Selectboard Meeting Notes – We Said We Wanted Public Input on ARPA Funds, But Not Really

brattleboro selectboard oct 23

The board discussed many things Tuesday but their extended ARPA discussion seemed more like an extended discussion about problems they had with public input on ARPA possibilities.

“I don’t care what the public thinks or the town staff think,” declared Franz Reichsman. “I have a problem having this list from the public be our starting point,” said Liz McLoughlin repeatedly.  Chair Ian Goodnow tried in vain to remind them that they had promised an open public process.

Comments | 9

  • Preliminaries

    Chair Ian Goodnow – I have one remark. Iwanted to thank Mr Degray for all his years of service and am sorry to see you are done doing flowers but Brattleboro has been so beautiful for the work you have done for so many years.

    John Potter – The skating rink is opening this Saturday. Gibson Aiken will be open for after school programs next Monday. Rec and Parks is working on halloween celebrations downtown. 6pm Horribles parade. BHS band will lead it. Also Goats in Costume. Pretty big evening. The ski, skate and snowboard sale in in November. Human Services Committee will have a meeting for applicants tomorrow. Appreciation for Washington St residents to clean up an abandoned campsite. Just prior to the meeting, the second of two public forums held to collect info on food farm assessment. LED lighting of six town buildings is ahead of schedule.

    Liz McLoughlin – I saw the Strong Towns video and it is a really great little video with an interesting planning perspective. Available online.

    Franz Reichsman – fun things to do – do a walking tour of Main Street offered by Sunrise Rotary – two tour guides spent an hour an a half telling us interesting Brattleboro history tours. Sign up on Trip Advisor. Also, come to my office hours. That’s fun, too.

    Ian – the walking tour was great.

    Public participation


  • Consent Agenda

    A. Municipal Planning Grant Consortium Application for Cultural Plan – Authorize Application

    B. Water Tank Engineering Service Agreement – Authorize $56,000 Contract

    C. Free Parking for Holly Days – Authorize

    Potter summarizes each of them.

    Ian – we don’t take public participation during the consent agenda.

    Dick Degray – normally you ask the audience if you want to pull something. I ask you to pull the free parking.

    Franz – let’s pull the parking item.

    Ian – we don’t have a vote on pulling the item.

    Franz – suppose someone wanted to say the cultural events reminded them of the Lit Fest, could they say it?

    Ian – request to pull it, or speak in remarks

    Franz – then I won’;t speak of how great the Lit Fest was…

    Peter Case – can we request something be put back on the consent agenda?

    Ian – I think the goal is to not be contentious, and pulling things allows for additional discussion. If you didn’t like it, you could speak to the current agenda motion and encourage people to vote it down.

    Case – hard to pull without explanation, so I urge not to pass the amended agenda.

    Franz – so it would go back to the original agenda?

    Ian – I’m enjoying this process intrigue so early. Any other discussion?

    Liz – I’m unclear.

    Ian – He’s requesting we don’t pull the item.

    Case – we always do this for downtown merchants, and not knowing why…

    Ian – Franz pulled it.

    Franz – if the public wants to speak to it it should be pulled.

    Liz – so it isn’t eliminating it…

    Ian – so we have a motion pending to approve 3-1 (No Daniel tonight). A divided vote on the Consent agenda. New for me.

    Other two items, so consented… parking now at the end of the agenda.

  • Charter Review Commission

    Ian – you gave us a memo…

    Maya Hasagawa – I’m the vice chair of the revision commission. Kate O’ Conner is the Chair.

    (Joy and Hannah join her.)

    Maya – we were appointed in Dec 2022 and we’ve met 6 times and so far we’ve done a line by line review of the current charter with Bob Fisher. It took a couple meetings. Over the summer Kate and I reviewed the work of previous commissions – 80, 96, and 2011. The summary documents are on the town website on our page. In Sept. we heard from department heads and Ian and Franz were there. The staff did a good job. They went through with a fine tooth comb and pointed out a lot of things we hadn’t thought of before. Our next meeting is Oct 26 here at 6:15pm. Main business is to review staff comments. Our goal is to arrange them into topics, so we can have meetings on each topic. We want to have each topic announced in advance. Oct will be another work session. In Nov, we’ll discuss town committees and whether they should still be in the Charter, how they are appointed, etc. All meetings are on zoom and we want public participation. One problem with previous commissions was that there wasn’t a lot of public participation.

    Ian – thanks for the presentation. Just for some more context for the public, the Charter Review Commission is appointed every 15 years to recommend changes and then it needs to be approved and made law by the legislature. We’re in that process right now. Thanks for coming to hear from us. If there are things you want them to discuss or review, discuss it now.

