Selectboard Meeting Notes – Hey Buddy, Can You Spare A Sign?

dec 5 brattleboro selectboard

The Brattleboro Selectboard bravely took no action against a non-existent problem at their most recent meeting. Panhandling isn’t a problem to be solved, and existing laws cover any other potential issues.  Perhaps we will make… a sign!

The Library has a strategic plan, housing development is lackluster, the town might get McNeill’s property to pay off demolition of his building, the public wondered about unusually large raises for department heads given an expected increase in property taxes, and an exhaustive search led the Town to hire Golden Cross’s billing service for EMS billing.

Comments | 9

  • Preliminaries

    (Franz absent)

    Chair Ian Goodnow – (takes a moment for the volume tot come up…) One remark for myself. Reminder that petitions are available for town officers, school board and RTM members. Go and have a chat with Hilary Francis and take out a petition. Due back Jan 29. Mar 5 is the elections and RTM is March… um… not sure.. the 23rd.

    (Franz arrives)

    Town Manager John Potter – a few things. 1st quarter rooms and meals is up 5% – 314k in sales tax. About 78k over total. Second ARPA survey is on the town website to find out what the community thinks. We’ve had 90 responses. The Rec and Parks dept has a holiday season brochure.

    Franz Reichsman – thanks the people who have shown up for office hours. I have learned a lot. I encourage others to follow suit. Especially since it is budget season. I also have a social media page.

    Public Participation


  • Consent Agenda

    A. Transportation Alternative Program Grant– Authorize $138,080 Application

    B. Municipal Highway and Stormwater Mitigation Program Grant – Authorize $60,000 Application

    C. Homeland Security Program Grant – Authorize $84,355.77 Application

    Potter reads through the list.

    So consented.

  • Phase I Utility Project FONSI Public Hearing

    Ian – So, I need to do this correctly. First I will open the public hearing then invite Dan and Chrissy.

    Dan Tyler – the FONSI – is finding of no significant impact, for the water sites for the phase 1 improvement project. They got federal funding so we have to look at environmental impacts. Chrissy is from the engineering firm and will give and overview and answer questions. Initially, we found there is no significant impact.

    Chrissy Haskins – Dufrense Group – Phase 1 water improvements. Dan covered most of this. Let me get my screen up there.. the project is funded by the drinking water revolving fund, which requires NEPA compliance. The review identifies impacts and states mitigations. We submitted a document to the state outlining the impacts we’ve identified and that was reviewed by the state environmental folks, and there were no significant impacts found. We are to present this impacts tonight… there are three subprojects, located across town. Bridge St water main replacement. Rt 142 replacement and Depot St, too. Replaces aging water mains. The second project is Signal Hill pump station on Guilford St – it is aging and doesn’t meet regulations, so a water main replacement and pump station will go in. The third project is the Black Mtn emergency generator at the pump station. It serves the campus and doesn’t have a generator. The identified impacts – Single Hill impacts Class 3 wetlands and migrating birds. On the wetland it is site grading to locate the pump station. Town gave zoning permit. On migrating birds, it is due to underbrush removal. We’ll avoid taking birds nests. As Dan mentioned, the intent to issue a FONSI is expected this week, then there is a 30 day comment period. That’s all I have.

    Ian – thanks. Board?

    Liz – I have one comment. Where can people find this statement and if they wish to comment?

    Chrissy – notice will be posted on the Water Investment Division website.

    Dan – once it is live we can put it on the web page.

    Ian – and put it in the minutes for this meeting. Okay, formally opening public comment… don’t see any hands, no one on zoom… oh, wait. Jack H.

    Jack H. – (silence)

    Ian – I’ll give you a minute.. okay we’ll move on. I close the public hearing and make sure people have access to the link and we’ll put it on the website.

  • Brooks Memorial Library Strategic Plan

    Starr LaTronica and Ann

    Ian – you are hear to report on the strategic plan. Introduce yourself…

    Starr – I’m the director. And Ann is the board president. This is an informational moment. We have a new strategic plan to get us to 2025. Available at the library and on website. Started in June 2021. Had community surveys and forums, had a consultant, and lots of in-depth work. Much work with staff and trustees to see what we do well and where we want to go. Thanks to Seth we have lovely publications and we included them in you package and we can answer questions. Come find me at the Library. It is a community driven institution. We listen to the community. The community is my 3rd boss.

