Selectboard Meeting Notes – In-Person Representative Town Meeting, Alcohol Rules Relaxed

selectboard jan 3 2023

The Brattleboro Selectboard held their first regular meeting of the new year, and new Town Manager John Potter was on hand to answer questions and advise the board.

They discussed changes to the liquor license application requirements, backing off a previous BAPC suggestion that hasn’t had the desired results. They also had an extended discussion about the type of Representative Town meeting to hold this year, and heard from the public about homeless people and cold weather.

Comments | 4

  • Preliminaries

    The new year is off to a late start… it is well past 6:15 now and the zoom wheel keeps a spinning’… waiting for the host to start the meeting. Around 6:22 the meeting shows up with audio feedback… 6:24 we get started.

    Chair Ian Goodnow – happy new year. We’ll hopefully have another great year. This is John Potter’s first meeting. He is fully participating as town manager. Direct questions to him if you have them. Be patient and kind. Again, petitions for public officials are available to be picked up at the Town Clerk’s office.

    Town Manager John Potter – Happy new year. Very grateful to be here and working with you. My goal is to provide you with consistent high quality management and full engagement with the comm8unity. I’d like to meet folks around town and would like your guidance as how to do that. Jessica Stickler will not be here tonight. I want to thank her and Patrick for the transition. I’d like to thank the police dept for the response to a potential threat at the high school today. Thanks for string collaboration and communication. One last thing three trees at Pliny Park – they were recently inspected and there are some very close together and to is proposed they get thinned out. The tree Warden will have a public hearing on Thursday here at the selectboard meeting room. If you want to appeal let the tree warden know at the meeting.

    Tim Wessel – welcome and congratulations, and on the correct pronunciation of Pliny Park.

    Liz- what’s wrong with the trees?

    John – too close and need to be thinned for health of the others.

    Jessica Gelter – welcome John. I’ll tell a little story. Christmas weekend was a cold one. On Boxing Day I encountered two folks on the street, one asked for money and said they were surprised I spoke with them. They are homeless and had spent some of the day at Groundworks – open 7-9 pm – but after 9 pm, some go to hotels, the overflow shelter has some beds, and others have nowhere to go. They walked around all night in 15 degree weather. They have been here for a few years now, they hosted an event at the library a few weeks ago. There were no resources available to them to stay warm and safe. Brattleboro has a history of stepping up and helping those in need. We provide money for transport, housing, food, health care, we had a poor farm, and the town should step up in this shortage of shattered beds in the winter and we should use the financial and space resources… can we put this on an upcoming agenda, ideally next week?

    Ian – the item would be to discuss the town response?

    Jessica – the housing emergency.

    Tim – a friendly suggestion? I didn’t expect this… could we include some folks that would give us a feel for what i going on to cause this ongoing problem of a bed shortage?

    Ian – we can see when we can put it on the agenda and look for community members to speak to it…

    Jess – it is our work…

    Daniel – welcome John – I wasn’t going to say anything. I like to move things along. Let’s bring in people who know about the situation – groundworks and state people like Sue Graff, people at SEVCA…

    Ian – public participation…

    Nancy Braus – West B. I want to follow up with what Jessica said. The board got a letter from me about this last week. Te state program is so bogus. There are no rides when you call 211 for rides. States says call 211. It is a bed in Springfield or Bennington. I talk to homeless people. I do talk to them, and not one has been able to say the state offers a ride. The state says no one will freeze to death, but if the lodging is in Rutland and you don’t have transportation. Either we find a warming shelter in Brattleboro, or work to help provide the rides. The next week is ok weather, but it was so cold last week. I saw a woman in the parking lot said she had been walking all night. I wanted to cry. No place for people to go at night. It has to be eradicated. Do we want to read that someone froze to death in town?

    Rikki Risatti – what is the budget to compensate people for people to speak about homelessness experiences?

    Tim – not sure what meeting?

    Rikki – what is the budget to compensate people to compensate people for talking about their homelessness experiences, because … it is an obvious expectation to compensate people for their contributions. I’m recovering from homelessness. I’d expect people to be compensate.

