The Selectboard completed this week’s business in near record time for a regular Tuesday evening meeting, ending the meeting just over an hour after it began.
A streamlined FY14 Parking Budget was approved, despite a less than glowing characterization as “an absence of failure” by town staff. Curbside compost carts are being purchased, the library is getting a new videoconferencing system, and the Town is going to refinance the Honeywell Project to realize savings with new, lower interest rates.
Pleas for fees for Sunday parking went unanswered, and the logic of sidewalk repairs was explained. Read on for all the Election eve Selectboard meeting excitement.
Chair Dick DeGray was missing. Vice-chair David Gartenstein filled in, and began by saying that the polls were open for another hour. He encouraged people to vote.
He said that Dick DeGray’s final regular Selectboard business meeting was their previous meeting. “Had I known, I would have wanted to thank him” for his 7 years of serving on the Brattleboro Selectboard.
Gartenstein reminded the public that the new Brattleboro Charter was in effect, which changed the terms for Selectboard members, requiring them to attend meetings through Representative Town Meeting.
Town Manager Barb Sondag wanted to remind everyone that VTrans would be holding their public hearing on proposed changes to Putney Road. The meeting is Thursday, March 7 at 6 p.m. at the Municipal Center. “It’s a major project and I encourage you to come,” she said.
There will also be a SEVEDS meeting, Sondag said, to gather information for an economic development strategy document. That meeting will be March 21 at 6 p.m. at the Municipal Center.
Her final announcement was that the Waste Water Treatment Plant was looking new and shiny. A ribbon cutting will be held March 22. Sondag said it was a phenomenal project and that anyone interested should go see it.
For Selectboard Committee Reports, Ken Schneck led with a moment of silence for “partner in democracy” John Fuchs who passed away after attending Town Meeting in Bellows Falls Monday night.
Dora Bouboulis said that feedback on preliminary I-91 bridge designs has resulted in changes to the design (“not perfect, but a better looking bridge than originally designed”) and to the way VTrans involves the public in their planning.
Gartenstein said that the Traffic Safety Committee had written a second draft of traffic calming procedures, and asked the Town Manager for an update on reflective band distribution.
Town Manager Sondag said that the bands had been distributed at the Municipal Center, in schools, by police, to dog owners renewing licenses, and would be soon available on busses and in other locations.
Robert Sisler said he had heard that tonight’s meeting was going to be about sidewalks. Town Manager Sondag told him that the sidewalk meeting was tomorrow (Wednesday) at 6:15 p.m.
David Gartenstein invited Sisler to talk about sidewalks to the Selectboard if he wished. “You can talk about them if you like.”
Sisler wondered why the sidewalks at the southeast end of Main Street were going to be replaced this summer when the sidewalks from the library north past the Municipal Center were in worse shape.
“Why not start on this side where they are really bad?” asked Sisler. “I’ve told the Town Manager, if something happens to my chair the Town will get the bill for it.” He said Brattleboro had 15-20 people using motorized scooters.
Sondag reminded him that the sidewalk meeting was on Wednesday, but told him that the work was being done on the east side because of a grant written in 2010. A grant request to do the west side, she said, was turned down.
Gartenstein said Sisler wasn’t the first to raise the issue of the sidewalks from the library north.
Chris Chapman agreed that work was needed and that it was hazardous all the way to Williston Street. “If there is a way to make it a priority it would be money well spent,” he said.
Sondag reminded him that many sidewalks need repairs. “I think you understand...”
Chapman said he understood that we have needs, and very limited resources.
Dora Bouboulis said that she had noticed that the winter had not been kind to Brattleboro roads this year, and that there were “a lot of heaves and holes.”
Sondag said that Steve Barrett would be requesting VTrans to fix Western Avenue, but warned that with temperature fluctuations, there would likely be more issues with roads. She mentioned recently repaired roads post-Irene as being especially vulnerable.
FY14 Parking Budget
The Brattleboro Selectboard voted 3-1 to approve the FY14 Parking enterprise fund budget in the amount of $838,635.
The budget was done a different way this year according to Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland. He said that expenses and revenues were both realistic and optimistic.
Optimism comes from new meters around town, he said, especially those on Depot Street and near the Coop.
The realism comes from the numbers. “In context, the budget is a balanced budget for an enterprise fund,” said Moreland. “It is not a successful enterprise. It is an absence of failure, which is different.”
He proposed some line item changes to better distinguish between predictable and volatile expenses.
A predictable expense was a staff salary, or a monthly check of elevators. A more variable expense might be vandalism removal or emergency overtime costs.
Chris Chapman praised the smart cards and encouraged people to use them. He asked that the Town do more to promote the use of the parking card.
Chapman then challenged his fellow board members to have the courage to vote for a “radical idea.”
He said that he had trouble finding parking spaces downtown on Sundays. “People park and take up space. It’s hard for people like me to drive into town to find a parking spot.”
Chapman’s solution was to charge for parking between 12:30 and 6 p.m. on Sundays. He said it would encourage shopping, and would help raise revenue to help compensate for demands on our infrastructure.
Dora Bouboulis disagreed. She said businesses enjoy the customers that come to town because of free parking on Sundays, and that people who live downtown use Sundays as a day to do errands and park close to home which they can’t do as easily on other days.
She said there was no support for charging for parking on Sundays.
“I’m looking for courage... to run to daylight on this issue,” said Chapman.
Gartenstein asked about overtime in parking enforcement line items.
“It’s not for staff,” explained Moreland. “He said it was for maintenance or public works staff overtime for things like parking lot work.
Robert Sisler told the Selectboard that he had a sticker for handicapped parking spaces. “I was told that if my friend took me downtown and there’s a parking space and I have the sticker, they cannot bother us. Is that right?”