    Ian – excellent. Board?

    Liz – I’m a huge supporter – a question. How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the Library?

    Starr – we measure adult cardholders, juvenile cardholders, but families sometimes use one card. We do head counts to see patterns of use. Mornings are busy downstairs. Things taper off in the afternoon but pick up in the children’s room. This will help us better allocate staff and have coverage.

    Liz – are there goals you have in mind?

    Starr – staff is developing internal workplace to have those goals. Looking at evaluating our programming. Many free cultural opportunities have fallen to the Library.

    Liz – is the trailer of rental things well used?

    Starr – the Big Red Shed – and it is growing all the time. Closed for the season. Cooking and food prep is now inside the library. Someone will come to borrow a food dehydrator and others will ask what else we have in the closet. It’s constantly growing. All bought with grant funds. No municipal funds.

    Franz – I’m thinking…

    Starr – you may notice we have a subtitle – we contain multitudes. It sums us up. We d so much and vastly different things every day. Yesterday we had a refugee who got a library card, we helped someone apply for food stamps online, local retailer who only accept online applications send applicants to us to give them an email address and use a computer, and we have local authors showing their books, and early literacy tips to parents, and research projects on recent news, nutrition, and madison square garden’s history.

    Ian – following up on the point about job searches, I’m curious if you had any Dept of Labor contact. It used to be across the street and they had a resource center. You could partner with them.

    Starr – we lean heavily and gain so much by collaborating with social services in this town.

    Ian – happy to see the first bullet on spaces – a place to be where you don’t have to buy something. Space is a hot commodity – glad you are looking to find ways to make more space available.

    Starr – we were looking at space we could carve out, and I’m looking at special pods, small work or meeting spaces. They come with built-in sprinklers.

    Ann – libraries have evolved so much – we used to go to look at books. There is more one on one. It’s good. Not just checking out a book. It is a central part of the community. People without computers or cellphones… the library is essential for people applying for jobs.

    Ian – the library is an essential element of the community. Public? No?

  • Ambulance Billing Services

    Fire Chief Leonard Howard and AC Kier

    Potter – I want to frame this – the question is about what billing service we might use. Not how or what we would charge… that comes in February. Response standards, billing, and collections will come then. Tonight is what tool will we use for billing?

    Chief – we spent a lot of time looking at best options and after an extensive search we think a third party vendor that does it every day would do it best. The can answer customer questions best. We got three different quotes from three vendors, and of the three we chose EMS Billing Solutions for $36k a year. Less than we could do if we hired someone full time. The reason we do this now is we need to get medicare and medicaid numbers and that takes time. I’d rather have it done and in place so we’ll be ready to go.

    Ian – that was my question, why now. I note that this was one thing when we discussed EMS, this was an element that the chiefs disagreed on. I’m glad you did the due diligence .

    Liz – this sounds like a great opportunity for a better price. My only concern is you have checked out their reliability and so forth and they will be available and people can access them by phone of email.

    Chief – they are very accessible. A sister company of Golden Cross. I’ve spoke to them and explained that we want to set our own rates. They are just waiting for us to give them what it is and they’ll do what we tell them to do and are fairly local and do it for others and I feel real comfortable.

    Liz – any complaints?

    Chief – haven’t noticed. We will put contact inf on bill.

    Ian – so they are currently covering Golden Cross billing in town? (yes)

    Peter Case – so this is renewed annually?

    Chief – they said it was up to us.

    Peter – starts July 1? (yes)

    Chief – we think three years then review it.

    Ian – other board members? Public? I’ll pretend I’m looking over the masses…

    approved! (??)

    Ian – this is part of the upstart costs from the EMS budget (yes – it is operating cost)

    Dick Degray – I was listening to the chief do a 3 year contract – I’d rather have 1 year then if we were happy then move to a three year. How do we get out if we don’t like what they are doing?

    Franz – can we get out of the contract?

    Potter – we can put in a clause to get out if need be.

    Ian – I thought that a service was new it should be 1 year, but we’ve already been using them for two years, so I have confidence if we have way to exit.

    Peter Case – sounds ok now, so 3 year is fine but 1 year review is OK.

    Franz – whatever dude.