    Ian – if you are referring to the item Jess requested, we wouldn’t compensate anyone to attend – it is an open meeting. We’re talking about hearing from the e regency housing isn’t sufficient.

    Rikki – if you want to accommodate the people living with and recovering from this experience it should be compensated, not just the professionals. Our government aid part of the problem if people aren’t compensated.

    Dale Joy – Two things – a few weeks ago we talked about housing vs recreation and spending $2 million. This is a good reason to sway it to housing. Part of this is, at the same meeting, the Chief of Police talked of people moving to Vermont and not all have a home. Some are camping out. We’ll have more homeless if we don’t get this right. There is a state that gives homeless people the little houses and putting it on public property and they are starting to take care of themselves. It costs more to support the hotels. Maybe we should follow the other model. People are proud of their small homes. Before they had no hope at all. Spend $2 million on permanent housing so people can join back into society. The other thing – a happy new year. I experience red something with the police that was really weird. I was by the Moose lodge, or Elks lodge – there was a person with no coat, no shoes, no noting, and the police officer was walking toward her. I decided there would be some problems. She was deaf. I started signing and found out. WE couldn’t get an interpreter there. The police were excellent , and we signed we can help you. WE tried to figure out where she was from and where she was going… she had an HCRS worker that was off for the day. She was left out.. they gave us the wrong motel to put her in, she had to point it out. HCRS made a mess of it. Police were great. She had stuff stolen from her the night before. It was 2 hours of a mess. I wanted you to be aware.

    Bob Oeser – Hello and happy new year. Te new year looks forward and back.. Looking forward to the Triton report on EMS feasibility. One thing is an option to negotiate a contract with Rescue, but there is a problem. The town and rescue aren’t talking – the relationship has become strained. We’ve seen it before and we’ve worked through it. If you have the option it needs to be on the table and that means we need a relationship with the people of Rescue. It might require a mediator. Could work through some misunderstandings. Wouldn’t it be in the town’s best interest for all options to be on the table. Let’s hope for a happy new year.

    Isaac Evans-Frantz – thanks and welcome. To echo the concerns raised by… I’m in West Brattleboro… tonight I’m grateful for housing and living in a place where people care about shelter for residents and visitors to town. I want to make sure I communicate that people are attempting to access the hotel program and being offered rooms in other towns. If they decline a room it is a mark on them. It is a state level issue, but we can a=ddress it locally. Glad you’ll be taking it up…

    Ian – we’ll consider it and if we put it on the agenda it will be the next available meeting.

  • Consent Agenda

    A. Board of Civil Authority – Appointments

    B. Whetstone Brook Floodplain Restoration – Accept Bid

    Ian – give us one or two lines on these.

    John – two items. The first item – if there are fewer than 3 elected to the board of Civil Authority then the board must appoint some – here are three names. For election purposes only. Second, you will allow the Town Manager to execute a contract for the Birge St floodplain project. Funded by state and federal sources.


  • Liquor License Process – Review

    John – Hilary Francis will present this item. Cassandra Holloway will also join us.

    Hilary Francis – Cassandra was with BAPC. We have some procedural changes we’d like to see happen in the application process, both new and renewals. The board voted on these items in the past, so we wanted to bring them to you. In Nov 2017, the selectboard voted that part of the application process would require a alcohol sales policy submitted to the town clerk’s office. The purpose was that in addition to training, it would be another tool to be aware and compliant with the law. They would sign it each year and date it when they reviewed it. We’ve found is that the Town Clerk has to chase lots of businesses for this.. sticky notes, mailings…some are complying but it is not having the impacts we had hoped. The DEpt of Liquor and Lottery changed their process and no longer accept paper applications, and the portal doesn’t allow for local forms. We’d have to mail it to them. We recommend that you reverse or rescind the vote with BAPC’s blessing to no longer require the alcohol sales policy with the application. BAPC has a sample alcohol sales policy that will get mailed to new applicants. Pause now or keep talking? p[ause…

    Liz McLaughlin – when applicants come before us, can we ask them if they meet with staff each year to review the policy?

