Selectboard Meeting Notes – We’ll See Your $80k, and Raise You $80k

selectoard jan 16 2024

The Brattleboro Selectboard heard a request from two organizations for an $80,000 a year part time position (and some data collection) and decided to double it. They gave them $160,000 and two years for a “proof of concept” showing that this investment attracts new businesses to Brattleboro.

The board went on to discuss their ARPA plans and FY25 budgets.

Comments | 5

  • Preliminaries

    They start late. They also don’t have the sound on… oh, now they do!

    Chair Ian Goodnow – I’m watching closed captioning as I’m talking! So, I have two remarks. First, I want to call out the Brattleboro Police Department about the knife assault this weekend. They placed the suspect in custody without incident. We’ve had 5 incidents with dangerous weapons in the last few months – all resolved safely. We should be grateful for outstanding professionalism of the Brattleboro Police. I’m grateful when I read about it in the Reformer, and no one has been injured. My other comment is that the deadline – Jan 29 – to get petitions in for town officers and RTM members and school board. If interested, get a petition in the Town Clerk’s office. Advice – if you wait until the last minute, if signatures aren’t from registered Brattleboro voters, then you won’t be on the ballot. Do it ahead of time to see if you had enough valid signatures. Or get more than you need.

    Town Manager John Potter – DPW have been plowing through 5 storms since Jan 6. Will pick up snow Wed- Thursday. Tomorrow contractors for the NH bridge will be moving a steel structure at 1:30pm – Bridge St will be closed for 20 minutes. Rain date is Thursday. Expect delays tomorrow afternoon.

    Franz Reichsman – well, people. Be careful what you wish for. I invited the public to comment, we got a whole lot of emails and I tried to answer them. I want to thank people who have let us know about budget comments. They have moved the needle. It’s public participation in action.

    Public Participation

    Robert Oeser – I think I’m here. In the Dec 5 minutes, there was an approval of a contract for EMS ambulance billing services. It is not a listed corporation in NH or VT. You are probably looking at the company affiliated with NH. In NH, it has been dissolved as of Nov 7, 2003, for not filing the required annual reports. The question is do you know about it and what are the implications of having a contract with a dissolved corporation.

    Ian – let’s make sure the minutes are corrected. We’ll answer that. I’ll move on…

    Dick Degray – with the bridge closing tomorrow, will there be traffic control, given that things will back up Main street? It would be great to have some traffic control to get cars to move on.

    Ian – John is indicating yes.

    Dan Tyler – message boards and traffic control!

    (person) – how long? 20 minutes.

  • Consent agenda

    A. Brattleboro Luv Crawl Special Event Permit – Authorize

    B. 2024 Municipal Planning Grant – Accept

    C. Pre-Bond Issuance Resolutions – Approve

    consented 4-0 and Fish abstains because he has a business downtown.

  • Downtown Brattleboro Alliance and Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce Marketing Initiative and Economic Development Update and Funding

    Ian – Downtown Brattleboro Alliance and Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce Marketing Initiative and Economic Development Update and Funding . We were interested in an update on the marketing initiative, plus your proposal. So speak on the 5 year summary and the new proposal.

    Kate Trzaskos, DBA – when I was here with the DBA budget we talked, so anyway, the community marketing initiative. 5 years. The initial proposal for Love Brattleboro was for economic vitality for Brattleboro – to attract more… in that five years we had great wins and changeover in the contracted professionals and the staff plus the pandemic. WE give you some stats. From my perspective, in the last year, at first it was focused on attracting visitors and specific demographics, then tourism at large, with influencers coming to Brattleboro, and we have looked at focusing on key features of Brattleboro events we want to showcase – arts, culture, and short stays. We know promoting Brattleboro is something we want to do, it is one of our four pillars. Greg also promotes businesses and they want to see more of it, so throughout the four years the focus changed but keeping Brattleboro top of mind remains important. Tonight we are also bringing forward the idea of focusing on economic vitality of downtown. The dominat narrative in local media is not so positive, so we try to address that, but in addition, several business have been there for decades are reaching retirement. I can see in the next 3-5 years we will have significant turnover. Some local folks have stepped up to take over these businesses, but we’ like too ee a more proactive approach to attracting businesses. I went to the downtown directors meetings. Many have someone focused on economic development. In their town or in an organization. Having someone dedicated to looking at economic development yields significantly in grants, marketing, zoning, and so on. The state person said Brattkebor isn’;t well represented when grants go out. That speaks to capacity – an issue for both our organizations. Awe serve hundreds of businesses and having someone that would look at the economic landscape of Brattleboro right now and strategize a way going forward. The Sam’s closed it was a wake up call for many people. If we can be ahead of those announcements…

    Greg Lesch – not just downtown but Brattleboro at large – all have suffered from economic problems. The entire town.