    Tracey – if we could do a review after a year and the contract says there is no penalty if we withdraw.. sounds reasonable.

    Ian – three year with a company we have been using? Are we locked in for three years at this price. One risk could be that the prices go up after one year. It might cost the town more money to do one year.

    Peter – so a quick review after 12 months?

    Bob Fisher – at the risk of writing a contract in a meeting, put in a notice provision of non renewal, so if things change, there could be a period of notice and then non-renewal of the second or third year. Needs to be enough time for both to make the adjustment.

    Ian – so we’ll do that contract adjustment… if I get three head nods. I’m nodding…

    Fidel – David L. – it seems to me that there was a position in the finance dept that was going to be vacant and if there was in house billing the person would be assigned it. Is that position still vacant? If so, the 3rd party would be savings.

    Potter – yes – that position is NOT in the base budget presented at the last meeting. I would be more cost effective to cut the position and find efficiencies.

    Steve Z – it sounds like the attorney has a good plan.

    Ian – we have a motion…


  • Housing Plan Update

    Ian – as the board may recall we approved a housing action plan, and one of our goals was housing, and we asked for updates on the 2022 housing action plan.

    John Potter – Sue couldn’t be here so I’ll pinch hit. She gave me info. Little progress in our estimated needs. We approved 21 new units, and list 7. Lost to demolition and fewer units and commercial use conversion. Housing permits down – high costs, etc. That being said, Planning staff talk with developers and are hoping for permitted projects in 2024 and could be substantial – 200 units. Key accomplishments- new land use regulation amendments, expanding districts with incentives for developers, town owned land suitable for housing identified, 12 sites with highest potential – like parking lots downtown. Town involved in housing – are we selling and leasing or a public private partnership. New funding sources for developers from the state for affordable and middle income housing. TD bank project – 13 units. More work to be done to inform immunity of regs. A short term rental registry was discussed but not pursued. Finally, staff have been building out town web site with housing resources.

    Ian – thanks – no need for a motion. Questions?

    Daniel – I appreciate the memo – focus on net change is important. The net charge for previous years would be interesting. We began this housing study long ago. 22 and 21 would be useful. A dashboard would be useful to identify the scale in front of us. This is a hard thing to do and there are lots of challenges. As a community we need to raise our game. When we talk about the budget is our static population.

    Liz – this is interesting and I attended the October meeting about finance and it was well attended. The only people were housing non-profits. We need to attract investment. Identifying town properties is the way to go. The zoning dept has done all it can to attract developers. This would be the next step. The state has changed regs for mixed income .

    Franz – so, there is a lot of detail in the housing report and in this update. Lots of ideas about what can and should be done to attract resources. It’s good to have ideas. I didn’t come away with a clear picture of what we can do that will have an impact and in what timeframe and how shall that guide our allocation of resources, staff time, land use, etc. I ended up with a lot of questions. It adds up to me wanting to hear more detail – where can we really make a difference. I’d like to move in the direction of the right subset – where is the focus, where is the impact?

    Liz – an in-depth discussion with Sue would be helpful. Right now there is a state discussion about housing. Municipalities can do certain things. The state has authorized a lot of money and expertise to be made available to towns. Governor says legislature has only nibbled around the edges. Legislature has done a lot of work to raise money for housing. State direction will come from the state. We do what we can to encourage housing.

    Franz – there are a lot of resources the state makes available. I want to know we are out front of the communities in VT so the resources get allocated down here. Let’s redouble efforts.

    Potter – those are many of the key accomplishments I told you about… getting the info out to the community. We can help people make connections to funding and regulatory agencies.

    Daniel Quipp – there are goals and strategies to reach those goals… (reads them from the plan). Those are the way we are trying to impact this issue. We did a state legislative agenda and expect our delegation to advocate hard for state funds.

    Franz – I don’t see how those things become real or become actual events. The TD bank one… wow, fantastic we got that done. I’d lie to hear more of that.

    Ian – so all the bullet points, those are all things that have been done? (yes) It’s funny, if you recall, the legislative agenda session, they said Brattleboro was way ahead in making development easier. Want to make sure we are on the same page.

    Franz – on the same page but I have questions scrawled in the margins.

    Daniel – all of this – it is not enough. The scale of the problem needs more than we have.

