reinventing the wheel here. Other towns could help us with how they did the transition.

    Kate O’Connor – a request – can you include the call list automatically with your monthly report (yes). I enjoy reading the police report.

    Ian – we’ll remove addresses, but okay with the other elements … no patient data. Kate, can you sign in?

    Daniel – back to the call data… most people won’t see it. It’s not inaccessible, but it is a PDF of a million things. My preference is the first page is some kind of summary. Calls need to be coded, so you could show percentages, and compare with previous months or years. A more accessible summary document. Raw data is tough for most people to wade through.

    Chief – we could do a pie chart.

    Daniel – the memo does some of it.

    Patrick – we’ll get to a point where we won’t do these in public, but some sort of monthly report.

    Daniel – and we can put it on our new town website.

    Patrick – maybe we’ll try different options for monthly reports – a dashboard and some detail – until we get it to where you like it.

    Franz Reichsman – I want to address a couple of things – it can be frustrating to ask the same question and not get an answer. I’m pleased with the reports and I’m generally supportive of the combined fire and EMS, BUT, nobody thinks the process over the last year went well, and the transparency is very important, and there hasn’t been an open discussion of what happened… could things have been done differently? I’ve put together a timeline and where did things go off the rails… early Feb to late March – a gap in what was going on. The Town manager met with Rescue and they failed to agree, but we don’t know anything that happened.. any discussion of what was going to happen? Things could have been happening that could have averted the last minute decisions. Still very curious to know what we need to learn from the difficulties we went through. There should be a comprehensive report on what happened, and want to know if you are considering that process to help resolve lingering hard feelings?

    Ian – This has to do with EMS, but it is is peripherally relevant, Franz. Board members?

    Tim – in general terms – what was going on was a heck of a lot, but not what you are looking for. We were busy. There were other things going on. For the deconstruction – we are talking about contract discussions and disputes, internal discussions, so we can’t get into that. Not sure how we could speak to that too much.

    Liz – I think all the information I used to make my decision is public and I call your attention to the March 25 letter from Rescue inc. I don’t have any intention to explain that decision. That should be enough for the public. Starts with the March 25 letter…

    Daniel – obviously Franz feels strongly about this.. when we were making the decision to contract with Golden Cross… most days I don’t remember about that time. I’m so happy I don’t think about it and can think about how things are now, trusting that things will work well. I don’t see it going off the rails. We’re having a feasibility report coming. I’m not at all interested in rehashing old decisions. I’m focused on what’s happening right now, not back in the past.

    Jess – fully in agreement that the bulk of our decision making info was already made public.

    Dick -about the billing – I asked this months ago and you didn’t have an answer. Rescue used to bill the delta between insurance and the actual bill.

    Ian – we have no policy – Golden Cross does the charges.

    Dick – are they doing it the same way?

    Ian – I can’t speak to that.

    Dick – if my bill is $350 and the insurance pays $300, are they billing me for $50?

    Chief – not sure.

    Zach – from Burlington – for the board – be aware. I heard someone say they weren’t able to compare EMS calls current to what happened before July 1… your dispatch center can provide historical info on any calls in Brattleboro. My second comment, I wonder regarding Golden Cross – any considerations of the hours they are working? I have colleagues there, and I hear there are a lot of long hour shifts going on. Are they working 50 hours straight?

    Chief – have to ask Golden Cross.

    Bob Oeser – a comment – I underline what Franz says – if we don’t learn from our history we will repeat it. Do a deconstruction of what happened.

    Ian – thanks tot he Chief and AC Kier….

  • Animal Control Officer – Reinstate 40 Hour – Authorize (out of order..???)

    Patrick – the board decided to reduce hours to a 30 hour position.

    Liz – are we talking about the right thing? Animal Control is F….

    Daniel – the binder and agenda don’t match….

    Patrick – sorry about that. Staff is asking for 40 hours for the animal control officer. $8k savings to reduce it to 30 hours, but services went down. The animal control officer does lots of things. And Cathy Barrows has retired after 36 years. While we look to rehire, we ask for 40 hours to better serve the public. Chief Hardy?

    Chief Hardy – Patrick made the statements clearly. One reason I want this as full time, scheduling will cover more overlapping shifts and weekend hours. We’ve had 152 calls this year. Some bites, including a mail person. Dogs off leash in parks and on trails. It’s a safety issue. It’s all animals – neglected goats, puppy hoarding – having someone to deal with this frees up officers for other duties. We haven’t had time for rabies clinics and municipal tickets and cases and followups. All these reasons are why it should be full time.

    Ian – I fully support it. I know someone who needed them and the lack of someone on the weekend was an issue. So, I support this.

    Liz – I agree- we need a full time officer.

    Jess – there was a recommendation to take animal control out of the police department, however, you mention de-escalation training and lessening the need for policing, so I support this.

    Tim – it will attract better candidates to a full time position.


  • MOU with NEPBA to Correct Starting Wage and On Call Compensation

    Ian – what does MOU stand for?

    Patrick – I’ll hand this to Sally Nix, HR Director.

    Sally – we had some discussion regarding dispatch. We had some resignation and haven’t had many applicants. We dropped the training rate… we want this to be in line with dispatch. We’d drop the training rate and adopt on-call pay.

    Patrick – in context, in the last round of union negotiations, we dropped the taring rate across the board. (dog barking?) If we eliminate the training rates, it can look better in the advertising. Better starting salaries. Just didn’t do it with dispatch at the time.

    Jess – on call is flat rate? (yes)

    Ian – it’s compelling to remove the training rate, is that antiquated or something we have in other areas?

    Sally – this is the last one.

    Dick – is Sally doing negotiating as HR director?

    Sally – a part of the team.

    Dick – why would you be negotiating? Isn’t that a conflict of interest? If employees have problems they come to you. Why not someone else?

    Patrick – she is the HR director and we work closely together in any union negotiation. I specifically work with Sally in communication with the union. I asked her to present the info tonight, but the content is really something that was discussed between myself and selectboard members.


  • MOU with USW to Address Scheduled Night Work – Approve

    Sally – after discussion we look for you approval to add scheduled night work – shift differentials for the USW, and they do night work, so it is an additional $1.20 hr for scheduled night work.


  • Committee Appointments – Planning Commission

    (Note – USW is united steel workers in the above…)

    Patrick – at the end of the fiscal year we ask for new applicants. he had a vacancy and nobody applied, and someone has since applied. Sue asks we appoint Ms. Menard for the remainder of the term. The board can appoint someone anytime. The deadline is for multiple applications at the same time.

    Jess – she’ll sat late and expire when others do…

    Ian – yes.

    Lindsey “Lina” Menard appointed to the Planning Commission

    Liz – she has excellent qualifications, not unlike my own…


    adjourned… (CG: what would happen if some tabled this until the next meeting? Asking for a friend…)

  • well.

    Thanks, Chris. 😀

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