    Hillary – you can ask but you probably can’t deny them over it.

    Bob F – you couldn’t deny it.

    Cassandra – the policy is on the webs site- checking ID, fake ID, intoxicated customers, when to contact police, keeping a log – it is a reasonable ask to have this available to be posted for staff. That’s what we’ll recommend. Some info will be in a checklist, and we can recommend trainings. WE have done some and hosted some for restaurants and bars. Now they do virtual trainings. Trainers are really great. The online test is very easy. It’s almost like being there in person with someone. There are posters to mention additional resources. Best practices. If people come in for noncompliance we have many rescuers to support them.

    Ian – why is this coming from the town clerk’s office – the poster…

    Hilary – it creates two processes – the portal doesn’t allow us to distribute information. BAPC will send them info… it streamlines that process.

    Daniel Quipp – I think I get it. Previously the board … BAPC worked with the town clerk to start this process and the selectboard backed you up, but the local provision no longer aligns.

    BAPC – the alcohol policy went back 10 years or so, to Ken Schneck. We worked with the Dept of Liquor Control. Then in 2017 we wondered if people were doing the things we wanted them to do. It’s not really working, so now we want people to post something on the wall.

    Daniel – it is a BAPC thing, not a town clerk thing to follow up on.

    Cassandra – there are more violations for tobacco. They may be picking up on compliance checks. If there is a failure we’ll support them with reminders and resources but would like to support them before violations.

    Hilary – the addendum – the info in it – the purpose was to gather some information, such as prior licenses in other states. Now, due to the portal with the state, we are doing away with some things that requires this addendum. I can ask that question through the portal and include it in the memo I submit to you before you renew it. Everything gets done through the portal.

    ian – questions?

    Tim – no impact on fees?

    Hilary – nope.

    Ian – this is streamlining, right? Easier to comply with the law for businesses?

    Hilary – no action needed, but at some point, we will bring suggested ordinance changes – minor changes coming, such as changing the name to liquor and tobacco, and a he/she to they. But not today. Think of yourselves as liquor and tobacco commissioners.

    Ian – we could do it ahead of time ourselves.

    Liz – I appreciate the work to clarify and streamline.

    Casandra – I had talked about people coming in if they had a violation of any sort, I’d love it if that could continue. 4 out of 9 businesses failed the tobacco check recently. There are training for you commissioners that I can support you with.

    Liz – businesses with violations come before the board.

    Hilary – the first few years I was here it didn’t happen, then you did hear from them for 2-3 years, then COVID happened, so that dropped off and we didn’t see as many violations. It is a board decision to call them in or not.

    Daniel – what’s the process for learning about them?

    Cassandra – on the DLC site

    Daniel – the public can see it.

    Hilary – and they send me as Town Clerk the info from the DLC. I report them to you.

    Liz – the process still exists to notify us if there is a violation? (Yes)

    Ian – then we should talk about what we want to policy to be, in a warned discussion.

    Cassandra – it is good to talk to people close to the time of a violation.

    Hilary – historically our renewals all happen at the same time. In the new process, all renewals will happen at the same time, but a new license approved in September will get renewed in September in the future.

    Requirement of an alcohol sales policy by applicants and elimination of addendum… so rescinded and eliminated.

  • RTM Format – Discussion

    Ian – John?

    John – Patrick put together a great memo… Patrick?

    Patrick – January is a busy month and we prep for the warning of representative town meeting. It involves the town clerk, attorney and moderator. They have discussed whether it will be a hybrid or all in person.None has taken a strong stance, but we have discussed it a bit and think there are challenges and opportunities. If hybrid, we can be more inclusive, and let people decide about risks to the health. Large gatherings can spread disease. At the same time, we all are a hybrid meeting, which we haven’t done, will have real challenges. TV’s work ok in a room of this size, but at the high school gym, they will look really small. That is minor. There could be some challenges for how to combine voting of online vs in-person voting. On zoom, an ordinary vote can be time-consuming. In person can be quick. Standing for a vote can be quick. We could end up with complicated questions if there are 100 in the room and 40 are at home… if 90 people stand, do we even poll those watching virtually? If we do poll them, then people in the room are limited by the speed of the zoom participants. It could be frustrating for all involved. As we prepare, we thought we should hear your thoughts about which way we should be heading.