    Ian – so, really, about the Selectboard goal making process – we made a broad housing goal last spring. Would it be helpful if goal setting included more specific asks? Or is our goal setting not an issue.. should we be digging deeper to make more specific goals?

    Franz – no – I just want to know more about how it works on a granular level from staff.

    Ian – so should goals have more specifics?

    Potter – one big challenge is the market, the interest rates, cost of labor, lack of labor – probably won’t be able to do much about them as a Town, except work wit the state. Beyond that, we could look at developing housing locally with local materials, or kits? Could we support other sectors of the industry rather than just developers?

    Liz – main problem is you can’t construct a house and recoup costs with the sale price. That’s where subsidies come in. State has pretty good subsidies for things.

    Ian – good timing that we have a new website now that we can push out this information and we can be the conduit for the information from the state. Public? The vast crowds in the room?

    Dick Degray – start my video – got me? Ok. A couple of things. Liz said she went to the meeting and only nonprofits were there. Private developers can’t compete with non-profits. I was hoping there would be a list of buildable lots in front of the board. Any lots we’d choose to sell or lease, we need town meeting approval – it could be on the docket for the March meeting, or else a special meeting. The materials are the same for private contractors or nonprofits. One thing for private contractors – town could cut permit fees or connection fees or rent stabilization agreements, or reduced taxes. I haven’t heard anyone discussing new ideas to promote local contractors and lower their costs. part of it is getting the municipal property on the market – if we sell it for a dollar. It should be on the RTM agenda so you can get the authority to do something if you want.

    Bob F – with regard to town owned property – there are two ways to sell. You could identify and sell them via RTM, or the other way is to do a purchase and sale contract then give notice in the paper and if no one asks for a town vote you can go forward. Multiple properties could be an article. Piecemeal could be just give notice.

    Ian – RTM gives authority to sell, or

    Bob F – they can place trust in you. There are options.

    Daniel – 93 town owned parcels have been listed, it says, a report is forthcoming. IT will show 12 parcels.

    Potter – we’ll try to get it before RTM so you can consider an article.

    Ian – didn’t know we had the first option – of not saying what the sale was for. If RTM approves…

    Franz – one question – report is forthcoming, the 12 parcels, are they big, small, what is the potential impact? That’s my desire to know more.

    Ian – when the forthcoming report comes we can review the size and location of all those properties.

    Potter – part of this gets to the point – to what extent do you want to get into property development?

    Ian – no need to decide now. Let’s encourage housing…

    Potter – if we talk units and entails, that’s more for a developer to consider. More than just saying a parking lot is available.

    Ian – we could warn it to say the land would be used for housing development?

    BobF – don’t want to shoot from the hip. Will get back to you.

    Liz – I’m sure the overall density could be identified based on the size of the property. Best left to developers.

    Ian – and subject to zoning.

    Tracey – my entire adult life I’ve been around commercial construction. We should acknowledge this is a nationwide housing crisis. Unfortunately we had a net gain of 14 homes. I’d suggest non profits come in because private builders are really busy – some are 6 months out or a year out with work. I’d reach out to them by mailing them a survey. What can we do to get you to build in Brattleboro? It’s hard to get anyone to work anywhere. If you reach out some way and ask them… you’ll get a better answer than sitting there and trying to figure it out on your own.

    Ian – yes. Communicating resources is very critical.

  • McNeill’s Property Acquisition

    Ian – the property tragically burned and the Town was responsible for putting out the fire and demolition the building

    BobF. – this will be an agreement to give us the property in exchange for the claim against the estate – about $118k we put in for demotion. Liabilities exceed assets – the raw lot of land for $45k and a few thousand. The Town will not get back the full claim. The state says they’ll sell the property in exchange for dropping the claim against the estate. It’s adjacent to the parking garage. It is a policy decision for the board. In the purchase and sale, there is an environmental inspection.

    Ian – what happens once we do this?

    Bob F – we’d set closing dates and inspections and such. Several months?

    Ian – could this be a 13th property for housing? Town could sell it?

    Bob F – yes.

    Franz – there might be some environmental issues on the parcel. Do we know anything? Dry cleaning establishments nearby… if we have an inspection…

    Bob – the phase one would look at the history, like the transportation center, and if we need a phase 2 inspection they’d do test drilling and such. I don’t recall … there were concerns but don’t recall any major contamination. My memory may be less that 100%.. we trust the inspectors.