    Ian – details?

    Kate – so, we are proposing to contract someone with expertise in community and economic development to develop strategies with stakeholders. We will use mobile cell data to understand visitation. Powerful tool. Plus promoting Brattleboro as a place to come and invest. Businesses come when they are invited. IT needs to be welcoming and supportive. This has fees for the coordinator, data collection, and marketing and communication. Total is $80k (from town’s revolving loan fund)

    Ian – Great! Two elements – the amount. We allocated $45k for marketing. This is $80k for a different proposal. The second is the motion would take it from the revolving loan fund, which is why this isn’t on the articles for RTM. This falls within the purposes of the loan fund, so we don’t need to get in to that. This is whether it is the right thing to do.

    Daniel Quipp – you are not seeking funds for marketing now?

    Greg – we have been doing it through CMI – we aren’t changing the work we are just fining a different focus.- economic development.

    Franz – this is the toal you want – $80k, not more (correct)

    Liz McLoughlin – thanks for coming. It’s a great idea to recognize the reality that shipowners are retiring and this is a transitional period and at the same time because of the pandemic and internet, our brick and mortar stores are changing. We need to adapt and change and downtown and Brattleboro at large really need this service. There is a value in this contract experience and expertise rather than municipalities taking on more staff. [ed. EMS? ahem] . Hiring contracted expertise would be the best way to go.

    Franz – I was skeptical. I was expecting to hear more of marketing. This proposal is really different ,and using different lenses, well, sounds like a useful function, and there is a price tag on it. Is it for outside agencies, or integrated with things happening in the departments in town. As Liz just said, it is done that way, but I came to think this is a useful start. I was talking to John – try it and see what happens. He came up with a term “proof of concept”. It is worth an investment to see what happens. maybe in the future we bring it within town government rather than you guys doing it. Thinking out loud. I intend to support this. You have 16 areas of focus for 20 hours a week of contract. #17 is “really great T shirts” . Hope it works out.

    Fish – business goes where it is invited. We can be left behind. I’m in full support of this position and in favor of having the people doing this be overseeing it… so it shouldn’t be a municipal function. They have a feel for a landscape and shop owners talk to them first.

    Daniel – pretty excited! One year position. What might be achieved in one year? What grants are we missing. And then, return on investment. It seems like a multi-year project. One year is short term and it might take a while to get results. What’s the long term strategy.

    Greg – ROI – the way we have been working – it is hard to show how advertising and clicks have a direct line to a sale at a retail establishment? It’s impossible. With this proposal, you’l see concrete evidence – a grant, and initiative, a program.. there will be concrete markers to show it was a success.

    Kate – There’s the Transportation grant is being submitted – we can really jump on these with a dedicated individual – EPA, arts grants, AARP grants. A project for us that we talk about is Flat Street, and there is work for Preston Lot planned, so Better Places grants, or T-Mobile. We also want to build an entrepeneurial pipeline. BDCC has one. How do we build from there? Pitch competitions? Open houses of available space for lease. It’ll show opportunities for investment. It is more than a year project. If we can commit to two years, great, but I’m happy with one year tonight.

    Greg – we’d prioritize our list…

    Ian – Adam, can you speak to the proposal coordinators meeting weekly with town , BDCC, and Chamber… did I get it wrong?

    Kate – weekly with us, and reporting monthly…

    Ian – what do you see your role in that. Some communities have it as part of the organization, and some are in the town staff. What’s successful?