    Liz – thanks for your service. I thought it interesting staff spoke with you. I’d like to learn more about what they found. No specific comments or concerns.

    Franz – As I spoke at the meeting of your group, the thing that most attracts me – I think where the town is heading with Representative Town meeting. I’ve been doing it 30 years and it has changed a lot. You used to have to run and do work to get elected. This days aren’t with us anymore. Every year we are trying to scrape up people to appoint at the last minute. And meetings have gotten longer and harder to manage. Is there some change or something we should do to strengthen it? That’s the issue I’m concerned about. Also, public participation… an understanding of what is at stake would get the participation you seek. Maybe your own reasons for getting involved – the things you are looking at? Perhaps that would spark interest.

    Maya – Kate has taken about doing som sort of article for the Reformer and Commons about the commission and its members. Something we’ve thought about. Also, we want our meetings getting noticed and more publicity for the meetings. People…. (Peter Elwell joins them)

    Elwell – I’m a member of the chart review commission.

    Franz – can I grill them – just say a few ways on why you decided to join – it might let people see why it is significant.

    Hannah – we have a good selection of people. I joined to be more part of Brattleboro. I have a legal background and strong writing skills. I don’t have strong feelings about RTM at all.

    Denise Glover, David Gartenstein and others on the committee join the conversation.

    They explain why they think they would be good on the committee.

    Ian – you spoke to one thing – whether you would identify certain issues for the public to know about in advance – you are going to do that.

    Maya – previous commissions didn’t publish agendas in public. Some had no agendas… they just met and talked about things randomly. We decided to have subject specific meetings.

    Ian – second thing, I hear a lot about RTM and so I would encourage you to have a couple of meetings on RTM and get some participation from current and previous RTM members. If you review the Charter and justify it and it is the same, then it is a success. It has been reviewed! RTM I’d put an asterisk next to it. Finally, for me, I’d like to encourage a meeting about the selectboard. Discuss the number of members and the role of the Chair. I have no position….

    Liz – seeing peter I was reminded that you spoke of the big picture of the Charter and all the there charters in the state and some innovations we may consider.

    Elwell – a subset will be working on a deep dive into other charters.

    Dick Degray – thanks for serving. I was on the board for the last review. Couple of things – the size of RTM. I do remember when multiple people ran for the limited number of spots. Now we are lucky to get to 50%. Awe have to take a hard look at it. There is a heavy recruitment process. We are recruiting people of like minded thought, and that’s not good for the town. We need to look at that and say it’s not a good process for the town. We could reduce the number. More are coming with a personal agenda rather than representing. each district should have meetings other than RTM, with public forums to have the district come together and discuss. That doesn’t happen no – gathering thoughts. Nothing in the Charter says we should do this – I’d hope you’d reduce the number and add meetings to meet with reps. We have no language about Rooms and Melas tax or any other potential taxes. The state takes more because this isn’t in our Charter. We don’t get the full 1% because the state collects it. If we had language that we collect it ourselves, we’d get more money in here. We should get $ for cannabis sales. I’m looking for charter language to implement the sales tax ourselves and keep the revenue here.

    Liz – Tim Wessel did jump up and down and we get 1% because of our 1% sales tax.

    Ian – if you want to come back again and speak on progress and additional feedback, we’d be more than like to have you. Appreciate you all coming.

  • B. Quarterly Financial Report (FY24 Jul.-Sept.) (7:05 PM)

    Ian – I’ll invite Kim Frost to join us.

    Kim Frost – It’s a quarterly report. Something we are trying to implement going forward if everyone is OK with it. Look at finances from a policy level. We also have open gov coming fast. We can push reports out whenever people want it. Not exactly there yet. To be transparent. This report is for us to talk about trends and one-offs . Something we see coming down the pike. We are looking at finances in Department head meetings. We manage them at a different level than you. This is all new policy and procedures for us, and open gov coming down the pike… we can always go back if you don’t like it.

    Kim – this is our first quarterly report. 25% of the year. Nothing out of the oridinary. Things moving smoothly. Regular reports are included. Loan report has $4mil+ in outstanding loans. Fund balance has town funds… grant report has 31 active grants.

    Ian – thank you very much. Two elements to discuss – any questions on the report, and also about the shift to quarterly reports from monthly reports. Stick with monthly?

    Liz – I’m in favor of the quarterly. Could you show us a trend example?

    Kim – uh… I guess if all of a sudden a specific expense – diesel fuel prices going up… we could show that more on a quarterly report than on a monthly report.