    Franz – so if they found a problem?

    Bob – we could terminate the contract…

    Liz – there is another way. Hazardous properties are developed. State remediation plan is built into any development.

    Ian – town isn’t writing a blank check without knowing the environmental impact first.

    Daniel! – the cost of the environmental impact is born by us? (yes)

    Liz – the town has and windham regional has funding for spa to fund phase 1 studies.

    Ian – no public , so there is a pending motion…


  • F. FY25 Budget Update (7:55 PM)

    Potter – just an update on the base budget presented at the last meeting – assumes same services plus new EMS. It was projected at a 2% increase… mea culpa, we saw a significant cost in the base budget. The 370k new bond payment for Living memorial Park – it is has been updated. $ 22.8 million – up 3.6% over FY24. The base budget is in two formats – department budgets and consolidated services budgets. Next step is selectboard consideration of budget alternates and questions for staff.

    Ian – there wasn’t a plan to have a budget discussion tonight, just the update. Stick to these questions for this discussion.

    Liz – I ask that our town manager weigh in on the 19th with more detail of his strategy and priorities for alternative budget items, especially those items that mean new staff.

    Daniel – I agree – given the base budget and increase in property taxes, it would be hard to image accepting any or all of the alternatives, so is there some way to prioritize the new job positions? We might be able to do one, at most.

    Liz – the other thing, there has been a lot of state talk about tax rates, so it is incumbent for us to be mindful of our responsibility to the taxpayer.

    Daniel – a discreet question. Concrete. Esteyville park is in rough shape. In the capital plan is a repair or replacement. I’d like to hear more about that. Does that structure serve the community there? Are there other uses for that space that would better serve them? Gazebo project is $37k

    LIz – I like the idea of a broader thinking of that commons area beyond a gazebo

    Daniel – like a park for children…

    Franz – the Esteyville Park is named for Fuller Park, who owned the building across from it, and neighborhood group has been discussing it and making it more used and more accessible. Last time this came up some repairs were done. Historical preservation prevented a more useable configuration. I can send you the results of the questionnaire of neighbors – lower the height, have steps go up to it… it’s my neighborhood. I’ve been organizing this with others in the neighborhood. People who were interested… good to discuss on the 19th.

    Liz – my late brother in law gave many concerts in that park and the gazebo isn’t useable and kids ran around. maybe something more useful could be constructed.

    Potter -we’ll be prepared.

    Ian – I also echo Daniel that given the updated base budget, I will have to be really sold on increasing it anymore given the current fiscal environment.

    Franz – I agree, but there are some expenses that might increase revenue for the town. I wouldn’t categorize them the same. there might be others that exp us prevent losses, like the IT position. If we don’t take action, we could have significant downsides to that.

    Ian – one question – could you clarify for the board what the base assumptions was for human services – it would help me. It’s fairly large.

    Potter – our assumption is that these 2% of the current FY, so up to that amount. So we built that in. $440k.

    Liz – one more question – do you have enough info from us?

    Potter – yes – I have been talking about making the 19th mostly about the budget. We’ll make really good progress.

    Ian – public – no? Degray?

    Dick Degray – I’m trying to unmute. That’s a big mea culpa… that’s a huge mistake. $375k missed in the budget. I didn’t see where it shows up in the bust, under bonds and notes? I will not be able to attend.. so can you give me the justification for the Town manager raise, Finannce Director raise, HR raise, Planning Director, Library director….Fire Chief, Police Chief all these raises? And then something that bothers me… this years’s use of fund balance has over a million, and the budget is $268k – because it isn’t level funded, who will make the difference up? Are we doing away with chief dispatcher? No raise and no salary? And, there is $10k increase for repairs for the Municipal Center.

    Ian – thanks for the questions. The first point – the budget is a big undertaking every year. Mistakes happen. That’s whey we have multiple meetings to go through it and we have plenty of time to know what’s going on. It’s not a good use of our time to criticize people if we can correct mistakes and move on. It’s John’s first budget and am grateful for his work.

    Potter – do you want to address these tonight or come back?

    Ian – I think come back on the 19th.