    (BDCC) Adam Grinold- several towns have staff within the town. Sometimes employed, sometimes contracted. There are hybrids. Communities that really invest see benefits from those investments. There’s work to be done. Rockingham, Wilmington, Dover.. they are investing in those positions. Each of those communities sees the results. We’d work to not duplicate our work. The more people doing this work the better. Capacity is expensive and this is a great hybrid way to get there. WE’ll wonder how to invest more someday…

    Peter Case – there are 16 things on the list, and they probably do 50 things a day… the one person on this would be focusing on this as a consultant. It will yield immediate results. Data comes in and is used immediately on the fly.

    Ian – any interest in making it two years? The revolving loan fund isn’t something we need to do yearly. The reason it has been a yearly thing is it comes from the general fund. Rid yourself of that and consider how important it is to invest in this. Experts say it is important and will take more than a year. Why not give $160k for 2 years?

    Peter – I’d do it…

    Franz – point of order… make the amendment to discuss.

    Daniel – attracting on good contractor might be challenging, or results shown in 12 months – two years might give it a better start. of course, it is a bit of a roll of the dice. We will have economic development needs. It’s a nice little bet to see how it goes. We’ll be around to see how it goes.

    Dick Degray – I have concerns about this – 20 hours a week and I look at the list I have a huge concern – expanding to two years – how much work will you get done in 20 hours a week. Also, I heard you say there were grant opportunities we are missing. What’s going on in Planning is we miss so many grants? And when you talk of this being a whole town program, but the downtown group will be overseeing. I’m not sure if this wouldn’t be better in some other hands. #6 – work with business in town to expand and recruit others to expand to Brattleboro. For all the years of Babb and downtown organization, they haven’t recruited a single businesses. They are good after people contact them – BDCC and Commonwealth Yogurt. The downtown groups won’t recruit downtown business. Someone thinks up an idea for a business – not we ask someone to start business. I doubt anyone will change their mind. This needs more fine tuning. When you give up the 1% for marketing, and I’m not crazy about how they spent it, we should still use that money to recruit businesses to Brattleboro.

    Steve Z – it’s a good ida and should help the town. Many don’t come here due to drugs and crime, and that’s important to solve, too. That’s something that will happen.

    Adam G – if the larger amount is approved, it applies for some leverage – it can go out and leverage twice as much as matched with “in-kind” – that amount to access means it can be leveraged.

    Jaki Reis – does this company have other results from comparable towns that we could take a look at – how successful were they?

    Ian – thanks! You’ll look at references? By the Chamber and DBA

    Kate – and the advisory group.

    Ian – the advisory group means it will work with the entire town, but it is a reasonable concern. The risk really is outweighed by the reward we get by investing money in this.

    Greg – the majority of our membership is not downtown.

    Franz – on the amendment – I get the idea that it is a two year thing. My reservation in the cost. For $80k we get a half time person and some tools. One reason ti should be within the town. For that same amount we could have a full time person doing it. Not sure this is the right model. maybe do it for one year as a proof of concept, maybe not. With this price tag, now for two years for a half time person, it is on the expensive side.

    Liz – I’m a consultant and I get jobs that are in my area of expertise. Grouping like projects together makes sense. Rather than having a full time person with less of an incentive to get right to the point.

    Daniel – any one time costs that wouldn’t be there in year 2?

    Kate – the consumer survey – no, wait.. the software contract is for year at $12k, so we would potentially renew that. Website development, assets and maintenance. Do we have the materials to market. It’s like this.

    Daniel – in that ballpark, then. Okay.

    amendment passes 5-0

    John Potter – define the time period so it is for a two year period and not just for now…

    daniel – this comes from the revolving loan fund – we could cut a check tomorrow, right? Is there a timeframe? When does it start?

    Kate – we haven’t advertised or found a consultant . When we find them it starts.

    Peter – can we float a date, based on signing the consultant?

    John – that’s fine

    Franz – how about “if to be used over a two year period upon inititiation of the contract.”

    Case – that should be on a T-shirt.

    The motion passes for $160k and 2 years – 5-0

    Ian – I look forward to the many benefits

  • B. Approve Selectboard Budgets (7:00 PM)

    Ian – so, we are considering three budgets – ARPA, the capital fund, and the general fund. As we have done, we’ll go one at a time.

    John – this is our 10th meeting on the budget this year and we’re getting close. ARPA budget proposal before you on page 44 will address 6 of the top 10 priorities, plus 2 priorities from before, plus one feedback item, plus identify capital fund alternates. The 13 projects have been modified, as have costs, based on feedback from you and staff. Happy to go into detail if you wish. These are in a ranked order based on you. The project description, the original estimate, the final estimate, and the cumulative costs adding up to 1.3 million.