    Franz – two things – when I spoke with John yesterday i went over my thoughts. I’m not against the quarterly report. It would be nice to have a bit more of a written narrative – trends you’ve noticed or what you are thing about at the moment, with highlights worth noting and red flags that pop up. Also, I realize there is quite a bit I’m not familiar with – funds, and grants and loans… there is a lot of details but I don’t know what all these funds are, and it adds up to a fair amount of money. I don’t know how they get used, or… it would be nice to have an explanation of the funds and loans that are in arrears. And grants, some aren’t clear – when it comes to the general fund we know it, but some of these other areas are less clear. Ok to try out quarterly schedule, or cadence, and see how it goes.

    Ian – for myself, I support quarterly, if it could be more of a presentation – show off Open Gov that we we spent so much money on – have a more robust quarterly discussion. I super support that. If there is a fire happening in the finance dept, that would come in a quarterly report. We wouldn’t want to sit on something 3 months, so if you’d bring red flags to us sooner, then the quarterly report wouldn’t address those things.

    Kim – I agree with everything you said. If there are red flags, you will not wait. If we see a trend, we’ll alert you. We are gearing up for more transparency and discussions of trends, not just a budget status report. We’ll learn al that Open Gov has and can do. We’ll see it and learn it together. That’s my intent is to take suggestions and move forward with them and have the conversation at a higher level.

    Ian – if we can also make sure the reports are really accessible on the new website and hold a similar format so people can cross reference historically. It would be helpful for RTM. It’s tricky to take 12 months of monthly reports and get a picture.

    Kim – the idea with Open Gov is we can look real time at finances on the web site.

    Degray – I was Chair when we started the monthly reports. We were having financial issues. I can go along with quarterly reports. If this will be on the web page, in real time.

    Kim – there will be quarterly reports we bring here, but the web site will have current live info, from what I understand, from the training they showed us at training last week, it will all be online.

    Degray – if you see an issue, you will alert John? How will that work?

    Kim – we are in constant contact daily. I’d bring it to him right away.He’d convey it to the board.

    Degray – I have a concern the board stays informed. Good to get more info about funds for the public.

    Ian – the board should be trained on Open Gov. So we can look at finances in real time whenever we want to, if we know how to use it. Maybe do a more broad event at the library to show all the ways to access the info. It justifies us spending the money and lets people see the tool.

    John – we could do it as a study session and put a link on the website.

    quarterly report approved 4-0

  • Fire Department Monthly Report Including an EMS Update

    Ian – clunky agenda item report. First report since the selctboard’s decision to move forward. There was an implementation discussion, and I requested that the EMS and FD update gets combined. Report is a bot different now, and will change going forward.

    Chief Howard – (reads memo) since the approval we ordered three ambulances and one was delivered last week and the others should arrive in July. We have advertised for our new positions, and have one offer to someone. Three more exams next week. Got more applications – 10 applications in all. WE have 6 coming back for in-person oral boards. Applying for state approvals. Looking good. Of the funds you’ve given us, we put a deposit on two ambulances and purchased the one Type 3 ambulances. Spent $342k so far.

    AC Kier – The data you have is inaccurate. A computer glitch. It is not very accurate, but the table you see in green is very accurate and up to date. The data for 2024 is very misleading. I’ll send the correct data to you and the public.

    Ian – we’ll keep this and the amended…

    ACKier – (reads memo…) This is a summary of info we shared previously. The table on the left will stay the same, for comparisons.

    Ian – thanks for your reports.

    Franz – I had done a little calculation using the wrong numbers. Redoing it… it would be worrisome if it were a trend the percentage of non-transported events. Almost 10% increase here comparing FY23 to FY24… something I’ll keep an eye on. Are people calling for ambulances when they don’t need them? We are part of District 13, right? I was looking at this late, but there is statewide district by district look at state regions… we kinda made our decisions on ethics. Interesting to see this is a serious discussion at the state level.

    Chief – the 3rd party service was hired to look at areas for the state – Chester was near us. Good discussion back and forth from all parties that were there. We are staying in tune with it and will have reps there if they have more meetings.

    Franz – seems Brattleboro would be the hot topic? What went on?

    AC Kier – it was a topic – they are focusing on regions – the Vermont region, not regional models. Dispatching issues, mental health issues, mutual aid… there were points the vendor wanted to get across – they were looking at a report to push to the state on needs for the region of Vermont.

    Chief – we have a hospital in town. In Whit River, it takes them a long time to get to calls then long time to get to a hospital. So that’s the thing the study is looking and and how can we help those areas?

    Franz – I could see them being interested in that.

    Ian – for me, I want to touch base on need for mutual aid cover. We had four of them last year and have had three already this year.. what’s the difference?

    Chief – mutual aid cover – if we use all three ambulance, we call for a cover ambulance. if one frees up, they can return. This weekend we had two fires, so we started a cover right away. It’s gonna vary but trying to be more proactive.