    Franz – there is a line item for debt service and the $375k is debt service.

    Potter – in Bonds and Notes.

    Moreland -bond interest and principle are broken out over two line items.

    Ian – so, I will commit to make sure the 19th is mostly budget discussions, so we won’t have much more. So, no need for a vote and so thank you John and we move on…

  • G. Options to Address Panhandling

    Potter – no action is requested, just feedback. Staff have looked into options but haven’t found any super viable options. Bob F and assistant police chief are here top answer questions. We’ve heard that panhandling is a problem. They are evident around town. Despite social services, there are needs for cash. Requested by panhandling. The library updated the resource guide. Identifies over 90 opportunities for help, food, recovery, health, jobs,…. there are tons of resources. The problem is anecdotal. Police get calls for disorderly conduct, but not specific to panhandling. We don’t have data on if this is a problem or not. There are first amendment rights. There are five alternatives – not common panhandling but if it becomes threatening you could try but it would be legally challenged. We looked into safety zones where it is not allowed, like around kiosks. Could we restrict free speech in some areas? We think it would be legally challenged. The third was requiring a license for panhandling – a business license? This has been explored in other places and was not successful. Fourth we looked at developing signs to discourage panhandling – exercise your own free speech. Fifth was continuing current policy to leave issue alone without any action. I don’t think panhandlers are down and out by choice. Public policy comes down to sympathy levels – necessary for survival, or contributing to disorder and chaos in community? Some are ok with some disorder and others are genuinely scared of it. No easy answers here. More research? Any action you want us to do?

    Ian – we won’t take action tonight, just conversation on whether we want more info. An ordinance can be civil

    Bob – It can be civil or criminal. If criminal, the initial arraignment is covered by state’s attorney’s, then my office would prosecute.

    Ian – glad I asked. Didn’t understand that. Does the backup material consider this criminal or civil.

    Bob – different in different states. Has to be a compelling government issue. I’d want evidence that there is a compelling safety interest, for example. From my perspective, when you have calls, it might be an assault or disorderly conduct. We’d need to be able to show that panhandling calls at a single meter was extreme. Until we have that body of evidence, I would’t go down the aggressive panhandling ordinance route.

    Franz – you already have statute for other behaviors. I can’t see this as a meaningful way to proceed.

    Bob – people can be arrested for assault right now.

    Frank – general: when this came up for the agenda I wanted it on the agenda even though meaningful action was slim. So we’d talk about it. A lot of people care about this on both sides of the issue. We’re not ignoring the issue. It has been thought about. Our options are limited. Specifically: the business license aspect – some of these folks, and many object to seeing the shift change of panhandlers in front of grocery stores. Someone asks for money, and then someone drives up and takes their place. It looks like a business. I wonder if these people are employees? Are they withholding tax from the business? Where is the social security. if a business, there is more than licensing. I don’t… so much of this is cultural. What they people in town want to say or do.
    People need to ask for help, and it is destroying the town…I’ve heard both.

    Peter Case – I preface all of this… early summer we walked around to all businesses and our overarching feeling was that business owners were saying ti wasn’t as bad as people were saying it is, but downtown realtors are outnumbered and there is a narrative that downtown is bad. What do we do? I don’t know. We need hard evidence. We also operate in a time and space where we help homeless be better at being homeless – we give new tents. I’ve been on boards to help with these services. Citizens have a right to uninterrupted commerce. No need to feel threatened. It is left to interpretation. This board wouldn’t allow certain businesses downtown. So what is appropriate or not and do we make that decision. If we are going to enact an ordinance against someone’s freedom of speech, does it impact our ability to act as realtors and shoppers. Some of these suggestions I came up with. I’m seeing what sticks… we are actively thinking of these things. It’s not an easy problem to solve. People walk past signs. Maybe it is a step in the right direction. I feel frustrated – for people who need services, they are seeking services. How do we get rid of people feeling threatened downtown. I fear that by not infringing on one person’s right we are infringing on a greater number of others.

    Liz – a person has a write to ask, to panhandle. At what point do they overstep that right. We all need to be educated about what that point is. On the other side, a person being asked can say yes or no. It’s a personal choice. If someone oversteps their bounds you can call police or educate them. We can understand the roots of the problems in the community, but I’d like to ask at what point does panhandling become aggressive and arrest can be made. Do we want to help an individual person, or help the agencies that help the homeless. What are the rights on both sides and when does someone overstep those bounds, and what can we do?