    – The first is trail connection scoping study and the Whetstone pathway. Second is matching funds for walk-bike action plan for $300k and now includes more pedestrian items. Third item is Guilford Street intersection design for $50k. Then dispatch console, HVAC control, Green and High construction, new sand shed, and a retaining wall. 9th item is to make leased space at Transportation Center rentable. Then two items – 6 bus shelters (22k) and pickleball courts at some location somewhere at some cost, maybe $30k for design alternatives. Finally, the remaining $63k we’d put toward sidewalk repair. They are badly in need of repair. I got served today on another sidewalk issue by the sheriff. This does a lot of good things.

    Ian – thanks!

    Daniel – when we first got ARPA money, it seemed massive and could be transformative. When I look at this budget, it didn’t turn out to be as transformative as I dreamed. Part of the disappointment is diminished – this does some preliminary work for future select boards. I’ve made peace with it. Disappointed that public bathrooms are not something this board will support. I’m okay with this.

    Liz – I have a different take on that. It is interesting that Daniel spoke to that. There are some transformative things – the ambulances! And also the transfer of UDAG money to revolving loan fund. Then what we’ve seen is tweaks here and there that make things doable, understandable, and meet the needs of the town and what the public asked for. I’m happy how this has panned out. Town staff did a good job.

    Franz – point of order – we are discussing the entire list, but we were going to talk one at a time? (the selctboard freezes and interpreters sit and wait…)

    Audio back… picture back…

    Ian the motion is for the full budget as presented. If you want to speak to specifics, go ahead… Daniel and Liz spoke to all.

    Franz – so, uh, I guess I’d like to talk about pickleball courts. People seem to support it. In the interim, while we figure it out, the basketball court at Living Memorial Park could be a pickleball court if correct lines are put down while we take a year to find a new place. Can we spend some of the $30k to paint the basketball court and get moveable nets? I’m in favor but like to see flexibility to make facilities available more quickly.

    Daniel – outing club is not building one?

    Franz – we meet on Thursday. I’m a member. I hear indirectly. They are looking at putting in a couple but nothing has happened.

    John – Some of the $30k for lines and nets? I might ask Carol for her thoughts on it. It might force us to go in-house with some of the work, but we could add it.

    Carol Lolatte – certainly we can look at the basketball court. We have two tennis courts already marked as pickleball courts, and we have nets that are used, and an active program taking place there weekday mornings 3 seasons. You can use the basketball court. We could purchase some nets. It would cut into the $30k. Half would need to go into that – repair the courts and repaint them.. probably $15k to do that.

    Ian – we are having BCTV issues and will recess for 5 minutes.

  • reconvening

    Ian – thank you to BCTV for all the work you do. You push all this important information out to the community.

    Carol – to take off from where we were. I think something we’ll consider in that location is how close we are to the residents at Brookside… the little think, think, think… we will need sound mitigation there.

    Liz – hearing what she has to say and it will take half the money, I’d suggest the first task is the feasibility of spending half… I remember the skatepark noise to those residents was huge. I want that studied first.

    Franz – wasn’t proposing it, just asking if it could be done to spend some funds on immediate pickleball… I’m respectful of the issues. If it doesn’t cost too much or aren’t too many obstacles.

    Ian – include language about potential immediate usage of interim solution if …(details) Staff can use discretion. The purpose of this money is for the actual pickleball court.

    Daniel – it seems that during good weather it is played at the tennis courts at LMP – they are my last tennis choice in town, btw. I’m a member of a tennis club, plus courts at the high school, and so I wonder are there things that can be program wise that could allow for more pickleball use at the tennis courts there. People want to play and struggle to get on a court? Yes, let’s do the study but find ways to increase capacity for this popular sport.

    (thumbs up)

    Ian – I love how long we can spend talking about pickleball. Okay, we agree to amend the language?

    Franz – just an understanding.

    Peter Case – I’m pretty good with this is proposed. We haven’t heard the word pickleball enough tonight. Is it possible to engage all the people who have written to us about it to use the money? Can we get community engagement on this? Isn’t the demand in winter?