    Franz – Mutal Aid is you use them, metal aid cover is they are alerted…

    Liz – non transports.. I recall a point at which people would have the freedom to not require an ambulance…

    Chief – they have to be able to answer for themselves

    Liz – there may be instances where transport isn’t required.

    Chief -if we go to an car accident and all refuse treatment, we file a state report.

    Degray – a non monetary question. Looking at the list of calls, give examples of general illness and unknown medical? What’s that?

    Chief – a fever, or UTI, a headache… Unknown is we get calls before people tell us the details.

    Degray – are they more likely to not ride to the hospital? Where is the untransported coming from?

    Chief – mental health – falls.

    Ian – comments to 3 minutes please.

    Bob Oeser – the way I understand the municipal EMS concept is we need a sufficient force to respond t fires, then they could respond to EMS when not fighting fires. The new ad was sing use for paramedics… not firefighters. Is that a change in focus?

    Chief – six positions will be sole positions, to help get paramedic force up in numbers, then we’ll send people to the paramedic school every year. Then we’ll train more. That’s the agreement with the union.

    Franz – people not firefighters would become firefighters once on staff?

    Chief – that’s true – easier for us to train them to fight fires.

    accepted 4-0

  • Process to Develop State Policy Priorities

    Ian – so, I’ll start this off. Ok board. We’ll discuss something exciting. We haven’t had a discussion like this. I’d like to frame it. Over my four years there have been conversations about where the municipal power is limited or outside of our scope. Instead of passively acknowledging that, it makes sense to engage the legislative delegation on some of these issues to help Brattleboro address some issues in the community. This started with a meeting with the delegation – Bratt reps and Windham Co reps. – a lot of the issues we perceive and experience, the delegation is working on a lot of them. Not new to them. Well hear from them on the 7th on Nov. We want to make some priorities What we want to see happen at the state level. We have a list town staff has generated, and the board can discuss a process to choose a few and work on language to hand them off to reps in Montpelier, to give them to use as a tool. We have some issues the staff have generated, we can speak to additional ones, and then the public. We can generate priorities and nail down 5-7 for the reps in November. There is a long list so we need to be clear and specific.

    John Potter – You’ve all read the list of problems – 9 major categories – any problems in these categories missing or new problems? We’ve had some feedback on issues not listed, like high overdose rates. We can add suggestions, and we could have a survey for the selctboard.

    Liz – what we are doing is listening to the public because you want selectboard input after we’ve heard all that?

    Ian – on the 7th, the public can advise on priorities. If you don’t like the process, propose another one.

    Franz – I don’t like it. Well, I do, but I’d add to it… this is ongoing and not a one time thing. Establish a good relationship with the delagation.

    Liz – not just sending them to the library to meet with you? Heh. I assume our Town manager would discuss with VLCT would discuss similar issues so we’d have strength of numbers in towns. We also need an indication of the popular support of these priorities.

    Ian – I disagree – if you look at the issues the staff suggested, some are Town priorities and we are the policy directors of the Town so we do speak in that voice first. It came up in Franz and my meeting with he delegation. Is school board consultation something the town is prioritizing? No. But the Town is. (Cap T vs lower case T)

    Peter – the board has a responsibility to speak to them all. We are still residents. But here at this table we have some amplification.

    Ian – yeah, we hold bth. So, for ME, I’d like to add overdose rates in Brattleboro. So, there are some here. I’d would want to change the language of the phrasing of some of these, but not tonight. I’m a criminal defense attorney and could spend time on the criminal justice items here, but not good use of our time. We can discuss it if it arises to the delegation.

    Liz – that’s why I said tonight we listen.

    Franz – I numbered the different items – if we add it in we’d have 23. Some are closely linked. Overdose rates and drug treatment are linked. They get bundled together. Prioritizing and melding – organizing not wordsmithing.

    Ian – we can meld them on the 7th.

    Franz – some of the drug things go together… so we can plan.

    Liz – I thought we were giving feedback to town manager prior to the 7th.

    Franz – a couple of things are easy or not important – school board consultation – they should just do that. Do we need that as a priority?

    Ian – yes, we can not things as the delegation is here.

    Franz – car service support? Uber or taxi? Legislators don’t have a role in that.

    Liz – I went through and put them in two menus. One is higher priority.

    Franz – good way to start.

    Ian – they are all issues. They are all things. Things we hear.

    Franz – lots of thoughts on all these issues… panhandling. Week in and week out. This is a constitutional issue – – there are things we can’t legally do. We and the state are restrained. Not sure what we’d tell them, even tough it is a big issue for the town.