    Asst Chief – short version – there is no bright line on something like that. We look at enforcing criminal statutes or ordinances involved. Panhandling isn’t one of them. If there is an assault, that’s a criminal act that we can investigate.

    Liz – so when it becomes assault?

    AC – we’re talking about different things. panhandling isn’t a crime. If Daniel stopped your car to get money, we could investigate, but if he asked you for money, that’s not a crime.

    Bob – obstructing traffic. (he’s off mic)(everyone is staring at him)(mumbling about actual crimes and coding them vs panhandling, which is not crime)

    Ian – so if we had a criminal ordinance, it would find some other thing not already disorderly

    Bob – you have to do definitions and then need to prove that it is a compelling governmental interest.

    Peter – it is all left to interpretation. If no one touches me and I’m a big 210 lb male and I see something on the street. I felt like it could be a problem but it wasn’t. I decide not to waste town resources. If we are interpreting law on the fly it will drive the police crazy. This only works if people are making the phone call. I didn’t make the call. I wondered about safety zones, like drug-free zones. These are in place now that we can enforce?

    Bob – yes. You are talking about educating the community – so they know what an assault is. If someone pulls a knife on someone they might call the police. Lower down on the list the average person might not know the crime being committed.

    Peter – it will take everyone working collectively to resolve this issue. Don’t give money if panhandling is a concern. Maybe signs help. It’s all left for interpretation. I’d like to see something pretty clear cut, but doesn’t make people who need help suffer.

    Daniel – we’ve been here before. many discussion before I was on the board and they ended up around signs. Asking for money is not a crime. If an assault were to occur, or disorderly conduct, that is something that you can call the police for support. When someone asks for a dollar, if one says no then it escalates – that’s not what happens on a regular basis. As a board we need to be reasonable and responsible and not try to enact ordinances that won’t solve the problem or add liability. We could have signs asking people to be charitable. You can give money to a person. We need a downtown people feel safe in. I feel safe in our downtown. I see some things that might be disorder – sadness, conundrums, but not an action the board can take that is meaningful other than having a community minded police department, human services organizations, work on housing. But prohibiting panhandling is not something we should be doing.

    Peter – yes, but, I don’t think panhandling is out problem. It’s an easy hook to hang the problem on. My experience? No one asked me for a dollar. We should go after the real problem – maybe in a safety zone, and maybe we find a path that removes the stigma from the downtown. It is a problem that affects all cities and towns. I wouldn’t mind a sign that encourages us to give to organizations and not solicitation. But also safety zones. It might take 5 years.

    Ian – we’ll hear from the public next. I’d like to figure out if we want anything else from town staff? Peter does. I hear that if we want to move forward we need additional supporting evidence when it gets challenged.

    Peter – why are we so concerned about if it gets… I’m not afraid of someone calling us and saying it can’t be done.

    Ian – afraid isn’t the right word – just realistic to make laws that survive challenges. And it costs money to =be sued.

    Liz – not afraid of a challenge. I don’t want to curtail people’s rights. If it makes you uncomfortable with those rights, you can say yes or no. I don’t advocate any items on that list. It is life in America these days.

    Ian – want data?

    Daniel – what do you want researched?

    Peter – We have child safety zones that we could rebate safety zones – near Boys and Girls club – there is no smoking on municipal property, sidewalks… there are other things that can be enforced. Not going after people who need a dollar.

    Liz – are you talking about drug deals?

    Daniel – not asking about asking for money – dangerous or unsafe behavior, which are already covered by law. A zone where things are MORE illegal?

    Peter – maybe a higher profile that sets a tone to not happen within these zones?

    Daniel – is this a question – we are asking for more police activity in certain parts of town? Officers are busy and cover a wide area. Elliot street isn’t the only activity in Brattleboro? What could be done to address dangerous Elliot Street? It’s not about panhandling.

    Peter – right – it is convenient to hang it on panhandlers.

    Ian – so maybe the discussion… safety zones were a priority so maybe we need more info.

    Potter – we would update you on your goals. Haven’t done that one. Not clear what you want.