    Liz – I thought it was in nice weather demand.

    Daniel – this isn’t about the items – there are four possible next steps. Do we consider them now or later?

    John – we’ll bring them back to you… another night.

    Ian – just the ARPA budget.

    Franz – public restrooms is really important. I don’t have an idea of how much to spend, but I want to reiterate my thinking is that we shouldn’t be waiting and we should do a needs assessment of what’s already in place and maximize those resources then additional steps we can take. Very important for Brattleboro. Disparate parts of the community need access to restrooms. Not a budget item, but we should focus on it. having said that, the big concern is #2 and #3 – walk-bike and intersection improvement. A bit of a speech. the walk bike plan is important and should include those items in the walk bike plan, but I don’t support $3090k for future needed matching funds. There’s more important work to do right now with that plan -n we should address the williams street western ave intersection – it is dangerous and inviting tragedy. That’s the #1 safety hazard in Brattleboro. Long identified as such. It’s in the walk-bike plan. There’s $400k to address where the road caved in on Williams Street, and in the 5 year capital plan there’s money for that project. It’s time to do it. We didn’t get grants. We can’t let it sit there. Respecting the walk-bike plan, a better way to do that is to take care of this pressing safety need long identified. I propose rolling the two items into one item to do creamery bridge to williams street intersection and figure out the right thing to do there. Is a light needed? That’s where the money should go – to fix that. I amend the motion to improve the interection at Creamery Bridge and Williams Street for $350k. I know there is money in this year’s budget. That’s what I put on the table.

    Liz – Traffic Safety Committee has studied this – the plan is a Cadillac plan and I asked that it be looked at by the traffic engineer. It is important to get commitments from the Deli about shri participation and whether there are alternatives. It is separate and already in the capital budget, so not ready to commit to it on this budget.

    Daniel – I agree with Liz. I understand where you are coming from.

    Peter -I also agree.

    Franz – I want a formal vote on this….

    Dan Tyler – we hope to include Guilford to Exit 2 but the cost is too high. Maybe with the ARPA money we can extend the scope. Haven’t made any scoping study progress. We have applied for FEMA grant for some repairs – the slide – $400k. 90% could be covered by that.

    Franz – what’s the timeline to see improvements?

    Dan – we aren’t there yet.

    Franz – anything we can do?

    Dan – it is the engineering for the intersection improvement. The board told us to go forward, not sure of the number allocated.

    John Potter – direction but no budget on that, If the grant comes, we have money for Williams.

    Franz – anything we can do to move this along?

    Dan – the extra will let us expand the scope to Guilford Street.

    Daniel – the 50k is to improve the intersection …

    Sue Fillion -so, yeah. The consultant says the original scope did not include conceptual designs for Guilford Street – probably adding 10-15k more would be good. They want to look at if it needs a light, and that is a longer traffic count. That would cover design for both intersections.

    Ian – could we take some of the leftover sidewalk money to over this? Trying to find common ground.

    Liz – can the creamery bridge $50k and williams street study be combined (yes)

    Ian – additional 10k would help cover the design…

    Franz – how do you see the timeline on this? Next year? More than a year?

    Sue – within the next year we’d have conceptual designs and a preferred alternative, hen moving it forward.

    Franz – sound three years away if we are lucky… I’m looking for some idea. It’s really a priority and we’ve talked about it for years.

    Liz – the complexity of the Creamery bridge – there is the car and bike elements and they need to merge and coordinate. It is a complexity that needs to be understood.

    Daniel – right – take money from pedestrians to help motorists… I’d like all to be served well. Maybe we take it from the walk bike action plan.

    Peter Case – we can pull from anywhere – how about #10 – bus shelters. Maybe we shoestring that?

    Liz – #10 has the most realistic budget. I like taking it from the matching funds.

    Ian – if we took $10k from the walk bike plan, it does go to pedestrian and bike concerns. Maybe we can allocate it to the matching fund then you ask for the $10k out of it.

    Peter Case – we can agree to take $10k from something…

    Ian – are we feeling agreement? We have your motion…

    Franz – to amend to merge the #2 and #3 and to allocate money to western ave and williams street…

    1-4 fails (Franz affirmative)

    Ian – so, back tot he original motion. There is space to accomplish Franz’s thrust by moving $10k – out of the walk-bike action plan $300k? It’s partly walk and bike…

    Daniel – $290 is still a lot.