    Ian – if that issue were one that bubbled to the top, then we have an interesting conversation with that. We want to develop a list of priorities we could have some success on.That’s how I’m thinking about it.

    Peter – the more we discuss this, it shows we are paying attention and trying to resolve the issue. We’re all a little stymied.

    Ian – I hope in our next discussion we recognize a lot of these require more than municipal support.

    Liz – there are legal definitions for panhandling that we can provide to the public, and we can provide our perspective.

    Ian – an agenda item! The agenda setting committee has heard.

    Franz – some things we do want to include – drug issues, treatment, overdose deaths, safe injection sites, safe use sites – those need to be in the discussion. Drugs and criminality – not sure but maybe eviction services

    Ian – enhanced drug treatment under drug crisis and treatment?

    Franz – overdose and treatment go together. Addiction services, if it need state action. Not sure how it worked in Bennington. I’m interested, but not sure about the state role.

    John Potter – the focus was on perceived problems, not the solution. Some lead down different paths for legislative solutions. Grouping might be good at the next stage. Let’s look at collective thinking of the board.

    Liz – we got a nice example of a drug court in Rutland – diversion to treatment is something our town really needs.

    Ian – on the 7th, w could have our list and one is enhanced drug treatment – maybe we amend our policy to say we’d like to see a drug court in Windham County.

    Potter – if they come out as a priority for the board, we may need to have lots of discussion. is there a legislative solution to this? It’s an ongoing conversation. Just getting us started on this path. What should we spend time on?

    Liz – we could have a drug court without legislative action?

    Peter – that’s something we can do…

    Liz – could you look into the legality of that.

    Potter – its that is a priority for you all I’d do that.

    Franz – now we talk about courts. Repeat offenders, Parole reform. Bail reform. Those are all related to what happens in court. That does fall under legislative purview. They are all important and should be discussed with legislators. A number one priority.

    Ian – other discussion, then let’s hear from the public about things aren’t represented here? This will all come up again on the 7th.

    Franz – One other thing to mention – we got some emails focusing on the community safety review process. People saw criminal justice being highlighted. I responded that it wasn’t what tonight’s meeting was about. People tuning in with that topic in mind, we are feeling our way and how to address things with legislators. Not ignoring community safety issues…

    Tracey – you are looking for input – how about a website poll for list of priorities – top 10-15 and let people prioritize. People don’t have time to come discuss. Let them vote on a poll on a website.

    John – if the board wants that, it might affect the timeline to do that. It wouldn’t be a scientific survey. It would be self-selecting.

    Franz – it would be a good idea. Shouldn’t be too hard to put together and put together some words.

    Ian – I’m not sure it isn’t a big deal if I’m not doing it.

    Liz – I thought we should have public interest at the meeting. Maybe we get lots of input on the 7th.

    Franz – Not sure survey would be useful after the Nov 7.

    Ian – for the public sake – we’ve never done this before. Trying to nail down a process that makes sense. We need to give staff clear direction. If it is clear, then we are done, or maybe there is a lot more work to be done.

    Franz – I’d support doing it now, then. It’s good to reach out.

    John – hear from the public, then decide…

    Lisa Kinkade – one thing – if you could maybe talk about is holding the hotel owners accountable for the safety and drug activity in the hotels. There are children around. There needs to be accountability for conditions as well. Work on that with legislators. There is no accountability to keep us safe. It would be awesome.

    Ian – thanks Lucy.

    Degray – a couple of things – the school appointment committee – I know it is part of the Charter. It is a moot point and doesn’t take a lot of time. two appointments in 15 years. Shouldn’t be on the list. The other thing is we had a merchant meeting and the eviction issues by landlords is a cumbersome and difficult process. Landlords speaking on that issue should be on the list. Getting bad tenants out should be a priority. The transportation issues – it is a couple of people. Not state role, but it is a problem in town to not have transportation. A town issue.

    Ian – the town has roles to play in a lot of these. There are a lot of issues and roles on every level.

    Franz – you live on Frost and could pick up people at the train station…

    John G – It is me, Robin Morgan – the intention of having the recommendations is to get help addressing things you aren’t able to address – for legal reasons, ro too big to address – that should be the priority. What are the things that are most deeply impacting us that we have barriers to addressing – poverty, housing struggles, substance use, mental health care. Those are the underlying problems. Many of the other items are because of these four. The root causes. Dress them to alleviate the other problems. Also, I appreciate a letter from Megas-Russell – she said my sincere hope and ask is that when these are discussed, that folks and town leaders look at root causes and the framing – the current list show a bias in what is the problem, for property and business owners primarily. The power dynamics are going un-addressed. …” The way these problems are described and causes are ascribed without basis – panhandling isn’t a root cause of substance abuse issues.