    Ian – town moderator David Gartenstein is present, and Hilary Francis is here. My thought is we have a sense of the question, so if you have questions for these people, and we can give them direction.

    Liz – can your staff be safe during an in-person meeting?

    Hilary – yes – staff will need to be there either way.

    Daniel – the selectboard makes this decision because of the warning. There was a period we met by zoom by choice, then we decided to come back to meetings in person. Zoom was pretty rough, but safe. The five of us put the warning together but we aren’t the only people impacted. Do RTM members have an opinion. I’ll be there in person.

    Liz – I’ve gotten comments…

    Daniel – I hope we hear from RTM members.

    Jessica – it seems the time it takes would be a big decision point, so I’m curious about how you feel about those voting mechanisms via zoom and what votes might need to be taken. Will it be worth it to take the time.

    David gartenstein – you need to look at why you would have a hybrid meeting – that’s a core part. I think that patrick is correct. Many procedures took longer with a fully remote meeting. I had to time out votes, then give people more time. IT is a reason it was taking longer. It was day and a half meetings… it took much longer. I’m not sure a hybrid meeting will save any time… could take longer to coordinate the two formats. We can get over those hurdles. Other things will be complicated in a hybrid meeting. people want to amend motions, but to coordinate people in the room working with others… points of order, calling the question, will all need to be coordinate. Hard to moderate a hybrid situation. A big concern is people don’t want to participate because it takes too long, Can’t it be 6 hours? We don’t set time limits.

    Hilary – some logistics – priviledged motions, such a point of order… how do we make sure everyone is heard? If it is fully in person, will enough stay away to deny us a quorum… but if the meeting takes two days, will people get frustrated and leave? I don’t know what the answer is. It is challenging but doable either way.

    Daniel – vote tallying – if it is a floor vote and there is an obvious majority – do you still count?

    David – we didn’t count unless there was a division. Because the votes were available last year we tallied them. If the floor vote is clear, do we poll the zoom meeting members? Tough quandary.

    Liz – if we think we can safely have a meeting we should have it. A board member have had covid in the last month and no one else got it. If we can meet safely we should. Some want mask requirements. Our decision should be from a health perspective. People can choose to wear masks.

    David – to follow up, the question of why you’d have a hybrid meeting, but you can’t police how it will be applied. People might stay home because it is easier than coming in. There is no mechanism for policing that, you won’t know how many will be in person. It could be 75 at home and 75 in the room. Authority for a remote meeting is going away. What will you achieve in the end?

    Tim – I feel pretty strongly we should meet in person. I know what is involved with the online meetings and chairing online meetings – the quality of community and spirit is not served by any portion being away from the physical location of the rest of meeting. The choice might become all remote or all in-person, but I don’t see a hybrid working.

    Jessica – I’m in favor of a hybrid meeting, but understand the concerns about knowing who will be at home. Maybe limited specific health concerns and accessibility issues could be allowed, not just anyone.

    Daniel – so you reached out to current RTM members and posed the question…

    Jessica – I got 15 responses out of 140 or so. It was split. If in person, then they wanted to require masks.

    Daniel – I got some emails, too. I’d like to hear from currently elected RTM members.

    Dick Degray -a longtime RTM member – I see five former chairs of the selectboard here tonight. The quality of the RTM meeting is so much better in person. You don’t know what people are paying attention to in remote meetings. Jessica mentioned that we stared with 120 people. If we have a handful that won’t come, will we let a minority dictate what the majority should do. I remember asking about removing the mask mandate. A lot os lost when you can see people when they are speaking and get a sense of the rest of the room I get the health point, we want everyone to be safe. We can wear masks. If you say so we will. If a minority group… we have no idea who will get elected or who will show up, but I highly doubt that will happen. People are busting out to get out. I urge an in-person meeting.\

    Rikki Risatti – I’d like to speak until I yield my time. I’m wondering if rsvp will be sent to district reps to see if they will attend. Jesica’s email was only sent out yesterday. That is a question.