“If you have a state sticker, you will not be charged for parking at any meter in town,” answered Moreland.
Chapman asked again if the town would promote parking cards.
Moreland told him that some of the $1,500 in the marketing budget would be spent to promote the cards.
The vote was 3-1 to approve the FY14 budget. Chapman voted no.
Grand List Attestation
Part of having a Grand List means attesting to various matters.
In this case, the Selectboard approved (4-0) a Certificate of No Appeal or Suit Pending, attesting to the fact that Brattleboro’s April 2012 Grand List has no appeals or lawsuits pending against it.
Curbside compost is coming to Brattleboro. To get ready, the Town of Brattleboro is getting compost carts in two different sizes.
As it turns out, there will be a different contract for each size purchased. Orbis will be supplying the 12 gallon carts, and IBL will supply the 21 gallon variety.
Town Manager Barb Sondag said that the IBL container has a latch that pilot program users found worked better at that size. Orbis was the only supplier to bid on the smaller size.
Sondag said they would re-bid a request for smaller kitchen containers. She thinks a second attempt will result in better prices for the Town.
To help encourage people to take care of their containers, a fee will be assessed to those who’d like to use them. The 12 gallon container will cost residents $7 and the 21 gallon will cost $10.
Sondag said 450 households (out of about 3,100) have signed up, and that the skating rink would be used as a distribution location for the carts when they come at the end of March.
Chris Chapman praised the kitchen container used during the pilot program. “Very functional.” He wondered how they could promote the program more.
Sondag said that Moss Kahler had been doing a great job, there was a way to sign up on the Town web site, and that there had been news stories about the program.
Dora Bouboulis cautioned that a slow ramp up would be smart. She said the system to collect that much compost isn’t in place at the moment, and that systems needed to be created.
Bouboulis also wondered if the fees were cost-prohibitive for those of lower incomes. She suggested Kahler or social service agencies help figure it out.
Sondag said that the carts were not mandatory, but if the state goes to mandatory composting it might be more of an issue. She said they needed to figure that out too.
The Selectboard approved the Town Manager to enter into contracts with each compost cart supplier by a vote of 4-0, and approved the recommended fees associated with each by a vote of 4-0.
Police Fire Project Manager
An agenda item to discuss possible project managers to oversee the Police Fire Facility Project (PFFP) was passed over and will be discussed at an upcoming special meeting of the Selectboard.
Downtown Sidewalk Project Manager
The Selectboard unanimously approved a contract with the Windham Regional Commission for project management of this summer’s downtown sidewalk project. The contract is not to exceed $7,500.
Barb Sondag said that Matt Mann at the WRC would be the point person to make sure all grant requirements are met.
Dora Bouboulis said that he had managed other projects for the town, does a good job, “and is right down the street.”
The vote was 4-0.
$9,000 for video conferencing equipment and training at Brooks Memorial Library was accepted by the Selectboard at Tuesday’s meeting with a vote of 4-0.
The money comes from the Vermont Department of Libraries and Google.
Barb Sondag said that it would be starting in a month and was “quite exciting.” She explained that current video conferencing choices were at Famolare’s farm and the Career Center, and that this gives the town another place to do videoconferencing.
Chris Chapman asked if the systems were compatible with one another, and was told that they are.
Dora Bouboulis said she was speaking with Jeanne (Walsh) about the location for the new equipment. Bouboulis said it pointed to the changing needs and ongoing restructuring of the library.
David Gartenstein said that he wanted to see guidelines for the system’s use, and felt that some uses might require a user fee.
Sondag said the library board was looking at their policies, and that the policies would be presented to the Selectboard before the equipment is used.
There are vacancies on the Citizen Police Communication Committee and in the position of Town Service Officer. The Town continues to look for members of the new Police Fire Facility Project oversight committee.
If you are interested in any of the above, contact the Town Manager's office before March 22nd.
Honeywell Equipment Refinancing
Finance Director John O’Connor recommended to the board that Brattleboro’s equipment lease for the Honeywell Energy Project be reconsidered. Specifically, he calculated that if the remaining $1 million could be refinanced at lower interest rates, the Town could save about $10,000 a year for the next nine years.
O’Connor said a representative of Municipal Lease Consultants approached him recently at a conference and asked if they could send a proposal for a new lease agreement.
His opinion was that it was a “really good idea” to refinance and save the Town $92,000.
Dora Bouboulis said that the Honeywell contract has always given her consternation, and that she got upset when she saw the total costs. “I hope it is a lessoned learned,” she said, that the Town could do the work itself, in-house, for a much lower cost.
She said she’d prefer to see the lease cancelled.
Barb Sondag pointed out that the lease would be cancelled, for at least a short while, between the old lease ending and the new lease beginning.
Chris Chapman asked if the savings would begin in July of this year. O’Connor said yes.
Chapman asked what the lease covered. O’Connor said it was a “whole list of equipment” including controllers, boilers, lights. “The entire project.”
David Gartenstein said that the Energy Committee had shown him that the initial costs may hurt, that energy savings pay over time, and that we’ll see savings in the long term, 15-20 years out.
“We’ll get substantial savings after a certain point,” agreed Chapman. “A material net gain.”
“There could have been a bigger gain if we had done the work ourselves,” said Bouboulis.
The board approved (4-0) telling PNC Equipment Finance that the town plans to end it’s lease in 60 days, in anticipation of refinancing with Municipal Lease Consultants.
This was one of the shorter regular Tuesday Selectboard meetings, with the board’s work done by 7:28 p.m.
Town Manager Sondag and the Selectboard wrapped up by congratulating John Allen, David Schoales, and Kate O’Connor on their election to next year’s board.