    Ian – I’m moving on…

    Franz – there is a semi-medical analogy of symptoms and root causes. Both are important. Root causes can take a long time. Symptoms van also be addressed. Don’t have to pick one or the other. I think as aboard member I’m looking for answers in all those directions rather than one or the other.

    Kathryn Parlin – thanks. I appreciate the time you put in. It’s a real challenge. Lots of personal time. I’m a researcher and have been doing it long enough to know some basic stuff. I’m concerned about the list – perceptions are not reality. What evidence do we have that these are major issues. Criminals not in jail long enough? Do we know that is an issue? It might not be a serious issue for us as a town. I’m concerned about wording. basing this on perceptions concerns me as an approach.

    Ian – I appreciate the criticism. I have issues with some wording. Maybe we can work on ways to start the discussion differently next time. This is the first time we tried to have this discussion. To start getting at the totems on the paper, that we could get help with.

    Liz – the word perception – this document was framed that way. People push back on it, that people experiencing crime is a perception. It is a reality. It can be proven by crime statistics and people.. the bail issue has a basis in reality. We can add reality to this list of perceived perceptions to get our point across that we need help with these issues. It would be stringer, so I appreciate the comments to allow us to make a stringer final document/pitch to the legislators. People in Brattleboro need to be safe. There are victims of all sorts in the community.

    Franz – I second all those comments – a plea for data. Finding data can be difficult, but if it is out there it would be great to have. I’d love to see numbers on some of these problems.

    Peter – when we know something is happening, do we need data? We all get emails and stopped on the street. Not perceptions, they are actually happening. Data shouldn’t slow down the process.

    Liz – there is a counter narrative about perception – not my perception or yours.

    Peter – one letter in the paper is reflective of the whole town. But these things do happen. WE need to address it. I feel fairly comfortable with this process. These things move slowly. It takes more than 5 people to carry it.

    Ian – should we send a survey before the next meeting? I don’t think I want to put it out with this language as is. If we do that and have 12-15 items, and I feel better about it, it would be fine with me to then put it out.

    Peter – it spans narrative, reality and perception.

    Ian – next meeting will be on the 7th with the delegation and a narrowed list, with all of these items for discussion again.

    Peter – will we work on wording?

    Ian – each board member can, then we’ll work on it at the next meeting.

    Potter – I may ask for adjustmentsto the language.

    Ian – ok, we’re over on our break time. Back at 8:40.

  • Budget Planning

    Ian – let’s look at the list of service initiatives and give feedback. If you just look you’ll see all sorts of expansions and additional personnel. We want to identify the ones you’d like to see, so when we look at the budget, we can look with these initiatives and without them. Staff can come and discuss later if we like the ideas.

    Potter – we started FY25 budget in the spring. Several improvements were decided – better software and consolidated info. The Finance committee weighed in, asking for more input earlier and more engagement on ARPA funds. In June you asked for Open Gov financial software. In August staff had a draft budget process with improvements and goals. You adopted it in September. Now we are fully engaged in the process for FY25. On Thursday the 28th staff held the first budget enhancement open house and departments presented information about what they planned to continue and what to stop. All available of budget project webpage. Staff took feedback at the open house. Town may not be able to afford any of them, but not for deciding tonight. In Nov we’ll have a draft budget with service reductions, the tax impact, and alternatives for new or enhanced services. It would be helpful to get feedback on any initiative you want to hear more, or not hear more, about. If anything is missing let us know. We may not afford any of these but that can be decided later. Ewe wanted to show the fullest list possible as early as possible.

    Ian – thanks. So, no motion just discussion. What would stop the board from saying do it all?

    John – you can do that and we’d show expected costs at budget time.

    Liz – can we do this as we did the previous action – just send things to the TM? I like all except I don’t agree library is best place for a social worker. FD or PD is more appropriate. I don’t want the library bogged down. Also, with self-checkout. Starr said one benefit is the human contact. Mechanizing hat reduced the contact.

    Ian – we don’t have to do them all. Just wanted to know if it was an option.

    Franz – I did run up a total for the median figure if we did it all – $950k..

    Ian – we could consider them all later.. not that we’d do them all..

    Franz – this isn’t context free. We should look at things in detail if people want to do that. None of these are bad ideas, but some are particularly good ideas – an IT coordinator position to provide cyber security for the town. To make sure we aren’t shut down by someone who will unlock them for $10 million. We need to provide that security ourselves. Cybersecurity has to be at the top of the list. The other one is alternatives to traditional policing. There have been many voices advocating for not sending armed police to every call. A less threatening response.