    Ian – a poll.. there isn’t one planned. It is definitely a question. We don’t know everyone who will be an RTM member yet. W did polling with those we knew were Reps when we went remote. This is trickier because we need to warn this before the march election.

    Rikki – I understand reps can be appointed at the last second. The majority are already elected… why not send them a poll.

    Hilary – roughly 1/3 gets elected each year and many are current returning members. WE can’t hold people to how they respond to a poll.

    Liz – did Jess do this?

    Ian – she didn’t send a poll.

    Liz – but she wrote to them..

    Jessica – yesterday

    Daniel – what would you like Rikki?

    Rikki – the moderator proposed letting people indicate a need. We should be entitled to privacy, not a doctors note..we can try to be responsible and try to tell our preferences, but not give up our privacy by responding. I like in person and the body language, but understand the need to attend virtually. WE can still use an icon symbol to indicate they have a point of order or a red X. There was a concern about how the meetings are longer… they are million dollar decisions and they should take some time. Maybe a six hour max each day, but have multiple days. I’ve been in these meetings for 4 years as a non elected member. I’d like to record all the votes and have this published. Our other reps have records. We need to be able to hold people accountable. There are multimillion dollar decisions and loans, the information about how we vote should be accessible and that hasn’t been happening in Brattleboro. Reps should vote digitally and the results should be published. I lied.

    Kate O’Connor – I say, in-person. Prior to the pandemic, no hybrid. People won’t understand the context of your poll question

    David L – I agree with Dick Degray

    Dale Joy – a lot of people are still afraid to come out. I wear a mask year round due to allergies. You should poll. This is supposed to be a democracy. BMH has been full for the last month – we have three viruses now. You should poll. People don’t want to die of a flu. To vote one shouldn’t have to come to a room of coughing people. Democracy and health for everyone. Things are changing and we have to be careful for our health. WE may not be here next year.

    Anne Louise Wagner – RTM member – my experience was meeting on zoom so .. I appreciate the conversation. Hybrid feels like the most responsible choice. It shouldn’t be debated. You’d be eliminating immunocompromised reps or others. Shutting them out seems the opposite of what RTM is all about. I agree that disclosure is not the route to share personal info around their choice, and I’m not a tech person who can support the zoom process, but I do see the way we’ve invested in trying to make this more accessible to more people. It would be a step back not to offer a hybrid this season.

    Tim – some additional thoughts… on the health perspective – are the conditions vastly different now than when we did the virtual meetings – yes, we have vaccines and treatments and leanings and countermeasures to keep us safer. None of our criteria for mask wearing currently exists – hospitalizations, deaths, outcomes… those outcomes don’t exist. We can reassure some people by having air flow and spacing. If you are sick you should be wearing a mask. We should heavily encourage testing right before the meeting. We don’t go if we test positive. Tests are in good supply. if you are uncomfortable serving, it is not your year to serve. Our decision doesn’t effect the general public who can watch the meeting on BCTV. And can attend in person, a few… the representative part – people make decisions all the time not to run, or sit in an uncomfortable chair. If you are uncomfortable, then it might not be your time to serve. It’s great when it functions well. I can’t get excited about a hybrid or all online model. The good communication happens in the room.

    Cassandra -I’m wearing a mask because I was at a party in NYC and want to be safe. I’ve been a town rep. I found the unperson meeting went too long and people left and it wasn’t representing the community. And the zoom meeting was even worse for trusting voting decisions. We get a lot out of reading the room, taking a break to talk, and community, so I’d love to see it in person. You could have a masked section. We could be more careful, but I was discouraged by people leaving at the end of the meeting.

    Millicent Cooley – Thanks. I’m a rep. I’m in favor of meeting in person. I have only been a rep while on zoom. I’ve also worked over zoom. Comfortable with it, but in this situation I’ll know the community better if we are in person, and that is important. That there are so many people I don’t know. There is a lot we can do to make it safe.