    Peter – better messaging. Post signs every 50 feet. You are in a safety zone.

    Potter – it is a different topic, but related.

    Ian – could we enhance something for a crime in a safety zone? We can hear more about this later.

    Potter – so, to clarify – it is the idea of areas around parking kiosks – paint a circle to keep panhandling out….

    Peter – if it gets the point across we are doing an OK job.

    Ian – maybe we have an interest in protecting the commerce of buying a parking ticket.

    Steve – I’ve been in town a long time and have seen what has happened and remember tip jars being stolen. Not acceptable. I’ve seen people be tackled. What does a safety zone mean? It’s banned? People have to go to a certain area? No one wants more laws, town needs to make a statement and suggestions and a sign, goals in mind and what you want to achieve for safety. Panhandling is negatively impacting people coming to downtown. Panhandlers aren’t the most dangerous people, but it is a safety issue on Putney Rd. Dogs barking downtown or people yelling – there are laws in place for these things. Brattleboro has more empathy than any town in the country. It draws people in need. Here’s an example of s sign I’ve seen…

    Ian – panhandling can’t be made illegal, but crimes in a safety zone we might be able to do something extra about.

    Tracey – Case, how tall are you? (6ft). My question is that you had never been approached then you were politely asked. Someone your size… I’d imagine someone larger would not be asked. I’ve been approached more often – we’re smaller and less threatening. Arizona had success with signs. It allows choice. It’s ok to say no and to give to orgs. I tend to donate clothes, not money. This sign can guide people who need help, too. Panhandlers would see the signs. To mitigate the cost, businesses could install these signs.

    Daniel – I work for a social service agency. If I give someone a dollar on the street, that’s a dollar. If they come to my office I help with food, housing, general assistance ($56 a month for personal needs). We can help with paying bills, rent… for people with some problem working, and aren’t currently getting disability payments. there is a false equivalency of supporting agencies not individuals… we need both. We go round and round on this conversation. Some days I give money, and other days I say no. It depends on the moment.

    Steve – we discourage panhandling and encourage donations. It would be a statement that could be put out there. I think a police presence would be effective downtown. It would help hugely. One quick story before Ian throws me out. My aunt and uncle lived here 40 years, worked, paid taxes. He died, she was on Horton Place, she had to move out due to crime. If a homeless person comes to town we pat them on the back.

    Peter – so, if I said I hadn’t been panhandled… far from true. I do get asked for money and it depends on my mood. I mostly don’t.

    Ian – ok, so no three votes on additional ordinances, do we have three votes on signs?

    Peter – walking out with some direction would be great. Signs, safety zones…

    Ian – we’ll do safety zones, but I’d be interested in hearing more about signs and what other communities have done

    ((CG – No one remembers the signs that Brattleboro put up about panhandling!))

    Ian – I’m not seeing it…

    Daniel – I assume we already have regulations and laws preventing dangerous things…
    Peter – my frustrations…

    Ian – let Daniel finish…

    Daniel – if there is to be a sign that says stay out of the road… I won’t lose my mind if it exists but is it necessary.

    Peter – we can walk out and pretend the problem doesn’t exist and ignore what people are feeling, or we can explore the option of doing something.

    Daniel – i hear you about doing something. Doing nothing is doing something. The sign says discourage. I’m not sure if I want to discourage people from asking for money. It’s a personal choice. safer is a different story. People don’t feel safe, not due to asking for money – it is different things. if we want to look at additional things… I’m against a sign that discourages panhandling.

    Peter – someone asking for a dollar is no threat. But we have an issue that we keep kicking the can down the road. Leaving tonight without a plan shows this board is performative.

    Franz – I have mixed feelings about the signs. But we aren’t performative, and not an indication we don’t care about the issue. I don’t know where to go from here. We care about the town and are trying to do the best. I objet that we don’t care about this issue.

    Liz – everyone has said the narrative is not true. I rarely get asked for money. It isn’t the problem everyone says about it. We’d be doing something about something that isn’t a problem. The narrative is false that there is a problem. Panhandling is not an impediment to shopping and living downtown. We can make an educated statement on our position. We could research and come up with a policy. Not an ordinance or policy or sign to negate the false narrative.

    Ian – we don’t have three votes for anything – we have some guidance for more info on safety zones. Thanks.

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