    Liz – I had a speaker with the speaker of the house and she said the state had lots of money. First see if the state of Vermont can give us the money.

    Ian – if the state can fund it, can you tell us before the budget discussing?

    Potter – the best we can do, but maybe not a final answer.

    Liz – it would be about eligibility.

    Ian – HR asking for a social worker, and there is funding available, then that informs us about making budget funds.

    Potter – we can work on finding opportunities. This is a way to do something immediate.

    Liz – we should find out what the state is offering and VLCT… I want the process to go forward before we spend our own money needlessly.

    Franz – do we have the adequate capability to track down source of funding. Not so good for adding positions. But if the Speaker told you they have lots of money, we should take advantage of it. How do we go after that money? And then can we put that money to good use.

    Liz – another big state priority is housing. State funding for housing is a state priority. It would be short-sighted t spend the ARPA funds without asking what the state can do.

    Ian – we’d like to add, then, to see something for aid in accessing state funding – getting out there and getting the money. How are we best using taxp[ayer dollars. Amplify them by getting additional state funding.

    Liz – we had contemplated some form of grants manager.

    Potter – we mostly have department heads going for grants now. It takes a lot of work. We track them, but we don’t go out looking for them.

    Liz – VLCT is a resource for the.

    Ian – the board would like to see this. It could be a consultant.

    Potter – Sue Fillion has looked at some contract solutions to this.

    Ian – I know we are good at getting grants. Not saying we aren’t doing it. How can we improve it.

    Liz – this is a once in a lifetime occurrence now. It needs to be done in the next year or two, and then not… the money will be gone.

    Peter – looks good. A lot of this can be contracted out.

    Ian – for HR based compensation study, would that make union negotiations easier?

    Potter – (yes, in three years) – we’d know how we compare with others. Recruitment and aeration are ongoing issues and other municipalities are doing a lot in this space.

    Franz – can Open Gov help with that?

    Potter – we’d need help.

    Ian – so I see us moving to do them all. Will we have a proactive budget discussion if we have all these items?

    Potter – it makes i t more difficult. You might want long meeting on theses topics, or finding additional time.

    Frank – a few involve social work. Rather than have many, maybe we make it more centralized .

    Ian – the HR social worker is an initiative. That removes the other social work one for right now.

    Franz – I’d put it in the police department.

    Liz – just take a few words out

    Ian – that’s one item. I’, going to identify the compensation study as one we should do. The other one for me, so like, one of the DPW positions.

    Liz – the town should whittle this down and come back to us.

    Peter – I don’t diss that approach. It’s a way for the guys who execute the plan to create the plan.

    Potter – we wanted more participation before it comes through my office.

    Liz – part time town clerk hours. Adding another half position seems like a no brainer. I want them all except the first two. Unless staff has a refined plan of what is realistic.

    Franz – I value perspective of town administration.

    Potter – so work with dept heads and come back with a refined list.

    Ian – social worker, IT coordinator, DPW… as specific ones, but yeah. Compensation study. Additional grants…

    Liz – didn’t we hire additional custodians?

    Potter – yes.

    Ian – public?

    Franz – nice paragraph about saving money at the end. If there is a way to expand that list. The idea that we are spending energy cutting back on things not needed anymore, or rearrange things to be more efficient.

    Potter – this is the result of that exercise. If the board has ideas, it would be great to hear them.

    Franz – hard to come up with that list, but we should think along those lines.

    Potter – a lot of this is shifting priorities around with Full Time Employees

    Ian – i just googled conflicts of interest. My wife did a program for Rec and Parks so I’d recuse from a vote on spring roller skating programs. Public? (9:20 pm)

    Degray – I’m concerned when I talked to department heads and all said staffing increases. There is no total for the staffing increases. It’s a high number! I’d think John would have told them that this isn’t the year for it. I don’t see any discussion of the capital plan. You have the ability to adjust it. This budget seems to be… wow… from my guess. The things I hear most is that we are becoming unaffordable.

    Ian – yes – asking for additional work to see the impacts doesn’t mean we’ll go forward with any of them. The base increase may be all the board is willing to entertain. It is a benefit to do the budget this way. Look at the fiscal impact on top of the budget, rather than have it in there and pull it out.

    Franz – this is a new process. I’m used to the old process. Bear with us. We’ll see how it goes.

    Ian – on to the ARPA update! This is a chance for the TM to tell us next steps for ARPA.

    Potter – at the open house and through a community service we got a lot of feedback from the public. WE got a list from staff of possibilities . There were 28 projects we asked the public about, and also we asked what projects were missing. Staff recommend surveying the public again with the staff’s top issues combined with new list, then we’d bring a new list in December for consideration.