    Rick Morton – current rep and chair of the caucus – I was on the steering committee while it was functional and we did a survey – we asked for reactions to RTM. One criticism was the length and that it took two days. I want to serve again. despite that. People should be able to observe through zoom but not participate. The classic new england democracy is to meet in a room and discuss it, and go away friends and neighbors. I’m concerned that people might become new members – if they hear how long it took – might not bother with it. We could lose some vitality. We should accommodate concerns about health. But, I am in favor of in person voting and zoom for observing.

    Daniel – it is broadcast on BCTV and you can watch it. Having it on zoom… what’s the point if it is on BCTV?

    Rikki – I feel angry and disgusted how there is this gatekeeping in so many ways – Tim says if you don’t like it don’t participate – that ableist discrimination – you should be more accommodating of a more diverse audience. We should have more comfortable chairs. I’d love for the public to be able to watch and speak and not just watch.

    Ian – difficult decision and we’ve heard a lot, David, when i comes to all of the procedural hurdles to overcome. When you combine all of them and all that time, would they together effect the process and impact people’s ability to participate.

    David – I don’t know. The criticism is how long the meeting took. Hybrid would probably take even longer.

    Ian – there is a silencing when things take too long. People self-censor to shorten things. If it would take even longer with a hybrid meeting…

    David – I think, not certain…

    Jessica – can people participate hybrid with a proxy in the room?

    Town Attorney Bob – no proxies in the Charter. Charter says all reps must attend the meeting. If we have it in-person, there is the ability for a legal voter to speak at it… if broadcast by BCTV. Non voters can ask to speak.

    Daniel – I was talking with a state rep about this and the legislature had the ability to do remote voting but this session they are going in-person, and if not in the room you don’t get to vote. One of our goals is to look at things through an equity lens – we have to transact the business and it helps to do it as quickly as it takes. I can think of some people who will not feel comfortable attending in person, and it makes me reluctant to say this is an unperson meeting. If we go that way, I’m sorry.

    Degray- if the provision for zoom meetings have gone away why even disco it. Could someone file suit for having a zoom meeting? If it were hybrid and I’m on zoom but the body votes and he doesn’t take the zoom votes, can we have legal recourse?

    Bob – you can have a hybrid meeting. It is the board’s warning. Their choice. As for skipping votes…I don’t see legal recourse. If the moderator skipped the zoom members but not the room, a decision of the moderator can be appealed.

    Daniel – one ramifications of the long meeting was continually calling the question, almost before any discussion. I’m torn what the right thing to do it.

    Cassandra – maybe everyday test beforehand and have sections for people who don’t go out much… talk to the people with concerns and address them

    Ian – we’ll warn the meeting – can we decide the masking and other stuff later?

    Bob – it can be much closer to RTM, depending on the virus.

    Daniel – I appreciate the harm reduction Cassandra suggests. Tests may or may not give you an accurate result. There is always a risk, so this is harm reduction.

    Dale – the risk is higher – the vaccines are missing things, people are getting he blow clots 1-2 years after a shot. You are at a higher risk, between the vaccines causing people … it is science Tim, I’ll show it to you. A lot of people are still leery.

    Jessica – zoom increases accessibility and we should continue with the learning.

    Franz Reichsman – I do know something of the subject. No evidence that the vaccines cause problems for enough people. There are rare complications outweighed by the complications from the disease. Concerns about blood clots? Don’t get COVID. But… do we want to interfere with the transition of Vermonters giving each other illnesses. COVID was different for sure, but as it has gone on and at this point it is hard to measure the severity of illness right now. Like any other decisions… it isn’t an equity decision. Everyone gets to make that decision or themselves. That’s always a consideration with human interaction. I like sitting at home for RTM near the fridge, I do appreciate the in person meeting.

    Ian – we’ve talked this one through so some final thoughts? I think we should decide tonight so the organizers have the time they need.

    Motion – by Liz – a motion to have an in-person town meeting with safety measures TBD. 4-1 Jess against.

    Time for their break, and I’ll call it quits for the evening. Next up is random budget items.

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