    Peter – and same project basically..

    Degray – By the time you get to asking the public what they think your decisions are already made… public should weigh in on any of these items. Regardless of what I say, you’ll just…

    Ian – I’ll let you talk when we’re done.

    Franz – I don’t have anything else, but Disco’s point is good. Members of the public?

    Degray – when I look at this – $300k set aside is absurd number for potential grants that may take years to expend. We have important infrastructure needs. This should be $50k or maybe $100k, but not $300k. John got served because of sidewalks today. Maybe put it into the sidewalk fund. Not $300k or $290 to set aside for years when we have immediate needs.

    Bob Oeser – hello – before the money is spent, later on there is a disturbing comment about- historically the fire department hasn’t had regular inspections and maintenance. This is a justification for unexpected truck maintenance. This is disturbing – a 2019 insurance audit, and we don’t have a number for the pumps on all three fire trucks. That sounds like an immediate needs. Is there other maintance needed?

    Ian – thanks. page 53.

    John Potter – we have regular maintenance needs in all departments. Fire Department has increased preventative maintenance inspections but unearthing maintenance issues – this year it is running high. If the suggestion is for more funding for the fire department from ARPA, we could do that if that’s the suggestion. You could do that.

    Mary Diane Baker – I’m in favor of the set aside for the walk and bike plan – there are provision and data and studies adressing crumbling sidewalks and intersections – this is a onetime opportunity to go toward this, and helps the whole town. Better biking and walking is addressing climate change, too. This needs to be set aside and used this way.

    Prudence MacKinney – I agree with the previous speaker. The projects are bike and walk, and very expensive. $300k toward any project won’t get us very far – we need grants and matches.

    Alice Charkes – I spoke last month and appreciate the $300k we requested. It is very important money – it is bout matching to get large grants. Infrastructure is expensive. $300k gets us to access millions, including the VT Country Deli project. Thanks for putting it in and highly ranked. Improving the Whetstone is great, too.

    Gary Stroud – I’m zooming in. I’d like to add other areas neglected -Canal Street – there are sidewalks that need repair. Western Ave too. The bike lane is confusing. Canal and Elm, a flashing light is needed by the school. People blow the stoplight. Canal Street has challenges, but we need things taken care of as well and not overlooked.

    Kevin O’Brien – I support the bike walk intersection project. Another key piece is people in wheelchair, with shopping carts – safe for 8 and 80 year olds to bike, walk, and roll. Transportation is #2 for our climate budget. I look forward to more ways for us to get involved.

    Franz – something that has come up is availability of matching funds when needed. I’m willing to commit to voting for matching funds in the future. The process would be to come to the board to use the money for the projects, but for me it is easy to say yes to a 20-80 matching fund. Whether we blind for it or take it form unassigned reserve funds… it could come from other places and still use that $300k now. I don’t see seeing it aside right now helps us with infrastructure right now. We can make improvements now with this money. I wouldn’t oppose $50k set aside. The matching funds will be available if we set it aside. I’ll commit my future vote to it!

    Ian – where does it come from?

    Franz – we’ll look under cushions and find the money.

    Peter – that’s not an answer.

    Franz – from tax money or some other fund…

    Liz – I asked Sue. This is a lot of money does the plan need that much and she said yes. All the elements have matching and often they are a 50% match, not 80-20. It is necessary to put aside the money to do those elements swiftly and orderly.

    Ian – Other ARPA discussion? I want too peak to the trail scoping study. We spent time at our retreat goal setting and investing in gems in the community and I believe the Whetstone pathway is one of those gems. We can move the project forward and access state and federal funds. Really excited to allocate ARPA funds to this. An amazing opportunity.

    Franz – on that project, I’m in support. Great idea. I spent several minutes looking at a map in the planning department from 20 years ago for the project . Go look. It is an amazing map – everything to scale!

    Liz – there’s even a more recent EPA study to review…

    Ian – so we had a friendly amendment to go from $300k to $290k… no further discussion. To approve the ARPA budget as amended?


    Ian we move on to the FY25 capital budget.


    [they’ll approve both of these, but talk a bit too much, so I retire for the evening… do let me know if anything interesting happens.]

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