    Ian – other ARPA items to be added?

    Liz – yes, but a different questions. Some tweaks to this now?

    Peter -a suggestion I got was to see if there was a certain amount of funding to do a collaborative effort to push to repopulate the empty storefronts on main Street – a financial reward for that plan.

    Ian – an incubator?

    Peter – more like we look for the best fit, and let BDCC handle it. To help us fill vacancies in our town.

    Liz – DBA and Chamber are doing that. They have succession planning and know who is retiring. That’s their job.

    Peter – this is a way to make it a bit louder and more attractive.

    Liz – I’d discuss with them.

    Ian – Selectboard can add items tonight. John can make that into a succinct thing.

    Liz – number 6, is this replaced by our discussion of social workers? Update it based on current thinking?

    Potter – we are proposing to cut off 10% of what the public said, if it didn’t reach 10% – but if you want to go further we can, or include them all with 75 different projects.

    Ian – cull it. If we do all of them it will dilute the info we will get.

    Liz – another couple of things – downtown brattleboro restrooms… my opinion is I’m only interested in the Transportation Center was the site. We need to examine what kind of a town we are. We’re a working class town. We have a history of drug use and prostitution with public restrooms.

    Ian – we’ll let people vote, and maybe this drops away

    Liz – number 18 – grant project management…

    Franz – how can we spend this?

    Ian – we were advised by VLCT to spend the money – we already used it and are now using our..

    Moreland – after consulting with VLCT, there is general agreement that in VT towns should use ARPA money specifically for staff salaries. It simplifies accounting. We’d spend equivalent on salaries and then spend the tax dollars on the project. We could do it all at once, run it though the general fund, and send tax dollars to a new location with no deadlines. Everything would be spent this year.

    Ian – that speaks to allocation.

    Franz – but Liz said popcorns. Ok. That’s fine. I thought infrastructure, but that’s not true.

    Liz – we’ve been looking at the list but only at what the public have suggested, which takes away our wisdom.

    Ian – add all of them in…

    Liz – I have no specific suggestions, but town staff and selectboard should weigh in. The public input shouldn’t be the sole criteria for going forward

    Ian – we want to get other ideas incorporated from the public…

    Potter – line 29 has suggestions from the public – some are not very clear and we’ll refine them a bit, or drop some. One says “downtown” and we don’t know what that is…

    Liz – Maybe town staff needs to take the public ones and make the comments real and filter them through a pragmatic lens and then ask the selectboard what they think before it goes to the public.

    Ian – you are throwing curveballs at me.

    Franz – I think we should spend the money on things we would o anyway. I’m reluctant to do something fun and frivolous or desirable. We have problems providing the basic infrastructure. We’ve been deferring things again and again and again. It should meet needs we know we have.

    Peter – what if it resolves problems we know we have.

    Franz – I like pickle ball, but new courts? We have well established needs we should meet. When it comes down to making discussion – paving isn’t in the top 10.

    Ian – let’s keep it all in?

    Franz – I’m not going to pay attention to the survey results…

    Liz – and I’m saying I have a problem having this list from the public be our starting point without the wisdom and practicality looked at first.

    Ian – I’m at, so, Franz, uh, do you want to offer a modification of the process to change the survey result given our openness? (No) And you Liz don’t want to move forward…

    Liz – until it has been reviewed.

    Ian – I don’t think it is necessary. I’d like to move this item forward.

    Potter – A suggestion – maybe a compromise – where we try to put some thought to it and describe it a little bit for the ones we can do. We can bring back the survey results… you don’t have to follow them. Just a factor. If everyone wants pickle ball and you want roads, you make the call.

    Franz – I don’t care what the public thinks or the town staff think. I will exercise independent judgement.

    Peter – wow.

    Ian – we are asking the public for their views on what is needed. If survey results align with our to-do list.

    Franz – I’ll consider what people offer.

    Peter – the 10% is a good idea.

    Liz – I have a problem with the public’s suggestions. It needs to be cleaned up.

    Ian – maybe we do the 10%, then send out the survey goes out with logical items

    Liz – there are things we already have….

    Ian – that could be saying we want another one. You are doing too much editorializing.

    Liz – more screening for duplication could be quickly done by the staff.

    Ian – I don’t see two head nods.

    Peter – yes, we have a drop in center, but someone might want another one. A valid point t.

    Ian – logical clean up but no removal. Do what was described in the memo… public (9:48pm)

  • the end

    Ian skips the committee appointment part of the agenda and goes right to the Holly days parking.

    Degray objects to the $3500 tax hit.

    I’m done… : )

  • Thanks again for the yeoman's work!

    This board’s dismissive attitude is really disappointing.

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